On loving one’s enemies

| April 30, 2012 | 12 Replies

I believe that Jesus was a human being, not a God.  Therefore, I don’t give him homage, but I do occasionally read his alleged teachings, which I evaluate one-by-one.  Jesus allegedly said some things that make sense to me, but other things attributed to Jesus don’t make much sense to me. When I run into a teaching of Jesus that doesn’t make sense, I set it aside as something that doesn’t make sense.  I’m free to do this, because I’m not a Christian.  If I were a Christian, however, I would think that I should follow ALL of the teachings attributed to Jesus, because if I were a Christian, I would probably believe that Jesus is God, and who would I be to disagree with God?

One of the things Jesus seemed to teach quite clearly was that we should love our enemies. Robert Wright summarizes these teachings:

The “Love your enemy” injunction, as we’ve seen, appears in both Matthew and Luke. In the Matthew version, Jesus says, “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” In the letter to the Romans, written more than a decade before Matthew or Luke was written, Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” And if Paul doesn’t quite say to love your enemies, he does add “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink.” Paul also says, in that same passage, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil … never avenge yourselves.” Similarly, Jesus, just before advising people to love their enemies, says, “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”

Jesus also taught one of many versions of “the Golden Rule.” Here are the two places where these teachings appear in the Gospels.

Do to others as you would have them do to you. —Luke 6:31

Whatever you want people to do for you, do the same for them. —Matthew 7:12

With the above as the context, it often amazes and confounds me to see how exuberant most American Christians are to go to war.  I’m amazed at how often they claim that the kind of wars they support are also the kind of wars that Jesus supports.  How extraordinarily convenient, I repeatedly think.   From what I hear from many Christians, Jesus even approves of our methods of war.  I’ve personally heard that Jesus approves of attacking poor people halfway around the world with drone missiles, even though many of these attacks kill innocent children.  Jesus loved little children, but not so much that we can’t kill a few hundred of them with drone missiles. And we do kill lots of children with American drone missiles.

The Obama administration has no comment on the killing of Tariq Aziz, even though his death raises the most significant question of all. Drones offer the government an advanced and precise technology in its War on Terror – yet many of those killed by drones don’t appear to be terrorists at all. In fact, according to a detailed study of drone victims compiled by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, at least 174 of those executed by drones were under the age of 18 – in other words, children. Estimates by human rights groups that include adults who were likely civilians put the toll of innocent victims at more than 800. U.S. officials hotly dismiss such figures – “bullshit,” one senior administration official told me. Brennan, one of Obama’s top counterterrorism advisers, absurdly insisted last June that there hadn’t been “a single civilian” killed by drones in the previous year.

I shouldn’t be so surprised by this ratiocination, because evidence is ubiquitous that Jesus serves as a Rorschach.  Many Christians tend to believe that Jesus looks like them, even though Christians come in many shapes and colors (they would be aghast to put this realistic image of Jesus at the fronts of most American churches). Feel free to run this test yourself.  Ask any Christian what is OK and what is morally prohibited, and you will hear them each claiming that Jesus agrees entirely with whatever they think.  If you talk with pacifist Christians, they will tell you Jesus was totally against war.  If you talk with a person who supports the kinds of wars America is now fighting, you are likely to hear that Jesus is totally OK with “a just war,” and that America is fighting “just” wars.  I prefer to think that America is “just fighting wars.”

Please let me know whether you ever run into any major Christian congregation where the priest or minister is scolding members of the congregation for supporting military actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Or Somalia, Libya or Yemen.   Or for participating in any of the many dozens of wars fought by the United States.

The United States doesn’t just happen to be at war.  Rather, we are constantly at war. We are the most warmongering of nations, as well as the most vocally Christian of nations. War gives the United States a good inner glow, a highly addictive one, regardless of how contrived the reason for the war, regardless of how much that war is motivated by the urge to confiscate natural resources such as oil. Jesus would understand that somehow our oil got under their sand.  Jesus believes in the unfettered “free market.” Jesus is a social darwinist. Jesus believes in realpolitik.

