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Q & R: Wiped off the face of the earth?

Here's the Q:

After learning what the radical Islamists were doing in Northern Mali, is it wrong for me to want them to be wiped off the face of the earth?

Here's the R: Thanks for your question. Your moral outrage is certainly justified. The question is what you do with moral outrage, and once your moral outrage is aroused, where it will lead you. Moral outrage can become quite intoxicating, leading to immoral action - what we might call "crimes of moral passion."

I can imagine a Native American, an African American, and an Australian Aboriginal asking, "After learning what Christian colonizers did in North America, Africa, Australia, and around the world, is it wrong for me to want them to be wiped off the face of the earth?"

I can imagine a Palestinian asking, "After learning what Israelis have done to my people, supported by Europeans and Americans, is it wrong for me to want them to be wiped off the face of the earth?" I can imagine an Israeli asking, "After learning what the Palestinians have done to my people, is it wrong for me to want them to be wiped off the face of the earth?" And I can imagine Jewish people asking, "After learning what Christians did to Jews for over a thousand years, is it wrong for me to want them to be wiped off the face of the earth?"

These feelings of outrage are certainly understandable. Even the desire for revenge, although illogical and ultimately self-destructive, is understandable. But there's a problem: the desire ("is it wrong for me to want"), once aroused, will lead one to a line of behavior that is dangerous and wrong. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, teaches his disciples to deal with evil on the level of desire (don't murder ----> don't speak derisively ----> don't hate; don't commit adultery ----> don't cultivate lustful thoughts, etc.)

So here's my suggestion. Instead of wishing for revenge or destruction, turn the offenses and atrocities of others into a stimulus for prayer, along these lines:

God, who loves all humanity as beloved children, may your holy name be revered and honored. May your kingdom of peace and restorative justice come, and may your will be done on this troubled and conflicted earth as it is in heaven. Give us all enough to eat today, and help us be caught up - not in the endless vicious cycles of offense-revenge-counter-revenge, but in the healing cycle of forgiveness and reconciliation. Lead us away from the catastrophes of violence; liberate us from all this evil.

I'd recommend trading the question "Is it wrong..." for the question "Is it Christlike?" The way of Jesus takes us beyond the dualism of right and wrong, and introduces us to a new way of thinking, centered in love, healing, justice, peace, and reconciliation. This is how "the kingdom of God" surpasses "the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees." I hope that helps!