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Amalek and Violence

It is not surprising that a lawgiver, Solomon, spoke of the feverish desire for violence on the part of wicked men. They cannot sleep, he observed, unless they do evil: it is their life and joy to do harm, "and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall" (Prov. 4:16). Their nourishment, the food that is the life of their being, Solomon described as "the bread of wickedness, and ... the wine of violence" (Prov. 4:17). Solomon, as a law-giver and teacher, felt that the recognition of this fact was important.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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Reprinted from The Institutes of Biblical Law (Phillipsburg, PA: The Craig Press, 1973), 318-323

It is not surprising that a lawgiver, Solomon, spoke of the feverish desire for violence on the part of wicked men. They cannot sleep, he observed, unless they do evil: it is their life and joy to do harm, "and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall" (Prov. 4:16). Their nourishment, the food that is the life of their being, Solomon described as "the bread of wickedness, and ... the wine of violence" (Prov. 4:17). Solomon, as a law-giver and teacher, felt that the recognition of this fact was important.

For some, "evil" is simply misplaced righteousness. The basically sound impulses of sound humanity can be misdirected into destruction or socially sterile channels; in this view, man's need is not judgment but redirection. Solomon's premise was man's depravity: the wicked enjoy their evil; it is their life and their way of life. The statement is made by Wertham, who begins with false premises, "If we do not start from sound premises, we leave the door open to false ones."1 His basic tenet is environmentalism, although he tries, inconsistently,  to  retain responsibility.2

Wertham reports a number of interesting examples of violence, as, for example, the following:

Recently two middle-aged women in Brooklyn on a summer evening were walking on a side street toward one of the larger avenues, after visiting a friend nearby. They intended to take a taxi home. About 250 feet from the avenue, a group of boys came up, crowding the sidewalk. The women drew back to let them pass. The last boy grabbed the right arm of one woman, to take her purse, then knocked her down on the sidewalk and jumped on her again and again. When she was taken to the hospital, it was found that she had a broken shoulder, broken elbow, broken arm, and a compound fracture of her right thighbone, for which an elaborate operation was necessary. She needed three nurses around the clock. And when she recovers, she will have to wear a brace from her hip to her heel and will be permanently crippled, with one leg shorter than the other. In my professional contact with this case, I learned what terrible pain and shock were caused-and that the expenses involved wiped out a family's savings. There was no sexual connotation to this attack. Since the boy had the pocketbook, there was no reason for pure gain to explain his stomping the woman so mercilessly.

Twenty-five years ago this would have been an exceptional case and would have caused a sensation. Now it did not raise a ripple and was not even reported as news. It happens too often. The boys were never caught; if they had been caught, the authorities would not have known what to do with them. This is today's violence in pure culture. I have known a number of similar cases. They are as a rule not fully reported, far less solved or resolved. Those who use the fashionable explanation for violence, that it is due to domineering mothers or inadequate ones, to pent-up aggressive instincts or a revolt against early toilet training, do not know the current facts of life in big American cities. They try to reduce ugly social facts to the level of intriguing individual psychological events. In this way they become part of the very decadence in which present-day violence flourishes.3

To cite one more example from Wertham:

A boy of thirteen was walking home from school in a suburban area. A short distance from the house, a car roared up and several boys jumped out. They attacked and beat him unmercifully. Then they jumped back into the car and roared away. Their victim was taken to the hospital with severe facial lacerations and concussion of the brain. He did not know his attackers and had never seen them before.4

These are not extreme cases, and they are printable ones. Some of the most depraved instances of perverse violence involve sexual assaults. In cases known to this writer, no excuse of a repressive environment could be offered: the guilty persons came from loving, congenial, and permissive backgrounds where no religious inhibitions concerning sex prevailed. Instead of free, loving personalities, these persons manifested startling imaginations in their perversity and depravity.

Not only do we have this unorganized, spontaneous violence, but planned violence in the form of rioting, looting, demonstrating, and warring against the police is increasingly in evidence.5

As we have seen, the essence of this obscene violence is its pseudo-omnipotence. Since man cannot become the Creator God, he seeks to be a devil-god. Milton's Satan declared,

To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell; Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven (Paradise Lost, I, 262-263).

To reign as the devil-god, man must also deny and wage war against the God of Scripture. The Soviet Union in 1923 declared, "We have declared war on the Denizens of Heaven," and, again, in 1924, "The Party cannot tolerate interference by God at critical moments."6 To abolish God and prove evolution, the Soviet scientists actually sent an expedition to Africa in the mid-twenties to create a new race by trying to fertilize apes artificially with human semen.7 Right and wrong as objective values were abolished. Krylenko, the state prosecutor, "urged the judges to remember that in the Soviet State their decisions must not be based on whether the prisoner be innocent or guilty, but on the prevailing policy of the Government and the safety of the State." This view was stated also in Krylenko's book, Court and Justice.8 When men seek to supplant God, they supplant God's justice with their perversity and violence.

When men begin to free themselves from God's law-order, and to manifest their violence, certain developments appear. First, violent men, because their violence is a religious act, a manifestation of pseudo-omnipotence, try to provoke a religious awe by means of shock. By fresh and new acts of violence, new reactions of shock are provoked. The violent feed on this fresh awe. The degenerate hoodlum who indulges in unprovoked acts of violence delights in the shocked response of his victim, and of those who hear or read of his acts. The readiness sometimes of such people to confess, whether to law authorities, clergymen, friends, or even strangers, is due to this religious pleasure in the shock of violence. It feeds their lust for power.