Those American politicians, business leaders and military leaders who choose to fight wars constantly assert that Jesus wants us to fight wars so that we can control oil, so that we can profligately waste energy by driving huge cars to church to praise Jesus.  It all makes perfect sense to them.  After all, it’s clear that America is being threatened.  If Jesus were threatened, he wouldn’t simply take it . . . he wouldn’t do something absurd like turning his other cheek, would he?   He certainly wouldn’t let a bunch of thugs take him, without resistance and kill him, would he?

No sir, He would fight back like we do, for His honor and his glory.

The American images, arguments and madness regarding Jesus are irrefutable proof that Man has Created God in Man’s own image and likeness.

[The attached images of Jesus were created by Pixwit, and are republished here with permission].

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Category: Military, Religion, War, Warmongering

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (12)

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  1. Tim Hogan says:

    Erich, The Catholic Church simply stated the war in Iraq was immoral and unjust. The Church, despite its human failings, has spoken authoritatively on a broad base of isses relating to war, peace, torture, the sanctity of human life, economics, the environment, immigration, access to healthcare and issues of justice, such as the death penalty.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church says torture is “a grave sin which violates the Fifth Commandment.” Pope John Paul II in his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, called torture “intrinsically evil.” (See Paragraphs 2269; 2297-8).

    Pope John Paul II had said that the US going to war against Iraq was “…a defeat for humanity which could not be morally or legally justified.”

    While still a cardinal, Pope Benedict said:

    ”The Holy Father’s judgment is also convincing from the rational point of view: There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ’just war.’”

    The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said the invasion of Iraq did not “meet the strict conditions of Catholic teaching for the use of military force.”

    Roman Catholic teaching is that while a government may have the power to impose the death penalty, it should refrain from doing so on moral grounds and the possibility of salvation for the person who committed the crime. (See Number 56, Paragraph 2).

    Pope John XXIII, in his encyclical, Peace on Earth, listed healthcare as among those basic human rights which flow from the sanctity and dignity of human life. (See Paragraph 11).

    Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical, On Human Work, focused on availability and affordability of health care for workers.

    The US Conference of Catholic Bishops listed their chief concerns in Health and Health care as:

    Respect for Life, whether it preserves and enhances life from conception to natural death, and;

    Priority Concern for the Poor, whether it gives special priority to health care needs of the poor, ensuring their health care is quality health care, and;

    Universal Access to Comprehensive Benefits, whether the plan is sufficient to maintain and promote good health, and;

    Preserving Common Good and Preserving Plurality, whether the plan respects the general good and the differences we may have in how we deliver care based upon our individual values.

    The USCCB supported the recent increase in the federal minimum wage because, while still not a “living wage,” it was more so than the previous minimum wage under federal law. The Bishops supported the increase in the federal minimum wage because it also would positively affect 8.2 million of low wage workers with the increase overwhelmingly benefiting women, minorities and the poor.

    The USCCB and other Interfaith Leaders have called for comprehensive immigration reform, and supported the concept of Senator John McCain’s bill, the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Control Act, among others. The Church leaders embraced comprehensive immigration reform as originally proposed by Senator McCain because it’s “impact upon the basic human dignity and human life that we believe immigration is, first and foremost, a moral issue.” And that “[c]hanging the status quo is an issue of moral gravity.” The bill was co-sponsored by then Senator Obama.

    The USCCB has said in, Economic Justice for All, that “economic decisions have human consequences and moral content; they help or hurt people, strengthen or weaken family life, advance or diminish the quality of justice in our land.”

    The Bishops also said; “Followers of Christ must avoid a tragic separation between faith and everyday life.”

    In an April, 2008 address to the United Nations Pope Benedict XVI discussed many issues, including the environment;

    “[Q]uestions of protection of the environment…of resources and of the climate require all international leaders to act jointly and to show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law, and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet.”

