Surrender unto Surrender for Peace – UPDATED

I admit, my Tuesday column requires some patience. If you jump too quickly you’re going to think I’m saying Christians should never defend themselves.

Jesus surely didn’t preach that; he didn’t preach a crusade either. He taught us to turn the other cheek.

Our instincts tell us that turning the other cheek is stupid, but this is what Christ preached. He did not teach that we were meant to conquer others—be they radical Islamists, or gay activists, or evangelical atheists—but that we were to conquer ourselves, and in so doing, bring others into surrender by our own humble example of submission to his Will.

That, of course, means trust; the toughest nut for all Christians. It is hard to trust him, when we have our world before our eyes, but only once we trust him can be surrender ourselves to him in a way that might change the world.

Christianity is a blood religion, like Judaism, and like Islam. But it’s not the spilling of other’s blood that matters. The early martyrs died for their beliefs, but not in an effort to control others. Their trust in Christ, their surrendering to him ending (as they knew it would) in the shedding of their blood, ultimately turned hearts and minds in another direction, toward a horizon marked by the cross.

The only power resides is in the spilling of Christ’s blood, and ours for his sake.

For his sake. Not for ours; not even for our civilization’s. The civilization—-and indeed the American Exceptionalism characterized by “baseball, Mom, Chevrolet, and apple pie,” that helped to bring the West to its culmination—is already on the wane. Baseball has been corrupted, motherhood has been redefined, Chevrolet is a shadow of itself; all we may soon be left with is apples we may not eat.

And then, perhaps, comes the New Eden.

The piece began as a response to several emails from Christian readers who sound eager to see the launching of a second Crusade, in order to save the world–as they know and love it, almost unto Ameridolatry–and bring it back to where it was 30 years ago, or so.

On some level, I think what I am saying is that no matter which path we take, the larger outcomes will be the same: do “nothing,” and Islam advances, many people die, civilization as we know it continues to devolve until Christ comes. Do “something”–lash out, fight back, create laws, and drag people to Jesus–and Islam will continue to advance many people will die, civilization as we know it will continue to devolve until Christ comes.

The narrative is going to move forward. The smaller outcome–how we live as it does–is what is going to matter to Christ, in the end.

Oddy enough, Tim Muldoon seems to writing from a similar wavelength, today: as the traditional date of the Feast of the Ephiphany nears, he looks at Emmanuel and the story that screams down the ages:

Christians, like all people everywhere of every time and place, fall into the trap of tribalism and triumphalism when they gain political power. (Lord Acton: “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”) Ours is an age when Christianity has lost great power; “Christendom” is a thing of the past. Many Christians want that power back and want to use the gospel as a rationale for reclaiming it.

What is worth remembering, however, is that the stories of “God with us” were decidedly anti-power. Matthew and Luke take great pains to describe the new “king” in strikingly non-regal terms: born in a backwater town to peasants and driven into refugee status. In spite of their animosity toward the people who had alienated them, the evangelists nevertheless embed their narratives within Jewish history and, in the end, recognize their complete dependence on the Jews, even as they remain compelled by the unique story of Jesus.

What does all this mean for how Christians today understand “God with us”? First, it means understanding our absolute dependence upon Jewish history and, in a related sense, on the perseverance of the Jewish community of faith who gives living witness to that history. Second, it means discerning what Matthew and the other evangelists were pointing to as “God with us.”

It means basing a faith not naively on the stories themselves, but on the person of Christ who gave rise to the stories.

To put it more simply, it means a lifelong commitment to learning prayer as the way to get to know God personally.

I suggest that a sound-byte takeaway for this exhortation is this: it takes at least as much effort to learn prayer—to learn to really listen to God—as it takes to learn how to love.

You can read Tim’s whole piece here, and the rest of my piece here.

We live in interesting times.

UPDATE: Reader Diane S. reminds me that “Jesus was no leftist”, and of Dennis Prager’s distinctions between “micro” and “macro” perspectives.