Second, this need for a fresh shock means a continual stepping up in the intensity and perversity of violence. Violence leads to greater violence. Nothing is more absurd than the idea of some that violent acts purge the degenerate of his lust for violence: there is no "catharsis," but rather only a greater addiction. Violence does not cure itself. To wait for violence to pass away or to dissipate itself is like waiting for the sun to turn cold. Violence does not abdicate: it is either destroyed, or it destroys.

Third, the liberals and socialists believe that the answer to violence is a change of environment, by legislation, statist action, or social planning. Some hold that love is the cure for the violent. Pietistic Christians believe that conversion is the answer: the violent must be reached with the gospel offer and become born again. Some men may need love; however questionable this idea may be, let us grant it for the moment. All men do need regeneration, clearly, but again evangelism is not the answer to all problems, although it must be always operative. The restraint of the law and its punishment must at all times be operative for a society to exist in which love and evangelism can function. Violent men need conversion, or execution if they continue in violence to the point of incurring the death penalty. On the other hand, if not enough regenerate men exist in a society, no law-order can be maintained successfully. Thus, a healthy society needs an operative law-order and an operative evangelism in order to maintain its health. The law-order can keep the residue of violent men in check if it is at all times nourished by strict enforcement and the progressive growth of men in terms of the ministry of grace. In brief, love, conversion, and law-order can never be substitutes for one another: each has its place and function in social order.

Fourth, it is not surprising that we have a violent generation, in that everything has been done to flout God's law-order: education has become statist; discipline has given way to permissiveness; the church has replaced the doctrine of regeneration with social revolution, and, instead of executing incorrigible criminals in terms of God's law, society today largely subsidizes these incorrigibles. A violent generation has been fostered, and is on the increase. Not surprisingly, by 1969, the incidence of narcotics and lawlessness was greater on the high school level than on the college level. The younger the child, the more lawless his potential and his mental outlook. The very fact that violence is being fostered more intensively in the young will serve to step up the increase in the prevalence of violence as well as in its intensity and perversity.

Fifth, although the 1960's saw more talk about love than any previous era, no age saw less love and more hatred. Romantic love, for better or for worse, long the major theme of popular music, gave way to other themes. Winick wrote of "the virtual disappearance of idealized romantic love as a guiding principle" in popular song. Where the word "love" appears, as in the song "Careless Love," it refers to other things-in "Careless Love" to pregnancy before marriage.

One of the most successful phonograph records ever released was "Hound Dog," a paean of hostility and a representative early rock-and-roll number with traditional chord progressions. The Marquis de Sade would have been thrilled by "boots," a more recent favorite. Nancy Sinatra is sure of a wild surge of applause when she grinds her heels into the stage as she triumphantly exults that her boots will "walk over you."9

A generation which thrills to this song of violence will also thrill to the Marquis de Sade. As a result, his works, long banned in every country, are now being published and promoted with high praises. The Marquis de Sade is the man of today. A generation has been reared to believe, however much it deceives itself with talk of brotherhood, that violence is the fulfilment of man, and the more perverse the violence, the more fulfilment it affords. The humanistic remedies for violence are about as effective as gasoline is in putting out a fire.

Sixth, a society which breeds violence and fosters it is characterized also by a phenomenon known as running amok (or amuck). The word comes from the Malay, among whom it is a common event. It has also been found among Fuegians, Melanesians, Siberians, and in India. It is described as "a manic and homicidal condition following a state of depression." When people from these cultures are faced with a new environment, or problems beyond themselves, their reaction is one of total violence. Grief, confusion, mental depression, brooding over circumstances all can precipitate the condition. The man works himself into a trance and then runs to do violence. It is often the case that the man running amok attacks his superiors because he cannot cope with them and fancies an insult from them.10

A generation brought up permissively, given to tantrums and to violence, and dedicated also to a belief in its own righteousness, is a generation virtually committed by its nature and breeding to running amok. It will do so, unless brought down, in utter conviction of its own righteousness and the moral necessity of its violence. Such a generation has a necessary commitment to violence.

Amalek thus is very much with us. It must be dealt with.

The education which breeds Amalekites must be replaced with Christian education. Churches which are congregations of Amalek must be replaced with Christian churches which believe, teach, and apply the whole word of God. The state must become Christian and apply Biblical law to every area of life, and must enforce the full measure of God's law. The permissive family must give way to the Christian family.  Only so can Amalek be destroyed.

In 1948, George Orwell saw the future as one of horror, "a boot stamping on a human face-forever." Within twenty years, Nancy Sinatra was grinding boot heels into the stage as she sang that her boots will "walk over you," and the youth of more than one country saw her vision as one of delight. Orwell's horror had become a popular hope. Amalek was reborn.

1. Fredric  Wertham, M.D., A Sign for Cain, An Exploration of Human Violence (New York: Paperback Library, 1969 [1966]), p. 23.

2. Ibid., pp. 3, 48, 49-74, etc.

3. Ibid., p. 10 f.

4. Ibid., p. 258.

5. See Rights in Conflict, a report submitted by Daniel Walker (New York: Boston Books, 1968).

6. R. O. J. Urch, The Rabbit King of Russia (London: The Right Book Club, 1939), p. 115.

7. Ibid., p. 82 f.

8. Ibid., p. 208.

9. Charles Winick, The New People, Desexualization in American Life (New York: Pegasus, 1968), pp. 28, 29, 33.

10. Charles Winick, Dictionary of Anthropology (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956), p. 21.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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