Non-violence: Ceux qui travaillent à la paix sèment dans la paix (James’s epistle is still relevant for today as it speaks to issues of how Christians should respond to injustice)

https://scontent-b-ams.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xfp1/v/t1.0-9/10690013_4785735338343_7769564921204604104_n.jpg?oh=17131eaac71635b1f283f694486bf4ab&oe=54B27D59https://i1.wp.com/www.mehach-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Kailash-Satyarthi-800x516.jpgLaissez les petits enfants, et ne les empêchez pas de venir à moi; car le royaume des cieux est pour ceux qui leur ressemblent. Jésus (Matthieu 19: 14)
Quiconque reçoit en mon nom un petit enfant comme celui-ci, me reçoit moi-même. Mais, si quelqu’un scandalisait un de ces petits qui croient en moi, il vaudrait mieux pour lui qu’on suspendît à son cou une meule de moulin, et qu’on le jetât au fond de la mer. Jésus (Matthieu 18: 5)
Heureux ceux qui sont persécutés pour la justice, car le royaume des cieux est à eux! Heureux serez-vous, lorsqu’on vous outragera, qu’on vous persécutera et qu’on dira faussement de vous toute sorte de mal, à cause de moi. Réjouissez-vous et soyez dans l’allégresse, parce que votre récompense sera grande dans les cieux; car c’est ainsi qu’on a persécuté les prophètes qui ont été avant vous. Jésus (Matthieu 5: 10-12)
Celui qui a dit: Tu ne commettras point d’adultère, a dit aussi: Tu ne tueras point. Or, si tu ne commets point d’adultère, mais que tu commettes un meurtre, tu deviens transgresseur de la loi. Jacques 2: 11
Vous convoitez, et vous ne possédez pas; vous êtes meurtriers et envieux, et vous ne pouvez pas obtenir; vous avez des querelles et des luttes, et vous ne possédez pas, parce que vous ne demandez pas. Jacques 4: 2
A vous maintenant, riches! Pleurez et gémissez, à cause des malheurs qui viendront sur vous. (…) Voici, le salaire des ouvriers qui ont moissonné vos champs, et dont vous les avez frustrés, crie, et les cris des moissonneurs sont parvenus jusqu’aux oreilles du Seigneur des armées. Vous avez vécu sur la terre dans les voluptés et dans les délices, vous avez rassasié vos coeurs au jour du carnage. Vous avez condamné, vous avez tué le juste, qui ne vous a pas résisté. Jacques 5: 1-6
Si vous avez dans votre coeur un zèle amer et un esprit de dispute, ne vous glorifiez pas et ne mentez pas contre la vérité. Cette sagesse n’est point celle qui vient d’en haut; mais elle est terrestre, charnelle, diabolique. Car là où il y a un zèle amer et un esprit de dispute, il y a du désordre et toutes sortes de mauvaises actions. La sagesse d’en haut est premièrement pure, ensuite pacifique, modérée, conciliante, pleine de miséricorde et de bons fruits, exempte de duplicité, d’hypocrisie. Le fruit de la justice est semé dans la paix par ceux qui recherchent la paix. Jacques 3: 14-18
Ceux qui travaillent à la paix sèment dans la paix une semence qui aura pour fruit ce qui est juste. Jacques 3: 18 (Bible du semeur)
Mais beaucoup d’entre eux, encouragés par l’impunité, se tournèrent au métier de brigand ; dans toute la contrée ce ne furent que pillages et soulèvements, fomentés par les plus audacieux (…) Des individus vagabonds et fourbes, qui ne cherchaient que changements et révolutions sous le masque de l’inspiration divine, poussaient la multitude à un délire furieux et l’entraînaient au désert, où Dieu, disaient-ils, devait leur montrer les signes de la liberté prochaine (…) A peine ce mouvement réprimé, l’inflammation, comme dans un corps malade, reparut sur un autre point.  Les imposteurs et les brigands se réunirent pour entraîner à le défection et appeler à la liberté un grand nombre de Juifs, menaçant de mort ceux qui se soumettaient à la domination romaine et déclarant qu’ils supprimeraient de force ceux qui acceptaient volontairement la servitude. Répartis par bandes dans le pays, ils pillaient les maisons des principaux citoyens, tuaient les propriétaires et incendiaient les bourgades. Toute la Judée fut remplie de leur frénésie, et de jour en jour cette guerre sévissait plus violente. Flavius Josèphe
The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. G.K. Chesterton
Notre monde est de plus en plus imprégné par cette vérité évangélique de l’innocence des victimes. L’attention qu’on porte aux victimes a commencé au Moyen Age, avec l’invention de l’hôpital. L’Hôtel-Dieu, comme on disait, accueillait toutes les victimes, indépendamment de leur origine. Les sociétés primitives n’étaient pas inhumaines, mais elles n’avaient d’attention que pour leurs membres. Le monde moderne a inventé la « victime inconnue », comme on dirait aujourd’hui le « soldat inconnu ». Le christianisme peut maintenant continuer à s’étendre même sans la loi, car ses grandes percées intellectuelles et morales, notre souci des victimes et notre attention à ne pas nous fabriquer de boucs émissaires, ont fait de nous des chrétiens qui s’ignorent. René Girard
We treasure the precious words of Hizbullah and your expression of goodwill towards the American people. Also, we praise your initiative for dialogue and mutual understanding. We cherish these statements that bring us closer to you. As an elder of our church, I’d like to say that according to my recent experience, relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders. Ronald Stone (Presbyterian leader)
Nous avons donc à faire à des espèces de « brigades internationales », comme lors de la Guerre d’Espagne. Signe des temps, ces combattants, venus de tous les coins, ne se réclament pas d’une grande idéologie émancipatrice, comme au XX° siècle, mais d’une version très particulière d’une religion, l’islam. Il s’agit bien, cependant, comme lors de la guerre, d’Espagne, d’un mouvement inspiré par l’indignation et la solidarité. Indignation, face aux moyens disproportionnés utilisés, dès le départ par le régime face à la contestation. Solidarité, car ces jeunes, comme les combattants d’Espagne, veulent témoigner d’une communauté de croyance. (…) La malheureuse Syrie est prise en otage par les deux grandes puissances religieuses et ennemies de l’islam – l’Iran chiite, qui est derrière le régime, et l’Arabie salafiste, qui soutient la rébellion. Mais la violence, sur place, s’est déchaînée avec une telle intensité et sur une si grande échelle qu’on redoute le retour en Europe de combattants bien entraînés et surtout, « brutalisés », pour employer le mot forgé par l’historien George Mosse à propos des anciens combattants de 14-18 (De la grande guerre au totalitarisme). Par « brutalisation », Mosse entendait décrire l’expérience inouïe faite par les combattants de la Grande Guerre. La banalisation de la mort en masse avait provoqué chez nombre d’entre eux une accoutumance à la violence extrême ; elle avait émoussé les sentiments humains fondamentaux de sympathie, de pitié, et jusqu’au simple souci de soi. Elle avait développé un style de vie – Mosse parlait de « fureur d’une vie frénétique » et « d’aspiration à vivre des expériences situées au-delà des limites de habituelles de la civilisation ». Style de vie qu’on devait retrouver ensuite dans la manière des mouvements totalitaires de considérer la politique : une lutte à mort contre l’adversaire dans un climat de profonde camaraderie, de fraternité virile, de développement à la cause, allant jusqu’au sacrifice de sa propre vie. Ce sont autant les effets psychologiques de cette guerre, menée avec des moyens effrayant, où les combattants se filment en train de torturer, ou en train de jouer avec les têtes de leurs ennemis découpées, que la familiarisation avec les techniques de combat urbain qu’on peut redouter chez ces djihadistes quand, vaincus comme il est probable, ils retourneront d’où ils sont venus. L’anthropologue Dounia Bouzar a récemment consacré un livre, Désamorcer l’islam radical, au cas des jeunes qui s’engagent dans l’islamisme. Elle y montre ce que les techniques de radicalisation utilisées, sur internet en particulier, par les recruteurs du djihad, doivent à celles des sectes. L’identité individuelle est niée, pour être remplacée par une identité de groupe proprement totalitaire. L’esprit critique et la simple raison sont combattus. En échange, on fournit à des jeunes souvent en perte de repères, le sentiment exaltant d’appartenir à une élite, désignée pour régénérer un monde corrompu et décadent. Le parallèle avec les mouvements fascistes est évident. Le gouvernement va annoncer, cet après-midi, un ensemble de mesures destinées à lutter contre la radicalisation des jeunes musulmans, et à les empêcher d’aller combattre en Syrie. Mais la prévention ne devrait-elle pas passer par une meilleure intégration de jeunes déboussolés ? Les familles décomposées, l’échec scolaire, l’omniprésence de la drogue dans certains quartiers, le chômage de masse ne sont-ils pas les meilleurs agents recruteurs du djihad, cette fuite dans une violence exotique ? Brice Couturier
L’exécution de James Foley (…) Ça a provoqué une indignation générale des pays occidentaux. Bon, moi, j’ai été préoccupé par la lapidation d’Albert Ebossé, vous savez, ce footballeur camerounais, là, qui s’est fait allumer sur un stade. Bon, il s’est pris une caillasse en Algérie (…) Les cadres de la mafia des Rothschild (…) Ils ont tous condamné la barbarie de ce crime ignoble. Apparemment, la décapitation en mondovision sur Internet, c’est pas leur truc (…) Khadafi, son exécution où il s’est fait lyncher moins qu’un chien, tu sais, non, ça ça passe, Saddam Hussein, sa pendaison, pareil, mais là, James Foley, ça n’est pas passé (…) Moi, ce que je trouve étrange, c’est que la décapitation, ça symbolise avant tout le progrès, l’accès à la civilisation. (…) C’est pour ça que j’ai pas compris, en France, on a quand même décapité en place publique, devant le peuple. C’est pour ça que je suis étonné qu’aujourd’hui on fasse tout ce foin (…) Vous savez que je suis originaire du Cameroun (…) Bon, je suis né dans les années 60 et regardez ce qui se passe (…) la décapitation, c’était bien vu (…) Vous voyez tout autour des têtes coupées (…) , eh bien, il y a l’armée française, enfin la civilisation qui est venue nous apporter quoi ? Le progrès (….) Donc pour progresser, on peut pas faire l’économie de certains sacrifices (…) C’est pour ça,  je voudrais m’adresser aux parents de James Foley (…) je voudrais leur dire (…): détendez-vous, c’est-à-dire vous commencez à accéder à la civilisation (…) en réalité, tout va bien. (…) A chaque époque ses pratiques. Avant, c’était la pendaison aux Etats-Unis (…) on pendait des nègres un peu partout dans la rue aux réverbères (…) Moi, je suis contre la violence mais quand elle se présente, il faut s’adapter … Y a même pépé Aznavour qui s’y est mis (…) « Oeil pour oeil, dent pour dent », l’autre, carrément: « vous égorgez, les islamistes, on vous égorge ». Au nom du Christ, tu parles ? (…) Jésus a jamais demandé à ce qu’on égorge des gens enfin !En son nom ! (…) Jésus nous a appris autre chose, Jésus nous a appris le pardon … (…) ebola (…) J’ai l’impression qu’il y a vraiment un programme d’extermination qui est en train d’être mis en place … Dieudonné
On ne discute pas avec des étrangleurs. (…) on fait comme eux: vous égorgez, on égorge. Alors là, c’est oeil pour oeil dent pour dent ! Charles Aznavour
Une civilisation est testée sur la manière dont elle traite ses membres les plus faibles. Pearl Buck
I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ. Oh, I don’t reject Christ. If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today. Gandhi
Le 9 octobre 2012, les talibans m’ont tiré sur le côté gauche de mon visage. Ils ont tiré sur mes amis aussi. Ils pensaient que les balles allaient nous faire taire. Mais ils ont échoué. Et puis, sur ce silence se sont élevées des milliers de voix. Les terroristes pensaient qu’ils pourraient nous faire changer d’objectifs et arrêter nos ambitions mais cela n’a rien changé dans ma vie, sauf ceci: la faiblesse, la peur et le désespoir sont morts. La force, la puissance et le courage sont nés. (…)  Chers frères et sœurs, je ne suis contre personne. Je ne suis pas non plus ici pour parler en termes de vengeance personnelle contre les talibans ou contre tout autre groupe de terroristes. Je suis ici pour parler du droit à l’éducation de chaque enfant. Je veux de l’éducation pour les fils et les filles de tous les extrémistes, en particulier les Talibans. Je n’ai même pas de haine contre le Talib qui m’a tiré dessus. Même si j’avais une pistolet en main et qu’il se trouvait en face de moi, je ne lui tirerait pas dessus. C’est la compassion que j’ai apprise de Mohammed, le prophète de la miséricorde, que j’ai apprise de Jésus-Christ et de Bouddha. C’est l’héritage du changement que j’ai hérité de Martin Luther King, de Nelson Mandela et de Muhammad Ali Jinnah. C’est la philosophie de la non-violence que j’ai apprise de Gandhi Jee, de Bacha Khan et de Mère Teresa. Et c’est le pardon que mon père et la mère m’ont appris. Et c’est ce que mon âme me dit, soit pacifique et aimant pour tout le monde. Malala
Malala Yousafzaï (…) devint très vite un symbole. Sa notoriété naissante a pourtant suscité embarras et malaise dans son propre pays. Plus l’Occident l’acclamait – le show-business (Madonna, Angelina Jolie) ou les poids lourds politiques (Hillary Clinton, Gordon Brown) – comme une figure emblématique de la résistance à l’obscurantisme islamiste, plus des voix s’élevaient au Pakistan pour dénoncer son instrumentalisation par des « forces étrangères ». Les tenants de la théorie du complot – un sport national au Pakistan – sont dès lors passés à l’offensive. Sournoises, imprégnées de paranoïa, les questions se sont multipliées sur les réseaux sociaux. Pourquoi l’Occident se prend-il de passion pour cette jeune Pakistanaise ? Et pourquoi Malala Yousafzaï se tait-elle sur les enfants victimes des drones américains frappant chaque semaine les zones pachtounes frontalières de l’Afghanistan ? Il n’en fallait pas davantage pour que la jeune fille se fasse accuser d’être un « agent américain », manipulé pour servir les funestes desseins de l’Occident contre les musulmans en général et le Pakistan nucléaire en particulier. Sami ul-Haq, le chef du parti Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami (JUI) dont les madrasas (écoles coraniques) font office de pépinières de combattants talibans, avait ainsi estimé que Malala Yousafzaï avait été « kidnappée par les forces anti-islam en Occident. » Les libéraux, groupe à l’influence marginale au Pakistan, ont fini par se réveiller et ont contre-attaqué. L’été 2013, la romancière Bina Shah exprimait dans le quotidien Dawn son courroux face à tant d’acrimonie. De telles réactions, écrivait-elle, sont « la manifestation honteuse de la manière dont les Pakistanais tendent à se retourner contre les personnes dont ils devraient être fiers ». Faisant taire ses détracteurs, Malala Yousafzaï demanda à Barack Obama – qui la reçut à la Maison Blanche en octobre 2013 – de cesser les frappes de drones américains contre des cibles djihadistes au Nord-Waziristan (zones tribales frontalières de l’Afghanistan) qui, selon elle, « tuent des victimes innocentes » et « alimentent le terrorisme ». L’une des prestations les plus marquantes de Malala Yousafzaï, celle qui l’imposa comme une icône internationale, fut incontestablement son intervention, le 12 juillet 2013 à New York, devant l’Assemblée de jeunes de l’ONU. Les talibans « pensaient qu’une balle pourrait nous réduire au silence mais ils ont échoué », avait-elle alors lancé au fil d’un discours posé, ferme et éclairé. « Prenons nos cahiers et nos crayons, avait-elle enchaîné. Ce sont nos armes les plus puissantes. » Et elle avait eu cette formule empreinte d’un profond humanisme : « Je veux l’éducation pour les fils et les filles des talibans et tous les extrémistes et les terroristes. » Avant de conclure : « Je n’ai même pas de haine pour le taliban qui m’a tiré dessus. »  Le Monde
Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain. He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights. Nobel committee
This is the most ironical part of India’s growth. The middle classes are demanding cheap, docile labour. The cheapest and most vulnerable workforce is children – girls in particular. So the demand for cheap labour is contributing to trafficking of children from remote parts of India to big cities. Satyarthi (Save Child Movement)
I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees. I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact. Malala Yousafzai
It’s a political decision, a motivated one, and a conspiracy to invoke [sic] people in the Muslim countries. And the father of Malala and Malala have done nothing at all. Her father is a good salesman, that’s it. And the daughter has also become a salesgirl. And they are dancing on the tunes of West. Tariq Khattak (Pakistan Observer)
Les travailleurs [sanitaires] et les officiels, rendus responsables par des populations en panique pour la propagation du virus, ont été menacés avec des couteaux, des pierres et des machettes, et leurs véhicules ont parfois été entourés par des foules menaçantes. Des barrages de troncs d’arbre interdisent l’accès aux équipes médicales dans les villages où l’on soupçonne la présence du virus. Des villageois malades ou morts, coupés de toute aide médicale, peuvent dès lors infecter d’autres personnes. Adam Nossiter
Peurs, fantasmes, parano sont fréquents à chaque nouvelle maladie. Ce fut le cas lors de l’apparition du sida au début des années 80. A Kinshasa, durement touchée par la pandémie, la population n’a pas cru aux explications officielles sur la transmission sexuelle du virus, et avait rebaptisé le sida ‘Syndrome inventé pour décourager les amoureux’… Les églises évangélistes s’en étaient emparées pour parler de ‘punition divine’ et recruter un peu plus de brebis égarées. Pire, en Afrique du Sud, la méfiance vis-à-vis de la médecine occidentale a gagné jusqu’au Président de l’époque, Thabo Mbeki, qu’on aurait cru plus prudent, et qui avait encouragé le recours à des remèdes traditionnels plutôt que les antirétroviraux qui commençaient à faire leur apparition et ont, depuis, fait leurs preuves. Un temps précieux, et beaucoup de vies humaines, ont été sacrifiés dans cette folie. Pierre Haski
Yes, I am amazed by Malala. How can one not be? Her courageous young body, shattered by Taliban bullets, her strong, kind stance in that Jon Stewart interview everyone on my Facebook timeline shared.. It is hard not to be moved by her. But she is but one courageous person. Fortunately for the world, there is no shortage of such brave, courageous individuals. In fact, there is an abundance of them, especially in poor, authoritarian countries. If you think Malala is rare, that is probably because you have not spent much time in such countries. Most Malala’s, however, go nameless, and are not made into Western celebrities. (That interview’s most telling moment was when Jon Stewart said “I want to adopt you” to her right after she repeatedly mentioned how great her own father was–such a striking sentiment in which our multi-decade involvement in Pakistan is reduced to finding a young woman we admire that we all want to take home as if to put on a shelf to adore). What the world is desperately lacking, and the Nobel Committee, for once, rewarded, is the kind of boring, institutional work of peace that advances the lives of people. Everyday. Little by little. But without which lives are shattered and countries crumble (as they do now) (…) activism and social justice too often gets reduced to celebrity culture. Angelina Jolie visits refugee camps–good for her, but the crucial work of providing clean water to thousands of people trapped in such unsanitary conditions gets underfunded, and children die of cholera. No country takes in the refugees. Diseases spread, hunger and cold settle in. But by then, the celebrity has moved on, the cameras have moved on, and those under-appreciated bureaucrats, technicians, the planners, the institutions that improve lives of millions of people, everyday, get dismissed, underfunded, even ridiculed. Hey, they are just bureaucrats and technocrats! Yes, one by one, they are just that. But as institutions they are what the world needs much, much more of. Just in case you feel compelled to point out, I am well aware of the shortcoming of multilateral organizations. Overpaid staff and lack of accountability are real issues. But that does not take away from the fact that more institutional capacity with better oversight and principles is the gaping hole in a world in which almost all our major problems are internationalized, at least to a degree, and yet our institutions and tools remain woefully, dramatically inadequate. (…) Multilateral capacity within a framework of international law (yep, I’m bored typing it) is the only way forward because the other alternatives are whims of existing powerful nations, or celebrity moments on television which make us feeling good, but not much more than that. So (…) work of organizations (…) help keep future brave young Malala’s alive and thriving so that they don’t have to be heroes, but can be the children that they deserve to be. Zeynep Tufekci
While the (somewhat inexplicable) prestige of the Nobel can certainly bring attention to worthy individuals, there’s less evidence to suggest it helps their causes. For instance, the prize given to human rights activist Liu Xiaobo in 2010 has probably made it less likely that Chinese authorities will let him out of prison. Some also find the western media’s fascination with Yousafzai a little troubling. When she was passed over for the prize last year, blogger and technology researcher Zeynep Tufekci argued in a widely read post that in the Malala narrative “our multi-decade involvement in Pakistan is reduced to finding a young woman we admire that we all want to take home as if to put on a shelf to adore.” Whereas, she continued, “what the world is desperately lacking, and the Nobel Committee, for once, rewarded, is the kind of boring, institutional work of peace that advances the lives of people.” There is something irritatingly smug and condescending about some of the coverage of “the bravest girl in the world.” It was a particular low point when, on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart said “I want to adopt you” to a young woman who’s spoken very publicly about the support she’s received from her father—a pretty brave guy in his own right. But that’s our problem, not hers. My guess is that someone’s who’s comfortable telling the president of the United States to his face that his military policies are fueling terrorism isn’t going to let herself be reduced to a cuddly caricature. Joshua Keating
For Satyarthi, the award brings recognition to decades of work on behalf of child laborers, but for Yousafzai, the prize arguably comes with risks. As my former colleague Josh Keating writes at Slate, the media’s treatment of Yousafzai often obscures the West’s complicated relationship with Pakistan, one marked in recent years by an aggressive campaign of U.S. drone strikes and huge amounts of U.S. aid. That coverage often strays toward a condescension that reduces the West’s relationship with Pakistan to, in the words of technology researcher Zeynep Tufekci, to « finding a young woman we admire that we all want to take home as if to put on a shelf to adore. » That attitude — summed up by Jon Stewart’s quip that he wanted to adopt the young woman — risks obscuring the more institutional, boring work to find peace in Pakistan. Moreover, in some quarters of Pakistan, Yousafzai has become a symbol of Western interference in the country, and conspiracy theories abound that her story was in fact created by the CIA, which carries out ongoing drone strikes in the northwestern parts of the country. That’s of course far-fetched, but the praise that she has received in the West has been equally matched in her home country. The Peace Prize will certainly elevate her stature — and also increase animus against her in some parts of Pakistan. Elias Groll
Jacques accuse-t-il sérieusement ses lecteurs de meurtre ? Douglas J. Moo
James is a letter dominated by the theme: how a Christian should respond to injustice. James cries out to Jewish Christians: You must not use the ways of the world to handle your troubles. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Instead be prayerful, be patient, be agents of peace-making, endure hardship, take care of one another, guard your tongue, and wait for the judgement of God. Not only does James want Jewish Christians to avoid the growing early zealot movement and its ways, but he also wants them to positively take care of one another, not judge or condemn each other, and actively help each other to remain firm in the truth. James expects his readers to keep all the requirements that God wants of us. He finds his example to illustrate his point: you don’t commit adultery but you commit murder! This appears, on the surface, to be a strange illustration. Numerous commentators focus on how James reverses the order of the two commandments from how they appear in the book of Exodus. I am more curious as to why James uses this picture at all. How relevant a picture is it to speak of his Christian readers as not being adulterers but being murderers? Surely it would have been more real-to-life if James had reversed the picture. In our modern world, a congregation might be better served if we were told « You don’t murder, but you do commit adultery – and you call yourself Christ followers? You pick and choose what commandments to follow and what to ignore and pretend you living a holy life? » James, however, does the opposite to what we might expect here. However, in James’ day, in the late 40’s AD, or early 50’s, there was much social injustice and suffering by the poor, and therefore suffering by many Christians who tended to come from the poorer end of the social and economic spectrum. James lived in the time of growing social bandit groups. He knew the Jewish capacity to support and participate in such groups. The Maccabees were recent history, and were remembered as heroes and godly men. It is arguable from the internal evidence of this epistle, that James is aware that even some Jewish Christians were joining, or were tempted to join, the growing social banditry movements. These movements used tactics including the murder of enemies. Perhaps they imagined themselves to be « godly » like the famous Maccabees. Perhaps they even boasted of their « godly » lives (including moral purity). The illustration of “not committing adultery, but murdering” would be very relevant to the Jewish Christians of those “pre- war with Rome” decades. So we see that as James wants to remind his readers to care for the poor and suffering, he also thinks automatically about the mistaken view that it is acceptable to kill at times. Just as in 1:27 we see the link between caring for the poor and not being stained by the world, here too we see care for the poor and a link in James’ mind to not killing. In the light of what he is about to say in 4:1-10 it seems contextually reasonable to suggest that James does not want his readers to respond to injustice or poverty with “the worlds methods” – violence in particular.
The historical setting of Palestine in the 40’s and 50’s AD, was violent and dangerous. Growing social banditry movements were forming and causing distress and havoc as they used robbery and violence in their anger at injustice and oppression. If James the brother of Jesus did write this epistle, then it was written during those violent times. The letter has a backdrop of growing chaos, violence, and unrest as the early banditry movements grew and impacted more and more people. Eventually they would form into the zealot movement and a war with Rome that would destroy Jerusalem. It is time for the historical setting of this epistle to be acknowledged and taken into consideration as a part of the context that must be evaluated as one reads this epistle. (…) James has written during troubled times. There is a crisis, violent, vocabulary in the epistle. Numerous words and phrases are used by James that reveal support for dating the epistle during the troubled times of pre-war with Rome, as the historical occasion of the letter. The author accuses his readers of killing, murdering, and copying the aggressive, political, party- faction spirit of the world. He exhorts them to keep the whole law, not just a part of it. James’ readers include some who may not be committing adultery, but they are murdering. There are « wars and fighting » amongst them. James says that some are « fighting and killing » and that they are doing the opposite to heavenly wisdom when they are involved in « sedition, » « party factions, » and « harsh zeal. » James speaks against this “harsh zeal” that leads to party strife and sedition. He encourages the way of peace, not violence. And he speaks angrily against wars and fighting that are the result of selfish desires and wrong motives. He implores his readers not to make rash oaths, but to stay on the path of heavenly wisdom and practice instead: to be agents of peace and justice. Despite certain theologians wanting to water down the meaning and usage of the words used by James, the terms need to be read in the historical context they are a part of. Without the literal experience of murder, fighting, bitter zeal, and support for political factions, James’ extremely strong criticisms and even stronger imperatives calling for self-examination, repentance and remorse, in 4:7-10, are robbed of their significance. James is a tract that is still relevant for today as it speaks to issues of poverty and injustice, and how Christ-followers should be responding to such. We should join with James in being angry and dismayed at poverty and injustice: we should seek to do something practical and real to help the poor and suffering. But we must never abandon the way of Christ, in that pursuit. We should remain “peacemakers who sow in peace, raising a harvest of justice”. Jim Reiher 

Attention: une violence peut en cacher une autre !

