It’s always strange to see someone I knew from my “old life” online.
Years and years ago, before I came to the Ohio Valley and had my conversion, when I was a brainwashed teenager and young adult living on the Planet Charismatic, I knew Coach Dave Daubenmire. We picketed the same abortion clinic, back before I realized that that is a terrible way to change the culture. Coach Dave isn’t “The Preacher” mentioned in this piece, but he was one of The Preacher’s companions. He was actually a friendly guy in person, believe it or not. I wonder if most conservative radio crackpots are equally charming in person.
Now all my friends are posting about Coach Dave. Dave doesn’t seem to have changed much. He’s still got that blue ball cap and that alarming trust in conservative politicians to save Christianity, as if Christianity is a human institution which needs other human institutions to prop it up. In the piece that’s drawing everyone’s attention lately, he has praised the truculence of President Trump and the violence of Greg Gianforte.
Coach Dave proclaimed that “The only thing that is going to save Western civilization is a more aggressive, a more violent Christianity.” And then he gave the strangest use of a Gospel quote I’ve ever seen.
“That should be the heart cry of Christian men. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of God has suffered violence and violent men take it by force.”
I’m a newbie Byzantine Catholic, raised a Latin Catholic, not a theologian and not an earnest Bible-believin’ Protestant like Dave, so I couldn’t instantly place that Bible verse as he no doubt can. I wasn’t even sure at first glance that it was from the Gospels, but it is, right out of the Lord’s mouth. Coach Dave is interpreting it to be a call to action– that the kingdom of God ought to suffer violence and that Christian men ought to become violent and take it away by force. He makes a similar use of the verse in his essay here, taking the verse to mean that Christians need to “man up” and violently take back the Kingdom, by force.
That seemed wrong to me, somehow, so I looked it up.
That verse is from the eleventh chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, and here is the complete, non-quote-mined text in which it appears. Christ says of John the Baptist:
There you have it.
What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? Look, those who wear fine clothing are found in kings’ palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:
‘Behold, I will send My messenger ahead of You,
who will prepare Your way before You.’
Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subject to violence, and the violent lay claim to it. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.
Jesus is praising John the Baptist, declaring him to be His forerunner, Elijah come again, a prophet and more than a prophet. No man born of woman is greater than John the Baptist, yet the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.
And what happened to John the Baptist, greatest man born of woman?
He was subject to violence. Violent men bore him away.
Shortly after this, John the Baptist was beheaded by violent men.
In the paragraph which Coach Dave quote-mined, Jesus is deliberately setting up John the Baptist and violent men as diametrically opposed to one another.
This would have been very strange to His audience, Jews who had as their example powerful, violent men like King David. Christ showed a new way, a way of love rather than violence, and He told us from the beginning that those who follow His way would be subject to violence.
The Kingdom of Heaven is one thing, exemplified by John, and the violent men who bear it away are another.
The Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of Violence are opposed. No one can serve two masters or belong to both kingdoms at once. Christians are meant to belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ is the King of Heaven, and He left us an example– He permitted Himself to be borne away by violent men and put to death in a far more violent manner than they did to John. If we conform to Christ– if we belong to Heaven and not to this world, then we can be sure that in some form, the violent will bear us away and subject us to violence like John. And when that happens we must love until the end like Christ, and like the apostles and the saints of the Church He founded. We must never allow ourselves to be converted to the ways of violence, and become the violent men who bear the Kingdom away.
There is the Kingdom of Heaven, and there are the violent who subject the Kingdom to violence. Every human being has to choose who they are. They can’t be both.
The Church does teach that there are occasions when self-defense, including self-defense with deadly force and even some forms of war, are justified, but those occasions must never become our focus or our identity. Christians ought to look at every violent act as a tragedy, as a failure of human beings to conform themselves to Christ– even when they’re forced to respond to a violent act with deadly force of their own.
However you vote, you must never admire brutality or physical force as a good thing in itself. It is, in fact, a mark of someone who opposes the Kingdom of Heaven. If betraying Christ and conforming to the way of violence is the only way to save Western Civilization, then Western Civilization isn’t worth saving. Nothing could ever be worth saving, if it means betraying Christ.
I hope that Coach Dave realizes his mistake, casts down his violent idols and returns to Christ.
(image via Pixabay)