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Gospels

John 21:17

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

Nov. 18, 2016

On not becoming that which we despise

I do not believe the ends justify the means.

When I consider the many ways people are resisting the current administration, some of them do not seem that different to me from the tactics that have been used for so long on the other side. These things in particular do more harm than good: creating spectacles, prosthelysizing about narrow issues, lying, being rude and disruptive, accepting undue influence from special interests, and violent resistance.

The best way to resist the evil in the current administration is to follow Christ’s example of non-violent, steadfast adherence to the truth, and to relegate these unsavory and underhanded tactics to the other side.

Spectacles. Could we leave the street theater and clowns and risqué signs and chants and all other “look how clever I am” tactics at home? Why not have somber and serious marches and rallies? Getting hysterical or sinking to the stunts the other side is known for is not a way to influence people for good causes. We need to keep our wits about us, not turn feral in our outrage.

Remember, we are trying to persuade people who have not quite bought into the other side, as well as those who don’t know where they stand. Easy and tempting though it may be to be outrageous and provocative to call attention to our causes, these fringe tactics only delight others on the fringe. They make most people think we are laughable—not to be taken seriously. They make us look like people who haven’t thought things through and can be easily dismissed. Think about Occupy Wall Street and how that turned out. A serious subject was treated like a circus and eventually dismissed. We need to be known for the seriousness of our purpose and our commitment to truth, not for being outlandish, unorganized, shrill or obnoxious.

Narrow issues. We will do well to play to one of our inherent strengths—being “big tent” people who go out of our way to emphasize with and support a host of righteous causes, not just our own. We could follow the examples of our Muslim brothers and sisters who recently raised money to repair Jewish cemeteries that have been vandalized.

What if LGBT people championed veteran’s causes and women rose up to support African American issues? What if Hispanics were visibly on the side of the disabled and American immigrants from older generations came to the aid of today’s refugees? Instead of just being seen as being out for our own self interests, we might thus create something new and powerful.

Lies. Jesus tells us that the truth will set us free. There is objective truth, and it is feared by those who have used illegitimate means to amass power, who have wrested control through deception, and who hang on to their influence with unscrupulous and ruthless tactics. That is why we are being told there is no truth, and that “alternative facts” are just fine. We who are resisting the powerful should be careful that we do not give in to the temptation to bend the facts ourselves.

How much spin is being applied when we speak? Are we putting people into clever traps? Are we misrepresenting situations or deliberately showing the ambiguous in a bad light? Are we selectively using, overblowing or ignoring statistics? We need to stop.

Lies should not have a place within the camp of those who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness. The truth is on our side, and the brighter a line we draw with it, the sooner it will bring down those whose power depends on deception. There is no need for us to lie; indeed, it is fatal to our cause. Let us become known for telling the truth and for our trustworthiness.

Disruption. Let us be calm and respectful when we speak, even if we do not believe the other party is worthy of our respect. We can be firm, insistent, and not give up until our voices are heard. We do not have to be rude and disruptive to do so. We should eschew stunts, “gotcha” events and situations, setting up straw men, and treating our opponents in the same dehumanizing way we have been treated.

Influence. We should be aware that lobbying forces are trying to affect us as well as our opponents. We need to keep them at bay. They should not suggest or write our legislation, or sway us, as they are doing with our opponents. Let us reject the influence of vested interests so we may point it out when our opponents succumb to it.

Violence. We must resist without resorting to violence, even, and perhaps especially, when it is perpetrated against us. We may cross paths with people who claim to be on our side, but who are following their own agenda. When they infiltrate us and try to mark our cause with violence and abhorrent views, we must make it clear that we are separate from and reject them.

We ourselves must avoid fomenting or being goaded or drawn into violence. We must prepare ourselves and not be naive, counting the cost and being ready to sacrifice our friendships, our reputations, our security. We should consider that our convictions may ultimately cost us our lives.
Christ in every age calls his followers to his way. He calls us to courage, to the good fight, to the right side of history.

In this age, we are to present to the world a clear choice, that of love and honesty, concern and solidarity with our fellow human beings, wherever they are and whatever they are suffering. We must not be like those we oppose, using the same tactics in a different cause. For then, even though we may “win,” we will have lost.

Ours is the lonelier road, the narrow road, if we are to follow Jesus’ way. It is the road that leads to salvation and the only road, in the end, that is worth taking.

 

The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
—Matthew 7:14