Crucifixions, décapitations, attentats-suicide, assassinats …

Travail des enfants, servage et esclavage modernes, écarts de plus en plus criants entre riches et pauvres, formidable croissance économique se faisant au prix de la vie des plus faibles et notamment des enfants …

Militant ayant arraché, parfois au péril de sa vie, quelque  80 000 enfants à l’exploitation et au servage, adolescente de 17 ans, qui, malgré la balle en pleine tête qui aurait dû lui ôter la vie il y a deux ans, continue à prôner l’amour des ennemis …

En ces temps étranges du retour massif des crucifixions et égorgements au couteau de boucher comme du sacrifice d’enfants

Mais où se voient aussi récompenser, au plus haut niveau, la cause des enfants et la tradition du « Christ indien« …

Pendant qu’en Occident même, nos jeunes sont de plus en plus tentés de s’engager dans de véritables brigades internationales du djihad, certains se font les apologues de la brutalisation en cours ou, y compris parmi nos Eglises, appellent ouvertement au soutien des pires mouvements terroristes ou d’autres au contraire prônent le retour à la loi du talion

Et que d’autres, face aux équipes médicales venues les traiter pour le sida ou le virus ebola, voient des complots partout …

Comment, y compris dans ses pires dérives (comme par exemple l’inversion diabolique des rôles où un Israël ayant enfin recouvré sa terre se voit, face à des groupes terroristes à visée proprement génocidaire, taxé d’ « occupant »), ne pas voir l’incroyable triomphe de la singulière tradition biblique du souci de l’autre et du plus faible ?

Mais aussi, comme le rappellait récemment le bibliste américain Jim Reiher, la brûlante actualité, étendue bientôt à la planète entière, d’un texte comme l’Epitre de Jacques jusqu’ici réduite à une vulgaire « épître de paille » (Luther) ou à un « petit livre de Proverbes » ?

Du moins si on lui restitue, comme le fait brillamment Reiher, son contexte pré-insurrectionnel de la Judée des années 40 après Jésus-Christ …

Où, sur fond d’occupation du pays et d’exploitation extrême des plus faibles, pullulaient toutes sortes de mouvements terroristes et d’imposteurs ..

Et où croissait, un siècle après la révolte maccabéenne et une génération avant l’insurrection zélote qui allait provoquer la destruction du temple de Jérusalem, la tentation de prendre les armes devant tant d’injustice jusque chez les émules du Christ lui-même …

D’où du coup, contre la rapacité des riches et la violence zélote, l’enfin compréhensible véhémence des attaques du frère du Christ ?

Violent Language– a clue to the Historical Occasion of James

Jim Reiher

Evangelical quaterly

19 September 2013

Introduction

The thesis of this paper is that there is an identifiable historical occasion behind the letter of James which can be supported by internal evidence. James, it will be argued, wrote for a purpose. In fact, he wrote for a pressing and urgent reason. The epistle is much more than just a collection of wise sayings, or pearls on a string lacking a compelling historical setting that caused James to write.[1]

Some form critics will disagree. Dibelius, for example, wrote: « not every admonition in James is prompted by a concrete situation in the life of the church. »[2]  He adds: « inferences cannot be drawn from the occurrence of isolated technical terms. »[3] His reason for this position is the genre he has decided for the writing: « relatively little material is ever found in paraenesis which makes possible such a delineation. »[4] This underlying assumption of Dibelius colours everything he sees in James. « All . . . judgements regarding the circumstances of the origin of James must take their departure from the paraenetic character of the writing. »[5]

Indeed, one has to be careful not to treat words and phrases in a vacuum. However, it is acceptable to study significant terms used by an author, in the context of the writing as a whole, and to see if the terms used can fit neatly into a certain historical occasion. The assumptions of Dibelius’ paraenesis are highly questionable.[6] From a redaction critical basis, the words in context must be investigated to see if they assist in identifying the occasion to the epistle.

An occasion behind the epistle of James

J.H. Ropes has said that “The impression throughout the tract [of James] is of a settled condition of affairs. . . . There is no indication of war or of public calamity. »[7]  Ropes is a celebrated theologian and his commentary on James is still used. However, I would suggest that he is incorrect in this analysis. This paper will demonstrate support for the thesis that James wrote his letter because the times he was living in were dangerous and violent. Christian Jews were being tempted to use the world’s methods (violence, revenge, war) to solve their problems (4:1-4).

This letter was written, arguably, in the late 40’s or early 50’s AD.[8]  If James the brother of the Lord, was the author of this epistle, then he wrote in those troubled times.[9] From his perspective in Jerusalem, he was witnessing conflict and turmoil. Injustice and corruption was rampant from both Roman administrators as well as from wealthy Jews exploiting weaker ones. Jewish Christians were witnessing oppression and injustice and some of them were tempted to, and did, respond with violence. Numerous social bandit movements were emerging, seeking revenge for injustice, or plunder for compensation.[10] Before and after Agrippa’s rule, there was growing unrest. Martin Noth highlights the excesses of Caligula in AD 39, as the real starting point for the early expressions of the zealot movement.[11] It did calm down a little during Agrippa’s few years, but as soon as there was a return to direct Roman rule, it picked up again. As Reicke has written: « The glory of Herod’s kingdom, restored according to strict religious principles . . . had suddenly to vanish. From the very outset, therefore, the Jews detested their new guardians. »[12]

Josephus records numerous stories and examples of the growing violence and oppression in Palestine during the late 40’s and for the next 20 years, right up to war with Rome. Cumanus (governor from AD 48-52) is blamed by Josephus for beginning the troubles that eventually led to the war with Rome.[13] Religious extremists fought what they perceived as injustice and religious insults: some 10,000 citizens perished in one incident of religious indignation during a gathering for the feast of unleavened bread.[14] Around the same time, robbers “fell upon and seized” furniture being transported by a servant of Caesar called Stephen.[15] It led to the unjust rounding up of local villagers on the accusation they had not tried to capture the culprits. During this rounding up, a soldier was seen tearing up and burning a book of the Law.[16]  There was such religious indignation over this incident that it led to a huge multitude demonstrating and assembling outside Cumanus’ residence demanding punishment. Josephus states: “the Jews were in great disorder, as if their whole country were aflame, and assembled themselves so many of them by the zeal for their religion.”[17] In this incident, Cumanus saw too large a crowd to subdue, so he executed the offender. The story demonstrates how religious zeal could lead to disorder and violent commotion. Misdirected religious anger was expressed in violence and tumult. And it did not stop there. More troubles are described during the time of Cumanus that blur religious zeal, ethnic pride, and covetousness, and Josephus sums up what was happening with: “there were a great number who betook themselves to robbing in hopes of impunity, and rapines and insurrections of the bolder sort happened over the whole country”.[18]

The following governors did not help the situation. Under Felix (AD 52-58), “the affairs of the Jews grew worse and worse continually; for the country was again filled with robbers and imposters who deluded the multitude.”[19]  Felix even employed some ruthless robbers and assassins to kill the high priest Jonathan.[20]  This emboldened these and other robbers to greater acts of daring, feeling they had immunity.[21] Religious Jews were hoodwinked into following such people: “…these imposters and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness, and pretended that they would manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God.”[22] Religious zeal and insurrection were easily joined then, (as now).

It did not settle down. One incident might momentarily subside, only to be followed by more trouble. Jospehus describes it thus: “Now when [one incident] quieted, it happened as it does in a diseased body, that another part was subject to an inflammation; for a company of deceivers and robbers got together, and persuaded the Jews to revolt, and exhorted them to assert their liberty, inflicting death on those that continued in obedience to the Roman government…[so] they lay in wait up and down the country, and plundered the houses of the great men, and slew the men themselves and set the villages on fire; and this till all Judea was filled with the effects of their madness. And thus the flame was every day more and more blown up, till it came to a direct war.”[23]

Jewish Christians would have been faced with a pressing dilemma. As Townsend has said: “There was no escape from the problem. Whether they wished to or not, every Jew in Palestine was forced to take some sort of stand regarding the issue.”[24] These early growing zealot movements were popular, and for some could even seem « godly ». We have seen from Josephus how there was a blurring between religious zeal, nationalistic ambitions, envy and revenge. Some violent Jews might have even compared themselves to the famous Maccabee family: the Maccabee family were fighting corruption and injustice, and were religious Jews.[25]

Nationalistic Jews, including Christian Jews, would have been tempted to join or support social banditry groups.[26] James knew that good Jews were joining, or sympathising with, such political factions.[27] He knew that these groups had appeal. He was deeply concerned with the possibility that some Jewish Christians were compromising the Christian message and participating in this worldly option of using violence to address injustice. He wrote making it very clear that a Christian cannot be a part of such activity. A Christian must not murder[28], rob[29], join in violent uprisings[30], or join extreme political factions[31]. Rather, the Christ-follower should live like Christ: be a non-violent activist[32], caring for those in need and suffering,[33] but not succumbing to worldly ways while doing that[34].

James is a letter dominated by the theme: how a Christian should respond to injustice. James cries out to Jewish Christians: You must not use the ways of the world to handle your troubles. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Instead be prayerful, be patient, be agents of peace-making, endure hardship, take care of one another, guard your tongue, and wait for the judgement of God. Not only does James want Jewish Christians to avoid the growing early zealot movement and its ways, but he also wants them to positively take care of one another, not judge or condemn each other, and actively help each other to remain firm in the truth.

Such is the proposed setting behind the epistle of James. A careful consideration of numerous terms and phrases used in the epistle will demonstrate a violent backdrop behind this letter, that is consistent to the historical setting of Palestine in the 40’s and 50’s AD.

James’s crescendo of teaching to avoid using violence when confronted by injustice

1) Be slow to anger

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. » 1:19,20.

James Chapter 1 has been effectively setting the stage for the whole letter. In fact the three themes of the last two verses of this chapter summarise his deep concerns that will recur throughout the letter: guard your tongue; care for those being exploited and suffering; and in the process, keep yourself unstained by the world. James in particular defines “true religion” as embracing the final two of those themes; care for the poor and exploited, and don’t become like the world, in the process.

When Christians face injustice and poverty, cruelty and exploitation,[35] it is tempting to respond in anger and violence. James sees this, however, as blatantly inconsistent with their faith in Jesus Christ. James wants his readers to care about the “widow and the orphan” (a phrase for the poor, the suffering, and the exploited), and he is distressed at injustice (eg. 5:1-5). Nevertheless, James wants his readers to respond to injustice with the character of Christ. He wants them to offer practical assistance to the poor, but at the same time to care in ways that are “not of this world”. He wants a response built on practical help (1:27; 2:14-16), non-violence (1:19,20; 2: 10-13; 3:17,18; 4:1-10), a guarded tongue that does not judge (1:26; 2:12, 14-17; 3:1-12; 4:11-16; 5:9,12), mixed with prayer (1:6-8; 4:2,3,8; 5:4,13-18) and longsuffering (1:3-4;  5:13-18). The world might say: “kill your enemies and take back what is rightly yours”. Even the famous Maccabees from James’ recent Jewish history, used such violent methods. But not so James. He wants his Jewish Christian readers to respond not like a Judas Maccabee, but rather like a Jesus Christ.

In Chapter 1:19,20 James reminds his readers that they must not become angry easily. They should be “slow to anger”. This comes just after the passage about not falling into error, and realising that all truly good gifts come from God. Continuing the thought that we can fall into error, he adds these verses. The term for anger refers to a « mental bent, impulse, anger, indignation, wrath. »[36] Stahlin defines it as wrath with deliberation, as distinct from sudden passionate boiling up of rage.[37] Temptations for worldly desires can lead quite naturally to a lack of listening, an overabundance of the wrong kind of speech and a snowballing of wrath from it all. Focusing on worldly desires can lead to wrathful actions that come from deliberation – well thought out and planned.

