Isn't Life Complicated?

I'm not sure I'd call myself a Niebuhrian, but as I've grown older I've become less an idealist and more a realist. I don't see things as black and white as much as I did when I was younger. Life simply is complicated, and we make decisions that aren't always consistent with our values. My reflections this morning come from two directions -- the sermon I preached yesterday on the Sermon on the Mount, where we looked at Jesus call for us to put our treasure in heaven and seek first the kingdom. I shared in the sermon words about the young man who chose not to follow Jesus because his possessions got in the way. I expect my possessions get in the way of my discipleship. In fact, probably a lot of things and people and relationships do so. And thus life is complicated.

The other contributor to my reflection is the season and perhaps series finale of Detroit 1-8-7, an excellent cop show set in Detroit.  What I appreciate about this show, which has had decent but not outstanding TV ratings, besides its setting in Detroit, are the characters (and story-lines) that explore complicated lives.  Standing at the center is Det. Lou Fitch, an exile from New York, who is a lead homicide detective.  He left New York because a mobster he was investigating threatened his family.  Last night we learned that not only had he threatened Fitch's family, but this mobster had murdered his partner in New York.  Up until last night's episode, Fitch had revealed nothing about the connection with this mobster who has now decided to come to Detroit and set up shop.  The concern Fitch has is for his young son who is visiting him in Detroit, but also the family of his partner.  So what should he do?   If the FBI arrest this mobster it's likely that associates will murder his partner's family (the infant son being baptized at the end of the show). 

Fitch sets up a plan that warns the mobster so he gets out of an FBI raid, but then he and two other cops, Sgt. Longford and Det. Marjon, put a raid of their own -- but Fitch takes his nemesis to Canada and tells him to go back to New York, a request that is refused.  When the mobster pulls his gun, we hear gunfire.  Later Fitch arrives at the baptism, safe and sound -- so we know who survives.

So, my question for the day -- how do we live "consistent" lives in a complicated world.  If your family and the family of loved ones are threatened what would you do?  Its easy to say you would act non-violently, but would you?  Maybe if it's your life on the line, but what about the others?  Isn't life complicated?


John said…
An interesting and timely post. The situation addressed by Fitch and his fellow police officers has a real world analog in Libya.

I make no apology for being a radical pacifist. But it is one thing for me to make the pledge - because after all that is the most one can do until called on to die for your position - or watch someone else you love die - and another matter altogether to calmly and rationally argue for non-violence in the face of slaughter.

So I watch the situation unfold in Libya and I cannot help but respond to the challenge of Ghadafi's threat to massacre his people - and to the systematic defeat of a rebellion which most Americans and most informed people in the world support. Do we intervene? How do I respond as a pacifist? I can offer no solution to the threatened slaughter. Can I just sit back and sincerely say that intervention is wrong? Clearly I would choose another alternative, but none is offered, and still Ghadafi's forces advance. I am left sit quietly watching in horror, silenced by my own impotence.

How do I respond to the violence in Libya as a responsible pacifist? For the dead and dying the question is not academic.

By the way, those who decry the collateral damage as well as the unexpected magnitude of the international campaign to impose the no-fly zone really need to be quiet. It is axiomatic that in war, especially with missiles launched from afar that there will be collateral damage. The notion of precision attack is a myth. Moreover, before putting pilots at risk in over-flying a hostile nation, you have to expect that the very first strike will be against hostile air defense systems, typically anti-aircraft batteries - usually located in or near populated cities.

To all those who called for a no fly zone, what did they expect to see? Did they think bombs and missiles could be fired and no one would get hurt? Did they think the bombs could discern the innocent from the guilty? With war there are going to be casualties. War is not a video game or a movie, it is hell, really, HELL. It is not peaceful; soldiers shoot first and shoot to kill, and shoot with a wide angle shot.

All that being said, I am at a loss, and I find no guidance from Scripture and no recourse but prayer. And impotent silence.

"Ah ya don't believe we're on the eve of destruction."

Yep, life is complicated.

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