I’m more and more convinced that Christians are reacting too much to the world and living too much in the world. We’re all caught up with every passing idea and insult. We’re caught up in the macro. And it is ruining the micro–our ability to even perceive the mirco. Take care of the micro and the macro will follow. That’s sort of what I am saying, in a nutshell. It was what the early martyrs understood. They were focused on the micro. The macro fell to it.

We’re becoming a bunch of babies; it’s about net-neutrality but it’s about all of this, too, in a small way:

Some issues with public religious practice cannot, of course, be resolved at the community level or between private individuals. But we are perilously close to a point at which no such issues will be resolved without ukases or adjudications from the state. It is precisely the business of the mature adult to recognize that there are whole realms of life in which government intervention is not necessary—in which, indeed, it is better in every way to work things out among ourselves directly—and that those realms are what we inhabit most of the time. Christians, in fact, are called to live by this precept, as Paul makes clear in I Corinthians 6:1-8.

The Weary World Waits

A Model for Christian/Muslim dialogue

Msgr. Charles Pope:
Mary and the Muslim World
Sr. Lisa Doty: Prayer of Humility; Path to God

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Iris Celeste

    My first reaction to the bombing of the Coptic Church in Alexandria on New Years was anger, which of course is the very human reaction. Then upon trying to think of what I could do, I realized that only God can solve our worlds problem. Only He Who knows every human heart intimately, can change those hearts. Therefore, I have started fasting (very hard as a diabetic, but it can be done) and praying for the Christian community (and the convertion of Muslims, at least their attitudes towards non-believers) in the Middle East, as well as having Masses said for the intentions of Cyril of Alexandria, the patron saint of Alexandria, and Our Lady of Zeitoun, a Virgin Mary apparition in a Coptic Church in Egypt that has even been recorded on film.

    Iris Celeste

  • Tommy@Israel

    It seems to me that you may not necessarily start with a prayer because I suppose that the main message of Christianity is love and patience and we have a lot of examples of this eternal love towards people like Mother teresa. And I do believe that even igf she didn’t know anything about religion, she was a Christian in the purest sense of the word and that’s what everyone of us should strive for.

  • Mandy P.

    I read both pieces and while I agree with the overall thrust of both (focus on Jesus) I think there is a much more nuanced, if you will, approach to Islam, etc. Turn the other cheek if you’re being slandered, yes. Turn it if you are being threatened, ok. But turn it when innocents are being slaughtered? Really? I certainly don’t advocate for another crusade. But it seems to me that while Jesus may ask us to lay down our own lives for him, I don’t believe he would want us to turn away from this fight, which in it’s mist recent form wasn’t sought by the West or Christians.

    Again, no crusading is needed. But I can’t see the Lord being too pleased with us for standing idly by while his faithful are being killed simply for being what they are. And while Jesus is coming back some day regardless of what we do, I can’t see that as a justification for doing nothing.

    If Jesus were walking the earth right now, I am confident that he would stand bodily between anyone trying to harm his faithful. So, yes to leading by example. Yes to showing others how to love by showing them Christ’s love. Yes to focusing on Jesus. But no to passivity to the point of allowing others to be martyred.

    [See, the very first thing I wrote was "you'll think I'm saying Christians should do nothing." That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying work on obedience and trust--on the "micro"--and eventually the macro follows. Read our Christian history. Read how prayer turned around Lepanto; how the passivity of the early martyrs converted their jailers and oppressors. I'm saying the world's way is not our way. The first, "Yes to focusing on Jesus," answers the second, if it's lived deeply, and not superficially. I think none of us are praying enough. None of us. Our fixation on media, news, noise; it's the devil's own means of keeping us from prayer. And if we're removed from prayer, we are distanced from God, from "focusing on Jesus." And therefore, we will lose all of the battles we want to jump into. -admin]

  • Terry Hansen

    I am with you on this one Anchoress, but it is very hard to do. It is another of those head vs heart things. I agree with you in my head, but my heart has a tough time following. I fool myself, I get distracted, I confess and then I finally get back to prayer. It is much easier to follow the events and get wrapped up in righteous anger. It is much harder to leave that to Jesus and focus on my own faults. Lord have mercy on me a sinner!

