by S M Chen

by S M Chen
Submitted May 8, 2014
Bear with me while I fetch a can opener.  I have a tin of worms.
Recently, a close relative, who dwells in a largely Christian senior facility, sent me this news item:

Loma Linda centenarian sends would-be mugger to hospital
Posted on April 21, 2014> by sevvy <
Loma Linda, Calif. — Muggers in the Loma Linda area have been dealt a serious setback when it comes to access to the local geriatric population.  Ed Sutherland, 23, was no match for 110-year-old Edith Greenley’s vicious self-defense moves when he cornered her in the parking lot of Loma Linda Market, a local vegan grocery store.  Seconds after demanding Greenley’s wallet, Sutherland was struck on the forehead by the centenarian’s shopping bag.
“I swung that bag like David’s sling,” said Greenley.  “I had just stocked up on tracts at my local Adventist Book Center so I was armed and ready.  That’s how Adventists slay people in the spirit.”
The incident was captured in its entirety on video by Greenley’s 11-year-old great-grandson who was just emerging from the store as Sutherland began to threaten Greenley.  The tween instantly uploaded the video which went viral before Sutherland even reached Loma Linda Medical Center.  Sutherland left the hospital in the custody of local law enforcement with eight stitches to his forehead.
For her part, Greenley has announced that she will be opening a self-defense class at the Green Oaks Senior Center.  She has promised to demonstrate how students can defend themselves from any attacker using veggie food from the frozen food aisle of any mid-sized supermarket.
Following the foiled attack, Greenley and her friends command a whole different level of respect around Loma Linda and the greater Riverside area.  They are said to have inspired fear and trembling in the hearts of local petty theft enthusiasts.  The word on the street is to stay away from anyone over 90 with a King’s Heralds sticker on their walker.
Asked what her secret was to living a long and secure life, Greenley said, “The Okinawans have Karate, the Sardinians have the Mafia, my knitting group and I — we stay off the hooch and carry cans of Big Franks”

    Perhaps I should have recognized the above as satire from the outset.  I didn’t.
    Instead, my initial reaction (akin to if not actual gloating) was quickly replaced by remembrance of Christ’s teachings in Matthew 5:38-48, and I shared those with my relative, who responded that, were she in Greenley’s shoes, she’d likely have done the same thing, Jesus notwithstanding.
    Another close relative also lives in the same facility.  He related that, over a meal (denizens share meals in a common eating area), every one of those at his table agreed that the perpetrator, Sutherland, deserved what he got.  Huzzahs for Granny Greenley.
    I lean toward this way of thinking:  If we, as Christians, got better than we deserve (Christ died a death He didn’t deserve so that we might have a life we don’t deserve), should we not adopt the mentality that, in our interactions with others, we should cut them slack and allow them to get better than what we deem they deserve?
    It seems to me that this is the crux of Christianity: to love others as ourselves (the second great commandment).
    How does this square with the news item?  Well, for one, perhaps Granny shouldn’t have sent Sutherland to the ER.  For another, maybe we shouldn’t gloat over this incident (admittedly suppositional; my relative, in calling Loma Linda Market, was unable to substantiate that such an event ever occurred).
    My relative subsequently sent me a lengthy web link entitled “Biblical Self Defense,” which seems to me an oxymoron.
    One of the heroes of Adventist lore was Desmond Doss, who, despite being a conscientious objector, and refusing to bear arms or kill, saved the lives of at least 75 fellow soldiers in combat during WWII.  He was the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor.
    Speaking of war, it’s often started as the result of violence (where does self-defense end and violence begin?).  Violence begets violence, and frequently escalates beyond control, at which point older men decide to send young men (and women) off to be killed or maimed.
    One of the strongest arguments in favor of giving better than we get is what happened in South Africa after Nelson Mandela was released from prison after serving 27 years, and became the country’s leader.   How to mend a country torn by years of racial violence and apartheid?
    Mandela came up with a policy of reconciliation, in which all a perpetrator (usually white) of sometimes heinous crimes needed to do in order to obtain expiation and avoid punishment was to admit guilt and ask for forgiveness.
    While controversial, it was consistent with Christian principles and likely resulted in more healing than would have occurred had the government adopted a policy of retribution.
    The one time Christ demonstrated anger, and the closest He came to violence, is when He chased the moneychangers from the temple.  But He was acting against desecration (although He was God, I’ll make a distinction here and say that He was defending His Father’s honor, as it were). 
    I don’t recall His using violence (or self-defense) for His own good.  And He remonstrated with Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane when He told him to sheath his sword after Peter had amputated an ear of one in the crowd who had come to take Jesus.
    That is what bothered me about the little old lady at the Loma Linda market beating the mugger with her bag.  She was defending herself, not someone else.