Guest column by Cal Trout

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 20, 2011

There are many things in life that require great courage to be: an honest man, to maintain integrity in the face of loss, to commit one’s life to a cause, to be a soldier. But perhaps the thing it takes the greatest amount of courage to be is a pacifist.

There have only been a few people who have legitimately defined the term. Most notably, of course, is Jesus Christ.

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He was, by all accounts, a thoroughly peaceful man. His teachings and life clarified, fulfilled and redeemed a religion that would later revolutionize Western Civilization. Verily, many Christian Conservatives today insist this country was founded upon the ideals of the religion whose foundation is the teachings of Jesus Christ.  

And so, they detest, revile and even hate liberals, homosexuals, Muslims, hippies, people with purple hair, men with earrings, etc… But chief among those most hated by this group for the last ten years has been the terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

As men go, he was thoroughly despicable. Very few are sad to know he is dead. After his unwarranted murder of thousands of our countrymen, even the most peaceful among us were calling for his head. He was and will forever be known as one of our greatest enemies. Like most of us, I don’t mourn his death. But, I balk at jubilation over the manner of his demise. Chiefly, because of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Yet, nearly every Christian I have talked to is happy he was killed. Indeed, this presumably Christian country partied like it was 1999 when we learned of his death.

But killed? Shot in the head by another man? Such a thing shouldn’t inspire dancing, drinking, singing and throwing down.

Still, I am thoroughly disgusted by the handling of his remains. The world and particularly the citizens of the U.S.A. deserved firm proof the threat represented by his life had been terminated. Many derive a sense of closure from it. But in order to have that one is put in the precarious position of the believing the words of a president.

But we are straying away from the question. And that being, my inner conflict aside, what should the moral imperative of the U.S. be, and from where should it derive its authority?

If the moral imperative (as both Bush and Obama have noted) is peace, then we are either profoundly stupid or unabashed hypocrites. I am not sure which is worse, and we may very well be both. It is not as if we don’t know better. After all, the Sermon on the Mount is clear on such matters as reaction to evil and treatment of enemies:

Ye have heard it said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

But I say unto you, That ye, resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also…

—Matthew 38-39

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you…

—Matthew 43-44

For Christian Conservatives to claim this country was founded on Christian principles and claim to be followers of Christ, then support acts of violence against our enemies is contradictory. It’s the same as maintaining the theologically untenable, “ Yes, Christ, I believe in you, but not in what you said.” Some other master is vying for our loyalty. And winning. Perhaps it is the state itself insisting, in clear opposition to Christ, that we must kill our enemies, while preying on our predilection for safety to win our support. Or, our natural instinct to kill or be killed. Or more often than not probably just our own good old-fashioned depravity.

To claim a morality guided by a Christian compass without Christ as true north is impossible. His teachings on violence, killing and dealing with evil are not only correct, they are indispensable. Necessary to a peaceful humanity.

Oddly, the demographic that most closely identifies itself with the church refuses these aspects of his teachings when it comes to the violence our government pursues around the globe. They don’t argue with Christ’s teachings, mind you. They simply ignore the teachings exist. It’s as if Christ didn’t climb the mount and give the most famous sermon of all time. Or perhaps it is just hard to hear with Bill O’Reilly in one ear and the Star Spangled Banner in the other.

But to understand the sense behind Christ is not hard. It is simple. To repay violence with violence is to actively perpetuate evil in the world. Having gleefully entered into this bloody game of tit-for-tat, we had best be willing to live the result.

(Editor’s note: Cal Trout is a former literature and composition teacher at South Panola High School who now writes and farms on his family farm in Charleston.)