“Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will.”

Guilty Secret: I like action-adventure – especially like the secret agent variety. The premise of many is a bit disturbing I’ll admit, but they do give you a sense – even if only fleeting – that the balance of good and evil in the world tips toward the good. The problem is that it doesn’t always seek that such is the case. There are moments when the evil in the world gets the upper hand, when it simply cannot be eradicated by any conventional, (read legal), means. "They" don’t play by the rules and so "we" cannot either. Enter Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne, or Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp, super assassins able to set the powers of good and evil back into balance.

The good guys in these movies understand they are walking a morally questionable line, but someone has to do it they all seem to agree. The average citizen may say that they don’t believe such actions are right, but if push comes to shove, or if they were to have all the facts, they would of course have to agree that there are moment when you need to set the rules aside and deal with evil on evil’s terms. So the justification goes and as a result the bad guys die and the good guy, (along with the damsel in distress), live. All is then right with the world until the next time things get a bit out of whack.

In a world where innocents are in fact victimized, where we fear terrorist bombs or plagues, where we feel vulnerable to the randomness of violence in the world such movie plats are comforting in a way. But such plots always begin with good and evil way out of balance and never seem to deal with the issue of how things get this way or how, over the long haul, we can maintain a society that produces less violence. Over the last couple of centuries human beings have come to understand that we do that with societies governed by law. We’ve come to understand that we have to respect the rights of all if our rights are to be respected. That means that sometimes there are victims of evil in our imperfect world.

I’m reflecting on this because I just finished reading a NYT article about the machinery Obama uses to set the balance of good and evil to rights. It is titled, "Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will." I’m wondering in what way this ca be considered living out American values.

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About Sam Alexander

Sam Alexander is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael and also serves as Adjunct Instructor in Homiletics at San Francisco Theological Seminary.


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