How Christians Should Fight & Argue

A friend of mine presides over a Facebook group that combines the passions of Protestant Christianity and gun ownership. It is a place, as you'd expect, of joy. It is also, as you'd imagine, a place of contention.

Recently, after a kerfuffle in the comments, he posted the following words: "Just a reminder that even if things get heated, we should still love one another. Duel on."

Duel on. My brothers, in this age of total war on the meta and butthurt on the micro, may we not adopt a Christian ethic of intermural combat? I would like to propose the following combat as the model for all Christian combat, whether with blade or blotter.

The most important thing to notice in this épée exchange is the most important thing. That is to say, notice what matters to them most. They are both consumed by a deeply passionate cause/quest that they would die before abandoning, and they would probably say that this passion was the most important thing in their lives. But their actions show what they hold even higher: living, and perhaps dying, as men of honor. They're not about winning, they're about living well.

Now, I'll make no attempt here to draw up a just war theory from The Princess Bride, but I will venture, ambitiously for a blog post, that Christian nations have had different standards for fighting each other than fighting pagans. And so it is between Christians as well.

When a pagan is on a comment thread or debating with someone across the table, he is fighting for his life. He must be right, or he is dead. The only pagan who does not believe this is the pagan who has already declared that everything is meaningless and life is not worth living. The layer of civilized behavior and respect that is put up between us and the pagans is a fiction, more or less agreed upon by both sides, that is thin indeed. Ultimately, the pagan must utterly destroy us, or he is wrong, and the wrongness of the pagan is too terrible for anyone to contemplate directly. At some point, it might be necessary to stop being kind to them.

But the Christian is unique in his ability to be consumed by passion while holding on loosely to his own life. He does this, of course, because he feels as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for his death. What is more, and unlike false gods, God does so with a joy that shines all the way through us. The Muslim know that his time is fixed, but he is concerned to die well, and to accomplish as much as possible for his god. The Christian knows that all things have been accomplished in Christ. God doesn't need the Christian to prove a single thing to him. Christians can die badly. Christians can throw their lives away with abandoned joy.

Which means that Christians can be gracious in argument. They can let another have the last word. They can value living well over surviving. They can decide that in this moment being kind is better than being right.

Especially, my brother, when dealing with another Christian. Hold on loosely, because you know that he would never kill you. You're not playing for those stakes. And of course, if he does kill you, you've only died badly, while he will have to answer to his own Master.

This has been a reminder that even if things get heated, we should still love one another. Duel on.