I updated this in light of the current gun debate and added some thoughts on the spiritual parallels.
A now-defunct blog made some important distinctions between three types of people:
- Sheep, the ”kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep. I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep.”
- Wolves, who ”feed on the sheep without mercy. Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.”
- Sheepdogs, who “live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.”
“If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf.
But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.”
I’m against war and violence in general, but there are times when it is required. I find pure pacifism to be unrealistic and actually unloving in many cases. Note that when I say pacifist I am using the Dictionary.com definition of “a person who is opposed to war or to violence of any kind” (emphasis added).
In this metaphor, there is nothing wrong with being sheep. What is wrong is the naive assumption that we will ever be able to live without sheepdogs. One thing that bothers me about some pacifists is not only their lack of gratitude but their contempt for those who protect them.
A thought from George Orwell:
We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence upon those who would do us harm.
There is a spiritual parallel as well. Consider all the wolves in sheep’s clothing who eternally danger people with their lies about God. Not everyone is equipped to battle those wolves, but some of us have worked hard to know how to refute their lies. We don’t expect everyone to do what we do, but we do appreciate it when people don’t blame us for being “divisive” or some such thing. We tend to be intrinsically motivated, though I will say that I get the nicest notes from time to time from people who agree completely with the views here but are too afraid to say so publicly. I’m fine with that. It is nice to know that they pray and are supportive.