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The Other Cheek


"But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other."

Jesus Christ

Stop violence, Christ advises, by not returning it. Don’t fight back. Suffer rather than wound.

Christ could probably not get elected president in the United States of America unless he brandished imminent Last Judgment threats of hell fire. Being against war, he would be called weak and not a strong leader. How could he protect us against Osama bin Laden and lead the wars on evil and terror? How could he invade elsewhere so we don’t have to fight here? Christ was not only against preemptive war, he opposed self-defense. Arnold Schwarzenegger might call him a girlie man–which was Nietzsche’s precise scornful verdict on ‘the pale Galilean.’ The superman philosopher beloved by warrior Hitler sneered at the weakness of Christian pacifism and saw it drain the vital national energy for war.

Could Nietzsche see into this 2004 future he could find an unparalleled warlike preemptive violence capable of tacking Christ on its battleshield with aplomb. ‘Empire doesn’t analyze, it acts’ is the current mantra–a version of the Roman imperium Virgil voiced: ‘let other nations see to art, Rome has something better to do–namely to wage war.’

What appeal is there to control violence if God is commandeered by the violent? If Christ is a horseman who brings war and Allah commands holy war and Jahweh says dash the children’s brains on the rocks and every nationalism says we have been wounded and humiliated and deserve vengeance?

Our God is violence and vengeance and fury and chaos and sacrifice if that is what we do.

We have no human face, no cheek to turn.

DIANE CHRISTIAN is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at University at Buffalo and author of the new book Blood Sacrifice. She can be reached at: engdc@acsu.buffalo.edu


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