Speak Compassion

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jesus and Nonviolence

by @ 1:48 pm. Filed under Joe's Rants

While many of you know I am an unabashed atheist, I also attend a church every week. I enjoy the sense of community and I also appreciate the message of peace and nonviolence demanded in almost every religion ever known. Today, the national Episcopal church reading for this Sunday was Matthew 5:38-48.

Eye for Eye
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 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. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

These passages happen to be my favorite parts of the Christian bible. It comes from the Sermon on the Mount (I prefer Luke’s version of it) where Christ pretty much laid out his plan that nonviolence is the way we are to respond to violence and injustice. The line about turning the other cheek is so often misunderstood as a passive allowance of evil and injustice. It is not. It is the turning of one’s head to force an opponent to hit you as an equal.  In the time of Christ, it the left hand was considered evil.  If you were to hit someone such as a slave being hit by a Roman Soldier, you would do it with a closed fist.  If you were to hit an equal, you would hit them with an open hand.  When someone tries to hit you on the right cheek and you turn your head an offer your left, you are forcing them to hit you as an equal.  Since it is physically impossible to hit someone backhand on the left side with your right hand.  This is one of the ways the bible reminds us we are all equal, we are all connected.
Whether or not you believe in god or the bible, that is one powerful message.  The message was a huge inspiration to the entire foundation of Gandhi’s Satyagraha and ahimsa. Along with his own Hindu faith, Gandhi deeply believed in the message that came from the Sermon the Mount of Olives.  It has long been rumored that when asked by Lord Irwin what would solve the problems between Britain and India, Gandhi picked up a bible and turned to the passages in Gospel of Matthew and said,
“When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our countries but those of the whole world.” (source)
We also all know Gandhi referenced the famous quote “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”  We must find ways to work together to find solutions and collaborations to our problems rather than find ways to punish each other’s actions.  I truly believe punishment is a root of all violence on this planet.  End punishment and you will end all violence.  An eye for an eye is nothing more than you hurt me, then you deserve for me to hurt you back.  It is retribution and punitive thinking like this that fuels so much of the violence on our streets, in our homes, and in our counties.

Lately,  I see many “pro-family” leaders who are doing their best to stand their own religious morals using terms to describe gays like “gaystopo” and “Gay-k-k” or the even more popular, “homofascist” which I am not even sure makes any sense.  These terms are really ways of creating enemy images of others.  They are ways to portray an adversary and an enemy.  Funny, most of those using these terms claim to do it in the name of god and yet, its is pretty clear in the passages we are talking about, Jesus Christ commanded otherwise.

Today’s reading was a great reminder to us that every religion in some way or another reminds us that peace is not the end result, its the way to get there. Read on for the real meaning behind turn the other cheek. http://streetpastor.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/turn-the-other-cheek/

And here is a Nonviolence in Action story (hat tip to Sal) that directly puts line 40 in the above passage into perspective and real life:  http://www.tickld.com/x/this-man-got-mugged-what-he-did-next-was-genius

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