Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Regarding Justice and Forgiveness...

My recent post regarding my feelings on the military operation that ended in the death of Osama Bin Laden drew more than a few reactions here and elsewhere. To be clear, the point of my post was that I...anti-war, anti-military, pacifist-pinko-lefty-socialist JB...was proud of the actions taken and satisfied with the result.

However, that doesn't seem to be the part that irritated folks. What they took some umbrage with was my thoughts on Osama Bin Laden and our (humans) need to preserve life, and that his soul was good, etc. etc. insert hippy-dippy New Age stuff.

Fine. Let me explain my stance on THAT.

I happen to be a Christian, which to me means I am a "follower of the teachings of Christ." No, I do not believe that simply believing in Jesus (or anyone) is going to save you...real ACTION is necessary for the salvation of souls (whatever that means to you).

Part of following Christ's teachings is forgiveness. Forgiving of those who trespass against us. Forgiving EVERYone.

Not putting a bullet in their head first and then forgiving them.

We all "pay" for our crimes (by "pay" I mean, we all receive the justice that is our due) in this life or the next. Eventually, we all reap what we sow: Bin Laden, myself, George W., those punks that burgled my house and freaked out my wife.

But humans are limited in the scope of our understanding of the past, present, and future. Only the Universe/God can find a true balance of action/consequence...while man speaks of justice, may even dispense "justice" (in courts or whatnot) true justice can only be determined from a higher, enlightened (divine) perspective.

What we CAN do is forgive. We can forgive those who trespass against us. As the Christ showed us.

I try to forgive everyone: Hitler, the Israelis that invade the West Bank, the Palestinians that retaliate with violence, the jackasses that blew up the Twin Towers, WotC and Hasbro, the dudes that shot Gandhi and MLK Jr., etc. And, yes, Osama Bin Laden, too.

No person is so amoral and evil that we cannot forgive the person. If Lucifer rots in hell, it is because he prefers to rule in hell than serve God in's NOT because God isn't all merciful and forgiving (God is All-Powerful by definition...he could turn Lucy into a cupcake if he wanted, what do you think "all-powerful" means?). The serial killers and serial rapists and suicide bombers of the world, the people that bilk the elderly out of their life savings and drive drunk and kill your child...these are awful, awful excuses for human beings. They need to be prevented from harming people.

They do not "deserve" death.

People who are "happy Osama Bin Laden is dead" feel the satisfaction of having something they fear expunged. But wishing someone dead is a trite and petty thought. All humans die eventually, and in the grand history of the world our lifespans are but a blink of the eye. Forgive and move on, work to make the world a better, happier place. I see folks that carry signs saying "Never Forget 9/11" and to me, it's like wearing a badge that says,

I will carry fear with me forever.

If you want to live in fear, that's fine. I've got news for you: you WILL die eventually. As will your spouse. And your children. And your parents. And your beloved friends and pets and everyone you know. Why waste the brief and precious time you have with them allowing it to be colored by fear?

Why waste a single moment of your life on hatred?

Yes, yes...JB bitches about WotC and WoW and 4th edition all the time. Passing thoughts, my fodder that once posted I do my best to forget. And, hey...I'm human. It's hard to forgive sometimes!

But I KNOW that forgiveness, and loving each human being on this planet, even the Osama Bin Ladens of the world, is the RIGHT thing to do. And challenging though it may be, it doesn't benefit us in any way, shape, or form to hold onto a grudge or anger or fear.

I write this as a father who loves his son and would do anything in his power to save him. But saving him does not mean "going out and killing some people." Creating a world where deadly violence and lack of forgiveness is "standard operating procedure" is not "saving my child." It is simply creating a fearful Hell on Earth.

I stand by what I wrote in my prior post. I think that the military operation to apprehend Bin Laden was NOT a callous offing of life or piece of vengeance; I think that there are born warriors in our society for a reason, and in this instance they acted to the best of their calling. A man had demonstrated time and time again that a Live and Let Live policy was not going to suffice for our differences in opinions, and needed to be prevented from committing more crimes against humanity. We CAN be sorry that he chose to die rather than choosing to reform himself and work for a better tomorrow.

Now, can I get back to the D&D posts? Please?


  1. Nicely said all around, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  2. My man, I am with you 100%. I too am Christian, and I am never glad when anyone dies, even someone as heinous as Osama bin Laden. He met his end how he chose to meet it, and we had folks to do what was necessary to stop him, however grim. This is an especially important aspect of this incident to me since I am Mennonite, and we are non-resistant, classified as a peace church. We'd rather he'd sought forgiveness and come before us as a reformed man, but that was not going to happen.

  3. "But I KNOW that forgiveness, and loving each human being on this planet, even the Osama Bin Ladens of the world, is the RIGHT thing to do. And challenging though it may be, it doesn't benefit us in any way, shape, or form to hold onto a grudge or anger or fear."
    Amen, great post. I am happy OBL is removed from the field of terrorism, too bad he didn't willingly reform his life. I prefer no one getting killed, but if that is the only way to stop a person of malice, so be it.

  4. Amen.

    The reassuring thing to me this week is that others share this point-of-view. Thank you for being part of that reassurance.

  5. Excellent post, JB!

    I like the fact that you got the "action" part of the St. James says, "Show your faith without works, and I will show my faith by my works."

  6. I'll echo the statements of others here, and in particular Roberts: it's been reassuring to see other people sharing similar thoughts this wekk.

