In which Nietzche Defends the Grass

This article, re-posted by Steve Bishop, has some interesting things to say about Christian involvement in environmental protection. And while most of the background information is pretty solid (and well worth your time to read), the central thesis seemed problematic to me.

Note: Read this BBC article for some background on the Newbury Bypass incident so you know something of the situation that is being used as an example.

A Christian then can engage in civil disobedience, but there are also God-given constraints. It should be: a last resort; non-violent (harming neither people or animals, and property only minimally); an opposition of policies, not people; and done fully realising and accepting the consequences; arising from it.

Disregarding for the moment the rather anemic justification offered for Christian civil disobedience (given the brevity of the article, this can perhaps be forgiven), how do we make the jump from refusing to obey a direct order to sin to actively disrupting a government-sanctioned violation of the dominion mandate? Refusing to kill Hebrew babies for Pharaoh and disrupting construction of a freeway bypass are hardly analogous situations. Tenuous at best. How does one make the jump?

Secondly, the stated “God-given constraints” seemed ever-so-slightly odd: “Last resort” is standard enough, and so is “non-violent”, except for the “property only minimally ” bit. “Only minimally”? Que? Where does one get the right to trash someone else’s stuff because one doesn’t like what they are doing with it? Can I go slash my neighbor’s Hummer tires? That’s relatively “minimal” property damage, and would certainly keep him off the road for a few days. How about sabotaging IRS computers? Hacking a computer doesn’t even damage property, technically. The government is certainly violating all kinds of moral and civil law by unconstitutionally demanding taxes from my income. Can I punish them too while I’ve got my sheriff star and spurs on? If civil disobedience in environmental action is proper, when is it ever not? How does one construct boundaries for a vigilante?

Speaking of which, let’s look at it from the other side: Why only minimally? If this is war against injustice, why can’t one go all the way? A good general knows that you send enough troops and enough firepower in the first time to ensure the job gets done right. Cutting gas-lines (or break-lines, for the activist with a mean streak) will annoy your average back-hoe operator, and probably slow construction down a bit, but if the goal is to stop the process, why not blow the machines to hell? Bomb the suckers. What is the dollar cut-off for proper Christian property damage? And while we’re at it, why not injure or kill the construction workers? Better yet, surgical strike: Assassinate the developer or the politician who instigated the thing. We do not war against abstract corporations, governments, or “policies”, but against people. Always people. Someone wrote that policy. Cut off the head and the body will wither.

While I appreciate the frustration of watching our governments, city planners, and seemingly-faceless corporations commit all manner of heinous stupidity in the name of “Progress” (may her name be ever glorified), and would argue that there are any number of things Christians can and ought to do about it, this so-called ‘civil-disobedience’ stinks of the same revolutionary, impatient, self-centered, faithless, historically un-thankful spirit that informs and drives the power-worshiping, pseudo-laissez-fairre, Nietzche-in-a-Wallstreet-suit mentality, which screams “Mine and Devil take the Hindmost!”. Two sides of the same damned coin.

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