"They take the dirty work on themselves"

The last couple days I've engaged in a discussion in the Jesus Radicals forum. Here's something I wrote yesterday:

I'd just like to offer a couple things. One, the discussion of a wholly Christian society, how we would arrange it, how to deal with difficult situations (like psychopaths), etc., is purely academic, isn't it? Do we ever expect society, even a substantial portion of society, to be completely Christian in the radical sense as we understand it? Jesus does not seem to suggest that this will ever be the case. So I'm not sure these are the questions we should be grappling with, and I don't think we should present ourselves with difficult cases that we will never face.

Because Christians will always live in the context of a society that does not follow Jesus. This will greatly impact any situation we face. For example, I work at a Catholic Worker house. We periodically encounter apparently uncontrollable and potentially violent people. In my short time here, I have tried to respond to these people in a loving and noncoercive way, and my experience has been fairly good so far (one example is Willy, who I wrote about on my blog). Others here also try to respond to difficult people this way. But these efforts have to occur in the midst of the not so patient and much more coercive responses of others around us. We can choose to risk our safety and get personally involved and not call the police, but others get fearful or angry or concerned for their property and they call the police, or make threats, etc. We don't want this, don't ask for it. But it happens. So I think our discussion has to take it into consideration. The question is not: If we aren't coercive, no one will stop this person, and they will do terrible damage. The question is: Given that a violent or forceful response is coming soon from someone who loses patience with this troublemaker, how can we try to bring mercy into this situation for everyone involved.

My second point is that this is not "shifting the dirty work to someone else." As I said, we don't ask them to intervene with force. They are quite eager to do so without our asking. They have their own fear or anger or possessiveness to motivate them. There is often the assumption that no one wants to do the "dirty work," that it's some great virtue to take on this unpleasant task, but from what I've seen people are pretty quick to do the dirty work when they get pissed. And they seem to find it pretty satisfying, at the time at least. My point is: They take the dirty work on themselves, we don't shift it there.

I recognize that force is sometimes necessary, and I see God using force to stop some evil from being acted out. This is usually done through the power-wielding of other people who also have not-so-good (usually self-serving) intentions. God uses their actions, but the power-wielders are not justified. They also will be held accountable for their choices and selfish intentions. So God uses evil against evil, force against force, turning "the world's violence back onto itself" as Andy just wrote. God (not us) decides what is necessary and provides it.

Our place as Christians is to try to be a loving presence (for all involved) in the midst of this.