“When I’m away in college, I’ll know how to defend myself from bullies, cause I’ll have learned stuff from Rick.” “Son, it’s the Lord you have to trust as your shield and protection.”
Some devout fundamentalist friends and I were having dinner together, and the young man was speaking about going to college, and how he’d handle the challenges he expected to face, including jocks and BMOC’s (Big Man On Campus). His father, a serious believer for whom “Lean not on your own understanding and trust in the Lord” & “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” are widely pervading principals, jumped to make sure that the young man was not believing in anything less or secondary to that.
Is wanting to learn and practice self defense incompatible with religion, or belief in a supernatural entity (Jehova, Christ, Vishnu, etc), and how explicit in the various religions scriptures are the injunctions against it?
As to explicit and singular injunctions, none. The Bible, just to use the most common denominator; is loaded with contradictory statements. So much so that I hear there are 30,000 “christian” denominations worldwide, most basing their doctrines on scriptures that other denominations contradict.
In this context “no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper” is offset by “He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze,” “Turn the other cheek” is contradicted by “buy a sword,” which is offset by “he who lives by the sword will die by the sword,” and on and on. A quick search will often place promises of protection scriptures alongside instructions to protect yourself.
The weight then becomes about which scriptures you have more faith in, the protection promises, or the active in your defense ones. Put another way, of believing god will defend you, or he doesn’t mind you protecting yourself.
Sadly, we often see that belief is not enough. Historically, there are numerous examples of death and harm by violence, in spite of belief.
Recently and explicitly, there is the episode of the Columbine shooting. There is some argument about the truth of this rumor, but that it arose immediately after the incident among those involved makes it worth noting anyway. It’s the rumor related to the murder of Rachel Scott that claimed that the shooters had first asked Scott if she believed in God, and killed her after she said yes.
It’s a saddening thought to even reference. It continues to ask the question, is belief or faith in the supernatural enough to protect you from violence, or should you act on your own behalf. Further realize some will call it you attempting to use your own strength and knowledge an act of faithlessness.
Some religions forbid blood transfusions, and people have died, who might have otherwise survived, recovered, and lived full lives. Children have died because parents believed only prayer and fasting should be used to bring god’s healing.
On the other hand, I too, have heard the stories, “testimonies” of people who called on god when faced with immediate danger, and were spared. They are way too few and far between to earn my “faith.”
I believe in some things, and not others. I have no conflict with the potential for supernatural occurrences, like divine protection, and welcome it, as would anyone else, believer or non believer. But if it doesn’t deliver 99 percent of the time for say at least 80 percent of the people, to “believe” in it at a time of duress is recklessness, not faith.
I hope that the young man at the beginning of this story never gets bullied or unjustly beat up. I hope he goes through life without any conflict ever, and that his upbringing of faith in god mocks my perception of supernatural protection for believers or anyone else.
I teach martial arts and self defense. I believe that everyone should have basic knowledge of personal protection methodologies, whether you are a believer in any religion/god, or not.
PS. All scripture references are off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure they are there, in about the same wording, feel free to use a conrcordance to verify if you like.
- Unshakable Faith (altruistico.wordpress.com)
- Stuck in the Moment – or How Religion Can Froze Your Mind (new.exchristian.net)