James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, April 09, 2007

Worse Than Pilate

The Good Friday/Easter holidays made me wonder how Christians can ever advocate the initiation of force. Pontius Pilate is responsible for the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus, and this is evidence that he valued self-interest over justice. But give him this: what he did to Jesus was a rational attempt to appease the crowds and keep order. Pilate was in the wrong, but in a sense, he was only doing his job.

And this is perhaps the most important point of the cross: the religious authorities and the political authorities agreed that it was "prudent" to put Jesus to death in order to preserve their instititutions. So even when those institutions function "efficiently," the message of the crucifixion seems to be that institutions and authorities are the enemies of justice. It can't really be another way; as hierarchies evolve, ambition, or even just careerism, and its resulting network of internal loyalties, will undermine an organization's original mission.

Now if we dump on Pilate for killing one innocent guy (no doubt he was responsible for others, but he isn't remembered for them) to keep his job and preserve order, what does that say for politicians - Christian politicians like Bush and Blair - who start wars against impoverished, weak nations? How could they willfully sacrifice what they knew would be at least a few thousand, and has now become hundreds of thousands, of lives - for a dubious "cause" that had nothing to do with self-defense? War is bad enough even when it is defensive. It is incomprehensible to start - or get involved in - a non-defensive war.

We must resist the assumption that "good intentions" that involve hurting innocent people are actually good intentions. We must insist once and for all that going to war to "liberate" Iraqis is at least as bad as invading their country to steal their oil, and probably worse. After all, it is better to be governed by a cynic than an ideological fanatic; a cynic isn't stubborn, whereas a fanatic would rather destroy the entire world than be proven wrong. The U.S. is governed by the latter.

The Bush's of the world have so much faith in their own good intentions that they are convinced that whatever they do is just, and that the human cost is "worth it." Whereas, the Pilates of the world value self-interest over justice - but at least they recognize what justice is.

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