Recently I watched a documentary movie on dvd. It shows marvelous film shots from places around the world, even very remote places. No voices or commentary. You get to view it without someone forcing an interpretation on what you are seeing. I was amazed at some of the sites, perhaps most when strange religious practices were shown. I became keenly aware how much of my own Christian background I was bringing to judging what I saw. I wondered if what I thought was very strange would seem normal to some people in other cultures and religions. When it comes to religion we overlook our own judgmental attitudes as we watch others in strange worship activities. Christians are very adept at seeing faults in others, and seeing their own strange practices as "normal."
Currently we are ready to blame Muslims for just about everything. Indeed, Islamophobia is rampant. We know nothing of the holy writings of Mohammed, yet we judge the actions of terrorists as exemplifying Islam. How soon we forget those who for 2,000 years followed the founder of the Christian faith --or at least say they follow Him-- have been far more war-mongering and ready to fight for the Prince of Peace than Muslims. War-practicing Chrisitans love to label Muslims as war-mongers.
We have had the 100 Years War, the 40 Years War, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Catholics and various Protestant groups in almost constant wars against each other and among themselves. Rarely have we witnessed for the Nazarene who told us to "turn the other cheek." Immediately, war-like Christians will jump in to tell you that only applies to this or that; but the admonition was very clearly stated in the Holy Bible as coming out of His mouth without the many exceptions. If you were to pick out the most peaceful nations or peoples in world history, you would be hard-pressed to find a Christian nation at the forefront.
In the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus clearly spells out his hopes for all mankind, He states: "Happy are those who make peace, for they will be known as the sons of God!" [J.B. Phillips translation of chapter 5 in Matthew...but clear in any translation].
We Christians, especially we American Christians, have difficulty with a peace-loving Jesus. We contort the Scriptures to mean what we want them to mean. As we pound our chests around the world as though our might makes us right, we stand as examples contrary to the Sermon on the Mount. Scriptures are always taken out of context. Passages are always isolated to support some hostile action. The Prince of Peace is clearly spelled out in the Scriptures, but that is too wimpy for our Pentagon, our military juggernaut, our killing machine. A favorite argument states that all of our military adventures are somehow tied to the U.S. simply protecting itself. What would Jesus answer?
Do you think that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, meant his admonition to be people of peace only to Canada or Switzerland or Norway or Sweden or Tahiti? Some of those peace-loving nations are hated by many Americans because of their social democracy or "socialism." We can find a reason to hate any and every nation and people. It is as though we don't want to waste our military arsenal. The sabre-rattling by the United States represents the antithesis of the Prince of Peace.
As for strange practices by "other" religions, what do you suppose "others" think of us eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Founder of Christianity? And to have Christians hold this up as the ultimate in witnessing for Jesus? Yes, I know we interpret HIs words as meaning that we should do this in remembrance of Him. My, how we follow his admonitions so selectively!
Any holiday is good for us to take time and reflect on ourselves and our nation. This Labor Day is no different. Major national movements are not started in one or two years, there has to be a longer time period to see "trends" or "tendencies" or "changes in course." Reflecting back on what has taken place in the United States over the past 30 years, do you see any tendencies? Any trends? Anything quite different from the years since the founding of the U.S.?
Some quotes to reflect upon:
"[Jesus speaking in Luke 2:14] "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towward men."
"But I say unto you: That you resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." -[Jesus speaking in Luke 5:39]
Read the parable of the good Samaritan. Luke 10:30-37
"War, like any other racket, pays high dividends to the very few . . . The cost of operations is always transferred to the people who do not profit." -General Smedley Butler [Medal of Honor twice]
"War hath no fury like a non-combatant." -C.E. Montague
"If we justify war it is because all peoples always justify the traits of which they find themselves possessed." -Ruth Benedict
"They told me it would disrupt my life less if I got killed sooner." -Joseph Heller
"But in modern war . . . you will die like a dog for no good reason." -Ernest Hemingway
"Today the real test of power is not capacity to make war but capacity to prevent it." -Anne O'Hare McCormick
"War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace." -Thomas Mann
"It would indeed be a tragedy if the history of the human race proved to be nothing more than the story of an ape playing with a box of matches on a petrol dump." -David Ormsby Gore
"In time of war the first casualty is truth." -Boake Carter
"Instead of the government taking over industry when the war broke out, industry took over the government." -Charles Gillis
"Very little is known about the War of 1812 because the Americans lost it." -Eric Nicol
Need we still to be reminded how the mighty U.S. military machine was brought to its knees by a tiny, undeveloped nation like Vietnam. Critics will say it was because we were not allowed to unleash more of our killing power upon North Vietnam. And Reagan's heroic invasion of tiny Greneda? And George H.W. Bush's invasion of the sovereign nation of Panama to arrest its leader? And Reagan's use of Iran to help us secretly to use the Contras to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicaragua? And using our military to take away huge geographic areas from Mexico? And using our military to annihilate American Indians? And putting Japanese Americans in concentration camps? And newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst having the battleship Maine sunk in Havana harbor so we could start a war with Spain? And our unprovoked invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq? And how our warships stood off-shore as we encouraged Panama in seceding from Colombia so we could build "our" Panama Canal? There is no end to our war desires. All the while heralding the Prince of Peace. Have we no shame? Do we continue to remain silent as this corporate war greed takes our men and women, our money, our dignity, our international reputation? When will it be enough? How full do war corporations have to fill their coffers before we change ...if ever? How many dead Americans are enough to fill these coffers? Are the destruction of small nations, the killing of large numbers of minorities, the rape of small nations' natural resources the way we defend our borders? Have we no conscience when it comes to supplying war corporations profits? When do we stand up and say, No!" to war corporation propaganda that gets us in war after war after war? We owe it to the men and women who are called upon to fight and die for the U.S. to be certain the war is justified and not just another profit-center for greedy corporations. Consider what Jesus said about riches, and how He would comment especially about riches derived from war and the death of innocent soldiers.
And now finally to the plain and clear words of Jesus of Nazareth. You can try to twist them or bend them to fit your own prejudices. But His words in the sixth chaper of Luke are extremely clear:
"Treat men exactly as you would like them to treat you. If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend only to those from whom you hope to get your money back, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners and expect to get their money back. No, you are to love your enemies and do good and lend without hope of return. Your reward will be wonderful and you will be sons of the most high. For he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked!
"You must be merciful, as your Father in Heaven is merciful. Don't judge other people and you will not be judged yourselves. Don't condemn and you will not be condemned. Make allowances for others and people will make allowances for you. Give and men will give to you -- yes, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will they pour into your lap. For whatever measure you use with other people, they will use in their dealings with you." [J.B. Phillips translation]
There it is, folks, Not a liberal statement. Not a progressive statement. Not a statement of socialism. It is the word of Jesus of Nazareth. Do what you will with it, but don't look to cast blame on others. And remember, it comes from the Prince of Peace.