by Mark Sandlin
In response to my last article, “10 Things You Can't Do While Following Jesus
,” I was accused multiple times of being political. All I was trying to do was follow Jesus. So, I thought it'd be interesting (and generate tons more hate mail) to show what a list would actually look like if I were being political intentionally. Like the first list, this is not a complete list but it's a pretty good place to start.
There will be those who comment and send me messages berating me for “making Jesus political.” It's okay. Fire away. Jesus didn't worry much about stepping on political toes and the Bible insists that governments be just toward the least of these (the books of the prophets alone make this point very clear). Frequently, people who are the most vocal about not making Jesus political are the same people who want prayer in school and laws based on their own religious perspectives. By a happy little circumstance that brings us to my list: 10) Force your religious beliefs and practices on others.
One of the strengths of the faith Jesus taught was in its meekness. The faith he taught valued free will over compulsion – because that's how love works. Compelling people to follow any religion, more or less your personal religion, stands over and against the way Jesus practiced his faith. If you are using the government to compel people to practice your spiritual beliefs, you might be the reason baby Jesus is crying. This does get tricky. There is a difference in letting your beliefs inform your political choices and letting your politics enforce your religion. This article is about the first part. 9) Advocate for war.
There's a reason why he was called the Prince of Peace. Sure, you can quote, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” and even two or three other verses but they don't hold a candle to the more than fifty-some verses where Jesus speaks about peace and peacemaking. It's funny how things keep coming back to love but it needs to be said, it is way far away from loving a person to kill them. I guess there's a reason why we say, “God is love.” In the end, love wins. 8) Favor the rich over the poor.
This is actually related to #4. Favoring the rich over the poor is a slap in the face of Jesus, his life and his teachings. In terms of the teachings of Jesus, it is bad enough when we allow the rich to take advantage of the poor, but when we create laws which not only encourage the behavior but also protect it? Well, let's just say it becomes crystal clear how ironic it is that we print, “In God We Trust,” on our money
by Randy Walker
If you think your way is the only way, you might be “stuck in the details.” If you belittle those who do not look like you, act like you, or think like you, you might be “stuck in the details.” If dogma rules your life, you might be “stuck in the details.”
First, what is meant by the idiom, “stuck in the details”? Has anyone encountered someone who is obsessive-compulsive over certain things in his or her life? This person becomes consumed with a minute detail, or details, that have little impact on the person’s quality of life, and in doing so, misses the “big picture,” or the things that do matter and affect the quality of life or the outcome of something in particular. I once worked for someone who displayed this quirk to the extreme. He and I worked in construction. This man would obsess over visible brush strokes left on a painted surface, imperfections in trim molding, or other minor blemishes to the point that he would miss obvious things, such as a missing storm door, blatant damage to an outside wall or other similar but what should be easily detected flaws. In other words, he was “stuck in the details,” and he missed the “big picture.”
I believe it is easy for many people to do, essentially, the same thing when it comes to religion or worldviews. To me, religious dogma is an example of details, and people tend to focus on dogmatic “details” and miss the more crucial “big picture.” Stated another way: the doctrine and the rules included in the dogma become more important to some people than how they view and treat people they encounter. They will argue, vehemently, about a minute point of doctrine and proclaim that if other people do not believe just as they do, such people are inferior, hell-bound, unfit, outcast, ex-communicated... the list goes on.
As it became apparent that the President had called an unexpected address to the nation to announce the death of Osama bin Laden, social networks erupted with jubilation. Shortly after that, ground zero and grounds in front of the White House, with their 9/11 connections, became gathering places for the raucous crowds.
For a night, so many of this mostly divided nation were united... over a death. Not just united, joyfully so.
“He's won,” I thought. One of bin Laden's primary goals was to cause terror in the US and he has. Not buildings collapsing terror. Not dirty bombs exploding terror. What happened was more diabolical than that. We lost our humanity...or we lived vengefully into it, whichever way you care to see it. We gave into our primal instinct. We answered blood-lust with blood-lust, vengeance with vengeance. We solved the problem of murder with murder. As Dr. King once noted, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
I know that is not a popular point of view and I fully recognize that this post will probably evoke more negative responses than positive, but in looking at the teaching of Jesus, I do find it to be a solid biblical point of view. I do not ask you to see it the way that I do. I just need to give voice to it.
I was even more bereft in watching so many of my dear Christian friends quote the Bible in order to justify their understandable need to rejoice that this man, who seems to be the devil personified for most people, was brought to his end – violently. I even sort of understand why they sought out Bible verses: because there was a part of them, the part that is a reflection of God, the part placed in each human as God metaphorically breathed the very breath of God into each of us, that knew this was wrong in the eyes of God. Their humanity needed to overcome the piece of divinity that was trying to speak out.
That piece of our humanity that so easily gives into hate, vengeance, anger, retribution, and blood-lust is the most powerful weapon that a man like bin Laden has. It divides not only nations but the world. It divides not only communities but it also divides individuals against their better selves.
People who would never intentionally cherry pick Bible verses were using text out of context to justify their actions rather than using the verse to guide their actions. Saying things like, “live by the sword, die by the sword,” to give vengeance a biblical sounding edge, never realizing that those kind of swords cut both ways. It divides nations. It divides our very spirits. That is a powerful weapon.
Worse yet, (at least from a Christian perspective), seeing the death of anyone as redemptive reduces love to a trite keepsake, a bauble, a plaything of convenience. Even on the cross it was not the suffering that was redemptive, it was the love of the one who laid down his life for his friends and the love of God that was redemptive. When we try to make violence redemptive (and we can only try, because it never will be), we make violence the end all be all. We elevate it above love... and when we do that, we elevate it above God who is love. We make it a religion unto itself.
It was good to see cooler heads begin to prevail in Christian communities the day after, but this isn't the first time we have lived into that human instinct to try to make violence redemptive. I am left to wonder, will we resist the urge the next time? Because there will be a next time.
I agree with Rob Bell, love wins. Hate begets hate. Fear begets fear. Violence begets violence. Love begets love.
"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." -MLK
(UPDATE: As expected, I've received many more negative responses than normal. The largest majority of them actually proved part of my point by being mostly hateful and verbally violent. The ones that were primarily name calling have been deleted. Negative responses that do not leave their real name and email will also be deleted. For now, I'll leave the comment section open. If necessary, I will switch to approving comments before they are posted. I welcome negative feedback. I do, however, insist it avoid name calling and that it is a response and not an attack.)