A Cautious Man
April 07, 2007
 
What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?
This fantastic guest column in today's New York Times by Robert Wright has stirred me from my posting lethargy. Here's a snippet so you get the drift (note, if you need to log in to read the whole thing, you can use "Cautiousman" and the password "Cautious") -
The religious left — yes, there is such a thing — complains that Mr. Bush ignores the Bible’s moral injunctions. But leave morality aside. If he could just match the Bible’s strategic savvy, that would make a world of difference.

Consider a teaching of Jesus that seems on its surface devoid of strategic import. “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.”
Last fall I was privileged to be asked to offer one of the readings, at our community's observance of the fifth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. I was asked to share something from the Christian tradition, and I could think of nothing better than the same passage cited by Mr. Wright (from chapter 12 of Paul's Letter to the Romans)-
Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.
If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.
Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
Rather, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head."
Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.
Basing his argument on this idea, Mr. Wright drives his point home effectively -
Of course, Mr. Bush is more in the shoes of the Roman emperor than of Paul. America isn’t a small but growing religious movement. It’s a great power threatened by a small but growing religious movement — radical Islam. But the logic can work both ways. Great powers, by mindlessly indulging retributive impulses, can give fuel to small but growing religious movements. If you want to deprive jihadists of ammunition, make it hard for them to persuade others to hate us.

Right after Paul espouses kindness to enemies, he adds: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Sounds like naïve moralizing until you look at those Abu Ghraib photos that have become Al Qaeda recruiting posters.
...

Mr. Bush says his favorite philosopher is Jesus. One way to show it would be to spend less time repeating the mistake of the Romans and more time heeding the wisdom of Christ.
Amen, brother, Amen.

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