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Monday, December 08, 2008

Can the ends justify the means?

My short answer is "no" but here's my long answer ....

In the comments section of a past post, a question has come up .... is it ok to kill one person to save many? I don't think so, but I'd like to mention a couple of people who've written on the subject, Thomas Aquinas and Philippa Foot.

Philippa Foot, one of the founders of Oxfam and psst Griffin Professor of Philosophy at UCLA, created a thought experiment in ethics called the trolley problem .....

A trolley is running out of control down a track. In its path are 5 people who have been tied to the track by a mad philosopher. Fortunately, you can flip a switch which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch?

Wikipedia points out that Utilitarians would flip the switch because the greater good would follow for the greatest number of people. Others might not do anything, believing that people are not commensurable widgets and that there's not a benefit if fewer of them die. Things get more hinky when you add another element to the problem .....

As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by dropping a heavy weight in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you - your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?

In this case, one actually has to directly cause the death of one person in order to save the others. In the first experiment, one doesn't intend to cause any deaths, and the death of the one person (if one flips the switch) is just an unfortunate side effect of saving the five others. But in this case, you must intend the harm to the person you use to save the other five.

This second example is kind of like the situation in my earlier post .... Rick Warren had said it was ok to assassinate the leader of another country, to save multiple lives. Many of the people who commented on my post agreed with him, and I think this is the point at which Thomas Aquinas' double effect idea comes into play (Summa Theologica, II-II, Qu. 64, Art.7). It deals with acts that have two consequences, one good and one bad, and with the question of whether and how such acts can be moral or not. He sets up some guidelines ....

1. The act itself must be morally good or at least indifferent.
2. The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect he should do so. The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary.
3. The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately (in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time) as the bad effect. In other words the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed.
4. The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect” (p. 1021).

- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

If I understand correctly (and there's no guarantee of that :), flipping the awitch in the first thought experiment given above, where there is no intent to cause harm, might be ok with Aquinas. But the second example, in which a definitely harmful act is committed along with intent to cause harm, would not be ok. One thing is sure, I think .... the idea of murdering a head of state in order to save great numbers of his subjects would fail Aquinas' test. But of course, Aquinas is not necessarily the last word on morality .... it seems that most people find acceptable the decision to use morally questionable acts as a means to a good end, especially when the stakes are very high.

I guess I'm in the minority, though, as I don't agree that evil acts can be justified by good ends. Once we do start down the road of allowing ends to justify means in extreme cases, how will we figure out where to draw the line?


Blogger Anna said...

I would probably flip the switch in the first scenario, although I'm not convinced there is an obligation to (it depends on motives). Throwing the fat man down, though, would be wrong. And yes, precisely because of intent.

I'm pretty sure that tyrannicide would not fail Aquinas' conditions of double effect, though. The Church defines murder as killing an innocent, and says that that is intrinsically evil. (Meaning that it cannot be an acceptable means to a good end). But anyone who is an "unjust aggressor" is not an innocent (according to the Church's definition of "innocent"), and killing them is not murder. It still may be wrong, but it is not always and everywhere wrong (in the Church's eyes, generally, or more specifically, in Aquinas' eyes).

Killing an unjust attacker would be considered neutral/indifferent means, which means the goodness of the action or the sinfulness of it depends on the intent and the circumstances.

The Church has come down pretty firmly in saying that a good end cannot justify an evil means. You feel that all killing is an evil means, but the Church does not take quite that view (although it's close).

11:31 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


The Church defines murder as killing an innocent, and says that that is intrinsically evil. (Meaning that it cannot be an acceptable means to a good end). But anyone who is an "unjust aggressor" is not an innocent (according to the Church's definition of "innocent"), and killing them is not murder

I've got to say that I think the Chuch falls down here and that Jesus would flip his wig if he knew they were making a distinction between killing a good person and a bad person. I'd trust him over them in a question of morality (though of course that's my interpretation of how he'd feel).

12:14 AM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

Just playing Devil's advocate here...I have a problem with ends justifying means too, but...

