Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)
Quite serendipitously we started watching the John Adams mini-series this week. Last night's we saw the founding of the Continental Army and the Declaration of Independence.
King George III started cracking down on Massachusetts, removing their liberties and access to goods. Because those New Englanders refused to pay taxes without having a say, they suffered the wrath of George and his army fired on the citizens of Lexington and Concord.
This series, obviously, tells the story from the point of view of John Adams, a man of integrity and intelligence. However, the interaction of the delegates of the Continental Congress brought them all to life: Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Sam Adams, Alexander Hamilton, John Hancock, and more.
What surprised me most in the discussion was the reluctance of the Quaker from Pennsylvania to declare independence from the king. Being a Pacifist, of course, he abhorred the thought of war and the loss of life on either side. That makes sense to me. However, being held under the thumb of the crown, not having access to goods, and being stripped of individual rights and freedoms left him on the horns of a dilemma.
The decision to declare independence had to be unanimous. To be legally correct a majority would do, but everyone knew that for this act to have the necessary impact on the crown and full commitment from the individual states, the decision must come from one mind. Ultimately, we know the outcome. All voted for independence, except New York who abstained.
The Quaker from Pennsylvania could not vote for a stand that he knew would lead to war. He also knew that the tyrrany of the king presented untenable conditions. What to do? When the time came for the vote, he was "indisposed" leaving Benjamin Franklin to vote for Pennsylvania.
What do you do when you are faced with choosing between options that have both good and bad/positive and negative consequences? How do you decide? Which is the most loving act?
Such choices are not simple. What is right? What is wrong? How does one weigh one form of death (war) against another (tyrrany)? What course of action overcomes evil with good?
At the end of the episode, Congress read The Declaration of Independence aloud to the people. As I sat in my living room on July 3rd, 2008, patio door open to let in the mildness of the evening, listening to the reading of the Declaration, fireworks exploded. Tears came to my eyes with the enormity and synchronicity of it all.
And as the reading ended, everyone said, "God save the United States of America."