According to Apuleius, a Platonist, demons intercede between humans and gods. Demons are located between gods and humans and they have immortal bodies, like the gods, and fallible souls, like humans. Augustine calls this arrangement an “upside-down” one: immortal bodies and miserable souls? That sounds like the worst possible deal. Unhappiness forever. It does sound exactly what God wanted to prevent when He kicked Adam and Eve out of Eden. Augustine continues to point out that a demon – immortal body and fallen soul – is not a good mediator between humans and gods.
Among our culture’s demons – we talked about The Market yesterday – is The Military. I suppose we could even just call it Violence. There is a debate about this among faithful Christians, but let’s assume that we can say that violence is a tool that humans can righteously use. In that case, The Military, the use of guns, the death penalty, and other forms of violent, corporeal punishment are all legitimate means of combating evil in this world. If so, then the Christian may be called at times to do Violence – it is a way of protecting the innocent and punishing evil. When any human being is called to do Violence, it must be properly called a tragedy. The fact of Violence is never something to be celebrated because (as we know) doing Violence does damage to the one who inflicts the Violence and does damage to the one who receives it. Both souls are damaged by Violence – this is a tragedy. It may be, as in the case of corporeal punishment, that the damage is warranted and prevents worse damage to the soul, but it is always damaging. Violence, if it is allowable to the Christian at all, is a necessary evil and not something that we ought to celebrate.
But celebrate we do. We are a culture that enjoys Violence. We celebrate our military victories, our soldiers are heroes, our guns are rights, our punishments are always just. I think I will always remember the night that we learned that Osama bin Laden had been assassinated. The celebrations were extensive. One evil man had been punished. Many more, and newer, and more destructive evils have risen in his place. Violence does not defeat Violence, I am convinced. Instead, Violence breeds and necessitates more Violence. Our celebration of violent acts may be cathartic, but it is celebration of “upside-down” activity, where the soul and body are both damaged. Everyone is less human in Violence. Violence is always an opportunity and an invitation to mourn, never to celebrate.
As you know, there is also an ongoing debate about whether or not a Christian can participate in Violence at all. I think this is a real and necessary debate. After all, Violence is a weapon of the Dragon and his Beasts, not a weapon of the King of Kings – the Lamb Who was Slain – whose victory is won when He suffers Violence at the hands of a violent and destructive world.
Praise the Lamb, who has defeated the powers by His death!