The word “righteousness”, (dikaiosune) is equally translated as “justice”.[38] Both options are available to the reader. To the Jewish Christian readers of the first century, they were virtually synonyms. For us today, popular use tends to make “righteousness” more a personal holy walk with God – a kind of inner spirituality and piety. “Justice” to the modern ear, tends to mean social justice: people not being exploited or dominated, ripped off or left in poverty. While we might compartmentalise such definitions (one is personal, the other communal) that was not the way the first century Christian Jew read the word. To be “righteous” meant to do “justice”. One could not separate social implications and relationships, from inner holiness or personal piety.

Therefore, here, when we read that the anger of humans does not bring about the righteous life that God requires, it is not limited to the inner personal life of the individual believer. A deliberated anger that builds up and plans its response, does not bring about justice in the world around you.

2) Adultery and Murder

« For he who said `Do not commit adultery’ also said ` Do not murder.  » 2:11.

We noted above that Ropes wrote: « The impression throughout the tract [of James] is of a settled condition of affairs . . . there is no indication of war or of public calamity ».[39]  The verse before us (2:11) is just one of a number of important examples that demonstrates the violent backdrop behind the epistle of James.[40]

This first (but not last) use of this word ‘murder’ by James is an illustration that he gives after he highlighted hypocrisy in the lives of those who show partiality. His readers have a way of fawning around the wealthy, while at the same time, ignoring the poor. James can not accept that. Some Jewish Christian congregations are going out of their way to pamper the very people who are responsible for some of the injustices against the Christian community. The practice of partiality demonstrated evil motives and intent. It was sinful behaviour (2:9). James was distressed and angry. How could they be so mistaken in what was appropriate Christian behaviour? James’ concern for the poor is obvious. James is led to offer an illustration to show that being only “partly law-abiding” is not good enough. Being only partly righteous in keeping the commands of God, is inadequate. You can not do one thing right, while showing partiality against the poor. James wants an example or illustration, to drive the point home his point, and the example he gives is fascinating. His illustration reminds the reader that he is also angry about the use of violence. He wants Christians to care for the poor: to not show partiality. James expects his readers to keep all the requirements that God wants of us. He finds his example to illustrate his point: you don’t commit adultery but you commit murder!

This appears, on the surface, to be a strange illustration. Numerous commentators focus on how James reverses the order of the two commandments from how they appear in the book of Exodus.[41] I am more curious as to why James uses this picture at all. How relevant a picture is it to speak of his Christian readers as not being adulterers but being murderers? Surely it would have been more real-to-life if James had reversed the picture. In our modern world, a congregation might be better served if we were told « You don’t murder, but you do commit adultery – and you call yourself Christ followers? You pick and choose what commandments to follow and what to ignore and pretend you living a holy life? »

James, however, does the opposite to what we might expect here. However, in James’ day, in the late 40’s AD, or early 50’s, there was much social injustice and suffering by the poor,[42] and therefore suffering by many Christians who tended to come from the poorer end of the social and economic spectrum. James lived in the time of growing social bandit groups. He knew the Jewish capacity to support and participate in such groups. The Maccabees were recent history, and were remembered as heroes and godly men. It is arguable from the internal evidence of this epistle, that James is aware that even some Jewish Christians were joining, or were tempted to join, the growing social banditry movements[43]. These movements used tactics including the murder of enemies. Perhaps they imagined themselves to be « godly » like the famous Maccabees. Perhaps they even boasted of their « godly » lives (including moral purity). The illustration of “not committing adultery, but murdering” would be very relevant to the Jewish Christians of those “pre- war with Rome” decades.

So we see that as James wants to remind his readers to care for the poor and suffering, he also thinks automatically about the mistaken view that it is acceptable to kill at times. Just as in 1:27 we see the link between caring for the poor and not being stained by the world, here too we see care for the poor and a link in James’ mind to not killing. In the light of what he is about to say in 4:1-10 it seems contextually reasonable to suggest that James does not want his readers to respond to injustice or poverty with “the worlds methods” – violence in particular.

3) Bitter zeal, and allegiances with extreme political factions

« But if you harbour bitter zeal and rivalry/faction serving in you hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. . . . For where you have zeal and rivalry/faction serving,there you find anarchy/sedition/insurrection and every worthless practise. » 3:14-16.

We are now well and truly in the climax of the epistle[44] (3:13 – 4:10). It is all about living non-violent lives, (very different to the adulterous ways of the world), as one is confronted by injustice.

The Greek word for « bitter or harsh zeal »[45] should not be missed. Bauer adds in his definition, « embittered. »[46] Some zeal is legitimate (eg. Rom. 12:11) but some zeal is worldly, and devilish. James describes the latter type as « bitter » or « harsh. » Social banditry groups that grew and evolved to become the Zealot movement, were examples of this “bitter zeal”. It could justify murder, hatred, robbery, revenge and violence. For James there is no question about its source. No matter how much false teachers might say they were being led by God, for James, the fact is that they were being led by a wisdom of the world.

Interestingly, Ropes admits the term is best interpreted as « harsh zeal » or « fanatical devotion to a cause, » but he limits it here to a fanatical devotion of some Christians to wanting to view their own opinions.[47] Such a restrictive interpretation is ignoring the very real social setting of Palestine in the 40’s -60’s AD. Of course, Ropes and others have decided to date James late (for reasons that have lost credibility over the decades[48]) and this demands a weakened application of terms like this.

The second phrase adds to this. « Rivalry » (NIV) or « strife » (KJV), are common English options, but the more full meaning is « the service of a party, party spirit; feud, faction, contentious disposition. »[49] It is a political term: « a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means. »[50] The use of this word adds strength to the suggestion that the context of this letter is at a time when Jews (including Jewish Christians) were tempted to join the politically as well as religiously motivated, social bandit parties or groups.

James explains the outcome of the wrong kind of zeal, and the service of factions or parties: « tumult and every worthless practise. » Perschbacher defines the word for this as « instability, hence an unsettled state, disorder, commotion, tumult, sedition. »[51] Bauer describes it as « disorder, unruliness » and « insurrections. »[52] In the context of political movements and social banditry, this is another important choice of words. James is lamenting that the wrong kind of zeal leads to instability, commotions, seditions and insurrections. The theologian who wants to find no hint of an historical occasion behind this epistle, is ignoring terms such as these. Ropes, for example, gives an honest enough discussion on the term, but makes no conclusion about it. He says of the word, that it has similar associations to our modern word « anarchy, » and that political instability since the time of Alexander was described with that term.[53] He then moves on to discuss v.17 without considering the implications of all this. Without the presupposition of a late date and settled times, one is free to let the term imply its actual meaning.

4) Wars and fighting; coveting and killing

« What causes wars and fighting among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You murder and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You fight and you war.You do not have because you do not ask God. » 4:1,2.

In 4:1,2 we have another of the terms used by James that undermines the claim of Ropes that this letter is written in peaceful times.[54] Concerning the words wars and fighting, Ropes writes: they « cover the chronic and the acute hostility in the [church] community. »[55] However the meanings of the words are stronger than that. ‘Wars’ has a range of possible meanings including: « war, battle engagement, combat . . . battling, strife. »[56] And ‘fighting’ means: « a fight, battle, conflict . . . contention, dispute, strife, controversy. »[57] Bauer, interestingly, sees the particular usage in this verse as « battles and fights » and does not include it in the verses he lists under the softer alternative meaning « strife, conflict, quarrel. »[58] Moo takes Ropes position, and suggests that the terms are being used metaphorically. « The Christians to whom James wrote were obviously engaged in . . . verbal battles. »[59]

While such a view seems to make sense of the preceding material (the misuse of the tongue in 3:1-12), it does not make sense of the most recent material on earthly verses heavenly wisdom (3:13-18). This metaphorical explanation also fails to prepare the reader for the serious charges James levels in 4:4-6 and the explosion of imperatives that bombard the reader in 4:7-10.  Moo does entertain the question: « Is James seriously accusing his readers of murder? »[60] He rejects this, however, although he admits that isolated theologians have argued it. He cites Townsend.[61] Townsend does indeed advocate such a position. He sees James as possibly addressing new Jewish Christian converts who had been active in the zealot movement prior to conversion and who are now being reminded that their previous lifestyle and aggressive activities are inconsistent with their new faith.[62] Moo rejects this on the basis that James is writing about « wars and fighting » as actually « among you » and not about the old lives of new members. In James’ mind, it is happening in the present, not the past.[63] This paper agrees that this is a present tense discussion, but does not reach the same conclusion as Moo. Rather, the Jewish Christians whom James addresses are either actively involved in the early zealot movement or else currently sympathising with their methods. The early zealot movement was making inroads into the Jewish Christian community.[64] As A. Ross admits: “The fanatical Zealots were at all times ready to stir the people to insurrection and murder. . . . Many of the Christians were, no doubt, being contaminated by the corrupt atmosphere around them.”[65] Rendall, also, writing of the words « wars and fighting » observes: “The words used are not applicable to the disagreements and quarrels of a congregation: they refer to fierce and murderous affrays, the `wars and battles’ of rival religious factions.”[66]

The second use of the word for murder, appears in this important passage as well. It reveals the occasion most strongly. Here we see the verse: « You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. » It is not a soft word. Bauer defines it simply as « murder, kill. »[67] Perschbacher agrees: « to put to death, kill, stay, to commit murder. »[68] There is no soft option here. There is no choice for “anger” or “disagreements and quarrels” with this word which is being used to take further his comments in the verse before it. If this verse were not in the text, one might be excused for softening the words in verse 1. But this verse is here, further elaborating the issue that so distresses the author. It is contextual denial in the extreme to make verse 1 take the softer option.

Even Ropes can not deny the meaning of this word in verse 2. Nevertheless he rejects the implication that some people who might read, or hear, this letter were actually killing others or agreeing that it was all right to do so. Instead, he says of 4:2 that while it does mean kill and murder, and « No weaker sense is possible, »[69] he adds:

James is not here describing the condition of any special community, but is analysing the result of choosing pleasure instead of God.. . . . In the use of the second person plural the writer is taking the readers as representative of the world of men in general.[70]

James’ whole chain of thought here is summed up by Ropes as « hypothetical and general. »[71] Ropes offers this as his alternative to seeing a meaningful occasion behind the epistle. However, there is no justification for his conclusion. The « use of the second person plural » does not imply a hypothetical statement. Rather it implies that there are many who need to hear the message, and that the epistle is a circular letter. As Townsend says: « The constant use of the second person plural » stresses « the specificity of the warnings. »[72] Nowhere in the passage 3:13-4:10, do we see James give a hint of a hypothetical address. Ropes is unconvincing in his attempt to bolster his position that there is no specific occasion to the epistle.

What we do have here, is an indication that there is indeed fighting, covetousness and even murder happening – and some Jewish Christians are involved in it. James is speaking to a real life setting. James’ vocabulary leads us to the conclusion that there is something extremely serious and violent happening. He is writing to a very real historical occasion.[73]

5) But Above All

« But above all,  my brothers, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your `yes’ be `yes’ and your `no’ `no’ or you will be condemned. » 5:12.

”But above all”- is an unexpectedly strong introduction for a command about not making oaths. It has led numerous commentators to argue that James does not really mean that this is the most important thing he is writing. Davids says that the phrase should be viewed as an « emphatic epistolary introduction » and « not as referring to the preceding and making 5:12 more important. »[74] Laws sees it as starting a new set of material, not a reflection on preceding matter.[75] Forbes concludes: « the point seems disconnected . . . I prefer to regard it as an important saying of Jesus that simply could not be omitted. »[76] Francis see it as a typical mechanism that letters of the time used in their concluding comments,[77] and therefore sees it as  relatively insignificant to the thematic purpose of the letter. « James 5:12 is a minor addition. »[78]

All these attempts to downplay the importance of “above all” leave the reader feeling as if a square peg has been forced into a round hole. There are only three other times such a phrase is used in the New Testament, and in all three occasions, it introduces a most significant point: the climax of thought, or the high point of a discussion. In Luke 3:20, the writer reflects on how Herod committed much wickedness, and then “above all” the other acts he had committed up to then, he topped off his list by putting John the Baptist in prison. In Col. 3:14 Paul exhorts the readers “and above all these things put on love.” And in I Peter 4:8 (where the Greek is the most like the verse in James – none of the three examples is word for word identical), Peter writes “Above all, love each other deeply.” It is hard to explain any of these away. “Above all” when used by New Testament writers, seems to mean what it says: here is the climax – the main point being made.

