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Talking Points for Easter Weekend

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector”.

(Matthew 28: 15-17)

We need to follow Jesus’ advice and tell President Bush and his faithful followers that lying, deceiving and killing are sins that defy the teachings of Jesus. Worse by claiming to be a Christian, particularly one who feels called, President Bush is dissing Jesus with all his lies, misdeeds and anti-Christian behavior of war. He is a resounding confirmation of Jesus’ apocalyptic prediction that there would be many pretending to be like him (Jesus) (Mt 24: 23-25).

The prophetic tradition has a long history of witness and confronting those that break the rule of the law by showing them the light. The prophets railed against all those that defied the word of God. They reminded people of God’s teachings and in doing so reaffirmed them. They were particularly concerned with the abuses of those in power and upholders of the law. Jesus had some of his strongest rebuke, his “Woes”, towards religious leaders. (For example see Mt 23: 13-37among others).

By confronting the President and his faithful followers about their actions we will be following the advice of renowned activist Saul Alinsky who said challenge their moral high ground. He suggested such in his book Rules for Radicals: A Primer for Realistic Radicals (Random House, 1971) with his 4th rule:

RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

Alinksy then goes on to tell how powerful this rule can be:

“If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)”

In other words the conservative “eye for eye” crowd would loose their moral high ground. Make them defend war when Jesus preached turn the other cheek (Mt 5:39) and said “blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9). Make them defend cutting funding to the poor when Jesus said that; The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. (Luke 4:18). Make them defend tax cuts when he told the rich young man to give up all his worldly possessions if he was to get to heaven and said that it is easier for a camel to fit through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven (Mt 19: 16-27) .

Spiritual progressives should not leave their faith at home when they speak out. Rather they should wear it on their sleeve or carry a big sign with scripture on it. (See discussion of Ghosting:) If we are to achieve peace on earth or the kingdom of heaven on earth it will require our total being and connection to God. Consider the meaning of Peace as defined in the Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (Mercer University Press 1997)

“The Hebrew word Shalom in its fullness represented a vision of peace and spiritual well-being that was grounded in covenantal relationship with Yahweh and was reflected in all dimensions of life: economic, political, biological, and religious.” (Page 664)

In other words unless we bring God and spirit into all that we do we will not achieve peace.

For too long we have let the conservative “eye for eye” crowd set the moral and spiritual tone in America. The results have been catastrophic. They have turned the figure of Jesus who preached God’s message of love upside down into a message that advocates God’s righteous anger against the world. Instead of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth they give us a vengeful God that is looking to rescue his believers to heaven while he smites the rest of us. Clearly Jesus was about the transformation of humanity, not its destruction. In the Parable of the Growing Seed Jesus tells us how the Kingdom of heaven would grow on earth:

“He also said, The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. (Mark 4: 26, 27)

But instead of spreading the brotherly love, or love of our enemies that Jesus taught we have spread war and violence as would followers of a vengeful God of wrath.

We will be walking a fine line when we tell President Bush and his minions that their actions defy the teachings of Christ they so proudly claim to follow. We risk turning it into a put down or appearing as if we are against or anti something. Rather we are looking to make a positive statement of our values and beliefs and to defend Jesus’ teachings. By reaffirming Christ’s teachings we will be reaffirming what many of us spiritually based activists believe in–Peace, non-violence, the golden rule, community, charity and compassion.

We must be sure not to affiliate Jesus, faith or any religion with a political party. Our goal is not win or use religion for gain, but rather to educate and transform, and prevent the desecration of God’s word. By pointing out President Bush’s defiance of Christ teachings we will turn him into a foil that will act to highlight the teachings of Christ–truth telling, non-violence, compassion–and it will further expose President Bush’s transgressions. In this manner, people will understand what they are really backing when they vote conservative right (fundamentalism).

No doubt we will be challenged and perhaps even have Jesus’ words used against us (See Woes above ). We should not run from this assault but confront it head on. A healthy debate about Jesus and Christianity would give us an opportunity to discuss such things as war and violence. Jesus clearly promoted nonviolence and was against war. For example, how would the “eye for eye” conservatives defend war when Jesus preached non-violence and turn the other cheek. We need to remind Christian war mongers that when Jesus was being arrested he told Peter to put down his sword and not violently resist or fight back.

Because spiritual progressives have failed to challenge the President and his followers over their interpretation of Jesus’ teachings they feel that they have the moral high ground and that they are the true faithful. President Bush has himself said that he felt called and chosen to lead America at this critical juncture. Complicating this is that many “eye for eye” conservatives not only feel justified in their actions but they also have an apocalyptic vision of the world. This is worrisome particularly at a time when the President is being pushed to the brink over the failure of his policies as his declining polls testify. The risk is that the President could become stubborn and ignore reality thinking God is on his side is and undertake even more detrimental policies. Can we afford this? Certainly not. We can no longer let Fundamentalism run wild like an unsupervised child in a toy story. The President needs to be told the truth. He needs to be told Jesus did not lie.

MADIS SENNER is a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He is a supporter of Dr. Rafil Dhafir who was jailed for breaking the sanctions against Iraq. He can be reached at madis@twcny.rr.com

 

 

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