Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Resist Not Evil

But I say unto you do not resist evil.  But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also. -- Matthew 5:39

If we were to take a vote among Christians today on whether we should resist evil, the vast majority would undoubtedly vote in favor of doing all in their power to resist evil and write this verse off as the ramblings of an out-of-touch peacenik.  (Though they would likely not admit out loud to the latter part of that)  Add to it Matthew 5:45 of loving your enemies and I suspect the majority of American Christians privately roll their eyes and think, "What a fruit loop.  Easy for him to say, but he didn't live with ISIS and terrorists."  No, Jesus lived under Roman rule, where crucifixions were handed out with impunity and innocents were thrown into the arena.  Most historians would also characterize most Roman Emperors as a pretty bad, inhumane, and even evil lot.

As I've watched the current American political agenda take a hard right turn and veer sharply into the realm of breaking up families, removing healthcare, deporting immigrants, refusing refugees, planning nuclear war, and castigating the free press and all who dissent, I found myself pondering this "do not resist evil" verse. What should the Christian's view be of evil? Few of us could argue, at minimum, that terrorism is evil.  The primordial blood lust inclination of the lizard brain linked with loyal tribalism has us all hooked into accepting the doctrine of "might makes right."  National policy, supported by the majority, seems to be dictating that violence be met with greater violence.  What does turning the other cheek mean when the unthinkable possibility of nuclear first strike has been publicly put on the table as a way of coping with "evil?"

To not resist evil flies counter to what our government is pressing.  I suspect that for those Christians who actually wrestle with making their faith congruous with their lives, many might go to that brain place of disconnecting their conscience from their government's actions - the internal version of separating church and state -- and turn off the news.  Jesus, might have more to say on that strategy.

Perhaps what Jesus could see about the nature of evil is that the more it is resisted, the stronger evil becomes.  It is the nature of evil that the more one engages with it, the more likely you are to get sucked into doing to the other likewise.  For instance, can anyone really make the claim that responding to the evil of the 9/11 attacks by going to war, which has caused an untold number of innocent civilian casualties, is a different act?

To break through the evil fallout, one has to be willing to put down the primordial urge for revenge and listen to the pent up grievances that have caused evil to take hold of hearts that can't take the injustice, hurt, and loss any more.  I think Jesus argues pretty explicitly that the response to evil should be compassion and love.  Just hypothetically, what if our governmental perspective were to shift in the opposite direction?  What if, instead of maintaining a budget of billions of dollars aimed at making enemies pay a heavy life toll, we were putting that into food production, medicine, education, and diplomacy to aid overthrows of repressive dictatorships?  In judo, the most effective defensive move is to flow with the force the opponent is using against you.  Perhaps that is the understanding Jesus had of opposing evil?

There is no political party in the United States that embraces a "Jesus ethic"  The Christian Church has largely been absorbed into a silence of despair and/or encouraged by the majority evil to hold the same small spirited, violent, self-protective, and unimaginative approaches we've been pursuing.  The result has been declining memberships and irrelevancy of the Church in most people's minds, and even overt hostility toward our hypocrisy.  The greatest reformation that the Church might undergo would be a coming together to actually advocate en masse for instilling a true Love ethic into secular government like it has never been done at any time in Church history? 

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