Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11
When we do carpentry, we see the wood we are working with, and we can draw up a blueprint well in advance. We have a range of tools laid out on the bench – hammer, saw, sandpaper – and we can choose which tool we want to use.
Conversely, when we get a gift from the spirit, we don’t choose which gift we get, and we don’t design our own blueprint.
A lot of Christians worry about “magic” or “occult” studies, because it seems to them that the “magician” is trying to choose gifts of the spirit, when he ought to simply accept whatever spirit gives with great passivity.
Leaving the whole “occult” issue for another day, I have considerable problems with the passivity of most Christian behavior.
Example – one guy was raised to “turn the other cheek” and ended up rejecting all religion:
“I told random kids on the bus that I would pray for them and would be mocked in return. One time I even got jumped while fishing and once they started punching me I didn’t even fight back, “turn the other cheek” was being said in my mind over and over. I got the crap kicked out of me and several months of ridicule at school over getting such a beating.
I have a lot of problems with Christian theology in practice. To start with, trying to discuss theology with Christians who don’t have years of training is a recipe for arguing past each other. The discussion quickly turns into an emotionally fraught exercise in avoiding debate – whether that takes the form of passive-aggressive silence or actively screaming at each other.
Even when dealing with a highly educated Christian, the Gospels and other Biblical texts allow so many interpretations that one can make up any interpretation one likes and claim that it’s Christian:
If this text is not speaking about self defense, what does the Lord mean when He says “not to resist an evil person” and then adds “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also”? Admittedly this appears to be a pacifist text. H.N. Ridderbos does help us out in this area when he says:
Jesus specifically mentions the right here , even though a blow from a right-handed person would normally fall on the left cheek. This probably means that the blow is delivered with the back of the hand, since then it would indeed fall on the right cheek. We know for certain that such a blow was considered particularly insulting. The injustice that is willingly accepted here is therefore not so much a matter of body injury as of shame. (H.N. Ridderbos. “Matthew”: Bible Students Commentary. Zondervan. p. 113)
At a closer look this passage deals with how one must respond after being insulted. This is not a passage dealing with what one must do when being physically attacked and having one’s life being threatened. It is, however, one that reinforces the idea that “revenge” is not to be left in the hands of the individual victim. Personal revenge and even “lynch-law” is certainly out of the question. The Lord has already set up the means to deal with punishing the offender by the sword of the state.
Christianity is sometimes invoked to justify anarchist behavior, and sometimes invoked to justify statist behavior.
For that matter, one can quote the Gospels against themselves:
Good News Translation (GNT)
Purse, Bag, and Sword
35 Then Jesus asked his disciples, “When I sent you out that time without purse, bag, or shoes, did you lack anything?”
“Not a thing,” they answered.
36 “But now,” Jesus said, “whoever has a purse or a bag must take it; and whoever does not have a sword must sell his coat and buy one. 37 For I tell you that the scripture which says, ‘He shared the fate of criminals,’ must come true about me, because what was written about me is coming true.”
So it doesn’t matter if Jesus specifically said “violence is bad, mmkay?” elsewhere, any Christian can point to Luke 22:35-37 and say, “Personal violence is justified now, because Luke 22 is the most recent update to the rules.”
It’s enough to make me want to take out my frustrations on some convenient fictional baddie – Nazi vampires, for example.
I could say this is purely a series of questions about fiction – should Christians allow themselves to enjoy stories about Father Andersen killing vampires? Should Catholics feel slighted because the Protestant Knights upstaged them? Should Protestants feel Alucard had a chance at redemption?- but the real question is “How should Christians deal with violence?” and it’s a question big enough to fill several libraries’ worth of books.
Buddhism doesn’t make matters any easier. Buddhism has been (and still is) used to justify various kinds of war, insurrection, and self-defense.