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Brea’s Tuesday Theology post a few days ago reminded me a bit of a piece I wrote a while back that I stuck on one of my web pages. I thought it might be nice to repost that piece here, with some additional content to put it into context for the current events.

There has been a lot of “discussion” amongst the talking heads regarding the killing of one of the world’s worst terrorists this past week. The most recent arguments discussions I’ve seen have been focused on whether or not the killing was “legal”. Regardless of the legality (let’s face it, sometimes there are exceptions or a law is vague or flat out stupid) was it justified? The Dalai Lama seems to think so (Dalai Lama suggests Osama bin Laden’s death was justified) and I wholeheartedly agree. This man killed countless innocents and needed to go away. And since he wasn’t likely to do so on his own, well bless the Navy SEALs for taking care of it.

Brea brought this up within the context of the Wiccan Rede. And while I’m not Wiccan, I understand the Rede and similar tenets of other faiths. The subject gets raised periodically on forums I frequent and I’ve seen a lot of people new to a Pagan or Wiccan path espousing a totally passive mentality, insisting that it’s necessary to “heal all ills”. And while it would be nice to have such a panacea (come on, let’s all start singing “Cumbaya”) it just isn’t going to happen.

I see this as a huge misconception among some in our community … and while I agree with the sentiment (ie, do no harm) the fact that some feel any action that might harm another is somehow unethical, immoral, or wrong is somewhat disturbing. We’ve had a number of discussions about this subject on several forums I frequent and, while we each have our own views on the matter, most of the Pagans I know who’ve been following this path for a while seem to be in agreement that many either misunderstand the thoughts behind writings (like the Wiccan Rede or Bible passages) or just flat take things too far toward extreme passivism.

Many new Wiccans will point to the Rede and claim that 1) it is a law, and 2) that it is all inclusive and literal. First, the word rede does not mean “law”, it is an archaic word that means “advice” or “to give counsel” … the Rede is a suggestion on how to live one’s life. Sort of like the “Golden Rule”. Furthermore, what most refer to as “The Rede” is merely the last stanza of a fairly long poem by Adrianna Porter. The poem speaks to how one might live one’s life with a focus on the seasons and the lunar cycle. But nowhere in the poem does it suggest that you must allow others to harm you, your loved ones, or your community, nor does it take a stance on the definition of self-defense or appropriate force.

In a similar vein, many Christians will quote Christ regarding “turning the other cheek”. But this too has been taken out of context. If you study any history of the way things were in the Middle East at the time Christ was alive, one thing that is very clear is that one hand (the left) was to be used for “personal cleansing” and the other was to be used for eating, etc. Also, to hit someone with an open hand (or to punch them) during this era was to declare a challenge to an equal. But to hit them with the back of the right hand was an insult indicating that the person being hit was beneath the aggressor. To turn the other cheek meant the aggressor now had a decision to make … he can either use the back of his “unclean” hand (something that was never done) or he can open-hand slap his target, now making them an equal. Seems to me that this is more of a challenge to an aggressor rather than a passive act.

Nowhere have I seen any religious texts or stories state that one must become a doormat. Nowhere have I seen any of these tenets say that you cannot meet force with appropriate force. Granted this is a choice that each individual must make based on their own set of morals and convictions, but I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to act to protect myself, a loved one, or even a stranger being attacked. Will there be consequences? Most certainly. Which is why one must assess a situation and respond appropriately. It is not up to us to judge or mete out punishment … that should be left to the legal system and the Divine. But it is my humble opinion that both the legal system and the Divine allow us some latitude to protect ourselves from bullies, criminals, tyrants, and terrorists.

In the case of the uber pacifist Pagans/Wiccans, one of our favorite retorts is that it is impossible to live without doing some harm … even if one chooses a vegan lifestyle, plants must be harmed or killed to feed and clothe yourself. Germs must be killed by our immune system to keep us healthy. You get the idea, I could go on forever giving examples. To do zero harm means you will die.

And in the case of terrorists, they are intent on killing us. Yes, that’s a bit over-simplified, but that is the core of it. And when it boils down to “us or them”, I’ll choose them every time. 😉

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