    Likewise Pope Benedict said before the United Nations that;

    “[I]nternational action to preserve the environment and to protect various forms of life on earth must not only guarantee a rational use of technology and science but must also rediscover the authentic image of creation. This never requires a choice to be made between science and ethics: rather it is a question of adopting a scientific method that is truly respectful of ethical imperatives.”

    The Pope has urged bishops, scientists and politicians to “respect creation” while “focusing on the needs of sustainable development.”

    Many Christians do not follow the dim view of Christianity you declaim here. Most Catholics do not. Such is in keeping with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, much as some of its human servants may have failed to protect its innocents.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Tim: I’m fully aware that many Christians are aghast at U.S. warmongering. But I’m certain that far more U.S. Christians (including many Catholics) fully approve of the violence the U.S. is causing in the name of “Jesus.”

  2. Karl says:

    The Old Testament is full of examples of wars between various groups of people that considered those they battled against their enemies, yet it also contains a version of the Golden Rule in Leviticus.

    Probably the best example of this problem is what is to be done when others in your own society want to protect others from facing the needed consequences of their own misguided activities that result from the apparent collective cover of, “you can’t blame only me.”

    In Judges chapters 19-21 there is a drawn out story of idolatry and out right willful collective use of the “no snitch” rule because it might end up also bringing to light more than you want exposed to the light of transparency.

    The tribe of Benjamin nearly gets entirely removed from thir inheritance in the land of Israel becuase they harbored alledged rapists and murderers. This probably was because they thought they wouldn’t get proper justice if they turned them over, and that someone of prominence on the city council would have been affected.

    Similar to the US civil war, when do individual rights, community organizers, states rights and collective states rights ever stop to consider what it means to truly love your enemies?

    Any groups that only decide their courses of action based upon the numbers, ie: expediency of quickest results and fewest loss of innocents, do not understand what it means to love your enemies. When the only option you bring to the possibility of reconciliation is revenge, you do not get it at all.

    Karl Kunker

  3. Jason says:

    I remember the start of the Afghanistan war. I was a Christian then attending what is now considered a mega church here in the South. I also remember the pastor at the time telling us (more than 1,000 in attendance) that he fully supported the war and encourage the congregation to do the same. This was during a Sunday morning worship service.

    You highlight yet another reason in my opinion why the religion is in decline.

    http://religions.pewforum.org/reports

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-03-09-american-religion-ARIS_N.htm

  4. Tim Hogan says:

    Erich, just because you believe something doesn’t make it true. Belief in something in the absence of proof is faith but, you deny such is true for yourself-except where the hatred or violence of Christians is concerned. I consider that to be prejudice borne of ignorance and unacceptable from an intelligent being, especially a self-proclaimed skeptic.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Tim: I propose that you put on your glasses and re-read what I wrote in this post.

      My point is this:

      1. The United States is one of the most vocal nations on Earth when it comes to proclaiming its alleged Christianity, i.e., its alleged belief in Jesus.
      2. Jesus taught that we should love our enemies and turn the other cheek (except for his absurd belief that he will send sinners to hell for eternal damnation), and
      3. The United States is arguably the most warmongering nation on Earth.

      This is hypocritical.

      I did not say that all Christians are warmongers.

  5. Karl says:

    What criteria does one use to evaluate when it is time to hold a specific individual responsible for the error of their ways? This is part of what it means to love your enemies.

    As well, who gets to decide what is an appropriate consequence for that error of their ways and just how to implement the consequence(s)?

    One must also ask the same questions for the smallest of collectives right up to the largest of them.

    The world would be a much better place if we could and did demanded the appropriate disciplinary actions at all the appropriate levels for the primary reason that what we had in mind was actually loving our enemies.

    I’m not saying that we should just simply ignore recurrent flagrant errors, but that we should stop to consider that if the desired end result is reconciliation with our enemies, this will never be really possible when revenge against enemies is simply a matter of thinking might makes right.

  6. grumpypilgrim says:

    Tim defended the Catholic Church’s stance on war. Isn’t that the same Catholic Church that failed to condemn Hitler?

    • Karl says:

      Why did the Catholic Church fail to condemn Hitler?

