It is over, then, the hunt for the dictator Gaddafi in Libya – and though many details of his capture and death are yet to be revealed as I write this, the joy of most in Libya and indeed around the world about the liberation from his terror and oppression is evident and there for all to see. Who, of course, would not rejoice at being freed from capricious terror and state violence, unleashed by this particular tyrant for whom, like for so many others of his kind, human life was cheap as long as it was the life of those he ruled over?
And yet, I must admit that these occasions – like that of the execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq some years ago – also leave me with a degree of unease, uncertain what to make of the matter. It is not, of course, that Gaddafi and others of his kind ‘deserve better’ – they clearly do not; it could well be said that they ‘deserve death’. Yet even that phrase always reminds me of the words put by Tolkien into the mouth of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings as he and Bilbo discuss the fate of the creature Gollum: Bilbo has just said that Gollum ‘deserves to die’, and Gandalf replies that ‘many who live deserve to die, and some who die deserve life – yet can you give it to them? Then do not be so quick to deal out death’.
But perhaps there is something else: whenever a life that has ruined and destroyed the lives of so many others, has been so filled with delusion, hatred and evil as Gaddafi’s clearly has, ends, it puts me in mind of the time long ago (in his case just under seventy years ago), when somewhere a mother held the newborn baby who later was to become the tyrant. As she did so, she will have been filled, like parents all over the world, with love and hope and thanksgiving and expectations – and among these, there will certainly not have been the one that this baby boy was one day to be a cruel tyrant. She will have hoped (and perhaps prayed) that he would become a respected and good man – and of course he did not. This was not, then, how it was ‘meant to be’.
In one sense it could be said that what actually causes my unease is not so much a particular case of someone who goes horribly wrong, becomes a force of evil and dies as one, but the ‘human condition’ as such: that we, created in the image and likeness of God and born to so much hope of our parents, can go so horribly wrong and that repentance, redemption and renewal are so scarce among the evils of our race. Close to the heart of the Christian message lies something like the statement that, as long as we live, it is never too late for any of us to become what we might have been: forgiven, healed and restored, born anew of water and the Spirit, a true child of God. Whenever that miracle of love does not happen, whatever we deserve and receive for what we have become, things are not what they were meant to be. Even for tyrants who deserve to die.
- The Tithe Barn is hosting a Wedding Fayre in the Priory Centre on Saturday, October 29—all are welcome.
- The Cards for Good Causes shop in the Lewis Chapel of St Mary’s opens for business on October 29. If you can help staff the shop, please put your name on the rota in St Mary’s or contact Beverley Jones on 850375 or 07775 566948.
- We are planning to take a group to see Peter Pan, starring David Hasselhoff, at the Bristol Hippodrome. Tickets cost £32 but youngsters from St Mary’s and Christchurch All Age worship groups and St Mary’s choir go free. Contact Sadie Watkins on 07970 732517 or Anne Parr 859414 as soon as possible if you would like to join us.
- The Boyan Ensemble will be in concert at St Mary’s on October 31—their only engagement in Wales this year. If you could host a couple of the choir members overnight, please contact Sheila Davies 853729 (hosts get a complimentary ticket). Tickets are £16, available from Churchwardens or Clive Jones.