About a year ago I wrote a brief post on how modesty and, of all things, violence fit together nicely in the Christian world. In it I stated that Christian men must become “modest avengers”.
The bizarre culture of manhood America displays is not the product of too much or too little violence. It is the product of a false choice. Men are told that they must put violence aside at all costs or become monsters. Most men choose the first. A few choose the second, and prey on the first.Christian men must pick violence up. They have no choice. Although violence is a fruit of evil doing, it is not in itself evil. Satan was violently thrown down from Heaven when he tried to violently overthrow the Right Throne. Evil violence is the imposition of the will of the stronger over the will of the weak, to the detriment of the weak. Good violence, proper violence, is the preservation of the will of the weak against the will of the strong, to the benefit of the weak.* This is why judges must be vindicators and avengers. That sounds more personal and violent than Americans would like, but that is their calling. They are there to save the widow from the ruthless man.
Good, evil, and violence are complicated things. Any ethic of violence is bound to be complicated, and bound to dwell in gray areas where questions of authority haunt every decision. But the Christian man must be willing to use violence…he has his wife, his children, and his neighbors to consider. Every Christian man is in some small, limited way, an avenger and a vindicator. He must be a modest avenger.
When I teach my kids about fighting and violence, I try to be as clear as possible. You may not use violence to defend yourself or your own dignity. But you may use violence to defend others, and that not just from physical threats. If some boys are insulting your sister, have at ‘em.
Some Christians have difficulty with that concept. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, etcetera. But they forget a few things. Like the preliminary to that command, which is “avenge not yourselves”. And when the Almighty says “to me belongeth vengeance and recompence”, he then goes on to describe the vengeance that will fall on the enemies of God’s people “in due time”: that vengeance involves his “swords” and “arrows”, with which he’ll draw blood and take captives. As the rest of Moses’ books show, and as a search for the word “avenge” will also show, it is the armies of God’s people which he uses to avenge God’s people.
The books of Moses deal with vengeance. Vengeance is said to be the Lord’s. Sanctuary cities are set up where manslayers can hide from bloodguilt, clans, and vendettas. Personal vengeance leads only to a cycle of violence. But sometimes, it’s just your job as a Christian to be an avenger. A ruler is to be an avenger. A judge is to be an avenger. One of the reasons the fatherless and widows are so vulnerable is that they have no one to protect them, to avenge them.
The crisis comes when the Christian lives in a land where there is no justice, where rulers are not avengers of the innocent.
What is a Christian to do then? Some say, we simply suffer and wait. Others say, we’ll become Knights Templar.
Often Christians are called to suffer and wait; often they are powerless, dragged away in chains. Christians remember that part of Israel’s history. What they forget are the mighty men who fought against the enemies of God’s people.
As long as there is a mighty man around to do the protecting and avenging when God’s enemies are around, that is what they must do.
Which brings me, at long last, to SEC football.
This past Saturday we saw an episode in which some football players had to take justice into their own hands. Some would object to it, saying that it amounts to a sports version of vigilante-ism. But I believe that it was their job. It only ended up falling to them because there was no just king in the land, but there it is. That’s how it happens for Christians all the time.
Alabama linebacker LaMichael Fanning picked up Missouri running back Russell Hansbrough and suplexed him WWE style, throwing him on his head. When you see the video you will see how brutal and vicious a play it was.
15 yard penalty. What?!
Yes, Fanning will probably be suspended. After the game. The refs didn’t expel Fanning from the game. And Nick Saban, Alabama’s head coach, lacked the class to sub him out for the next play and chew him out. Most coaches would have done exactly that, dressing the player down on national TV to send the message that this is the sort of thing their football program won’t allow. Unfortunately, Saban is a bully. Fanning was left in for the next two plays, and did not come off the field until fourth down/his helmet had come off.
Why did Fanning’s helmet come off? Because Hansbrough’s linemen were reduced to having to take vengeance into their own hands. And it was the right thing to do. First, the job had fallen to the judges; alas that the refs declined to expel Fanning. Then the job had fallen to the king; alas the Saban is an unjust king. The job of those linemen is to protect the running back.
So they went after Fanning. They, I would contend, were delivering the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor. Keeping it from happening again.
Did it work? Maybe. The fool only rages and laughs. Fanning kind of grins at his sideline as he runs back, full of arrogance. See the video below.
But that doesn’t matter. Those linemen had to show that they stood between their guy and wicked violence. And that’s how it ought to be in sports; it’s one of the ways you can tell good teams. Even when there’s just a scuffle, not an all-out bit of thuggery like Fannings, you can tell the good teams. Those are the ones where the offended party turns his back and walks away while three teammates step in to the gap.
By the way, don’t email me defending Saban. I don’t know what Saban did or said post-facto, and I don’t care. He sent all the message he needed to by leaving Fanning in the game.
Am I overreacting? Probably. I hope the Gators get to the SEC championship game, and that Alabama’s there waiting for us.