Furthermore, if one reflects on the nature of oaths in New Testament times, one is compelled to give this verse more force. Paul Minear, for example, sees the oath passage as very significant. Minear’s thesis points out that the oral-aural culture of Palestine considered oaths in a totally different way to people from cultures like our own.[79] Oaths were deeply significant and revealed much about the character of the person making them. To the good Jew of the first century, « any dishonest word (even when supported by an oath) discloses an atheistic view of the self and world. »[80] For the Christian it was absolutely essential to be completely honest (cf. Acts 5:1-11). Minear states that speech was « the test of inner integrity, and every instance of deceitful speech receives condemnation. »[81] The imperatives concerning oaths are imperatives demanding absolute honesty. James sees this as essential to true Christian faith. Minear notes: « Transparent honesty may have seemed especially difficult and urgent as an expression of patience in the midst of persecution and suffering. »[82]

In fact, this brief comment on oaths may just be one of the high points of the epistle. Participation in different social bandit organisations, involved taking oaths. Consider Acts 23:12 where an oath is used to seal commitment to violence: “The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath, not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot.” Josephus also mentions the fact that zealots used oaths to crystallise and deepen commitment to their cause. Josephus’ Antiquities 15. 8..3-4: “Ten men that were citizens [of Jerusalem] conspired together against Herod and swore to one another to undergo any dangers in the attempt, and took daggers with them under their garments for the purpose of killing Herod. … and this resolution they took, even if they should die for it…”[83] Julius Rappoport writes: « Even if fraudulently obtained . . . or erroneously made . . . the oath was considered inviolable. »[84]

In the light of the importance, and the common use of oaths in Palestine, and examples as above, it is reasonable to conclude that this was a normal practise for many groups, but even more so for zealous violent activists. James may be thinking of this when he exhorts the readers not to make oaths.[85] Consider how in modern countries today, a written signed contract is the final step in sealing commitment to a cause. In the first century Palestine, giving an oath was of the same level of commitment. You would not break an oath. We might say to someone today “whatever you do, above all else, don’t sign that contract until you are absolutely sure you know what you are doing.” Perhaps James had the same attitude concerning oaths and commitment to violent revolutionary groups. It certainly adds a new level of relevance and urgency to the rather lengthy “guard your tongue” passage in the middle of the epistle (3:1-12). “…How great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!…the tongue … defiles the entire body and sets on fire the course of our life and is set on fire by hell…it is a restless evil full of deadly [literally ‘bringing on death; causing death’] poison…” It is worthy of consideration in the light of his “anti-war and fighting and murder” passage at the start of chapter 4. If the Jewish believer took an oath of allegiance, it could well be, in James’ mind, the final seal of them leaving the Christian faith, or abandoning Christ and his teachings. With this in mind, then, above all could be read as it appears: above all don’t make oaths! Don’t make that final decision. Do not make that final commitment to the wrong thing. James’ could well be thinking specifically of his readers effectively abandoning the faith to join violent revolutionary groups. In the light of all that has been said, don’t make that final permanent commitment to live a way that is the complete opposite of how Jesus taught us to live. Such an interpretation helps make sense of “above all” before it.

The importance of what is being said here is further highlighted by the fact that this is the only direct quote from Jesus in the entire letter. There are of course, many allusions and echoes of Jesus all through the short epistle, but this is the only actual quote (Matthew 5:34-37). James has found a specific Jesus saying to reinforce his point here. It is not enough that he has mustered numerous good arguments against the use of violence. Now that he is at the end of his letter, he wants to drive home the point. Don’t make oaths! The urgency of the plea is reinforced by words from the lips of Christ himself.

Conclusion

The historical setting of Palestine in the 40’s and 50’s AD, was violent and dangerous. Growing social banditry movements were forming and causing distress and havoc as they used robbery and violence in their anger at injustice and oppression. If James the brother of Jesus did write this epistle, then it was written during those violent times. The letter has a backdrop of growing chaos, violence, and unrest as the early banditry movements grew and impacted more and more people. Eventually they would form into the zealot movement and a war with Rome that would destroy Jerusalem. It is time for the historical setting of this epistle to be acknowledged and taken into consideration as a part of the context that must be evaluated as one reads this epistle.

The above article has demonstrated that James has written during troubled times. There is a crisis, violent, vocabulary in the epistle. Numerous words and phrases are used by James that reveal support for dating the epistle during the troubled times of pre-war with Rome, as the historical occasion of the letter. The author accuses his readers of killing, murdering, and copying the aggressive, political, party- faction spirit of the world. He exhorts them to keep the whole law, not just a part of it. James’ readers include some who may not be committing adultery, but they are murdering. There are « wars and fighting » amongst them. James says that some are « fighting and killing » and that they are doing the opposite to heavenly wisdom when they are involved in « sedition, » « party factions, » and « harsh zeal. » James speaks against this “harsh zeal” that leads to party strife and sedition. He encourages the way of peace, not violence. And he speaks angrily against wars and fighting that are the result of selfish desires and wrong motives. He implores his readers not to make rash oaths, but to stay on the path of heavenly wisdom and practice instead: to be agents of peace and justice.

Despite certain theologians wanting to water down the meaning and usage of the words used by James, the terms need to be read in the historical context they are a part of. Without the literal experience of murder, fighting, bitter zeal, and support for political factions, James’ extremely strong criticisms and even stronger imperatives calling for self-examination, repentance and remorse, in 4:7-10, are robbed of their significance.

James is a tract that is still relevant for today as it speaks to issues of poverty and injustice, and how Christ-followers should be responding to such. We should join with James in being angry and dismayed at poverty and injustice: we should seek to do something practical and real to help the poor and suffering. But we must never abandon the way of Christ, in that pursuit. We should remain “peacemakers who sow in peace, raising a harvest of justice”.

Abstract:

The epistle of James is often seen to be nothing more than a New Testament book of proverbial sayings, to live the Christian life by. Form criticism over the last century has reduced James to a collection of pearls randomly strung together in no particular order and with no overarching specific theme or purpose. This paper challenges that view and offers the reader an alternative way of seeing James. It is argued that James wrote in days of social turmoil and injustice, when social banditry groups were growing in Palestine. The very vocabulary used and illustrations made, adds weight to the thesis that James was written during violent times. James wrote in a context where even Jewish Christians were being tempted to join these pre-zealot banditry groups. Indeed some had joined and were participating in violent reprisals against the perpetrators of injustices. James is furious. He calls on Jewish Christians to live like Christ: to be non-violent, peacemakers, practical in their help for those who are suffering, patient and prayerful. He categorically rejects the idea that Christians can use the ways of the world (violence, warring, theft) in their response to poverty and injustice.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
This article appeared in EQ in July 2013: “Violent Language – a clue to the Historical Occasion of James.” Evangelical Quarterly. Vol. LXXXV No. 3. July 2013. I have edited out the Greek words and phrases and replaced them with English words, in bold and italicised.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Footnotes:
[1]This has been a popular starting point for many authors. Consider for example, William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, rev. ed., 17 vols. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), Vol 14, The Letters of James and Peter, p. 28.; Martin Dibelius, James, revised by Heinrich Greeven, translated by Michael A. Williams, edited by Helmet Koester (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), p.3; Simon J. Kistemaker, « The Theological Message of James, » Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 29 (March 1986):55; and Ralph Bruce Terry, « Some Aspects of the Discourse Structure of the Book of James, » Journal of Translation and Text Linguistics 5 (1992):106,109. Grappling with ones own subjective lens that one reads material through, is a never ending challenge. My own lens is that of a historian: as I read and re-read the epistle my presuppositions undoubtedly filter all I see. And I see a complete and compelling treatise: one that is full of passion and energy. Here is an author who is angry about injustice and poverty, but who is equally angry at Christ-followers who respond to injustice and poverty in an un-Christ-like way. As I read the epistle from start to finish I see recurring themes and common ideas covered in a number of ways. It does not sit as a string of disconnected sayings randomly thrown together. On the contrary it sits as an emotional and powerful response on how to address injustice and poverty. The challenge now, is to test the historical setting and context that I see in the letter, against the actual specific content of that letter, and weigh it against external primary source historical evidence as well.

[2]Dibelius, p. 46. More recent form critics have not been as dogmatic in rejecting evidence of a social setting in James. Consider for example, Leo G. Perdue, “Paraenesis and the Epistle of James,” ZNW 72 (1981):247.
[3]Dibelius, p. 24.
[4]Ibid.
[5]Ibid., p. 46.
[6]For example he says that James is not structurally a letter, and by implication can not have the purpose of a letter (Ibid., p.2). Numerous later studies argue convincingly for a letter- structure to James. See, for example, Euan Fry, « Commentaries on James, I and 2 Peter, and Jude, » The Bible Translator, 41 (July 1990): 330, and F.O. Francis, « The Form and Function of the Opening and Closing Paragraphs of James and I John, » ZNW 61 (1970):110-126. This is really a significant point of disagreement. If James is a letter, then it will have the normal functions of a letter: it will be addressing issues relevant to the readers. It will reflect the concerns of the writer in a specific context. Another questionable assumption of Dibelius is that borrowed material is pointless material in so far as helping us identify an historical occasion. This starting point neglects to entertain the possibility that James could select and adapt known sayings for his own purpose in relation to the audience it is going to.
[7]James Hardy Ropes, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of St. James (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1973), p. 42.
[8]The mountain of debate over dating this epistle will not be tackled here. The reader is invited to explore: the primitive Jewish-Christian language in the letter; the lack of any reference to the Gentile debate, the Jerusalem Council, or issues like circumcision; the eschatological expectations expressed; the lack of developed theology; and the primitive state of the church structure alluded to in James. These areas all add considerable weight to an early date.

[9]James was murdered in either 61 or 62 AD during a few months gap between two governors (Festus and Albinus). Indeed, that fact is what helps us pinpoint his murder with such accuracy. On the death of James see Josephus Antiquities, 20.9.1 and Eusebius II.23.1-18. He lived and died during violent times, as this paper will now demonstrate.
[10]The term « zealots » is not universally accepted as appropriate for the early social groups that caused much unrest. Consider Richard A. Horsley, and John S. Hanson, Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs: Popular Movements in the Time of Jesus (San Francisco: Harper and Row Publishers, 1985), pp. 48,49,216,217, and The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive record of the History, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times. S.v. « Zealots, » by Kaufmann Kohler. (Vol. 12. p. 640). I will be using the terms « early zealot movements » and « zealots » to refer to the growing social unrest and social bandit movements of the 40’s and 50’s AD. They become the actual “zealots” in the 60’s of course, and are at war with Rome in 66.
[11]Martin Noth, The History of Israel, second ed. (New York: Harper and Row, 1960), p. 433.
[12]Bo Reicke, The New Testament Era: The World of the Bible from 500 B.C. to A.D. 100, trans. by David E. Green (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1968), p. 203.
[13]The Works of Josephus, complete and unabridged, Trans. By William Whiston, (Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1987),  Wars. 2.12.1.(223)  “Cumanus began the troubles, and the Jews ruin came”.

[14]Josephus, Wars 2.12.1(224).
[15]Josephus, Wars. 2.12.2.(228).
[16]Josephus, Wars. 2.12.2.(229).
[17]Josephus, Wars. 2.12.2.(230). It is interesting to note some key words used here, and see them occur in James’ list of negative traits when he describes worldly wisdom in 3:13-18. Notably “disorder” (see James 3:16) and “zeal” (James 3:14,16 – often translated in English as “jealously”).
[18]Josephus,Wars. 2.12.5.(238). At one point respected elders of Jerusalem personally intervened for peace during the worst of the fighting. That particular affair settled down only with the intervention of « the most eminent persons at Jerusalem, and that both in regard to the respect that was paid them, and the families they were of. » (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.6.1.(123). One might wonder if James himself could have been one of the respected persons of Jerusalem who intervened here. It was his place of residence and he was highly regarded even by non-Christian Jews. Josephus records the respect of many “most equitable citizens” of Jerusalem towards James the brother of Christ (Josephus, Antiquities 20.9.1.(201). And Hegesippus makes the comment that « for his excessive righteousness he was called the Just. » (recorded in Eusebius, Ecclestical History, 2.23.4-7) Taking this speculation further, is it possible that the epistle of James could have been penned around this time while all this violence and upheaval burned on James’ mind?
[19]Josephus, Antiquities, 20.8.5.(160).
[20]Josephus, Antiquities, 20.8.5.(162). In Wars, 2.13.2.(254) he calls these assassins “Sicarii”.
[21]Josephus, Antiquities, 20.8.5.(165).
[22]Josephus, Antiquities, 20.8.6.(167,168). In Wars, 2.13.4.(258-259) he adds: “There was another body of wicked men…these were such men as deceived and deluded the people under pretense of divine inspiration, but who were [really] for procuring innovations and changes of the government, and these prevailed with the multitude…”.
[23]Josephus, Wars. 2.13.6.(264-265). I find it hard to not think of the James passage: “…you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapour that appears for a little while and then vanishes…” (4:14).

[24]Townsend, Michael J. James 4:1-4: A Warning Against Zealots? » Expository Times 87 (1976):212.
[25]It is interesting that the Jews had learnt under the Maccabees to bend the law when it came to using violence or in defence of their national religion. Josephus, Antiquities, 12.6.2  It was very much engrained in their recent history and national psyche. It was acceptable to fight, to kill, to use the world’s violent methods, in the pursuit of righteous outcomes. Judas (one of the five sons of Mattathias) become the general of the rebels army, and “cast their enemies out of the country, and put those of their own country to death who had transgressed its laws…” (Josephus Antiquities, 12.6.4.(286).)
[26]cf. James 2:11; 4:2.
[27]cf. James 3:14 – his  use of eritheia – see below for a full discussion of that word.
[28]James 2:11; 4:2.
[29]James 5:4,5.
[30]James 3:14-16.
[31]James 4:13.
[32]James 1:19-22; 2:11; 3:17,18; 4:1-4.
[33]James 1:27b; 2:1-3, 14-17; 5:1-5.
[34]James 1:27c; 3:13-18; 4:1-6.
[35]As were the Jewish Christians in and around Palestine, during the late 40’s and through the 50’s and 60’s, up to the war with Rome.

