But this law has never really grown old, nor is it really ever out of fashion. Proponents argue for it, hotly, in its modern versions: Guatanamo, a place without any prisoner rights, a place reserved for terrorists because we can torture them there. We do not any longer have people drawn and quartered as the legally measured (an eye for an eye) response for treachery, but we can do other horrible things, off shore.
There are, of course, still places where loss of body parts is still the law. Boko Haram measures out public lashings. ISIS beheads its prisoners. In parts of India women can still be stoned, for running away from abusive husbands, for defying fathers, for suspected adultery. There are places where a thief may lose his hand, a lecher his eye, a liar his tongue.
But pressure for human rights has, in the west, changed revenge into its modern forms. Your character will be assassinated, your business bought in a hostile takeover, or, if you are an American, the President may call you or your business an insulting name on Twitter. Revenge has a high value in Mr. Trump’s canon of values. He considers it essential to making deals. And he has promised to rule the world this way, as part of making America great again.
Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, sets over against this ‘old’ law, his new law:
Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
President Trump, who let it be known he went to a two hour church service on Christmas Eve, has yet to turn the other cheek. His charitable trust has been closed, with its only recorded donations being to his own campaign. He will not release his taxes, nor will he divulge his charitable donations. And he was once photographed sitting on a public stage with honored donors, for a charity to which he had given nothing.
The data shows that he was elected by huge support of evangelical Christians (over 80%), who supposedly adhere to the Bible, and by Mormons (over 90%), who are famously chaste and polite. Over 60% of Catholics voted for him, and even among mainline Protestants, he garnered over 50% of their votes.
For God’s sake, what on earth are American Christians doing, by placing their confidence and admiration in this man?
It’s pretty hard to measure up under Jesus’ new law. Some of us withdraw permanently from relationships rather than turn the other cheek. Most of us give our old coats to Goodwill, but not before we have bought ourselves a new one.
I, for one, can mercilessly delete a deluge of requests for money by activist groups whose causes I hold in sympathy. Daily, I feel some annoyance at all these requests for my money. And in these days when I pay for most everything with a card, I’m less likely to have a dollar on me for a street beggar, even if I were so inclined to give.
But I want the President to be a peacemaker, not a warmonger, in my name. He doesn’t have to invite Kim Jong-un to Mara Lago (please don’t!) but please do have someone talk to him somewhere. And peace with Putin would be better than war with Putin, although I suspect money deals are in this somewhere, and lie behind Flynn’s phone calls.
Don’t praise Putin, don’t trust him, don’t be his patsy. But don’t start WW3. How on earth could that make America great again?
The whole idea of greatness, in people and nations, is turned upside down by Jesus. Christians, leave the lure of the mighty fist behind!
Easter is not for the powerful, the swordsmen, the victors, the sharpest –tongued, the Tweeter in Chief. It’s for those who love. Those who surrender their hate and hard feelings. Those who say Amen to the man who didn’t fight back.
Image: Revenge, by Naked Pastor, www.nakedpastor.com, free use for non-profits.