Does the situation change in anyone's mind if it is well known that it was the fat man (not sure why they made him obese in the first that supposed to measure some other prejudicial trigger?) who put the people on the trolley into danger in the first place. What if the fat man were Kingpin from the Spiderman comics and he's set up this nefarious plan to kill a train full of people just to be a psychotic ass?

Of course we all know that Spiderman would take the Jesus route at that point and throw himself in front of the train instead of sacrificing any other life. Because Spidey is just that cool. "With great power comes great responsibility" and all that.

Hmmm. For me, THAT is what changes things. WWJ REALY Do?

7:24 AM  
Blogger Liam said...

I hope I don't fall into the camp of those who agree with Rick Warren!

I do think Anna makes a good distinction here. In both versions of the ethical dilemma, the person who gets killed to save the others is an innocent bystander.

Let me propose another dilemma. There is a shooter in a tower above a schoolyard, firing at children. There is no way to get the children out of harm's way before he can kill some more of them. A policeman has the shooter's head in his sights (just his head -- there is no option to shoot to wound or to overpower him in time to save the children). Would you really consider it immoral for the policeman to shoot him?

I'm being something of the devil's avocado here. I can think of few or no cases in which tyrannicide fits St Tommy's tough conditions. Still, I think the ethical conundrum is a tough one.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

Just a further thought right after hitting publish;

The cross is really Jesus' response to all sin isn't it? What does Jesus do when the whole world is in danger of death as a result of human sin...both the innocent babe and the monstrous tyrant? He does not start a millitary rebellion, does not assign Peter or one of the others to assasinate Pilate or Herod or Ciaphas or even Caesar in order to save his entirely innocent life.

No, I think the problem is that, all things being equal we all could probably rationalize our way into making the killing of any bad person a regrettable, but necessary act while Jesus' own response is always to jump in front of the trolley himself, to take the bullet, to throw himself off the bridge and leave the apparent 'bad guy' standing there wondering what the hell he thought he would accomplish.

Might it be that Jesus knows something about the 'Bad Guys' that we don't? Something about them that even they don't know?

7:33 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

First of all, it is indeed really true that the Church says it's ok to kill bad people????? Why then are they against the death penalty?

Cura -

I think they chose a fat man because they needed something very big to stop the train.

For a minute I thought you were going to ask, WWSD (what would Spiderman do? :). But see - Spiderman never really kills anyone, does he? He only accidently killed the guy he thought killed his uncle, he didn't kill Doc Oct or the Sandman or that reporter who was taken over by the alien life form.

I agree with you about Jesus. It seems like if he agreed with those scenarios, he'd have been a zealot conspiring to overthrow Rome's rule in Jerusalem. He didn't want the disciples to fight to save him when he was arrested. He didn't take revenge when he was resurrected. Even when he saved the adulterous woman, he did it by appealing to the humanity of the bad guys. And he doesn't seem to interven in even the most horrendous situations now - the holocausr, for instance. I'm mad enough at him for that, but I'm just saying ....

Liam -

If I was watching a movie or even watching such a situation on the news, I would hope the policeman could shoot the bad guy, it's true.

But how different is that scenario from this one .... Bush has caught a suspected terrorist. He thinks he may have planned another 9/11 so he tortures him to find out. Is that torture ok with you? Is a bad thing ever really ok? And if you make the situation so unbearably upsetting (like with innocent children as targets, or for me, little animals :) that you must kill the bad guy or go insane, does that make the killing ok, and if so, where do you draw the line - I mean, how many people have to be in jeopardy and how bad does the threat have to be before you wouldn't give killing a second thought?

11:06 AM  
Blogger Jack said...


As you would expect I blame this whole 'problem' on JP2 and B16.

I am old enough to remember when situation ethics was a real hot topic when it came out big in the fifties and sixties. Preachers ran around screaming "RELATIVISM" will lead us to hell!

The two above have brought it up because it makes a tidy little slogan. As long as we are oen earth we will have to make moral decisions. We can all make up scenarios like the "trolleyman." For example, what if the one man on the track below has been shot 4 times and will almot certainly die, should I save the others even though the shot man would be killed? Well, you would just have to make a decision.