  • Iris Celeste

    I certainly understand people’s desire for action, but what action would you propose? Boycotting Egyptian products and travel? Harm their economy? I sponsor 2 Coptic Children without fathers in Egypt. I know of the economic hardships they are enduring. Such a boycott would only increase the hardship on the Coptic community. So then what? Demand that the State Department slap Egypt’s wrist? Do you really think our present administration will do that? Again, I tell you, only God can help. God allowed Islam to spread throughout the Christian Middle East. Have you ever asked yourselves why? Are we to question His ways? Do you think anything can be done if He does not wish it? Prayer, fasting, self denial; put His will before your own. Allow Heaven to do what it needs to do with the help of your prayers. Do you not understand that God wants His Muslim Children to also come to Him? Pray, help Heaven. Only with your payers can Heaven move. Look up the victory of Lepanto and Our Lady of the Rosary. Can God stop the invading forces? Yes, but we must first ask with prayer and with the conversion of our own hearts.

    Iris Celeste

  • archangel

    Essentially all one needs to follow is the Church’s understanding of what constitutes a “just war”. A just “war” is essentially defensive. If one’s family is attacked, we have the moral obligation to defend it… by the sword if necessary. Harken back to the gospel reading as the 11 and Jesus leave the upper room after the Last Supper. The reference to how many swords they have is telling. What distinguishes the Christian martyr and the Islamic one is very stark. The Christian does not seek to die, let alone kill. What the Christian seeks is to enlighten and should that task fail and bring about their own mortal death, then acceptance of God’s will to that end suffices and the martyr links his/her sacrifice to that of Christ’s. The muslim view (radical if you so wish) is a distortion. They literally seek their own death and try to kill others as they seek their own. That is why they consider the suicide-murder scenario as an act of martyrdom.

    So, the distinction is clear. Christians have the moral obligation to defend themselves and family through prayer, acts of kindness, and through the sword if need be. The operative word is DEFEND. Sometimes, however… a good defense relies on a good offense. Those calling for a new “crusade” are misguided in the sense that such an act would be an act of offense. However, being that Islam has declared war on Christians and Jews alike and given the events of the past 30 years or so… one could argue the war has already started (or perhaps never ended in the macro view), and as such a unified Christian movement in defense of the faith is most likely inevitable and morally obligatory.

    I have long believed that a target for an Iranian bomb would be the Vatican. In their view, such a strike would be a victory regardless of their own cost. Think about it

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  • Robert

    It seems more accurate to say that Jesus was beyond “left” and “right” rather not one or the other.

  • Jeff

    I favor aggressive counter-attacks on the jihadists. It is the only language they understand. Just like the Nazis.

  • Mandy P.

    I appreciate the update. Especially the inclusion ofthe distinction between the micro and the macro. I’m an incoming Catholic and one of the biggest obstacles I’ve had to overcome was in trying to decipher the micro message from the macro ones being given from our leaders. Frankly, it kept me away for over a year. With all due respect to our leaders, I’ve found that they all tend to issue blanket, or macro statements on one issue or another. I would think that by the time it gets filtereddown to me in the pew in my parish that those messages would start getting more specific. But what I have been getting at the diocesan level and then even at the parish is macro instead of micro. And it seems to me, as someone still not fully inside the Church, that is where a lot of confusion and division among the laity is coming from.

    I’m a frequent enough reader that I realize you weren’t trying to say that we should just stand by and watch people be killed. But I think it is worth making sure that we are especially clear on those distinctions. And while I realized what you were trying to get across, I just didn’t get that clarity from the piece.

    [I am sometimes utterly defeated by word limitations! :-) Fortunately, however, the Holy Spirit seems to be sending me backup today, in a variety or ways! -admin]

  • Iris Celeste

    And who, pray tell, will defend Christianity in this new “crusade”? Secular Eastern Europe? Russia? India? Canada? USA? I tell you again, in today’s world it is not going to happen, even if the Vatican is bombed. I’m even willing to bet, that should we have another attack like 9/11, this time, under this administration, we will not respond with military action. So who then? Israel? Israel is too busy needing to preserve self; I really doubt Israel would get involved in the plight of Christians, even if that were not the case. I’m not condemning or judging Israel. I just think it unreasonable to expect such a thing. However, there is one thing all Christians can do for their fellow suffering Christian under Islamic hands and that is pray. Storm Heaven for their behalf with prayers and offerings of self-denial. Try it. It is something you can actually do right at this moment.

