Over the weekend, 11 Jewish brothers and sisters were killed and scores of others were injured in a horrific shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The small assembly had gathered for their Sabbath celebration when a man stormed in, gun blazing, shouting, “All Jews Must Die.”
In contrast to this crime, the peaceful, gentle Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, lived a mere three blocks from the synagogue.
Of course, the question that weaves its way into our post-tragedy discussion is “why.” It seems he was a Nazi and espoused white supremacy viewpoints. And he hated President Trump.
Last week, a Florida man somehow managed to not only find the personal addresses of a dozen targets but bypassed built-in system safeguards to mail look alike explosive devices to his targets. He loved President Trump.
Last year, nearly a third of Congress cowered at a baseball diamond while a gunman picked them off one-by-one. He too hated President Trump and was an active supporter of Socialist Bernie Sanders.
Right now everyone is pointing fingers at each other, blaming the other side for the heated rhetoric. The Left is blaming the President for his language and targeted verbal attacks. The Right is blaming the Left for giving cover to calls for aggressive public attacks on “the opposition.” The middle is blaming the extremes.
And Facebook is one big food fight, dividing friends, families and social groups.
I threw beans at my brother once at the dinner table because he had flicked a piece of bread at me. Disgusted, my mother sent us both to our shared room where we continued to throw things at each other.
A Third Way: This is Not Who We Are
There is a third way, a growing number of people who are calling for a truce. The Washington Post’s headline this morning is, “What is Happening to Our Country?” Max Boot writes:
“Tolerance for political and religious differences is a non-negotiable part of the social contract in the United States. It is the very core of our national identity, even if it has all too often been honored more in the breach than the observance. We settle our political differences through debate followed by voting. Political terrorism and sectarian bloodletting — these are the sorts of horrors that occur in the Balkans or the Middle East. Not here. Not in the land of the free. We’re better than this. We’re Americans.”
The Mayor of Pittsburgh said at a news conference, “We are a better society than this.”
I’m calling for an army of peace, people on all political, religious and racial sides to take the “Turn the Other Cheek” pledge.
Turn the Other Check
Jesus was living in a hot mess of a society, the ancient Jewish land occupied by the Romans. There were more sides to every debate than the current Syrian conflict. The Romans wanted their heavy-handed rule. Some Jews wanted to overthrow the government. Some religious leaders loved the access and power the government gave them, so they went along to get along. And then here comes Jesus. Everyone wanted him to take a side. He chose humility. He chose the high road. He offered the other cheek.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”
Let Love Have the Last Word
You’ve no doubt been in conversations where the other person has to have the last word. They need the victory. They need the win. And to keep your respectability, you are forced to compete.
No. One. Wins.
You don’t have to be a Christian to understand the wisdom of humility. I know it goes against everything inside you — Every defensive twitch in your body, every reactive synapse in your brain, every resistance mechanism you’ve honed throughout the years. But it can – and must be done – if we have any chance to survive.
We shouldn’t try to one-up those we oppose. We shouldn’t try to out debate, outduel them. We shouldn’t try to humiliate or shame them.
We should offer humility at every chance. We should let love have the last word.