Are you familiar with the short story "Coup des gras" (sp?)by Ambrose Bierce, I believe? Jack

I'm afraid seeking for a universal, absolute,answer to moral decisions in life is rather futile. Jack

12:57 PM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

I think Spiderman, as a messiah figure is the very reason why he refuses to kill anyone. And I think what gets missed over and over again is the singular fact of the cross. From my perspective the invitation to take up your cross daily and follow is so radical that we just don't want to look at it but would rather rationalize ourselves around; if you're the policeman, you get down of the roof and take the bullet that's meant for someone else.


I believe there is a great host of stories about men and women, laypersons and clergy, soldiers and families, doing that very thing in the midst of the darkness and evil that was the Holocaust.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Anna said...


The Church emphatically does not say that it is ok to kill a bad person. In fact, I don't think the Church's teachings really support a distinction between "good" people and "bad" people. We're sinners who are justified and sanctified by God's grace. The closest Church teaching gets to saying someone is good or bad is whether or not someone is in a state of mortal sin or not; and that has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it is permissible to kill someone.

"Unjust aggressor" is not about being a bad person. In fact, an unjust aggressor can even be someone who is innocent of sin. Picture a very mentally disabled adult who gets ahold of a gun and starts shooting people. He doesn't understand what he is doing, and he is not morally responsible; he is innocent in the sense of being without sin. But he is an "unjust aggressor" because the harmful actions he is taking are not just. Or the children in Vietnam who set off bombs when they met our troops; they were "unjust aggressors" even though they were blameless children. (Joe Cecil once tried to argue on his blog that the zygote/embryo in a tubal pregnancy was an unjust aggressor, and therefore using drugs or such to kill it and save the mother was acceptable; an argument I still find rather convincing.)

And Cura Animarum has a good point. Jesus' example to us is that he sacrificed himself. I think the Church might say that, while it is permissible to kill an unjust aggressor to save another life (including your own), sacrificing your own life to save someone's is a better way to go. My first thought with your fat man scenario was that I should leap off the bridge and try to stop the train myself; but if I was a little old lady who weighed 80 pounds, it might not be enough to stop the train, so the dilemma might continue.

But that assumes that it is *possible* to sacrifice your life to accomplish whatever needs to be done. In the case of tyrannicide, or Liam's shooter-on-a-building example, that just might not be enough. Maybe jumping in front of one kid will save that kid, but there's a lot more for the shooter to kill, and maybe his next bullet goes to the kid you just jumped in front of.

You point out that tyrants can be incarcerated, and I think that that is a good point. Situations where there really isn't another option are so rare - that is why people in these conversations always find they have to resort to all sorts of unusual "what if" scenarios to make their point. I think Jesus' life shows that there are lots of options that we have: running away when mobs come to kill us, for example, instead of fighting back.

Saying that these situations are rare, though, isn't quite the same as saying they are nonexistent. If the Church tried to say killing everyone was absolutely evil, then in a Christian society, we would not let our policemen have guns or shoot the rooftop-shooters. I think that is why the Church avoids that extreme, although she generally tries to encourage us to move away from violent solutions.

As for where do you draw the line, that was some of what Aquinas was trying to get at, I think. His lines say that something good has to come out of it: no killing just for revenge; the good has to be proportionate to the bad: no killing a human being to stop him from stealing a TV; and importantly, only if there is no other way to stop him. And while the Church doesn't teach that "killing an unjust aggressor" is an evil means in and of itself, the Church DOES teach that torture is intrinsically evil, which means that it's never ok to use it, even for a good end. That is where the Church, at least, draws that line.

1:32 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


There are some acts which on the surface seem bad but which I think can be justified by certain situations - like I think it would not be a bad thing for a starving person to steal food.

But some acts seem to be bad no matter how they are justified - rape, torture, murder.

So I guess I'm a modified universalist.

1:59 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Last night after I wrote this post I kept wondering if I was wrong about Jesus and my belief that he wouldn't be ok with killing one bad person to save many good people. Sometimes I think my idea of what he is like is really the idea I've always had of what a perfectly good person would be like, probably formed in some ways by the comics I read as a kid :) What's scary is wondering if I have a more ideal sense of what it means to be good than God does (heh).

2:03 PM  
Blogger Liam said...

Good conversation here, Crystal.

