A reader contacted me after last Sunday’s post (“Out of Cheeks to Turn”): WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? In your Palm Sunday post you touted Jesus’s way of nonviolence and then on Easter you “armed yourself to the teeth.” Did something happen? Were you violently attacked?
No, I wasn’t.
Although if multiflora rose bushes count, I’ve been under attack for weeks. Those barbarians invaded my land and occupy large portions of it. A walk in the woods is like a walk through barbed wire. No man’s land! The enemy is entrenched.
I’m cool with mushrooms. I’ll give them all the room they want. But I’ve declared war on those roses.
Protected by thick leather gloves and armed with pruner, shovel, and hoe, I methodically decapitate one enemy combatant after another. (I’ve ruled out chemical or biological weapons.) Once a bush is disarmed and uprooted, I let it shrivel and die and then gleefully cast it into the flames of hell.
Yes, I could import a herd of goats, but they’d eat my wife’s flowers, and then I’d have to kill them.
And to think I once was a radical pacifist.
So what happened to me between Palm Sunday and Easter? Why did I tout Jesus one week and Moses (“an eye for an eye”) the following week?
Because real life is messy.
I once idolized Gandhi and Martin Luther King. No violence. Ever. Love your enemies—like Jesus—even if it kills you.
And then I begat children and realized that if they were ever attacked, pacifism would not be my response. Violence wouldn’t be ruled out.
In my youth I admired Albert Schweitzer’s “reverence for life.” He wouldn’t brush ants off his dinner table or kill a fly. But what about a malaria-bearing mosquito? Schweitzer might let it be, but His Holiness the Dalai Lama wouldn’t. I’ll slap and kill a mosquito if it bites me, he once said.
No one rule, however pious, fits every situation.
After my Palm Sunday post, a Jewish reader told me he admired Jesus and respected “turning the other cheek,” but if he were trapped in the Warsaw ghetto, he’d pray for courage to kill Nazis.
I would too.
I don’t know what Schweitzer, Gandhi, or the Dalai Lama, would do about multiflora rose. But I know that between Palm Sunday and Easter I contemplated getting myself a flamethrower.
See Paula’s photo on the home page. Posted April 10