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August 23, 2005



Donklephant links to a site that they consider conservative, where commenters who identify themselves as conservative Christians rip Robertson's throat out for this most recent nonsense.

Robertson still obviously commands a big enough audience to stay on the air, but he doesn't seem to be as important in that movement or whatever you want to call it as he was in the past.

Julian Elson

So some Robertson fan puts a bullet in Hugo Chavez's head, and then what? Jose Vicente Rangel announces, "whew, those televangelists sure showed me the error of Chavez-style militaristic socialism! Lets restore liberal democracy, then."

Won Joon Choe

There are thoughtful Christian thinkers who are not pacifist. The best example I can think of is Reinhold Neibuhr. His Moral Man and Immoral Society is one of the most brilliant fusion of New Testament and realpolitk. And I don't think he would--in principle--approve assassinating tyrants.

Won Joon Choe

I meant to say "disapprove," not "approve."

Abiola Lapite

"His Moral Man and Immoral Society is one of the most brilliant fusion of New Testament and realpolitk."

Brilliant it may be, but is the product any longer a Christianity most people would recognize? It's very difficult to reconcile all the usual Christian talk of self-sacrifice, peace, love, mercy and turning the other cheek with calling for the killing of foreign heads of state for the sake of oil ...

Won Joon Choe

I am a neophyte when it comes to Christian theology, Abiola (as you know from our college days, my philosophic interest always revolved around more secular, thiswordly systems, in particular what I called, in a Straussian manner, the "quarrel between Confucius and Locke"; so I wouldn't know for certain.

But I know there have been serious intellectual efforts to present a more thisworldly and robust version of Christianity. I think the most prominent incarnation of this effort latches on Jesus' sayings such as "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s," to argue that good Christians must still work to ameliorate the City of Man as well. I think Paul, St. Augustine, and other more militant Christians used that particular passage to counter the common charge that Christianity breeds bad citizens.

But again, my the breadth of my knowledge of the Bible and Christianity is--at the moment--threadbare. Perhaps other esteemed readers of your Blog can outline the case for a thiswordly Christianity better.

Won Joon Choe

I know I've harped on this before, but Bloggers should really incorporate some sort of post-publication editing feature on their comment section. It would help those poor souls like me for whom English is not their native language :(


"It would help those poor souls like me for whom English is not their native language :("

Others like you may need it, but you don't.

You are right to mention Augustine of Hippo here. The doctrine of just war might be construed to extend to assasinating heads o state. I cannot see how it could possible be stretched to Chavez. There is tiem; he may develop into a Mugabe or a Kim Il Sung. That would be a differnet situtation. Because, for now....

"It's very difficult to reconcile all the usual Christian talk of self-sacrifice, peace, love, mercy and turning the other cheek with calling for the killing of foreign heads of state for the sake of oil ..."

However, there are many times when waging war is an act of self sacrifice that goes far beyond almost any other. For instance, there is absolutely nothing I might do for my son, who I after all my own flesh and blood and in whose welfare I have a Darwinian and completely selfish interest, that would compare for self sacrifice with risking my life in battle for the good of a bunch of probably ungrateful and certainly unimportant-to-me strangers, let's say to keep other men's sons out of a plastic shredder somewhere. It is real mercy to turn a rapist's head into bloody pulp; mercy to some third person.

There is some admonition in one of the epistles to the effect that saying you will pray for someone in need or trouble rather than getting up and doing something about it is empty and hypocritical.


The truth of the matter is that the very unorthodox nature of Protestantism makes it impossible for us to define a "Xtian" view on this subject.
We might recollect that Rushdoony justified spying, lying and government disinformation on the basis of the story in the Book of Joshua where the Spies enter Jericho and they request Rahab to hide them.
Rahab lies to the authorities of Jericho and what happens?
She enters the Hebrews 11 hall of faith fame and is counted as an ancestor of Jesus!
There are countless examples.
One can justify just about any pretension to special divine destiny by picking and choosing anything from the Bible.
I see Abiola's point about traditional Xtian virtues. But let us not forget that many Xtians were "they of Ceasar's household" and Paul explicitly justified State force in Romans 13:4, to wit:

[...For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid ; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil...]

i.e. the State exists to wreak vengeance upon him that doeth evil. With any bit of luck, Chavez might just fall into such sphere of Statist administration in the mind of some Xtians. In such a case, it would not be unchristian to assasinate Chavez.

Just to clarify this, read Romans 13 from chapter 1:

[...Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God : the powers that be are ordained of God.

Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same...]

Is the USA a higher power? Is it ordained of God? Is Chavez resisting the USA? Should the USA be a terror unto Chavez? With a bit of reasoning - coupled with the knowledge that Paul was explicitly calling for a submission to Roman Imperialism, one can justify assasiantions, invasions, killings, esquadrones de la muertes and anything else.

At the crux here is that it is hard to define an orthodox Xtian view on these things. The authority of the Vatican being of little influence in such cases.

As an aside: It is very true that God is addressed more by the title of Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts or The Lord of Armies) than by any other title in the Old Testament. "Just war" theory fades into the shadows once a people are convinced that they have a manifest destiny from God.

Abiola Lapite

[Argh! TypePad's braindead spamfilter is preventing me from commenting on my own blog!]

[Here's what I originally meant to say, though for the life of me I can't see what was so objectionable in it.]

Alright, I'll admit you guys are right - it doesn't take much work at all to justify any act of barbarism within the framework of traditional "loving" Christian doctrine. I guess what it comes down to is that the Christianity I know most intimately is indeed the "love your fellow man and bear all insults" variety of the Beatitudes, rather than that of Jesus as Realpolitiker and Assassin-in-Chief.


I suspect most of the intellectual backing for "just assassination" in Western culture is taken from the Classics (especially Plutarch) rather than the Bible. Harmodius and Aristogeiton, Timoleon and - of course- Brutus were the inspirations for "tyrannicides" from the 18th century onwards, particularly during the French Revolution where the state consciously modelled itself on the Roman Republic (think of the propaganda paintings of Jacques-Louis David). I doubt that Robertson is inspired by this tradition, unless he's taking John Wilkes Booth ("Sic semper tyrannis"!) as his example.

The major historical event I can think of involving Christian infighting and extensive use of political assassination is the French wars of religion. Both Henri III and Henri IV fell victim to religiously inspired fanatics who felt they were executing tyrants (and there were plenty of other victims, including Admiral Coligny and 20,000 Protestants during the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew). I've never read the precise theological justification for such acts but I'm sure some contemporary scholars in the Sorbonne were only too happy to provide it. Once again though, I don't think Robertson would be influenced by the opinions of French Jesuits. When it comes down to it, I'd guess most Christian fanatics carried out assassinations because of the voices in their heads rather than as the result of extensive theological lucubrations. They're probably all antinomians at heart.

(PS: I've just remembered that the pope proclaimed it was OK for any Catholic to kill Elizabeth I because she was a heretic. Not a role model Pat Robertson would like to be associated with, I would have thought.)

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