    [See this picture The battle is not new; but it won't be won on man's terms -admin]

  • joan

    Father has posted a Christmas jihad jingle:

  • Mutnodjmet

    Anchoress: I was going to email you this question, as it is a topic I was going to explore on my new blog. However, your post today segues into my question nicely. If you care to, please let me know if you want to dialog in your formal article.

    Here is the question: If a rogue Catholic sect suicide bombed restaurants, hotels, and churches on a regular basis, how would 1) the Vatican; 2) the priesthood, and, 3) the lay person be expected to respond? Also, how would political leaders who are Catholic be required to respond.

    Frankly, it would be a useful exercise to compare and contrast the answers to what the Islamic faith community as done. I have gone from being a defender of the “moderates” to being quite apathetic — for a number of reasons.

    One of those reasons in the treatment of the Coptic Church (as you know, Egypt is dear to me). Many in the Muslim community is blaming Israel’s Mossad for staging this. I do not care how many time “Miriam” is referenced in the Koran — if Egypt’s Muslim community truly respected those who revere blessed Mary, then the Egyptian security force (who left the scene shortly before the killings) would have tried to protect their Christian citizens.

    Crusades were wars of aggression. However, here is a snippet of something I read last year in my RCIA class:

    In this regard Just War doctrine gives certain conditions for the legitimate exercise of force, all of which must be met:

    “1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

    2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

    3. there must be serious prospects of success;

    4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition” [CCC 2309].

    Thank you for any consideration you give to this question from this Catholic newbie.

  • Jeff

    Pope Urban II on the origin of the Crusades:

    “They [the Muslim Turks] have invaded the lands of those Christians and have depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire; they have led away a part of the captives into their own country, and a part they have destroyed by cruel tortures .… They circumcise the Christians, and the blood of the circumcision they either spread upon the altars or pour into the vases of the baptismal font. When they wish to torture people by a base death, they perforate their navels, and dragging forth the extremity of the intestines, bind it to a stake; then with flogging they lead the victim around until the viscera having gushed forth the victim falls prostrate upon the ground. Others they bind to a post and pierce with arrows. Others they compel to extend their necks and then, attacking them with naked swords, attempt to cut through the neck with a single blow. What shall I say of the abominable rape of the women? To speak of it is worse than to be silent .… On whom therefore is the labor of avenging these wrongs and of recovering this territory incumbent, if not upon you?” (6)

  • archangel

    Seriously?! A Catholic suicide sect?!!! I really don’t know if I should laugh at that question or cry. In a nutshell… it wouldn’t happen. Period.

    Suicide is a mortal sin (except where lives are saved, ie placing one self on a grenade to save others as an example). Murder is a mortal sin. Suicide with the intent to commit murder is a mortal sin.

    I don’t doubt your “newbie” status. I suggest to delve deeper into your catechism.

  • archangel

    BTW- The Crusades were wars of liberation in nature in that they had the distinct purpose of regaining control of the Judeo-Christian holy lands from the muslim invaders. Sorry for the not-so-P.C. interpretation but its the truth as Jeff points out from Pope UrbanII’s quote.

    Islam has been historically the agressor and I fear it always will be. The faith is rotten to the core. Its foundation is hate and murder begun by a liar and false prophet. Truth is truth. I don’t care how moderate it wants to be made. Its based on a lie and we know where lies come from.

  • Mutnodjmet

    archangel: I appreciate your thoughtful and compassionate response to my question.

    I humbly will ask the question again: What would our church do if a portion of our members used our religious beliefs for killing people.

    Many in the Islamic community stated that the extremists are not “true Muslims” and would assert anyone who was a real believer would not be a suicide bomber “…it wouldn’t happen. Period.”

