# Turn the other cheek or practice self-defense.

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by Cris, Nov 23, 2005.

1. ### JenyarSolar flairValued Senior Member

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I don't see how this is relevant, unless you are trying to make an emotional argument out of this. Obviously we are more affected by some deaths than others, but at the end of the day one person is just as dead as another.

You still strething, stretched. That one death is like another does not make anything "OK", or "God's will", and that's not what I said - it just brings things into perspective. Emotion is like gravity: it contorts and compresses space-time itself. I could just as easily turn the question around on you: why is dying in your sleep a "better death" than dying as a soldier or an innocent? Just because you like one more than the other?

You see, the various ways a human can die only become problematic when we start applying certain criteria to their death, like cause or guilt or suffering. Then you can start calling one death "fair" and another "unfair", one "peaceful" and another "violent". That's when death takes on the personality of the dying. It's as if we're saying a bad death is caused by a bad God, and a good death by a good God, only, we want to decide whether their death is good or bad, based on our judgment of the person and the circumstances.

We would all like everyone to die peacefully, in fact, I think we would all like there to be no death at all. But that's talking about paradise, about the life God wants us to have. And we don't live in paradise, we live in a world that is running down. It's strange that people can blame all kinds of injustices on God, while they are quite willing to believe in survival of the fittest, which leaves no room for any justice in or after death.

Uzzah lived under God's rules, as part of God's people. It wasn't a stranger that God struck down, it was one of His own people. You assume his particular death must be a great injustice, because for some reason you think he had been finally judged on the spot. No, his life had been cut short, the way a climber's life would be cut short if he cuts his own rope in mid-air. Israel had put themselves in danger when they ignored God's directions, and they suffered many casualties for their indiscretion. Those were the rules they lived by, and they looked forward to justice for every person, whether he died of sickness or was struck down by God himself. That's why they often made no distinction between a natural death and a supernatural one.

An honest mistake in a dangerous environment is just as lethal as a deliberate one. Laws exist for the sole purpose to keep people in safe environment, where there is room for honest mistakes, and even then they are judged by the seriousness of the mistake. If you run over a pedestrian by accident, you can still be prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter. It might have been an honest mistake, but the consequences were the same: a life was cut short.

You've just described the whole system of justice on which the Western world was built. Except you've reduced all criminal activity to a "painting", and all possible punishments to an unreasonable death threat. All you're doing is explaining to me what you think of this particular event, although you've extended it to a universal rule governing how God acts under all circumstances.

What happened to Uzzah can only be understood with the context of what happened and was happening to Israel around him. This short piece about Uzzah in the Jewish Encyclopedia might help a little to set your mind at ease about his fate.

There are too many perspectives to cover here, but I'll attempt a short analogy. The ark of the covenant could stand for two things: Noah's ark (the past) and paradise in God's presence (the future). In the time between the Exodus and the Babylonian exile, it was the judgement seat of God, signifying His presence among Israel, His strength and glory. The temple was later built to contain it, and only the High Priest could even attempt to approach it (at great personal risk, see Lev. 16:2). What happened to Uzzah convinced David to restore the ark to its proper sanctity. They had been taking God's presence for granted. The effect was the same as if Noah had been poking holes in the bottom of the ark.

Last edited: Dec 8, 2005

3. ### stretcheda junkie's broken promiseValued Senior Member

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Jenyar,

Great commentary. You have given me a clear perspective, and I understand what you are saying. Taken in context, (as it should) I move (slowly) towards finding common ground in your thinking.

(forgive me if I get a little side-tracked here?)
Emotion is a natural facet in analysing and dealing with death. Logic dictates that there are “good” deaths and “bad” deaths. Even though at the end of the day, dead is dead, there are degrees of more and less acceptability. Religion creates a culture of “its OK to die if god is involved”. Look at suicide bombers. If you are honest, then you should also condone their behaviour in the context of Allah, and their religious belief. They are dying to score points, and to be with Allah, so their actions are in a manner acceptable. Do you agree? This will always be a subjective matter, hence my statement.

Interesting explanation in the Jewish Encyclopedia, however the Rabbis were trying to understand and reslolve, ie. “palliate”, exactly what I am trying to understand, which is indicative of the underlying problem.