Your example is a good point. Apart from problems with the premise (1. If Bush said it, I wouldn't trust him; 2. Torture doesn't work), it is a good counter-example. The shooter in the tower is immediate and there's no doubt about the circumstances. Anna's example about the mentally disturbed shooter is good -- it shows that it's not just a question of good or bad people (remember, St Tommy said that tyrannicide can't be done out of revenge). But something like tyrannicide is in some ways closer to your example. You have to trust someone in power who has an interest in the outcome, and the circumstances can't be really known with certainty.

One of the reasons I can rarely imagine tyrannicide as justified is that power is usually structural, not personal, so taking someone out, even a charismatic leader, is no guarantee in a more just situation.

These situations show how complex following Christ can me. It may relatively easy (or not) to turn one's cheek, but would you turn someone else's (someone more vulnerable than you) cheek for them?

btw, St Tommy agrees with you about a starving person stealing food.

2:19 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


I think "Unjust aggressor" is another way of saying a bad person - a bad person in the scenario proposed, the one that is doing the bad thing that must be stopped.

I can't help feeling that Aquinas and the Church looked at Jesus' example and his preaching and then decided that there was no way the Church would survive if they took him seriously, so they compromised. The thing is, Jesus's way of doing things doesn't seem (to me) like a blueprint for survival. I think he thought there were more important things than survival, that there were things worth dying for (but not killing for).

2:26 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


I guess I didn't mean bad person in the sense they were evil but bad in that they were doing something that needed to be stopped, like shooting at the children. The Church always seems to split people from their acts :)

But I agree with you about turning the other cheek for another person. It's not that I think one could decide for others that they should allow themselves to be harmed. If someone doesn't want to assassinate a head of state, that's not the same thing as endorsing the bad things they are doing. But in the situation where you either shoot someone or allow them to shoot another, it's different. I still think it would be theoretically/ideally wrong but practically necessary, I guess. Ugh! I hate these kinds of choices.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not believe that tyrannicide can be justified under the principle of the double effect since I cannot see deliberately killing a person to be morally neutral act.

If one checks what the Catechism says (always an interesting thing to do), you find that according to the teachings of the Church, "Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another's life, the common good of the family or of the state." The Catechism goes on to say, "Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason the traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and DUTY of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.

I think that this makes it my duty to defend certain lives even if I have to kill others to do so. It would certainly seem to demand that a policeman shoot the tower shooter since he has the obligation to defend he children. Whether it would demand me to act is more questionable, but if I am my brother's keeper, then perhaps it does.

I can't find it immediately, but I believe that the Catechism requires that a group having authority initiate the act of killing a tyrant. In effect some legal authority must convict and condemn the tyrant to death, then authorize the carrying out of the execution.

And just to be perverse, throwing yourself in front of whatever, even to save someone else might well be considered suicide, might it not?

I think perhaps that the discussion of many of these situations do not end in finding moral solutions, but do tell us something about how we think of others and how "human" we consider them. If the five people on the railroad track were all convicted murderers, and the one on the other track was your spouse, or child, how would that effect your decision to throw the switch. Or the one was a convicted murderer and the five were your children?

The funny thing is, my wife and I were discussing these questions about two days ago.

Love and hugs to all,

Mike L

4:29 PM  
Blogger victor said...


I’m asking you to ask all your readers to please continue to pray for me cause I was just about to explain to you why the Jews were sacrificed but I’m under the influence and no body would believe me anyway. I was going to say that it was because their god or gods would not accept Jesus and Our Heavenly Father gave them all freewill.

I honestly thought that it was the end of the world on this particular day in nineteen seventy but no one but little old ME agreed to that and so I was placed in a mental hospital but to be fair I never really told anyone of “IT.” I figured that IT should have come naturally because I knew that I was nothing special and a month later after they let me out I continued telling every one that I was nothing but a pile of manure, in writing, compared to our Lord and Savior Jesus The Christ and why would it be any different now?

My wife just came down and asked me if I was going to have supper and between you and me I have not had anything to eat for hours now. Do you think that she's getting wise to what I'm writing right now?

I could go on and on but between you and me The Evil Trinity has not given Up on me and/or on you so don’t get taken in by anyone. Of course this evel trinity won’t have any problem getting someone to fill his post but he wants a winner and between you, me, myself, I and The Good Lord, it won’t be any of US, Right?