    I would like to know, beyond prayers and fasting, because I would like to compare it to what the Islamic faith community is doing.

    One of the complaints against the Muslim faithful is that they “are not doing enough” to quash the extremists of Islam. I would like to know what the Vatican/priesthood/laypeople/Catholic political leaders would do if faced with the same situation. I would expect the same sort of acts by the Islamic community, if they were serious about dealing with Islamic extremists. I would like to see how close to the mark the Islamic community has come.

    Thanks for allowing me an opportunity to clarify.

  • archangel

    You changed the scenario. Your first scenario was a Catholic “suicide bomber”. Now you go to the simplistic scenario of using our “religious beliefs” for killing.

    Staying with the original scenario, the church most likely would publically disassociate itself with the group. It would condemn the acts themselves because, as was said earlier, the acts are mortal sins.

    When it comes to Islam… the “extremists” are correct as to their interpretation of the Koran. There is no such thing as a “moderate” muslim. Those types are apostates and in the muslim culture are simply no better than the infidel. The foundational under pinnings of Islam is subjugation and a denial of Free Will. The infidel and Jew are to be enslaved, defrauded, or simply killed unless they convert. The moderate muslim is at a loss for words because even if they contended that radical muslims are not “true” muslims they would easily be proved wrong through their own Koran. The “radical” is simply doing what they are told to do. The moderate is simply trying to re-interpret the text in a way that exhonerates their faith.

    The foundational under pinnings of Judeo-Christian is one of self sacrifice and Free Will. God’s gifts are there for the asking and taking, but one is free to reject them. But the loving nature of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is that He provides us with every opportunity to accept those gifts. I humbly submit that the god of Islam is NOT the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    As for what can be done… that simply is in the realm of God alone. Praying for the entire world is a start but one must realize that the only definitive “victory”, as such, will be Christ’s; not man’s. When it comes to physical attacks by the “extremists”, then I return to the “Just War” doctrine and the moral obligation to defend. Christians are expected to suffer for the faith. If the suffering comes from preaching, living, or defending… it does not matter. The Christian offense is action through prayer and living a correct life. The Christian defense is action through prayer and living a correct life. Sometimes that defensive action involves physical battle but always as defense.

    The Catechism covers this very nicely with guidance on war, physical defense, capital punishment, and all other areas where the taking of human life is the question.

  • Jeff

    Any “religion” whose founder married a 9 year old girl is clearly something that has Satan chuckling. If our media had any cojones there would be some honest documentary on this life. But there never is.

  • Paolo

    “I’m more and more convinced that Christians are reacting too much to the world and living too much in the world. We’re all caught up with every passing idea and insult. We’re caught up in the macro.”

    No, it’s simply the case that you’re wrong while pretending to be right.

  • Mark J

    Clearly to me it seem that most people really do not understand what turn the other cheek means. It is not a message of submission or meekness or surrender. In fact it is the opposite.

    In the time of Jesus, when a social superior struck an inferior, it was done with the back of the right hand striking the victim’s right cheek. More like a slap coming from high left down to the right.

    If you turn the other cheek and present the left cheek, you can no longer be easily struck by the back of the right hand. Now you must be struck with a fist. Thats the way that equals fight.

    Turning the other cheek elevates you, it makes you equal. In fact you are not surrendering; as Christ did not come to bring peace, but rather the sword.

    It is unfortunate that so many believe that to turn the other cheek is to allow others to run rampant over them.

    [That's certainly very interesting, but Jesus then went on to say that if they wanted your shirt, you should give them you cloak as well...would that be as in "throw the cloak over their heads and then beat them?" He said if they demand you walk a mile with them, walk two. Perhaps to wear them out so you can beat them up? I'm just playing with you. Interesting. But dangerous to ever base anything on one line of scripture, taken out of context, I guess -admin]

  • Parishable Items

    Each example of injustice Jesus suggests does no real, lasting harm. If you’re slapped on the cheek, it stings, but in a few minutes you’re fine. Even Jesus’ disciples owned spare clothes. (He told them to leave their second tunics behind when He sent them two by two.) Roman soldiers could force Jews to carry gear for a mile. Jesus teaches to go the extra mile for these hated occupiers.