Quote J:
“The ark of the covenant could stand for two things: Noah's ark (the past) and paradise in God's presence (the future).”

* It seems nobody knows exactly what the ark is? A throne perhaps?

Quote J:
“it was the judgement seat of God”

* Is there any detailed description of the ark and/or what exactly it represents in the Bible?

5. ### JenyarSolar flairValued Senior Member

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3,833
I agree that there are degrees of acceptibility, but I don't agree that this tells us anything about God's actual verdict. Since we're not ruled by Israel's laws, it's natural for us to think we know better and judge it from our modern perspective. We often feel the same outrage at other countries' laws, like Singapore's death penalty for drug trafficking, or California's lack of mercy for Stanley Williams (see his Apology), but you have to ask yourself: what makes these deaths unfair or injust? It must be something greater than any law or guilt, because the laws are valid and authoritive. It's also can't be our own authority and good judgement, because what gives our opinion more weight than theirs? Sometimes our indignation is just our frustration or some other bitterness speaking, and it's not because of some poor stranger in another time and place - it's because we don't like to fear authority; we want it to be on our side, agreeing with us.

There is nothing wrong with being OK with death - people have come to terms with it even without religion. What you're talking about is something entirely different: playing God. Just like above, it's when one person assumes divine authority over another's life, as if he can decide what kind of death is just and proper. Claiming God's authority does not make it God who does what you're doing. Have you seen the movie "Kingdom of heaven"?

True, the event doesn't "sit well" with anybody. David was right there when it happened, and even he was upset about it. But like I said above, our feelings about it doesn't automatically make Uzzah's death unjust - only harder to understand and deal with. But how is that different from any other death? The problem of death lies much deeper than our present ideas of what could be called a good or a bad death, since that changes with culture and technology. Personally, I think because modern people don't come into direct contact with death anymore - death is becoming more and more "unnatural", and our opinions about what a "natural death" should look like has become more and more unnatural, if you know what I mean. We're living in an artificially protected world, with high walls and strong medicines to keep death as far away as possible, but underneath it all, we're right there next to the ark with Uzzah.

Since there were similar "moveable sanctuaries" in other cultures that were actually used as thrones, it's certainly possible. And the naming of the cover, the "mercy seat", suggests it was thought of in that way.

There is a detailed description in Exodus 25 and 37, with more information in Numbers 4-7 and Hebrews 9, but the Wikipedia summary might be helpful to start with.

Last edited: Dec 9, 2005

7. ### stretcheda junkie's broken promiseValued Senior Member

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1,244
Jenyar,

My oh My ... Mr. Stanley Williams admits to being a major contributor to the problem we find on the Cape Flats and elsewhere in SA today. You learn something new every day. How the hell did that all skip the water? Ill check it out further, could be a story there.

Not thats it needs to be an issue, but the way you condone (not the best word, perhaps "accept" is better) the God of the OTs behaviour in context of the historical era and realities of those days, one may as well write of the whole Bible as it certainly is not designed, nor readily accessible for the present age. Perhaps god can action a Bible Ver.6 update. Thanks for your input.

8. ### JenyarSolar flairValued Senior Member

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3,833
It's not that the context and information isn't readily accessible, it's the willingness to actually let it modify some preconceptions about God that seems to be inaccessible.

Or to put it another way: if we had the Bible tailor-written to satisfy our modern sensibilities, it would have seemed equally "inaccessible" for people before and after us. It's not the Bible's task to do the contextualization and actual believing for us (be honest: you would have rejected such an attempt even quicker) - the hermeneutic gap (gap between what the writer intended and what the reader understands; see Biblical hermeneutics or this article) is a consequence of progress and cultural drift. But what our progress doesn't do, is change the nature of God.

Another perspective: if the authors of the Bible had simply invented their God, and could attribute to Him whatever they liked or thought would make Him look good, would they have included something like Uzzah's death - something that could upset even the model-believer David? The Bible wasn't recorded to satisfy our sensibilities, and it would be unfortunate if you let certain events, which you judge anachronistically, decide for you who God is apart from the rest of the Bible - as if you believed only the parts you don't personally like, and dismissed the rest as fiction fabricated to fit personal agendas and wishful thinking.

Last edited: Dec 12, 2005