President Bush’s Shoe Incident and Christian Non-violence

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Many blogs have been discussing the Bush shoe incident lately. I must say that I have been a little disturbed by what I have found. First I have to say that what I find within myself is often the most disturbing. There are times I also get angry at people. There are also times past I have wished someone would “get what is coming to them.” I don’t think either of those things are godly and certainly do not reflect the teachings of Jesus or represent the fruits of the Spirit.

I am not typing this to point fingers at anyone and I am not going to link to anyone I disagree with or even quote them in an effort to out what I find disturbing and inappropriate. I have seen several instances of non-violent, pacifist Christians condoning the actions that were taken out against our president. I see dramatic inconsistency in people who say there is no place for violence in the public or private arena but then applaud it when it is done toward the man they believe is evil. When did it become right to wish harm on President Bush? If you can answer that then we can all just as easily say it would be fine to wish harm on any of the rest of us.

First of all Bush is our president, like it or not. He is. Let me put this in perspective. I didn’t vote for Obama and I really hoped he wouldn’t get elected but I dare you to try and throw a shoe at him in my presence. I couldn’t stand for it. Even if he does an awful job at being president and even if he directly or indirectly (e.g. abortion) costs this country millions of lives I still wouldn’t condone someone attacking him because he is a real person and he is our president. We should be appalled at anyone who would try to harm our president or insult him in this manner. The same should hold true for those who don’t like Bush. They should at least not wish harm on the man.

Second, we cannot find something favorable just because we believe “he had it coming to him.” I am not quoting anyone in particular there, just making a point. That does not justify violence either.

Third, there are means through which people can make their voices and opinions heard in the public sector due to freedom of speech. This man is able to disagree with Bush, which he couldn’t have done under Saddam, and even throw shoes at him without getting shot because Bush had the vision (call it what you will) to grant this man freedom. I know many of you will disagree with this point and that is fine. Let me make the point another way…some of the same people who favor Obama because he is pro diplomacy and hate Bush because he “rushed to war” are in favor of this man throwing his shoes at Bush. Shouldn’t this man also use means of diplomacy and his rights of freedom of speech to make his voice heard? Does he have to try to smash Bush in the face with his shoe to get his point across?

Fourth, I don’t know if this man is a Christian but for those of us who are…we can never, ever condone this kind of behavior. This is just beneath us. Sorry. Oh, but Bush is evil and he killed all these people, etc. Okay then, just agree that war is fine based on the same criteria. That would be fair right?

We all make mistakes. I have made plenty. But I would sure hope that no Christian would hope I, or anyone else, would get our face pummeled to a pulp for making the mistakes we have made. Feel free to disagree. This is just where I am at in all of this. So what do you think? Is there a certain level of judgment you can pass on another person that makes it okay to behave like this?

0 Responses

  1. Matt,

    At one level, I find the shoe thing amusing. The guy had pretty good aim! And, the President came off as having good reflexes. I mean, how many people could look that smooth while they ducked a flying shoe?

    I know, he said something later about it being a size 10. If something like this had to happen, I only wish it had been Ronald Reagan who gave the one-liners afterward. Can you imagine what he might have said? It would have been great.

    On another level, it bothers me to think that if the shoe man could have had a gun, he would have used it. I’m with you about the hypocrisy of those who, in the name of openness and peace, blindly hate the President. Being liberal or conservative has nothing to do with whether you’re open or closed.

  2. I could not agree more with you. Personally, I have been losing respect for Bush for awhile now. Like you, I also didn’t vote for Obama. But they each deserve my respect.
    In some ways I understand where this man, may be coming from: “Bush, you drop bombs on my country, I drop you with one of shoes.” Which one is doing the most damage.
    It’s a perfect illustration though of the myth of redemptive violence. The man last the opportunity to dialogue with the president. Let’s face it, you don’t get that opportunity every day!
    The same is true in all cases of redemptive violence, something is lost when we take vengence into our own hands.

  3. If that had happened in our country – we would never see the shoe thrower again. The secret service would have whisked him away before he had the chance to throw the second one.

    “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” None of us are perfect and I would not wish that job on anyone I cared about. It has to be the hardest job on the planet and you are under extreme scrutiny. Any person willing to do that job – whether they do it well or not – deserves respect.

  4. As one of those proponents of Christian non-violence I have to be honest that there was a part of me that was excited at this shoe incident. Let me clarify, I dont condone attacks of any kind on anyone, but the sentiment of the reporter resonates with me a great deal.

    I sort of take offense to the Bush is our president thing. As Christians we are not of this world and we are aliens and strangers here. I am a Christian first and then a husband, son, brother, etc etc. then way way way down the list somewhere I guess I would have to claim being an american since that is what my passport says, but it is not my identity. You give too much importance to the office of president I think. I dont wish harm on Bush, not because he holds a certain office, but because like you did say, he is a fellow human.

    Also, just put yourself in the reporter’s shoes (no pun intended) he believes that Bush is directly responsible for killing his friends, family, and countrymen. Imagine the pain he must feel that he is trying to express but hasnt the words to do so. I think his actions were those of desperation. At some point, at least in the minds of many people, diplomacy and taking it through the right channels just doesnt work any more. Again that doesnt mean I condone his actions, or for that matter think Bush had it coming. I simply am saying that the pain and anger this man feels seems justifiable and his apparent concern for the widows and orphans is admirable, even if his tactics arent.

    Unfortunately that is what has been missed in all of this. Everyone is so concerned about how Bush feels or how we should feel about him that we have again forgotten about the real victims in all of this, the widows and the orphans. Im not looking for an argument about whether this war has helped or hurt the Iraqi people, I am simply saying that it is almost always the poorest who suffer most in war.

    I would conclude with this. The reporter is no less guilty in his actions than Bush is in his actions regarding war. Violence is violence, no matter what the cause or whom it is committing the act.

  5. I can understand your not seeing your identity as an American. I think we have taken that far too far in the past. No one has forgotten who the victims are. All we are asking is that we not add more victims to the list.

    The moment you say that violence is necessary because diplomacy just doesn’t work is the moment that pacifism, in principle, fails. I don’t get why that is so hard to see? You either are a pacifist or you aren’t. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with something that violence is either right or wrong. The principles are the principles.

  6. I do think that by and large we have forgotten who the victims are. Perhaps not you and I but in the media, in the church as a whole we are guilty of forgetting about the widows and orphans.

    With that said, I am not claiming violence is necessary, rather that sometimes we cant see beyond that to the other options so we use violence. Just as I believe divorce is wrong but I can sympathize with people who get divorced. They are often at a point where they just cant see any other options. Does that mean their arent other options? I dont think so, but it is hard for us a broken people to see that God offers us other ways to effectively deal with things.

    So yes I agree that if violence is ever considered necessary then pacifism fails. The problem we face is in our understanding of necessary. Sometimes people feel like something is necessary when it really is not. I believe violence is wrong and it is my hope and prayer that the Spirit will always open my eyes to the creative non-violent alternatives and the courage to be willing face the consequences of my actions and deal with whatever suffering may come. That is what I strive for even though it seems almost impossible even in my mind, but I trust that this is what Jesus has called us to.

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