    In each example Jesus gives of offering no resistence to wrong-doers the affliction is felt most in one’s pride. I think Jesus is teaching us to be humble when people wrong us in small ways so that they will be struck by our magnanimous patience and strength and be converted.

    Should we offer no resistence if the evil someone would do cause leave grave and lasting harm? Two incidents for Jesus’ life come to mind. When the money changers and animal sellers were doing business in the temple’s court of the Gentiles, profaning it and impeding the nations’ worship of the God, Jesus resisted those evildoers with a whip of cords. On the other hand, in the Passion, Jesus offered no resistence. He let His enemies slap Him, strip Him, and force Him to carry a cross.

    It seems that there are times when we are called to resist evils for the sake of the common good and times when we are called to accept evils, even grave injustices against us, in the pattern Jesus Christ. I trust that the Holy Spirit will help us know when is the time for which.

  • Jeff

    An excellent point. The effeminization of the Church over the last 30 years has made us all think that the “higher road” is to let our enemies run roughshod over us (unless they happen to be victims of homosexual clergy abuse – - then, litigate to kingdom come and call priests “independent contractors”…). Jesus in his human nature was a very strong, masculine personality. He was severe in speech at times. And was not unwilling to use violence when it was justified. I think we’re seeing the gradual undoing of the anti-male overlay put on Catholicism over the last three decades, which has driven so many young men away from the Church.

  • Jim Batley

    Maybe we all have it backward. We should be aggressive in judging an evil ideology, Islam. And be properly cautious in judging its individual victims, Muslims.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Yes, Jim, I think that’s it; we’re charitable towards Moslems as individuals, while rejecting the evil ideology itself.

    And, by the way—I am really, really getting sick of the old sneer, spawned back in the supposedly glorious days of the 60′s (Sex & drugs & rock n’ roll!) that those of us who love America, and the freedom it engenders, do it only because of an infantile adoration of “baseball, Chevrolet & apple pie”, and that all we want is the good ol’ days of Ozzie & Harriet! That’s insulting! You can disagree with us about our desire to preserve America, our the methods we might choose to do so, but, come on—debate with us as like we’re adults, not children to be shamed into submission by insults! (Also, please explain just what it is you find so offensive about America, and its culture. And, yes, we know many of these things have been degraded. We think it’s a bad thing, and would like to see said degradation stop; and how is a new Eden, or anythinhg good, supposed to result from this?)

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I have not spoken to any Christians—not one—who claim to want the good ol’ days of Ozzie and Harriet back! In fact, I usually encounter just the opposite—-leftwing Christians, who claim that we must “repent” of Ozzie and Harriet (Why? I didn’t create that show), and of our supposed sins of worshipping America, and/or the Republican party. (I’ve never met a Christian who did either, but, in the Episcopal Church, especially, we were always being lectured about that supposed sin.)

    So far from longing for the good old days, or putting America first, many American Christians seem to be putting America last, in favor of hip multiculturalism, or Womens Rights, or gay/lesbian/transgender rights, or saving the whales, or Mother Gaia, or whatever; they’ve fallen prey to what C.S. Lewis would call, “Christianity And—”, i.e., “Christianity And Marxism”, “Christianity And Ecology,” “Christianity And Progressive Thought”, etc.

    And many of them, so far from wanting to mount a crusade to defend persecuted Christians in other countries, seem to want to forget about them altogether—except to tell touching stories about them, or praise them for their martyrdom, from the safety of the West, with all its degraded baseball, chevies, apple pie, and—oh, yeah—that little thing called freedom of religion.

  • c matt

    On the other hand, in the Passion, Jesus offered no resistence. He let His enemies slap Him, strip Him, and force Him to carry a cross.

    While certainly something to be considered, the unique purpose and mission of Christ intertwined with respect to His Passion makes it somewhat tricky to simply extrapolate it to a universal mode of conduct in every situation. A guidepost, to be sure, but is a call to “carry our cross” always a call to eschew the use of force?