Monday, December 05, 2005
the righteousness and unrighteousness of vengeance

Reading today about the continuing violence in Israel and the Israeli government's vow to continue its policy of "targeted killings", I can't help but think of how timely the new Steven Spielberg movie "Munich" is.

Based on a controversial book, the story of "Munich" follows a secret squad of Israeli assassins, commissioned to avenge the horrible Munich Massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, where 11 eleven Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed by a Palestinian terrorist organization called "Black September". While that may sound like a typical Hollywood cookie-cutter action plot, the primary focus of the book and Spielberg's picture is the personal struggles of the Israeli assassins themselves in fulfilling their mission - namely, is it righteous to avenge one act of murder with another?

Human beings are born with innate sense that things must be made "fair". One of the most common cries I'd hear my kindergarten students say during a conflict (next to "It's mine!") was the familiar, "That's not fair!". We live in a culture where legalized retribution exists on a foundation of fairness - but even within a legal system where the convicted are guaranteed to be punished, what exactly is fair?

Is it fair to imprison a starving man stealing food because he can't get a job? Is it fair to execute murderers who've taken someone else's life? Is it fair to castrate rapists who've violated the innocence of women and children? And in a larger context, how does our concept of retribution play out in the actions of our government in a post-9/11 world? Is it fair that we prosecute wars in Afganistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the world, all under the veil of terms like "freedom" and "security"? Is it fair that innocent Afgans or Iraqis die as a result of "collateral damage" when our planes drop bombs on suspected insurgent hideouts? We want desperately to "make things right", to even out the equation... but how can we do it without inflicting the same injustice inflicted on us?

I don't have the answers, but I believe there's a lot of compelling arguments that people need to consider in critically thinking about the subject, especially here in America.

In any case, I digress... Spielberg has publicly commented that he hopes that his new movie provides a grounds for the two sides of the tragic Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that the movie is his "prayer for peace". In another intriguing project that echoes "Born Into Brothels", Spielberg also mentions that he plans on distributing free video equipment to 250 Israeli and Palestinian children (125 each), so that they can make home movies about their respective lives. He then hopes to exchange the movies, with the Israeli children watching the movies made by the Palestinian children, and vice versa. To me, that sounds perhaps even more exciting than "Munich", but hopefully if "Munich" is successful, it'll jump start that project as well.

"Munich" opens on December 23rd.


"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written:

'IT IS MINE TO AVENGE; I WILL REPAY,' says the Lord. On the contrary:

'If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.'

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

(Romans 12:14-21, NIV)

Some verses that came to mind.


You bring up some good points in that is it right or fair to pay back evil for evil? I found the Chuck Norris post funny about how "Chuck Norris can mathematically make two wrongs equal a right." Anyway...I'd say that even though we know that two wrongs don't equal a right, vengeance sometimes is more often desired than peace. When peace is sought after in unpeaceful ways, then what does that promote? (I got that from the speaker at my church retreat...)

Anyway, I think that sometimes people fail to see other people as people not so different from themselves. There are differences yes, but what people fail to realize is that anybody could be in their place, and they could be in someone else's place.

I find that I struggle with those same things too. When I look at what Jesus would do and does, I look at my own life and see very little of that. I guess maybe I need to look at what Jesus did in the Bible before I start my day huh?

Anyway, I think that when people see people as human beings and not as some other race or label, then things will progress. But I know that things aren't that easy and that there is a lot of hatred in this world. Which is why we need Jesus even more.
i saw the Munich trailer for the first this past weekend. im pretty curious to see how it will turn out, esp with Spielberg at the helm, and what the reaction of filmgoers will be.
jon- word up.

dks- hopefully, it'll be better. at least this time, he doesn't have any crazy Scientologist actors running around denouncing psychiatry, post-natal depression, and drugs.
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in?scrip?tion (n-skrip-shun)n.
1. The act or an instance of inscribing.
2. Something, such as the wording on a coin, medal, monument, or seal, that is inscribed.
3. A short, signed message in a book or on a photograph given as a gift.
4. The usually informal dedication of an artistic work.
5. Jeremiah 31:33

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