Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Was Samson a suicide bomber?

Did your Sunday school teacher present Samson as a hero? He was not so, says James McGrath, the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University. This act is “almost a ‘suicide bombing,’” he told me. And yet, the New Testament book of Hebrews (11:32-34), in what many ministers refer to as the “hall of faith,” portrays Samon’s act as redemptive. 

i) What's funny about this comparison is how it exposes a potential rift between the religious left and the political left, even though they are usually soulmates. Many leftwing academics defend suicide bombers. They side with the so-called "Palestinians." They think the "Palestinians" have a just cause. Israel is an "occupation force." They like to tell us that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." 

ii) "Suicide bomber" has invidious connotations, based on the typical suicide bomber. Take a Muslim who rides a bus into Jerusalem, then denotes the explosive belt, killing or maiming the passengers (himself included). That's his ticket to paradise, with 72 virgins eagerly await his arrival. 

How you evaluate the morality of that action depends on how you view the Arab/Israeli conflict, Islam, Jihadist theology, the status of noncombatants, &c.

iii) In principle, there's nothing wrong with being a suicide bomber. We need to clear away the popular image that phrase conjures up. It all depends on the example. 

Suppose a terrorist state is developing a biochem weapon deep underground. They will unleash it on millions of innocents.

Suppose a "suicide bomber" infiltrates the underground factory/laboratory, the denotes an explosive belt which kills the scientists as well as destroying the samples and equipment. Because it happens underground, there's no contamination above ground.

At one stroke he spares the lives of millions of innocents. That's a noble action. 

iv) Was Samson a hero? We need to distinguish between a hero and a heroic action. Judges portrays Samson is a deeply morally flawed individual. A man who generally failed to fulfill his calling. 

However, his final action is heroic. The Philestines were mortal enemies of Israel. God providentially maneuvers Samson into a situation where he can defend Israel by striking a crippling blow against the Philistines. Samson seizes the opportunity. It's a military action. In the context of the narrative, he did the right thing. 

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