The Political Theory of Liberation Theology: Toward a Reconvergence of Social Values and Social Science

By John R. Pottenger | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

The Ethics of Reform and Revolution

Introduction

Imagine a confrontation between two gunmen, one of whom has unjustifiably threatened the life of the other. If the threatened gunman is quicker at the draw than his unjust adversary, his violent and lethal action might well be considered justifiable as a legitimate act of self-defense. Suppose, however, before the confrontation the innocent gunman has conclusive evidence that his unjust adversary is in fact quicker at the draw. Prior to the appointed time may the threatened gunman, knowing he will lose in a direct confrontation, continue to claim self-defense as justification were he to ambush his opponent? Furthermore, suppose that an ambush is also not feasible. As a last desperate act to avoid certain death, what if the threatened gunman were to kill one of his own friends so that he could falsely accuse his opponent with responsibility for the innocent death in order to discredit him publicly and thereby avoid the initial confrontation? Could this last approach be morally justified as legitimate selfdefense?

Juan Luis Segundo presents this scenario in an early article on the problem of violence for a Christian. 1 He prompts two basic questions: Is the use of violence, even for self-defense, ever justified? And, if violence can be justified, do limits exist as to how violence may

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