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God's Politics

This story in today’s Washington Post made my day. As a pacifist Mennonite, I can’t count the number of times someone has posed “The Question”: If someone had a gun to your loved one’s head, and you could use lethal violence to save them, what would you do? This scenario that unfolded in a D.C. backyard doesn’t fit that exact hypothetical scene in every detail, but it does help point out the absurdity of it—what are the chances that reacting violently in such a situation is guaranteed to save your loved one and only hurt or kill the “bad guy”?
At the very least, true stories like this one remind us that violence is never our only option:

A grand feast of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp was winding down, and a group of friends was sitting on the back patio of a Capitol Hill home, sipping red wine. Suddenly, a hooded man slid in through an open gate and put the barrel of a handgun to the head of a 14-year-old guest.
“Give me your money, or I’ll start shooting,” he demanded, according to D.C. police and witness accounts.
The five other guests, including the girls’ parents, froze—and then one spoke.
“We were just finishing dinner,” Cristina “Cha Cha” Rowan, 43, blurted out. “Why don’t you have a glass of wine with us?”
The intruder took a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry and said, “Damn, that’s good wine.”
The girl’s father, Michael Rabdau, 51, who described the harrowing evening in an interview, told the intruder, described as being in his 20s, to take the whole glass. Rowan offered him the bottle. The would-be robber, his hood now down, took another sip and had a bite of Camembert cheese that was on the table.
Then he tucked the gun into the pocket of his nylon sweatpants. …
“I’m sorry,” he told the group. “Can I get a hug?”

Of course, this story (and please, read the whole thing) is ripe with indirect biblical allusions—though the article makes no mention of any spiritual or philosophical motivations for anyone’s actions. And of course, there’s every possibility that in spite of a nonviolent response, it or similar situations might not have ended as happily—but Jesus never promised as much when he taught us to love our enemies and bless them. In fact, he promised the opposite. Still, it’s beautiful when turning the other cheek, giving your shirt, and going the extra mile have the intended effect: confronting our enemies with our humanity—and their own.
Though theological arguments aside, I suppose another moral of the story could be, quite simply: In case of armed robbers, always have a bottle of good wine handy.
Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the web editor for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

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