What would you do if an intruder came into your house and threatened to shoot your children and rape your
wife?Somehow, this question has be- come a favorite of those Christians who support the military and violent so- lutions to conflict. It is meant to stump pacifists into agreeing that war is the most logical answer to attacks. The question has also been broadened to the national level, with allusions made to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This is an entirely invalid and convoluted way of
approaching the debate, for many rea- sons.
First of all, the question makes several assumptions about the hypo- thetical situation. The first is that the victim is the only party able to make a decision. The attacker is essentially mechanical, destined to act violently and aggressively.
The second is that you will be suc- cessful in killing the offender, should you try. This creates the delusion that you can predict the exact outcome or consequences of your actions.
The question assumes that the vic- tim has the right to take action against their attacker, essentially placing the victim above the intruder despite un- derlying economic or social factors. The victim is righteous and therefore worthy to deal with their attacker as they see fit.
Secondly, this question is selfish. It focuses on protecting your own peo- ple, simply because they are yours. It does not address treatment of strang- ers or of neighbors, but of those that are closest to you. This mindset does not display unconditional love or equal- ity, suggesting instead that only select loved ones are worthy of being “saved” from attacks.
For a Christian response to occur
in the proposed situation, the dignity of both the victim and the offender must be considered.
In a letter to Earnest Howard Cros- by that addresses this controversy, Leo Tolstoy writes, “Who shall say whether the child’s life was more needed, was better, than the other’s life?”
Our society has come to believe in a system of “us” and “them.” The child belongs to “us,” and the attacker is “one of them.”
We cannot fathom that the offender is also a human being, who deserves life just as much, because we do not know them. In this situation, we are not even given the option of considering the humanity in the other, because they are evil and deserve to die.
Finally, the situation is not even remotely similar to a war situation. Any retaliation on the victim’s part would be directed only at the attacker, not at the attacker’s family or any innocent bystanders. In modern warfare, the majority of casualties are from civilians, due to random gunfire and air bombing.
Additionally, modern wars are often started because we are afraid that our “enemy” might attack us. We lack certainty and act out of fear. Whereas war usually requires costly preparation and planning, the virtual attack situation is entirely unexpected and the victim may be prepared with a gun at the most. War is ambiguous in terms of offender and victim, but the individual situation clearly defines fault and innocence.
Thus the question makes simple a much more complicated issue. There is a multitude of reactions to an intruder in your home, and they do not all include violence. They do, however, require courage, which is why this is often such a difficult question. It is so hard to think about stepping in front of the gun as a martyr, giving in to the of- fender’s request for money, or catching them off guard with a display of love or nonviolent restraint. All of these are fully viable options for a victim, and they have worked in the past.
It is far too easy to talk about this, though. The hard part is actually allowing yourself to step beyond the con- straints of societal pressures and to act in the knowledge that you and your offender share the same God-given breath of life.
Lauren, Sophomore, is a liberal arts major who is more likely to crochet a hat for an intruder than shoot them.