A great deal of survival talk and survival psychology centers around weapons and their use. The use of weapons for hunting or protection from aggressive animals is a (relatively) morally neutral action, but the use of weapons against another human being is not.
Note: SurvivalCache.com remains “Religion” neutral, this entry was submitted by a man of the cloth and we felt that it had enough merit to be posted for all.
Deadly Force Psychology
While you can be a Vegan and a survivalist, it is extremely difficult and even a Vegan might see the need to protect people and crops from predatory animals. The moral dilemma arises when the discussion turns to the use of deadly force against fellow human beings.
For those of us raised in the Jewish or Christian faith, the prohibition against murder is absolute. The commandment is actually, “Thou shall not commit murder”, not “Thou shall not kill” but that is a different discussion. Let’s address survival, preparation and the use of force against people.
The Scripture, both Old and New Testaments have many examples of being prepared. Joseph in Egypt is a prime example in the Book of Genesis.
In the New Testament, note that Jesus wasn’t born in a stable because Joseph and Mary were homeless, he was born in a stable because the central government in Rome ordered them to relocate for the purpose of being taxed. The Holy Family fled to Egypt because the local government was bent on destroying the Infant.
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Nowhere in Scripture or the earliest Church writings are soldiers told to put up their arms or to change jobs. They are told to do their job honestly and to the best of their ability. Paul explains that government has the power of the sword since it is their God given role to enforce law and punish evil.
The early Church fathers addressed this issue at the same time as they addressed the issue of war in general. Men like Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas explain in detail what constitutes a just use of deadly force. There are three main events that must be met before deadly force can morally be used:
- Force may only be used defensively. Deadly force may only be used against people to protect one’s own or another life.
- The amount of force must not be excessive. You cannot kill someone for minor offensives.
- There must be a reasonable possibility of victory.
Three Reasons for Deadly Force
The first requirement means that open aggression is never morally justified. Deadly force may only be used against actual or reasonably threatened force. The leader of the biker gang who threatens my family and me, gets off his bike and walks in my direction has not actually used force against me.
The threat is however creditable and deadly so a deadly response is justifiable. It further means that deadly force is never available to an aggressor even to defend his own life. Shooting a homeowner who is using deadly force against me after I have broken into his home is not self-defense. It is murder.
“Eye for an Eye”
The second item is rather straightforward but is often misunderstood. The Scriptural “eye for an eye” injunction is not a command to seek revenge but is an absolute limit on the amount of retribution that can be sought.
If you break my tooth I may not kill you for it. I may do no more than break yours in return. This was a great limitation in a land where blood feuds lasted centuries. Interesting arguments crop up discussing what is ‘justifiable’.
There is an old saying from the American West that ‘Horse thieves are hung not because they stole a horse. They are hung so that horses may not be stolen.’ In a time and place where having your horse stolen was often a death sentence, being a horse thief was a capital offense.
In the Eastern cities of today or even of the same era this was not true because the result of being afoot was not nearly as severe. Horse thieves are not hung today, not even in Texas.
The final criterion requires a reasonable chance of success in your endeavor. Attacking an armored column with a bow and arrow is suicidal and suicide is forbidden. You are not allowed to murder, not even yourself.
The final, perhaps most interesting, point brought out by the Church fathers is that if there has ever been such a thing as a just war (justifiable defense) then it follows that there is such a thing as an unjust peace (failure to act).
As a husband and father I do not have an option, morally speaking, when it comes to defending my family. I have an absolute responsibility for their welfare. This means I must also defend myself, even if they are not present, or I deprive them of the care they are entitled to.
The time to think through this responsibility is before TSHTF. In fact, it should be done before the first weapon is purchased. Establish your limits of what is and is not acceptable force. Then if the time comes to act, there will be no hesitation.
The same applies for survival in general. I know what I believe is my responsibility to my family’s welfare and no person or act of government can remove that responsibility from me. The Moral and Natural Laws set requirements that man made law cannot alter or remove.
People must decide for themselves what their responsibility is to their family and community. They must then take appropriate steps to ensure they can carry out that responsibility. Any other action is not in keeping with the long Christian tradition of just wars and self-defense.
By Captain Bart
Catholic Deacon, Retired US Army Pilot, Suburban Survivalist