My blog posts revolve around my interests and vocation as a historian: the intersection of history and contemporary church life, the intersection of history and contemporary politics, serendipitous discoveries in archives or on research trips, publications and research projects, upcoming conferences, and speaking engagements.
I sometimes blog for two other organizations, the Canadian Baptist Historical Society and the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies.
The views expressed in these blogs represent the views of the authors, and not necessarily those of any organizations with which they are associated.
In the ancient myth of Scylla and Charybdis, ships attempted to navigate between a treacherous sea monster on the one side and dangerous rocks (or a whirlpool) on the other. One small mistake to the right or left meant disaster. And that story has become a modern-day parable about avoiding two looming and equally dangerous extremes.
The crisis facing the Israeli government over the recent terrorist attacks by Hamas recalls (at least to my mind) that ancient myth. There are two dangers facing Israel, both with serious consequences. The first is to do not enough, the second is to do too much.
The Christian position on the role of government and the use of violence is that the state is responsible to stop and deter evil. No government of any nation can let attacks on its citizens be carried out with impunity. And the brutality and outrages committed by Hamas on citizens young and old – including children – are heinous acts that require quick military action by the state.
Since those events, the Israeli government began doing what any state must do – that is to respond with force to protect it citizens.
Minor attacks on citizens may require minimal military responses. However, such egregious attacks as what happened last week must be responded to in a severe fashion.
Not to respond immediately and to avoid using robust military measures would be to court disaster. In such horrific instances, failure to respond with a substantial military reaction would be to embolden Hamas (or others) to carry out similar attacks in the future.
That is the danger of not doing enough – it leads to future violence.
The Christian position on the role of government is also that it is to work towards a telos of peace. In these days of distress and outrage, the Israeli government is doing what it is supposed to do, and that is carry out military action.
However, the danger is that palpable outrage over such heinous crimes and a hatred of Israelis for Hamas (and the people in Gaza) could lead the government to commit to not only a punishing campaign but also something more brutal. The desire for retribution may lead to excessive usage of force – something that the very powerful Israeli Defence Force (IDF) can do with relative impunity.
Such actions that target everyone – including non-combatants – in Gaza indiscriminately may satisfy among some a burning lust for revenge, but the danger of going too far in the use of violence is that any future peace becomes even less possible. In other words, if the IDF goes too far in its use of violence, the cycle of violence will continue in the future actions of those in Gaza seeking their own retaliation and retribution.
That is the danger of doing too much – it leads to future violence.
In conclusion, there is no easy way forward for Israel as it seeks to respond to the recent actions of Hamas. We on the sidelines have no access to military intelligence, so it is next to impossible for us to know what is the best response from the IDF. We on the sidelines also do not know what is really going on, for as in any military conflict the truth is protected by a "bodyguard of lies.” And we armchair generals have no expertise to know what to do even if we had all the necessary information.
But what we can hope, pray, and advocate for is that those involved in Israel’s military reaction recall the ancient myth of Scylla and Charybdis. In this modern crisis, it means use force, but use it judiciously.
 A quote from Winston Churchill.