Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 145. Freedom versus Security
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 145. Freedom versus Security

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

René Girard has noted that taboos serve to maintain social order. Consequently "traditional values" and traditional social arrangements often have broad appeal, particularly during times of growing unrest. When there is general peace and prosperity, people feel less threatened by those who break taboos. I think that more social and legal acceptance of women's rights, minority rights, and homosexual rights in the U.S. during the past few decades owes much to the country enjoying economic growth and relative peace.1 When people believe that enemies, either from within or without, threaten their well-being, they tend to fall back on the institutions that have provided security in the past. As discussed in the previous essays on prophecy, during good times, people generally ignore or ridicule prophets who advocate abandoning traditional myths, rituals, and taboos in favor of new social arrangements. During troubled times people may violently oppose prophets and even blame the prophets for difficulties. However, during times of crisis, when traditional institutions seem to be failing, people may welcome the teachings of past or contemporary prophets.

The powers and principalities have often found it necessary to convince the public that there are real dangers (though not so threatening that they constitute a crisis that would favor a regime change). This encourages the public to support those in power, rather than risk the dangers inherent in adopting new social and political arrangements. However, the government can be more dangerous than the threat it purports to control. Therefore, Samuel warned the ancient Hebrews that, if God granted their request for a king, the king would become a tyrant (1 Samuel 8). Because power corrupts, Jesus encouraged his followers to seek servitude rather than power. Jesus admonished, "You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them" (Mark 10:42).

Our faith encourages us to seek freedom and dignity for all individuals. Only extreme circumstances might warrant relinquishing some of these freedoms. If compassion, respect, and love guide our choices, and if we are "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16), we will not stray far from a path of righteousness.

1. While there have been significant military adventures in the past few decades putting loved ones in harm's way overseas, foreign powers have not threatened U.S. soil.

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