[36]Wesley J. Perschbacher, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1990), p. 296.
[37]Gustav Stahlin, in Kittel, Gerhard and Friedrich, Gerhard. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Trans. and ed. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. 9 vols. plus Index. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964. vol.5, p. 419.

[38]Perschbacher. P. 102, defines it as “fair and equitable dealing, justice”. Bauer gives a very long analysis of the nuances of this word, beginning with “uprightness, justice”, but also admitting that in some contexts it can be about personal piety (he suggests Matthew 5:20 by way of example). Nevertheless, it is also more than that: “the characteristic required of men by God”; “since dikaisoune constitutes the specific virtue of Christians, the word becomes almost equivalent to Christianity, eg Matthew 5:10; I Peter 2:24…” Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Trans. by William F. Arndt and F. Wilber Gingrich. 2nd ed. Revised and augmented by F. Wilber Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979,  pp. 196-197.  This word certainly incorporates our life, our dealings in community, our behaviour in relation to others.
[39]Ropes, p. 42.
[40]This verse can and has been interpreted in many different ways, just as all the passages referred to in this article, have been. In particular, 2:11 has been used to try to defend a Stoic philosophical background for this epistle. Consider Ropes, ‘Introduction’, for a detailed explanation. If one treats the epistle as simply “New Testament wisdom literature” and approaches it from that construct, then such might seem reasonable. But if we seek to actually consider internal and external evidence that values context, as well as historical primary sources, then a very different contribution is made by verses like this. I find myself agreeing with the aside by Adamson when he writes about the “unlikely” influence of the Augustinian discussion of the Stoic idea of the solidarity of virtues, on James. (James A. Adamson, The Epistle of James, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans1976, p.116.)

[41]Eg: Douglas Moo, James, p.100, in George Guthrie and Douglas Moo, Hebrews James, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002; Peter Davids, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Epistle of James, A Commentary on the Greek Text (Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1982), p.74; Adamson, p. 116; Ropes p.200. Some also note that murder and mistreating the poor, were often linked together in Jewish thought (eg Davids, p. 74). Indeed, that might explain the use of this illustration, and must be weighed against what I am arguing here. If there was not another reference in this letter where the writer unambiguously accuses his readers of murder (4:2) it might suffice to explain James’ intent. The fact that it comes up again, not as an illustration, but as an accusation needs to be weighed as well.
[42]Josephus, Wars 2. and Anti. 20.
[43]See James 4:1-2 and the discussion below in section 4.

[44]Ralph Terry’s detailed study of the structure of the epistle of James uses ten tools to determine the peak or peaks in the epistle and comes to the conclusion that 3:13-4:10 is unquestionably the climax of the letter. Terry, pp. 121-123.
[45]Perschbacher, pp. 327 & 188.
[46]Bauer, p. 657.
[47]Ropes, p. 245.
[48]These arguments have tended to focus on the Greek being too good, the lack of mention of the Jew/Gentile controversy in the church; and the lack of strong early church father testimony. So Dibelius, p. 18, and Ropes, p. 50. Such arguments have been soundly rebutted. For example, on the first issue (the quality of the Greek) see: A.W. Argyle, « Greek Among Palestinian Jews in New Testament Times, » New Testament Studies 20 (1973):87-89; F.F. Bruce, « The Church of Jerusalem in the Acts of the Apostles, » Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 67 (Spring 1985):646; Allen Cabaniss, « A note on Jacob’s homily, » Evangelical Quarterly 47 (October-December 1975):219; William Fairweather, The Background of the Epistles (Minneapolis: Klock and Klock Christian Publishers, 1977), pp. 84-85; James Hope Moulton, ed., A Grammar of New Testament Greek, 4 vols. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark Ltd, 1976), Vol. 4: Style, by Nigel Turner, p. 114; and Gerald H. Rendall, The Epistle of James and Judaic Christianity (Cambridge: University Press, 1927), pp. 38-40. Regarding the lack of Jewish/Gentile controversy in the letter, this is actually an argument for an early date, before such controversy. Finally, regarding early church fathers: those who do comment on the epistle’s authorship, in the end come down on the side of James the brother of Christ. (See Eusebius Ecc. Hist. 2.23.24-25 and Jerome Illus. Lives 2).

[49]Perschbacher, p. 172.
[50]Bauer, p. 309.
[51]Perschbacher, p. 11.
[52]Bauer, p. 30.
[53]Ropes, pp. 248-249. Even the conservative Fritz Rienecker, (who uses Ropes and Dibelius quite generously in his book), almost begrudgingly admits that « the word sometimes had political associations and had the meaning `anarchy’. » Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, trans. and ed. by Cleon L Rogers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), p. 735. Why he inserts « sometimes » is open to question. It is arguably its more common meaning, and it is « sometimes » read as the lighter « disorder. »
[54]Ropes, p. 42.
[55]Ibid., p. 253. He goes on to list occurrences in Greek literature and a few Biblical passages where one or the other of the terms are used in a less severe way. However, relying on exceptions is a poor principal, unless there are other reasons for deeming the passage under study as an exception too. Ropes noticeably neglects to do this.
[56]Perschbacher, p. 337.
[57]Ibid., p. 267.
[58]Bauer, p. 685.
[59]Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James: An Introduction and Commentary (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985), p. 138. Spencer discusses the passage in the same way. Aida Besancon Spencer, « The Function of the Miserific and beatific images in the letter of James, » Evangelical Journal 7 (Spring 1989):9. Allen Cabaniss argues narrowly, that it is a specific type of church conflict: bickering by women. Cabaniss, p.221. His main arguments are: the term « adulteresses » (4:4) is in the feminine; there is no use of the term « brothers » in the paragraph; and women in the ancient world were particularly seen as having the characteristics of « quarrelsomeness, bickering, envy, gossip, [and] love of pleasure. » Ibid. These arguments are not strong. « Adulteresses » is an illustration, drawing Jewish Christian readers minds to the familiar passage in Prov. 30:20. Refer: John J. Schmitt, « You Adulteresses! The Image in James 4:4, » Novum Testamentum 28 (1986):337. It is not a literal description of one sex. Also, the same passage has more gender inclusive terms like « Whoever » (osean), and the male « arrogant men » (uperhfaois). Cabaniss’ attempt to see women in the gossiping, envious, and quarrelsome descriptions is subjectively selective. He noticeably leaves out fighting, murdering, and killing – terms one might see as more masculine.
[60]Moo, p. 141.
[61]Ibid.
[62]Townsend, Michael J. James 4:1-4: A Warning Against Zealots? » Expository Times 87 (1976):211-213.
[63]Moo, p. 141.
[64]The present tense reality of the passage also forces one to reject the interpretation of Luke Timothy Johnson. He argues that the whole of 3:13-4:10 is a call to conversion. « James 3:13-4:10 and the topos peri phthonou » Novum Testamentum 25 (September 1982):334.
[65]Alexander Ross, The Epistles of James and John (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1964), p. 75.
[66]Rendall, Gerald H. The Epistle of James and Judaic Christianity. Cambridge: University Press, 1927, p. 30.
[67]Bauer, p. 864.
[68]Perschbacher, p. 431.
[69]Ropes, p. 254. He even admits that « interpreters . . . have felt bound to see in foneuetean actual description of the Christian community addressed [and] have been driven to various expedients. The more usual methods have either to reduce the meaning of foneueteto `hate,’ or else to assume an hendiadys, by which `murder and envy’ becomes `murderously envy’ . . . Both methods are linguistically impossible. » (Ibid., p. 256). I agree that we have to accept the strong meaning of the word, but I do not do so in the same ways as Ropes.
[70]Ibid., pp. 254-255.
[71]Ibid., p. 255.
[72]Townsend, p.212.
[73]Consider too the burst of imperatives in 4:7-10. There is nothing like this anywhere else in the New Testament. Indeed, James has over 60 imperatives in 108 verses – the most as a ratio, anywhere in the Greek text. Eleven of them are here, in 4 short verses. James explodes in anger and barks out a series of commands, after the descriptions of war and fighting, covetousness and murder: after he describes it as adultery – friendship with the world. He orders his readers (Christian Jews) to turn back to God, to repent, to turn their laughter into mourning, to cleanse themselves anew, to be miserable and to mourn and weep! Clearly something is really troubling James: he is flabbergasted that so called Christ-followers can be so anti-Christ-like in following the way of the world, and using wars and fighting and violence to address their desires. It has to stop!

[74]Davids, p. 189. Robertson argues much the same way with his brief comment: « No connection with what immediately precedes. » Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 4 vols. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933), 4:63.
[75]Sophie Laws, A Commentary on the Epistle of James (San Francisco: Harper Row Publishers, 1980), p. 220.
[76]P.B.R. Forbes, « The Structure of the Epistle of James, » Evangelical Quarterly 44 (1972):153.
[77]Francis, p. 125.
[78]Ibid., p. 126. This is not unlike Rendall’s aside: he calls it a « detached injunction about oaths. » Rendall, p. 104.
[79]P.S. Minear, « Yes or No, the Demand for Honesty in the Early Church, » Novum Testamentum 13 (1971):12-13.
[80]Ibid., p. 12.
[81]Ibid., p. 8.
[82]Ibid., p. 7.
[83]In Josephus Antiquities 15.10.4 we also see how binding oaths were.
[84]The Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. « Oaths, » by Julius Rappoport.
[85]Attempting to conclude what anyone from the past was actually thinking when they wrote certain words, is a risky business. All we can do is look at the context of the entire letter, the things that have been said already, the emphasis that James has been making, and match that to the circumstances of his day. It is in the end speculation. But some speculation sits well with evidence and is worthy of consideration – even cautious acceptance. Indeed, remember again that he introduces this section with “above all” – a phrase that really should not be softened in the light of how it is used elsewhere in the New Testament. If it should not be softened, then it is actually quite difficult to think of anything else James could plausibly be thinking of deserving such an emphasis.

Voir aussi:

Child labour: India’s hidden shame
Shilpa Kannan
BBC News
5 February 2014

Delhi Rescued from forced employment, 13-year-old Lakshmi is frail and frightened.

Two child protection officers hold her on either side as she walks into the police station.

She was abducted four years ago from her village in north-east India.

Until her rescue, she had been working in people’s homes across West Delhi – cooking, cleaning and taking care of children.

« I was not allowed to rest, » she says. « If I did something wrong or it was not what they wanted, they hit me.

« If I wanted to sit down for a bit because I was so tired, they would scream at me.

« I was never allowed to leave the house, so I didn’t realise that I’m in Delhi. My employers told me that we are in Madras in South India. »

As the police and counsellors question her, Lakshmi breaks down. She tells the police that she was sexually assaulted by the men who kidnapped her.

She was threatened that if she told anyone about it, they would tell everyone back home in her village and her honour would be destroyed.

And then, when she started working the agent who arranged her work withheld all her wages leaving her with nothing.

‘Lured with clothes and sweets’Her uncle is just relieved to have found her. A tea garden worker from Assam, he says her parents died when she was young and her grandmother is worried sick about the young girl. He is also angry about the abduction.

« What can we really do? We are poor people – I didn’t have enough money to come to Delhi to look for my missing niece.

« Unscrupulous agents and middlemen just come into our homes when parents are away working at the tea gardens and lure young girls with new clothes and sweets. Before they know it, they are on a train to a big city at the mercy of these greedy men. »

He is not alone. One child goes missing every eight minutes in India and nearly half of them are never found.

Kidnapped children are often forced into the sex trade. But many here feel that children are increasingly pushed into domestic labour – hidden from public view within the four walls of a home.

The government estimates half a million children are in this position.

Demand from middle classesAt a rehabilitation home in northern Delhi run by a charity for children, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, many families have gathered.

They are all tea workers from the north-east state of Assam and have come here searching for their missing daughters.

They estimate that just from one particular area – Rangpura in Assam – 16 girls have been lost in the last three to four years.

Helping these families find their daughters is Kailash Satyarti, the head of Bachpan Bacchao Andolan.

« This is the most ironical part of India’s growth. The middle classes are demanding cheap, docile labour, » he says.

« The cheapest and most vulnerable workforce is children – girls in particular. So the demand for cheap labour is contributing to trafficking of children from remote parts of India to big cities. »

‘Hellish life’Offering them a ray of hope is the case of 18-year-old Sumila Munda, who was rescued earlier this month. The information she provided led to police arresting a couple of alleged traffickers.

She says she still has nightmares about her employers.

« I don’t want anyone to go through what I did. I often wondered if I will ever escape from the hellish life I was stuck in. I had dreams of being in school, studying. Now I will get back to my studies. »

India is estimated to have more child labourers than anywhere else in the world.

But while abducting children is illegal, the law is vague on when they can legally work. Child labour law does not allow children under the age of 14 to be employed, but anyone under 18 is legally considered a child.

Government helplessAnd the government body in charge of children’s rights admits they are helpless.