All I can say before I go eat is keep praying while keeping each other in honest check and if you run into problem just check with Jack! :)

Got to go and you know what they say, go while the going is good. Besides,they're all yelling at me now to come and eat!

Go Figure, I'm starting to think that God really does know how to take care of His Own.

God Bless,


4:33 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

Thank God there aren't any trolleys where I live!

What a bizarre question about the "very fat man." If he's really fat, how would you push him over a bridge easily? Wouldn't he fight back?

But let's really get down to cases. What if the leader of one country invaded another country that hadn't done anything to warrant the invasion, and this leader killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people? What if he used your money to pay for the weapons and the people hired to do his mass killings? What if some of the people he hired to do the killings gang-raped a 14 year-old girl, then shot her to death and set her on fire? What if they then shot her little sister to death, as well as her parents? Remember, it's your money that's paying for the killings and for the hired killers who gang-rape the girl.

What would you do to stop the leader of this country from slaughtering all these innocent people? Would you go to his palace and scream at him to stop? Would you stop giving the leader your money so he wouldn't commit these atrocities? Would you pray for the leader to stop killing people, and keep praying year after year, just hoping he would stop? Would you blog about it and wish it would all just go away?

Screw the trolley. We're all guilty here of a much, much worse scenario. Hundreds of thousands of trolleys went out of control almost six years ago, and we, as a people, didn't throw any switches, or toss any fat people over any bridges. We just watched it happen.

We fretted. We cursed the leader. We got depressed. Maybe, once in a while, we marched, even though the marching wouldn't accomplish anything. Maybe we drank too much to ease the horrible feelings of guilt. Maybe, when we drank too much, we cried in horror, knowing after all is said and done that we are totally impotent in the face of real horrors being committed in front of our eyes. We know, in the end, that when the trolley goes out of control, we're going to turn up the iPod and continue walking down the street.

How will Aquinas deal with this scenario? How do any of us deal with this?

5:12 PM  
Blogger Anna said...


In Matthew 8:5-13, Jesus praises the faith of a Roman centurion, a man's whose occupation was warfare. In Luke 3:14, a bunch of soldiers ask John the Baptist what they should do, and he tells them "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay."

Getting on the case of authorities not to use lethal force didn't seem to be a priority, at the very least.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

Mike L,

If throwing yourself, say, on a bomb, to save other's life is suicide, then wasn't Jesus dying on the cross to save us, also suicide?

5:41 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Mike,

The suicide question I saw addressed somehwere. It had a soldier throwing himself on a grenade to save others. It was or wasn't suicide, depending on his intent. If his intent was to save lives, then his death was just a side effect of his act, and didn't count as suicide.

I think you're right that these scenarios tell us lot about ourselves. I notice about me that I have certain ideas about what a good person would do in real life, but when I watch movies I'm fine with the good guy killing the bad guy, as long as he does so honerably :)

But something like political assassination, which was what the topic was about originally, just seems dishonorable both in real life and in fiction. I can't see Bruce Willis' character in Die Hard, for instance, acting as a sniper or a bomber to kill a president of another country, even if he was bad. He's have to kill him in person, and not in "cold blood".

But yet there's that future movie with Tom Cruise as the German army guy who tried to kill Hitler with a bomb ..... I guess Hitler is so hated that all bets are off with him.

6:30 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Victor,

I do pray for you. Pray for me too, ok?

6:34 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Thanks for that - it's a good dose of reality. I didn't even march :(

6:37 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...


Hope I wasn't too intense in my scenario. That wasn't my intention, but as I started writing, my own sense of guilt and helplessness in dealing with the real situation of the invasion of Iraq came out. And I think that's what happens many times with moral situations. It's hard when you're in the middle of it to really know what to do or how to react. Personally, I feel like most of us in this country stood by and allowed real evil to take place in our name. And we don't talk about it. We just ignore what is still going on.

My own belief is that no matter how we may intellectualize or theorize about morality in a situation like the trolley car, we don't really know what we would do if we actually encountered one of these hypothetical situations. I've been involved in a couple of violent situations in public, and everything was so instinctual. I never had time to think about my reaction or what was right or wrong. I just moved quickly to intervene.