  7. Well, as ever and especially with a hot topic like this, take it with a grain of salt, but reports are coming out that Bin Laden was captured alive then shot while in custody.

    I make no comment or judgement, but I thought you might like to know.

  8. Hi JB -

    Thank you for reading and responding to my earlier rant.

    This Bin Laden thing really has me wound up, so I had to throw in my two cents.

    I don't agree with most of your political/philosophical views, but I do enjoy your blogging on the D&D topics.

  9. I enjoyed the robust debate. JB takes the forgiveness doctrine more seriously than most Christians. I appreciate the courage it took to broach such a discussion on a blog normally devoted to gaming.

  10. @ Jason: You are totally allowed to have your own philosophy. I am glad you enjoy my gaming posts (this IS a gaming blog, after all).

    @ Kelvin: I have been following the on-going developments, but I'm not quite ready to eat my words. The media has this tendency to "sensationalize" things if you know what I mean.

    @ Everyone else: Thank you for your kind words. I think it's important we all work (in whatever way we can) to help make this world a better place to live for everyone. I'm glad I'm not the only one that thinks that.

  11. FWIW I agree with all your sentiments and conclusions here, and I'm an atheist. For me, the argument "life's too short" is enough, without requiring any grand reckoning to come.

    So this is a meaningful and profound and necessary post - and reassuring, too. Thank you.

    climbing back down to D&D for a minute, the thing that's exercising me right now is the puzzle of why we like this violent, unforgiving game, given all the above. Why take brief mental holidays in dungeonland when we so urgently wouldn't want to live there? I don't think the answer is catharsis - venting violent impulses - at least not for me. Maybe exploration, of modes of living as well as imaginary settings? Maybe it's just the terms of the game, we accept them to participate and the goods we get back - our fun - is not about the violence itself. I don't know.

  12. I'm not a Christian (or an atheist), but I also substantially agree with your analysis of this issue. As Cormac said when asked what was best for a king, "Military action for a just cause, justice without bloodshed, leniency within the integrity of the law". Thank you for taking a few moments away from gaming (a wonderful pursuit) to discuss a serious matter with seriousness.

  13. @ Richard: You wrote:

    "...why we like this violent, unforgiving game, given all the above...?"

    I can only answer for myself on this one...I enjoy the game. I enjoy it for many, many reasons, some "high minded" and others not so much. I enjoy lots of games, many non-violent. I am a rather hopeless addict to cell phone Tetris. I enjoy card games (Rummy, Cribbage, etc) with my spouse. Bannanagrams and Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit and (drunken) Jenga also make appearances at my family dining room. For me, I like to "win." I'm a gamer and the playing is fun.

    But why do we enjoy VIOLENT games? RPGs and vids alike? Probably something similar to the way we enjoy violent movies or comics or novels. In addition to the challenge of the game (will I survive and get the gold? will I run a good game and give my players a good time? will our indie RPG result in a "story?"), IN ADDITION to the challenge of playing "a game" there is the adrenaline thrill that comes with DRAMATIC watching a car race or a football game or boxing match. In addition to THAT, RPGs allow us to experience that same action VICARIOUSLY through our imagination...we can get into the boxing ring or fight a dragon or fly a helicopter or do a million other things that we normally cannot, would not, or should not in real life.

    You can PLAY at being Chaotic Evil without BEING Chaotic Evil. And for many, the thrill of playing that way "wears off" over time. Some wander off to other games, and some learn different ways to play ("you know, I really just prefer to be "Lawful"). But so long as one can distinguish between reality and fiction, the game is simply a game.

    Though it is an extraordinary one that can broaden your mind and help you to see other folks' perspectives...if you let it.
    ; )

  14. I get the adrenaline thing - that seems like it's all about the possibility of failure, and catastrophic failure means losing your whole investment in the game - your character, your continued play in the mode you've become attached to. In that case free climbing or cave diving games should provide a similar hook...

    I read elsewhere about planning a D&D campaign as a heist. That seems exactly right to me: the raid on the goblin village is also a heist, and the violence provides clear victory conditions. I still don't know that that's a complete explanation, though.

  15. "...why we like this violent, unforgiving game, given all the above...?"

    because it is a way to face the violent tendencies we all share.

    sublimation, baby!

    great posts, jb.

  16. Hi JB,
    I liked your post on the warrior spirit. I appreciate too the non-violent aspects of war and abhor its violence. And despite being an atheist and anarchist, I still agree with most of what you wrote on the topic (except the metaphysical parts, obviously) especially the "keeping people from harming others" part.

    Regarding "do" and forgiveness, i wear two black rubber bracelets: one says "nihilism" to remind me that all is passing ad ultimately not-important, and one saying "nobody's perfect" to remind me that, well, everybody can fail and we should never be too harsh on anybody. As we all can fuckup.

    And if everybody started to realize these things, I guess that the world might be a better place. Just might... :/

  17. I’m a theist, but I’m agnostic about an afterlife. When I read scripture, it seems to me to be talking more about “heaven on earth” or “hell on earth” anyway. But I digress.

    I too often wonder about my interest in violence in recreation despite my tendency towards pacifism in life. It is not only gaming, either. I’m collecting wooden swords that I enjoy play sparing with. I read a lot about guns and combat, though I would never want to own a gun and generally don’t even enjoy handling them.

    It is also interesting to me how much of our entertainment bases itself in violence while going to great lengths to avoid death and dismemberment.

  18. I can't take joy in the death of anyone; I'm gladdened by these exchanges.