A lust to punish and correct

I’ve been reading some Tolstoy lately.  Here’s a bit from Resurrection,

The thought that seemed strange at first and paradoxical or even to be only a joke, being confirmed more and more often by life’s experience, suddenly appeared as the simplest, truest certainty. In this way the idea that the only certain means of salvation from the terrible evil from which human beings were suffering was that they should always acknowledge themselves to be sinning against God, and therefore unable to punish or correct others, because they were dear to him. It became clear to him that all the dreadful evil he had been witnessing in prisons and jails and the quiet self-satisfaction of the perpetrators of this evil were the consequences of people trying to do what was impossible; trying to correct evil while being evil themselves; vicious men were trying to correct other vicious men, and thought they could do it by using mechanical means, and the only consequence of all this was that the needs and the cupidity of some people induced them to take up this so-called punishment and correction as a profession, and have themselves become utterly corrupt, and go on unceasingly depraving those whom they torment. Now he saw clearly what all the terrors he had seen came from, and what ought to be done to put to put a stop to them. The answer he could not find was the same that Christ gave to Peter. It was that we should forgive always an infinite number of times because there are none who have not sinned themselves, and therefore none can punish or correct others.

The “culture wars” have coincided with Christianity’s massive rout from the public square.  The church went to war, but not for its foundational assumptions, such as the fallen nature of all humanity and the futility of building righteousness by works.  The church went to war, but not to inspire others to mercy, the cause of Christ.

Instead, the church sought to claim status as a chaplaincy to groups “trying to correct evil while being evil themselves.”

Planned Parenthood, ordering the culture through violence.
Highway of death
The “Highway of Death,” ordering the world through violence.

If you’re an American, it is likely that you will be grieved by one of these pictures and offended by the other.  One of them will resonate with you as a record of great evil that the church should resist; the other an expression of justice that the church should support (or at least refrain from criticizing).  Some of that will be driven by your affinity with (or desire for affinity with) this or that social group.

A few Americans will be grieved by both.

God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. (Romans 11:2-5 ESV)



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