« Unfortunately our child labour prohibition and regulation act is totally outdated, » says Kushal Singh, head of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

« It says children below the age of 14 cannot be employed in hazardous occupations. Does that mean in non-hazardous occupations a two-year-old child can be employed?

« So obviously it’s a very regressive act. This issue has been raised and now an amendment is pending in the parliament. However, it has been pending for a very long time. »

If the law changes, it will make the fight against child exploitation a little easier.

But that’s no relief for families like these. Many here fear that their daughters may be lost forever.

You can hear more on this story on The World Tonight on BBC Radio Four at 22:00 GMT, or listen again on iPlayer.

*Some names in this report have been changed to protect the identities of victims.

 Voir également:

Will Malala’s Nobel Prize Backfire?
Elias Groll
Foreign Policy
October 10, 2014

Well done, Norwegian Nobel Committee! You managed not to shoot yourself in the foot by giving the Peace Prize to Pope Francis, the putative frontrunner for the award. Instead, it went the child rights campaigners Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi.

It’s hard to think of two more deserving candidates. For her efforts to ensure that all Pakistani girls are able to gain an education, Yousafzai, now 17, was shot in the head as a 15-year-old by Taliban militants. After her miraculous survival, she has emerged as a vocal, eloquent advocate for the right of all children to win an education. Satyarthi, meanwhile, is one of India’s most prominent anti-child labor activists. He has staged raids on factories employing children and is credited with freeing 80,000 children from slavery and labor.

The selection of Yousafzai, the youngest recipient in the Peace Prize’s history, and Satyarthi also forms an important binary. Yousafzai is a Pakistani Muslim, Satyarthi is an Indian Hindu. (Their joint selection is an obvious nod towards the ongoing global efforts to bring a peaceful end to Pakistan and India’s long-standing conflict with one another, which has recently seen firing across the contested quasi-border in Kashmir.)

Yousafzai is world famous, Satyarthi rarely gets much media coverage. Yousafzai is young, Satyarthi, 60, is old. The right to an education and freedom from child labor represent the two of the most important challenges to children around the world.

Satyarthi’s selection plucks him out of relative obscurity, and it’s a wonderful decision by the Nobel Committee. There are  some 60 million child slaves in India, a tragic figure that represents the dark side of that country’s dizzying economic development. With the country’s middle class rapidly expanding, India has seen an explosion in the demand for cheap labor. All too often that labor has come in the form of child workers, stripping them of their childhood.

« This is the most ironical part of India’s growth. The middle classes are demanding cheap, docile labour, » Satyarthi, who heads the Save Child Movement, told the BBC in February. « The cheapest and most vulnerable workforce is children – girls in particular. So the demand for cheap labour is contributing to trafficking of children from remote parts of India to big cities. »

For Satyarthi, the award brings recognition to decades of work on behalf of child laborers, but for Yousafzai, the prize arguably comes with risks. As my former colleague Josh Keating writes at Slate, the media’s treatment of Yousafzai often obscures the West’s complicated relationship with Pakistan, one marked in recent years by an aggressive campaign of U.S. drone strikes and huge amounts of U.S. aid. That coverage often strays toward a condescension that reduces the West’s relationship with Pakistan to, in the words of technology researcher Zeynep Tufekci, to « finding a young woman we admire that we all want to take home as if to put on a shelf to adore. »

That attitude — summed up by Jon Stewart’s quip that he wanted to adopt the young woman — risks obscuring the more institutional, boring work to find peace in Pakistan.

Moreover, in some quarters of Pakistan, Yousafzai has become a symbol of Western interference in the country, and conspiracy theories abound that her story was in fact created by the CIA, which carries out ongoing drone strikes in the northwestern parts of the country. That’s of course far-fetched, but the praise that she has received in the West has been equally matched in her home country. The Peace Prize will certainly elevate her stature — and also increase animus against her in some parts of Pakistan.

That strain of thought remained alive and well on Friday. « I condemn this decision in the strongest possible words, » Tariq Khattak, an editor at the Pakistan Observer, told the BBC. « It’s a political decision, a motivated one, and a conspiracy to invoke [sic] people in the Muslim countries. And the father of Malala and Malala have done nothing at all. Her father is a good salesman, that’s it. And the daughter has also become a salesgirl. And they are dancing on the tunes of West. »

How a 17-year-old activist goes on to build a career from that point is very much an open question. Since she was shot in 2012, Yousafzai has been perpetually mentioned as a candidate for the Peace Prize, and her selection this year probably has to do in part with the speech she delivered last year before the United Nations General Assembly, which created a sensation.

That speech showed how powerful a voice she can be on behalf ensuring access to education, but a huge international profile does not necessarily translate into change on the ground in Pakistan, especially when many of her countrymen remain deeply suspicious of her.

After all, it is highly unclear whether a Peace Prize does anything at all to advance the cause to which it is given. Repressive regimes have cracked down on activists they believe will receive the award, and there is little evidence to indicate that the aspirational winners — those laureates who have received the prize in support of the better society they seek to build — have substantively benefited by receiving it.

If anything, those in Pakistan who are hostile toward Yousafzai may only harden in their opposition now that she has received the Peace Prize. That may set her work back more than it advances her cause.

Voir encore:

Prix Nobel de la paix 2014 : Kailash Satyarthi, le sauveur d’esclaves
Le Point
10/10/2014

Aussi courageux que discret, le militant est à 60 ans une véritable star en Inde, où il a libéré 80 000 enfants au moins du travail forcé.

Bien moins connu du grand public que Malala Yousafzai, le militant indien Kailash Satyarthi est à 60 ans une véritable star en Inde, où il a « libéré » au moins 80 000 enfants du travail forcé. Brillant ingénieur électricien, Kailash Satyarthi n’était pourtant pas voué à un tel destin. Mais, à l’âge de 26 ans, il délaisse une prometteuse carrière pour se consacrer aux millions d’enfants travailleurs en Inde. Sa mission : porter secours à ces employés mineurs, réduits à l’état d’esclave au sein des usines indiennes. À longueur de journée, ils sont contraints d’effectuer les tâches les plus pénibles et sont victimes de violences, y compris sexuelles.

Fondateur en 1980 de l’ONG Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Sauver le mouvement de la jeunesse), Kailash Satyarthi mène au départ des actions coups de poing. Il organise des raids contre des usines et des ateliers afin de libérer des familles entières contraintes de travailler pour rembourser leurs prêts. « C’est une expérience joyeuse que d’apercevoir le changement d’expression traverser le visage de cette merveilleuse fille », raconte-t-il au site PBS au sujet d’une enfant libérée d’une carrière de pierres. « Elle est un livre ouvert, et ce changement d’expression nous raconte une histoire, celle d’une transition de l’esclavage vers une nouvelle vie de liberté », poursuit ce militant discret, qui ne sort de sa réserve que pour promouvoir la cause de l’enfance.

Après avoir sauvé des milliers d’esclaves, Kailash Satyarthi oeuvre à la création de la « Marche mondiale contre le travail de l’enfant », un conglomérat de 2 000 organisations et syndicats à travers 140 pays. Conscient de la nécessité de s’attaquer aux causes réelles du fléau de l’esclavage infantile, le militant s’engage aussi dans la défense et la scolarisation de l’enfance. Pour le président du Comité Nobel norvégien, Kailash Satyarthi a fait preuve d’un « grand courage personnel » et « a maintenu la tradition de Gandhi » en menant « diverses formes de protestations et de manifestations, toutes pacifiques ». « Il a aussi contribué au développement d’importantes conventions internationales sur les droits des enfants », souligne Thorbjoern Jagland.

« Millions d’enfants qui souffrent »

L’ingénieur électricien est ainsi à l’origine d’un programme baptisé « Bal Mitra Gram », encourageant les villages indiens à abolir le travail des enfants. Il a également fait pression sur les entreprises en développant le programme « Rugmark », un label assurant que les tapis ne sont pas l’oeuvre d’enfants, grâce à l’instauration de contrôles fréquents à l’intérieur des usines. Désormais, le militant ambitionne d’étendre ces certifications à d’autres produits, notamment les ballons de football de grande marque, habituellement fabriqués par des mineurs.

Sa cible, les clients occidentaux. « Si ce n’est pas maintenant, alors quand ? Si ce n’est pas vous, alors qui ? » interpelle le militant indien. « Si nous sommes en mesure de répondre à ces questions fondamentales, alors peut-être pouvons-nous effacer la tache que représente l’esclavage humain. » En tout cas, Kailash Satyarthi n’a pas failli à sa réputation de héros très discret. Réagissant vendredi à l’annonce de sa récompense, il a estimé que le prix Nobel de la paix représentait la « reconnaissance de la détresse de millions d’enfants qui souffrent ». En effet, d’après le Comité Nobel, il y a aujourd’hui 168 millions d’enfants travailleurs dans le monde.

Voir de même:

Malala Yousafzaï : « Je veux l’éducation pour les enfants de tous les terroristes »
Frédéric Bobin (New Delhi, correspondant régional)
Le Monde
10.10.2014

Son visage légèrement déformé a pris au fil des ans des allures de figure iconique, celle d’une adolescente au courage exceptionnel ayant manqué de périr sous une balle extrémiste dans sa vallée natale de Swat. En codécernant, vendredi 10 octobre, le prix Nobel de la paix à Malala Yousafzaï – l’autre lauréat est l’Indien Kailash Satyarthi –, le comité d’Oslo a récompensé la jeune Pachtoune pakistanaise (17 ans) militante du droit à l’éducation, laquelle devient ainsi la plus jeune des lauréats de l’histoire du prix.

Déjà consacrée en 2013 par le Prix Sakharov du Parlement européen, reçue par les grands de ce monde – dont Barack Obama – Malala Yousafzaï doit sa renommée à un engagement sans relâche en faveur de la scolarisation des enfants, au Pakistan même comme à travers le monde. Elle s’était associée cet été à la campagne « Bring back our girls » pour obtenir la libération des jeunes Nigérianes enlevées par la secte extrémiste Boka Haram.

Malala Yousafzaï a frôlé la mort pour ses idées. Quand les talibans ont manqué de l’assassiner, le 9 octobre 2012, dans un bus scolaire de Mingora, le chef- lieu de Swat, région préhimalayenne naguère paradis touristique, la colère a été générale à travers le Pakistan. De Lahore à Peshawar en passant par Islamabad, les manifestations de soutien à la jeune fille grièvement blessée se sont multipliées.

Déjà connue pour militer en faveur du droit à l’éducation des filles – elle avait tenu un blog en ourdou hébergé par le site de la BBC à l’époque où Swat était occupée par les talibans (2007-2009) –, Malala Yousafzaï devenait soudain une martyre de l’extrémisme. Le porte-parole du Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) avait revendiqué la tentative d’assassinat en ces termes : « C’est une fille à la mentalité occidentale qui passe son temps à nous dénoncer. Quiconque critiquera les talibans subira le même sort. » Durant l’occupation de Swat par les talibans, elle avait raconté – sous le pseudonyme Gul Makai – le quotidien des exactions des extrémistes, notamment contre les écoles fréquentées par les filles. Elle survécut miraculeusement à la balle qu’elle reçut en plein visage.

ACCUSÉE D’ÊTRE UN « AGENT AMÉRICAIN »

Elle devint très vite un symbole. Sa notoriété naissante a pourtant suscité embarras et malaise dans son propre pays. Plus l’Occident l’acclamait – le show-business (Madonna, Angelina Jolie) ou les poids lourds politiques (Hillary Clinton, Gordon Brown) – comme une figure emblématique de la résistance à l’obscurantisme islamiste, plus des voix s’élevaient au Pakistan pour dénoncer son instrumentalisation par des « forces étrangères ». Les tenants de la théorie du complot – un sport national au Pakistan – sont dès lors passés à l’offensive.

Sournoises, imprégnées de paranoïa, les questions se sont multipliées sur les réseaux sociaux. Pourquoi l’Occident se prend-il de passion pour cette jeune Pakistanaise ? Et pourquoi Malala Yousafzaï se tait-elle sur les enfants victimes des drones américains frappant chaque semaine les zones pachtounes frontalières de l’Afghanistan ? Il n’en fallait pas davantage pour que la jeune fille se fasse accuser d’être un « agent américain », manipulé pour servir les funestes desseins de l’Occident contre les musulmans en général et le Pakistan nucléaire en particulier.

Sami ul-Haq, le chef du parti Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami (JUI) dont les madrasas (écoles coraniques) font office de pépinières de combattants talibans, avait ainsi estimé que Malala Yousafzaï avait été « kidnappée par les forces anti-islam en Occident. » Les libéraux, groupe à l’influence marginale au Pakistan, ont fini par se réveiller et ont contre-attaqué. L’été 2013, la romancière Bina Shah exprimait dans le quotidien Dawn son courroux face à tant d’acrimonie. De telles réactions, écrivait-elle, sont « la manifestation honteuse de la manière dont les Pakistanais tendent à se retourner contre les personnes dont ils devraient être fiers ». Faisant taire ses détracteurs, Malala Yousafzaï demanda à Barack Obama – qui la reçut à la Maison Blanche en octobre 2013 – de cesser les frappes de drones américains contre des cibles djihadistes au Nord-Waziristan (zones tribales frontalières de l’Afghanistan) qui, selon elle, « tuent des victimes innocentes » et « alimentent le terrorisme ».