      Hitler didn’t persecute churchmen who didn’t oppose the Nazi regime.

      Why did the Catholic Church oppose Stalin?

      Stalin confiscated Church property and killed clergy, including those who didn’t oppose him.

      Just saying that neither of these directly had anything to do with the treatment of any other group of people like the Jews or the Gypsies. These were issues directly between these leaders and the monetary trails that led either to the Vatican or to the governmental leaders. Leaders who took what they wanted by force from the the Catholic Church were spoken ill of by the Vatican.

      The Vatican condemns nearly any and every war, whether you are a Muslim, Hindu, Christian or atheist. They are not a group to point out the specifics of the atrocities unless they are one of the victims.

      I would think most people would know by now that it takes less time than one generation for an entire point of view to be turned on its head by people who strongly want to see things changed.

      People seldom stop to consider if the hope and change they have in mind will actually ever come to pass. Many people believe that the kind of hope and change they desire is only possible when the previous generation and their views of morality are removed from serious discussion.

      When change is sought after mainly for the sake of saying that the younger generation has come this decision on their own independent of the previous generation, you throw off all of the possible vicarious points of view and behavioral tendencies that have been a part of human nature for a very long time.

  7. Tim Hogan says:

    Silly immoral nihilists and pagans!

    The Catholic Church did condemn Hitler, Nazism and their racist policies.

    The Catholic Church officially condemned the Nazi theory of racism in Germany in 1937 with the Encyclical “Mit Brennender Sorge”, signed by Pope Pius XI.

    “Smuggled into Germany to avoid prior censorship and read from the pulpits of all German Catholic churches, it condemned Nazi ideology as ‘insane and arrogant’. It denounced the Nazi myth of ‘blood and soil’, decried neopaganism of Nazism, its war of annihilation against the Church, and even described the Führer himself as a ‘mad prophet possessed of repulsive arrogance.’

    Although there is some difference of opinion as to the impact of the document, it is generally recognized as the ‘first … official public document to criticize Nazism.'” Wiki-

    At the same time, the Church took on Mussolini and fascism early when in 1931 Pope Pius XI wrote the Encyclical, “Non Abbiamo Bisogno.” which denounced Mussolini for his excesses and specificall denounced fascism. Wiki-

    While there was a period early on in Europe when the Catholic Church walked a thin line between having accomodation and being an accessory, ultimately Hitler was denounced and many Catholic clergy and laity were imprisoned or murdered by the Nazis for their faith.

    Please remember, just because you believe something desn’t make it true.

  8. Karl says:

    There are about as many different interpretations on how Hitler and the Nazi party came to power as there are philosophical perspectives upon the world in general.

    Various groups of people see the historical events surrounding Hitler’s rise to power from their own water colored view of who their enemies really were.

    Most should agree that Hitler’s Nationalism was grounded in basically three things, racism, inability to establish progressive change and the ability to polarize one’s opponents by showing them they still agreed with some piece of the hope and change he was promising them.

    To get a better understanding of just what actually took place politically in the vacuum of leadership both during and after WW1 in Europe one must be willing to look realistically at what were the political and religious realities.

    The Nazi Party was not voted for in regions where the voting numbers favored Catholics.

    The Nazi Party was voted for in regions like University Centers where coalitions could be forged between Liberal Protestants, Atheists and Socialists that all had the common mistrust of Stalin type Communism as did the Catholic Church as well.

    Grumpy, to say that the Catholic Church said nothing in a condemning way against Nazis is just not true. They excommunicated many Nazi Leaders from the Catholic Church. Somewhere in Catholic leadership they also in one way or another allowed some alleged war criminals to escape to South America after the war was over perhaps because they saw those men as truly wanting to bring an end to the fightling sooner but were not able to do so.

    Loving your enemies as you can see is not ever an easy phrase to put into practice when others would see it as preventing restitution and the extraction of Shylock’s pound of flesh.

    http://www.churchinhistory.org/pages/leaf-sum/catholicsvnazis.htm

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