Being Fussy Citizens

Byron Smith was kind enough to point me toward an excellent little article by Oliver O’Donovan on the whole bin Laden business.  O’Donovan voices quite lucidly and judiciously some of the inchoate concerns that I tried to articulate in the wake of the killing and subsequent storm of reactions, concluding with this fine paragraph:

Christian citizens need not expect, and should not pretend to, total certainty about the rights and wrongs of this or any other public act. It is no part of God’s plan for their holiness or for their service of the neighbor that they must be all-knowing about the morality of what others have done, even when it is done in the name of the political community. Christians can be useful citizens, though, by being rather fussy about the justifications and explanations offered by political actors for their consumption and approval. Faced with extraordinary actions, they may demand thorough and coherent explanations on morally serious and law-regarding grounds. For myself, I am left thinking that whatever good account there is to be given of why bin Laden was killed, it has yet to be fully made public.

 

You can also find, on the same site, a fine reflection by Deonna Neal on the other bundle of concerns I had been talking about–the problems with taking pleasure in the death of the wicked.

2 thoughts on “Being Fussy Citizens

  1. AJ

    "Christians can be useful citizens, though, by being rather fussy about the justifications and explanations offered by political actors for their consumption and approval." Practically speaking, I don't see how that's useful. It seems more likely to result in nitpicky ranting that affects nothing. Questioning govt has very little benefit, in my opinion.

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  2. Bradley

    AJ, sure, a nitpicky man can corrupt any discussion and lead it nowhere. We should refrain from acting that way. Nevertheless, we should critique government actions worthy of critique. That doesn't mean yelling at the postman because your mail was late. The subject here is bigger than that. Surely you'd agree it's "useful" to rebuke our leaders when they invade and kill the innocent? It's not "nitpicky ranting"; it's a matter of life and death! Regardless of whether such rebukes bring about change, we still need to express them. And sometimes our rebukes are heeded. Slavery was abolished in the UK because of "fussy citizens." So yes, it can be a very useful activity, regardless of how you measure it.

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