Most of the time, I think we're like people who see the trolley situation happening but either can't react quickly enough or are paralyzed by fear or too far removed to get there in time. Which is why we pray for what we have done and what we have failed to do. Only Christ's mercy, in the end, can relieve my guilt and incredible sadness about Iraq.

Intellectually, I don't believe that the ends justifies the means. As Martin Luther King said, "the means and the ends are the same." But, again, you never know until the situation arises. When human beings are pushed to a limit or faced with danger, survival instincts kick in.

Finally, I think you're on to something about Jesus and how he would handle situations. I don't think we really want to live out the teachings of Jesus, as much as we say we do. Turning the other cheek goes against everything in our American civil religion, which is much stronger, in the end, than the teachings of Jesus. We worship John Wayne more than Jesus. We come up with elaborate rationalizations to justify war, to pursue wealth, to be an empire. We founded our country on slavery, using the Bible to justify it for a long time. We always find ways to explain away Jesus telling us how hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven. I've heard so many excuses from Christians for not dealing with that passage. There are always good reasons to pursue our capitalistic society. Or to kill so-and-so. As Chesterton said, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found hard and not tried."

7:49 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


No, not too intense. My sister and I were just alking about that. I told her about Rick Warren advising assassinating the priesident of Iran and we agreed it had really worked out so very well for us to try to do the same thing in Iraq (sarcasm) and how much better off the people there were now (more sarcasm) with us killing, imprisoning, and torturing them instead of Saddam. Sigh.

There are some guys who at least try to take some of what Jesus said seriously, like peace activist John Dear SJ, who's been imprisoned and gets hate mail.

Anyway, I have such a disconnect between what I think I believe and how I actually live that I should be the last to pontificate :)

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anna, I think that throwing oneself on a bomb to protect others is probably not suicide because it is not premeditated. If you were depressed and went looking for a bomb to throw yourself on, then that might be suicide.

I do not believe that Jesus took any action that deserved or caused his death. Not suicide.

Given a case where a psychopath handed you a gun and told you that he would release five other people if you shot yourself, otherwise he would kill them, I don't think that you could morally kill yourself.

Quite honestly, I have often prayed that I would not find myself in such a position, and am thankful that I never had to make a choice like that. I do think that in most cases, as someone else said, your reaction is more from instinct that thinking.

But it certainly makes for an interesting discussion.

Now, would the fat man have a duty to fight being thrown off the bridge or could he allow himself to be thrown off to save others?

Once again, love and hugs to all.

Mike L

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Dyan said...

Just to make matters more complicated . . . it is a little known fact that under Saddam Hussein's rule, one of the oldest groups of Christians (they still spoke Aramaic) resided in northern Iraq. They were PROTECTED by him!!!! When the Iraq war started, they lost that protection, were bombed by Americans and other groups. Most of them became refugees. I think this is why the Bible exhorts us to pray for our leaders and reminds us that it is God who raises leaders up! We don't always know what is really going on in any country - even our own. God does though.

The info about the Iraqi Christians was on the BBC website a few years ago - it was basically a little blurb. So many people suffer in this world and we know nothing about it.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

Mike L,

I would agree with how Crystal put it; the guy throwing himself on the bomb's intent is to save others, not kill himself, so it's not suicide. (Same with Jesus letting himself get killed).

Your psychopath scenario is interesting, although I gotta say, if he hands me a gun and tells me to kill myself, I think I'd shoot him first. But if that somehow wasn't possible... I don't know. It sounds just like the bomb scenario except that it's a little more direct. I think, though, that the intent is still to save lives, and I have a hard time seeing that kind of self-sacrifice as anything but noble.

9:25 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Thanks for that info. It's truly hard to be aware of all the possible consequences of our acts. I guess that's why they say the raod to hell is paved with good intentions :)

11:16 PM  
Blogger Anna said...


Having theoretical discussions can be interesting, but when it comes to knowing what to do in real-life scenarios, I think the best thing we can do is learn to hear God's voice in our hearts, so that we can rely on him telling us what to do instead of just guessing what he wants.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...


11:13 AM  

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