I must warn you, what am about to dive into I have been processing for quite a while. Well… maybe more so writing about it. In December 2012 while wrapping Christmas gifts with my wife and I watched as the media grabbed our attention with the school shooting in Connecticut. It is something that parents of similar aged kids never wanted to imagine, let alone watch it on TV. Within the first hour I posted on Facebook what ended up shaping how I use social media to this day.
You see, I am avid believer in the peace teachings of Jesus. That afternoon I wrote a status update regarding guns. The intent was to provoke conversation about how to bring about peaceful responses to conflict and focus on the hurting. I got barraged with comments of anger that I would label this a gun issue. People made comments that Jesus would want us to have guns to protect ourselves and even used Old Testament scripture to back it up. So, for a day I tried to keep up the conversation and engage people within it. What shocked me, and to this day still perplexes me, is that we find it easier to respond in anger than love. Why is violence ever a course of action? I believe fully that the teachings of Jesus reflect a greater cultural issue we have at hand.
It is clear that Jesus taught that we are find peace in the midst of conflict and that violence is not a means to an end. Bill Maher, shortly after the Osama Bin Laden assassination went off on Christians who celebrated. It was interesting here in Canada because it seemed odd to me as well. My children were being brain washed that we in the West are the good guys and they are the enemy. However, I would imagine that in the other part of the world the West are the enemy and they are the good guys. It just seems to muddy the full and complete message of Jesus.
Consider this from Maher (a self-proclaimed non-Christian) on that broadcast:
New rule: if you’re a Christian who supports killing your enemies and torture, you have to come up with a new name for yourself. Last week, as I was explaining why I didn’t feel at all guilty about Osama’s targeted assassination, I made some jokes about Christian hypocrisy and since then strangers have been coming up to me and forcing me to have the same conversation. For almost 2,000 years, Christians have been lawyering the Bible to try and figure out how “love thy neighbor” can mean “hate thy neighbor” and how “turn the other cheek” can mean “screw you, I’m buying space lasers.” Martin Luther King gets to call himself a Christian because he actually practiced loving his enemies. And Gandhi was so Christian he was Hindu. But if you rejoice in revenge, torture and war – hey, that’s why they call it the weekend – you cannot say you’re a follower of the guy who explicitly said, “Love your enemies” and “Do good to those who hate you.” The next line isn’t “and if that doesn’t work, send a titanium fanged dog [to attack.]” Jesus lays on that hippie stuff pretty thick. He has lines like, “Do not repay evil with evil,” and “Do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you.” Really. It’s in that book you hold up when you scream at gay people. And not to put too fine a point on it, but nonviolence was kind of Jesus’ trademark, kind of his big thing. To not follow that part of it is like joining Greenpeace and hating whales. There’s interpreting, and then there’s just ignoring. It’s just ignoring if you’re for torture – as are more evangelical Christians than any other religion. You’re supposed to look at that figure of Christ on the cross and think, “how could a man suffer like that and forgive?” Not, “Romans are wusses, he still has his eyes.” If you go to a baptism and hold the baby under until he starts talking, you’re missing the message. Like, apparently, our president, who says he gets scripture on his Blackberry first thing every morning, but who said on 60 Minutes that anyone who would question that Bin Laden didn’t deserve an assassination should, “have their head examined.” Hey Fox News! You missed a big headline; Obama thinks Jesus is nuts! To which I say, “hallelujah,” because my favorite new government program is surprising violent religious zealots in the middle of the night and shooting them in the face. Sorry Head Start, you’re number 2 now. But I can say that because I’m a non-Christian. Just like most Christians. Christians, I know, I’m sorry. I know you hate this and you want to square this circle, but you can’t. I’m not even judging you, I’m just saying logically if you ignore every single thing Jesus commanded you to do, you’re not a Christian – you’re just auditing. You’re not Christ’s followers, you’re just fans.
I don’t agree or disagree with much of what Bill Maher ever says. However this caught my attention. Is he right with what he his saying or wrong? I believe that there is a lot of contextualizing we all need to do, while also understanding that our identity is first in Jesus. Consider these quotes from Jesus:
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6: 27-28
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” Matthew 5:38-39
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34
I am writing this as a part of the process that I am using to firm up my understanding of what it is to fully understand Jesus and better live via His example. Whatever you feel about the topic, what I want you to walk away with most is that this process has been part of my discipleship journey. I would challenge all of us to really take time to consider even the most controversial topics (not that this is one) and work out how the scripture states Jesus would have responded.