Thursday, September 13, 2007

revenge is best served by...

a quote from Dorothy Parker (hat tip: Linda Christiansen)...

"I am not a vengeful woman …possibly for the perfectly working reason that if you just sit back and wait, the bastards will get theirs without your doing anything about it, and it will be fancier than anything you could have dreamed up."

The Biblical version of this is to leave such things up to God. Why? Among other reasons, He's better at it. Paul borrows from Proverbs as he writes the end of what we now know as Romans 12 (a fresher version of Sermon-on-the-Mount-like standards to which Christians are called-- i.e., what Kingdom-life is meant to be and how it can be achieved) :

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

Parker is writing about the antagonist's sin nature and the world taking their toll on the jerks we encounter. Dostoyevsky writes eloquently (and at great, even painful, length) about the former in Crime and Punishment. The latter can be seen (at times, not always) in recent cases like Michael Vick, Pete Rose, or any number of young music and film stars.

The other angle is that vengeance, revenge, and anger are rarely good for us. On this point, I love what Frederick Buechner says about anger:

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back -- in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.


At September 14, 2007 at 11:05 AM , Blogger Daniel said...

It's hard to believe in a vengeful God when we are told by evangelical proto-theologians that God loves everyone. In fact, I remember my old pastor saying that even Hitler could get into heaven if he asked forgiveness! Heh, that's no kind of justice system I'd want to be a part of.

It's even harder to believe in God when people like Josef Stalin and Pol Pot live into old age and die of natural causes after orchestrating the murders of millions and millions of people.

I think the lesson is to avoid revenge because it only leads to more tragedy, and because your foes, if they really are bad people, will more often than not destroy themselves.


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