« NOS CAHIERS ET NOS CRAYONS SONT NOS ARMES »

L’une des prestations les plus marquantes de Malala Yousafzaï, celle qui l’imposa comme une icône internationale, fut incontestablement son intervention, le 12 juillet 2013 à New York, devant l’Assemblée de jeunes de l’ONU. Les talibans « pensaient qu’une balle pourrait nous réduire au silence mais ils ont échoué », avait-elle alors lancé au fil d’un discours posé, ferme et éclairé. « Prenons nos cahiers et nos crayons, avait-elle enchaîné. Ce sont nos armes les plus puissantes. » Et elle avait eu cette formule empreinte d’un profond humanisme : « Je veux l’éducation pour les fils et les filles des talibans et tous les extrémistes et les terroristes. » Avant de conclure : « Je n’ai même pas de haine pour le taliban qui m’a tiré dessus. »

Elle eût droit à une ovation debout. Dans l’assistance, beaucoup pleuraient. Avait-elle clamé dans son discours : « Je n’ai pas changé » ? Pourtant, la manière dont le monde la percevait a probablement changé ce jour-là. Une autre Malala Yousafzaï venait de naître. Une gamine éblouissante de ferveur à la consécration mondiale désormais établie. La victoire de son combat ne sera pourtant totale que lorsqu’elle pourra retourner sans risque dans son propre pays. Elle n’en a pas encore le luxe.

Peur
Le virus Ebola alimente les théories du complot
Pierre Haski
Rue 89
03/08/2014

Obama veut imposer une « tyrannie médicale » et des médecins apportent la maladie en Afrique. Voilà les explications qui émergent alors que l’épidémie s’amplifie, et menacent prévention et mesures de précaution.

Une épidémie d’une maladie incurable, mystérieuse, alimente toujours les théories du complot ou les thèses farfelues. Ce fut le cas du sida dans les années 80, avant que le monde devienne -hélas- familier de ce virus ; c’est aujourd’hui le cas d’Ebola, qui sévit en Afrique de l’ouest.

Le rapatriement aux Etats-Unis, samedi, d’un médecin américain contaminé par le virus Ebola, a donné un nouvel élan aux amateurs de complots, jouant avec le risque de prolifération de l’épidémie sur le sol américain.

Le Dr Kent Brantly, qui travaillait au Libéria avec les patients d’Ebola, a été contaminé et rapatrié samedi à Atlanta, où il est arrivé revêtu d’un scaphandre de protection, suffisamment fort pour descendre seul de l’ambulance. Une deuxième américaine contaminée devrait être rapatriée dans les prochains jours, dans les mêmes conditions.

« Complot eugéniste et mondialiste »
Dès samedi, l’un des « complotistes » les plus célèbres des Etats-Unis, Alex Jones, qui débusque le « globaliste » derrière chaque geste de l’administration américaine et a l’oreille du « Tea Party », s’en est ému dans une vidéo sur son site Infowars.com et sur YouTube. Il s’insurge :

« Mesdames, Messieurs, c’est sans précédent pour un gouvernement occidental d’amener une personne atteinte de quelque chose d’aussi mortel qu’Ebola dans leur propre pays. (…) C’est le signe qu’on cherche à susciter la terreur et l’effroi, afin d’imposer une tyrannie médicale encore plus forte. »

Pour ce « guerrier de l’info », comme il se décrit, qui n’a pas moins de 250 000 abonnés à son compte Twitter, le virus ne restera pas confiné à l’hôpital et s’échappera. « Il s’agit d’un gouvernement et d’un système politique qui se moquent des gens », accusant les « eugénistes “ et les ‘mondialistes’ de déployer un scénario catastrophe.

Au même moment, pourtant, les autorités américaines expliquent qu’elles ont ramené le Dr Brantly à Atlanta pour lui donner une chance de survivre, en renforçant ses défenses dans l’espoir qu’il surmonte l’attaque du virus. Le taux de mortalité de cette souche d’Ebola n’est ‘que’ de 60% environ, contre plus de 90% pour d’autres épidémies antérieures en Afrique.

Et ils le font dans l’endroit le plus adapté : Atlanta est le siège du Centre de contrôle des maladies infectieuses (CDC) aux Etats-Unis, et de l’un des seuls labos au monde spécialisés dans les virus, un laboratoire de niveau P4, le plus élevé et dans lequel la sécurité est la plus rigoureuse, avec plusieurs sas de décontamination pour s’y déplacer. L’autre labo du même type au monde se trouve … à Lyon.

‘Ebola, Ebola’
Il n’y a pas qu’aux Etats-Unis que la menace d’Ebola suscite fantasmes et peurs quasi-millénaristes : Adam Nossiter, l’envoyé spécial du New York Times racontait il y a quelques jours de Guinée –l’un des pays les plus touchés par Ebola– comment des villageois ont constitué des groupes d’autodéfense pour empêcher les équipes médicales d’approcher. ‘Partout où elles passent, on voit apparaître la maladie’, dit un jeune Guinéen interdisant l’accès de son village.

Son récit se poursuit :

‘Les travailleurs [sanitaires] et les officiels, rendus responsables par des populations en panique pour la propagation du virus, ont été menacés avec des couteaux, des pierres et des machettes, et leurs véhicules ont parfois été entourés par des foules menaçantes. Des barrages de troncs d’arbre interdisent l’accès aux équipes médicales dans les villages où l’on soupçonne la présence du virus. Des villageois malades ou morts, coupés de toute aide médicale, peuvent dès lors infecter d’autres personnes.

C’est très inhabituel, on ne nous fait pas confiance, dit Marc Poncin, coordinateur pour la Guinée de Médecins sans Frontières, le principal groupe luttant contre le virus. Nous ne pouvons pas stopper l’épidémie.’
Le journaliste ajoute que les gens s’enfuient à la vue d’une croix rouge, et crient ‘Ebola, Ebola’ à la vue d’un Occidental. Un homme en train de creuser une tombe pour un patient décédé du virus conclut : ‘nous ne pouvons rien faire, seul Dieu peut nous sauver’.

Sur le site du New Yorker, Richard Preston, auteur d’un livre sur Ebola dont nous avons cité de larges extraits récemment, raconte qu’au Libéria, les malades d’Ebola quittent la capitale, Monrovia, dont le système de santé est dépassé par l’épidémie, et retournent dans leur village d’origine pour consulter des guérisseurs ou simplement rejoindre leurs familles. Au risque de diffuser un peu plus le virus.

Le sida pour ‘décourager les amoureux’
Peurs, fantasmes, parano sont fréquents à chaque nouvelle maladie. Ce fut le cas lors de l’apparition du sida au début des années 80. A Kinshasa, durement touchée par la pandémie, la population n’a pas cru aux explications officielles sur la transmission sexuelle du virus, et avait rebaptisé le sida ‘Syndrome inventé pour décourager les amoureux’… Les églises évangélistes s’en étaient emparées pour parler de ‘punition divine’ et recruter un peu plus de brebis égarées.

Pire, en Afrique du Sud, la méfiance vis-à-vis de la médecine occidentale a gagné jusqu’au Président de l’époque, Thabo Mbeki, qu’on aurait cru plus prudent, et qui avait encouragé le recours à des remèdes traditionnels plutôt que les antirétroviraux qui commençaient à faire leur apparition et ont, depuis, fait leurs preuves. Un temps précieux, et beaucoup de vies humaines, ont été sacrifiés dans cette folie.

Avec le temps, la connaissance de la maladie et de ses modes de transmission a progressé, même s’il reste de nombreuses inégalités dans les accès aux soins.

Bien que le virus ait été identifié en 1976, il y a près de quatre décennies, les épidémies ont été très localisées, et de brève durée. Elle reste donc peu connue en dehors des spécialistes, et surtout entourée d’une réputation terrifiante : pas de remède, fort taux de mortalité, virus mutant…

Avec retard, la mobilisation internationale se met en place pour contenir l’épidémie apparue en Afrique de l’Ouest. L’information des populations n’est pas la tache la moins importante. Même s’il est probable qu’aucun argument rationnel ne pourra convaincre Alex Jones et ses disciples que l’administration Obama, malgré tous ses défauts, n’est pas en train d’importer Ebola pour quelque projet d’eugénisme au sein de la population américaine…

Voir enfin:

Romantisme djihadiste et brutalisation
Brice Couturier

France culture

23.04.2014

L’International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, basé au Kings’College de Londres, estime à environ 9 000 les djihadistes étrangers, venus combattre le régime, déclaré “impie” de Bachar Al-Assad, en Syrie. La grande majorité d’entre eux arrive des pays arabes proches, en particulier de Jordanie, du Liban mais aussi d’Arabie Saoudite. Mais plusieurs centaines proviendraient aussi d’Europe et leur nombre ne cesse d’augmenter. Nous avons donc à faire à des espèces de « brigades internationales », comme lors de la Guerre d’Espagne.

Signe des temps, ces combattants, venus de tous les coins, ne se réclament pas d’une grande idéologie émancipatrice, comme au XX° siècle, mais d’une version très particulière d’une religion, l’islam. Il s’agit bien, cependant, comme lors de la guerre, d’Espagne, d’un mouvement inspiré par l’indignation et la solidarité. Indignation, face aux moyens disproportionnés utilisés, dès le départ par le régime face à la contestation. Solidarité, car ces jeunes, comme les combattants d’Espagne, veulent témoigner d’une communauté de croyance.

Les autorités, en Europe, se sont rapidement inquiétées de la participation de certains de leurs nationaux, à une guerre civile qui a déjà causé » 150 000 morts dans la Syrie martyre. Ainsi Manuel Valls, alors ministre de l’Intérieur, a déclaré : « Le djihadisme représente, pour moi, le plus grand danger auquel nous devrons faire face dans les prochaines années. »

La malheureuse Syrie est prise en otage par les deux grandes puissances religieuses et ennemies de l’islam – l’Iran chiite, qui est derrière le régime, et l’Arabie salafiste, qui soutient la rébellion. Mais la violence, sur place, s’est déchaînée avec une telle intensité et sur une si grande échelle qu’on redoute le retour en Europe de combattants bien entraînés et surtout, « brutalisés », pour employer le mot forgé par l’historien George Mosse à propos des anciens combattants de 14-18 (De la grande guerre au totalitarisme).

Par « brutalisation », Mosse entendait décrire l’expérience inouïe faite par les combattants de la Grande Guerre. La banalisation de la mort en masse avait provoqué chez nombre d’entre eux une accoutumance à la violence extrême ; elle avait émoussé les sentiments humains fondamentaux de sympathie, de pitié, et jusqu’au simple souci de soi. Elle avait développé un style de vie – Mosse parlait de « fureur d’une vie frénétique » et « d’aspiration à vivre des expériences situées au-delà des limites de habituelles de la civilisation ». Style de vie qu’on devait retrouver ensuite dans la manière des mouvements totalitaires de considérer la politique : une lutte à mort contre l’adversaire dans un climat de profonde camaraderie, de fraternité virile, de développement à la cause, allant jusqu’au sacrifice de sa propre vie.

Ce sont autant les effets psychologiques de cette guerre, menée avec des moyens effrayant, où les combattants se filment en train de torturer, ou en train de jouer avec les têtes de leurs ennemis découpées, que la familiarisation avec les techniques de combat urbain qu’on peut redouter chez ces djihadistes quand, vaincus comme il est probable, ils retourneront d’où ils sont venus.

L’anthropologue Dounia Bouzar a récemment consacré un livre, Désamorcer l’islam radical, au cas des jeunes qui s’engagent dans l’islamisme. Elle y montre ce que les techniques de radicalisation utilisées, sur internet en particulier, par les recruteurs du djihad, doivent à celles des sectes. L’identité individuelle est niée, pour être remplacée par une identité de groupe proprement totalitaire. L’esprit critique et la simple raison sont combattus. En échange, on fournit à des jeunes souvent en perte de repères, le sentiment exaltant d’appartenir à une élite, désignée pour régénérer un monde corrompu et décadent. Le parallèle avec les mouvements fascistes est évident.

Le gouvernement va annoncer, cet après-midi, un ensemble de mesures destinées à lutter contre la radicalisation des jeunes musulmans, et à les empêcher d’aller combattre en Syrie. Mais la prévention ne devrait-elle pas passer par une meilleure intégration de jeunes déboussolés ? Les familles décomposées, l’échec scolaire, l’omniprésence de la drogue dans certains quartiers, le chômage de masse ne sont-ils pas les meilleurs agents recruteurs du djihad, cette fuite dans une violence exotique ?

6 commentaires pour Non-violence: Ceux qui travaillent à la paix sèment dans la paix (James’s epistle is still relevant for today as it speaks to issues of how Christians should respond to injustice)

Laisser un commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:

Logo WordPress.com

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte WordPress.com. Déconnexion / Changer )

Image Twitter

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Twitter. Déconnexion / Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion / Changer )

Photo Google+

Vous commentez à l'aide de votre compte Google+. Déconnexion / Changer )

Connexion à %s

%d blogueurs aiment cette page :