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What Would Jesus Do? (9-16-01)

Michael Thomas, D.C.

I was in the local natural foods grocery store the other day. As I stood at the checkout, a woman I know came up to me and asked me if I was all right. I told her that I was still shaken by the events of the week. I told her that I was also concerned because of events that were occurring on the internet. I am a member of an alternative healthcare practitioners network that is global in scope. Healers of all stripes come together to discuss issues of importance to them. Lately the conversation was of course, centered on the horrific tragedy in New York and Washington, D.C. Early after the tragedy, messages were posted encouraging prayer and meditation. Ideas of love and peace were encouraged. Within a day or so however, these voices were drowned out with cries that anyone who could think that Love would help now was at best, an idiot. Soon, any mention of reflection on our own place in the world was countered with accusations of treason. The young man behind the counter looked me in the eye. You’d better be careful who you talk like that to. I don’t talk about it at all. He then moved his eyes around furtively making sure no one else had heard our conversation.

Even if we weren’t in New York or Washington, D.C., we hurt. Each of us could feel the world change somehow, not just ˜out there, but inside us. I watched the events on the television several times and I still couldn’t quite take it all in. I cried tears of devastation, of sadness, of fear. I could taste the bitterness in the back of my throat. I felt rage. I looked at my son and wondered what kind of world he would have to deal with. I felt vulnerable. We have awoken to a terrible evil that had not, as a people, touched us much before. At least wed not had to look it directly in the eyes. But what is it that we must look at?

The ferreting out of the individuals who perpetrated this hideous action is quickly seen as more complicated than identification of previous ˜enemies. We realize that we really don’t know much about this part of the world. We immediately resent any implication that we have any responsibility in this situation because when we hear the word responsibility we really think blame. But to be able to respond is a real necessity in a world as interwoven as ours. The blame in this event lies squarely with those who perpetrated it and whether we catch them or not, they will still have to stand before the Lord one day. In the meantime, we find ourselves in great pain and aching to strike back. It is a natural and human reaction. Our government will direct our military to act. By the time you read this, they may already have. I find myself praying for them all.

I do not have a warrior role in this society. I feel called to act as a healer. My choice has been to try to alleviate suffering in others. I have chosen a life in which I work to follow the teachings of another middle-eastern radical. This one lived two millennia ago and was executed by the local government of the times. Unlike the hatred espoused by the current terrorists, this particular radical taught a path of Love. It was radical Love. He taught that we should love our enemies. He taught that we are forgiven as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Those words may not have seemed so radical in the past, but now they seem almost incomprehensible to so many who are bent on revenge. A United States Senator rages on the floor of the Senate against the acts of terrorism and urges massive military retaliation; innocent civilians be damned. Those who committed the horrific acts of that Tuesday didn’t worry about our civilians and the Senator believes this ˜collateral damage is acceptable. A man tries to run down a Pakistani woman with his car, believing this could somehow make up for the tragedy of September 11th. Murders have occurred. A local businessman in our own community tapes a No Muslims sign to his front window. Mosques are desecrated all over the country.

Apparently it is okay for some to go to church on Sundays, put a sign of the fish on the bumper, and believe in love and forgiveness until and unless, something ˜real happens. Should the Christian attitudes of tolerance and non-judgment then become forgotten? I say no. These qualities are never inappropriate. The courage required however, to live these values in times like this, is immense. It is literally the hardest thing in the world. This radical, Jesus, advised a radical life, a radical love. Who can love like that? Who even wants to try? Who said being a Christian would be easy?

Actions must be taken to safeguard the lives of our people. Horrible things will doubtless be done to horrible people. We will all share in that pain as well. Of equal importance now, and ultimately of much greater importance in the future, there are a multitude of loving and caring actions that need to be undertaken with hundreds of millions of people. There are real relationships to be forged and real needs to be understood. And yes, even some wrongs to be made right. Even if only for our own selfish interest, it is time to respect ways that are not our own. Its time to begin to understand the other people we share this planet with. Even if we as a country, were able go ahead and kill all of the people who already hate us, we would surely have to deal with their vengeful children in twenty years when they finally get old enough to join the family business. These kinds of conflicts can continue for hundreds of years. Look at Northern Ireland. Look at Eastern Europe. Look at the Middle East. Attack and counterattack, ever increasing acrimony and deepening of hatreds, spiraling through decades and even centuries, a self perpetuating pattern of misery and ruined lives. This cant be what we want for the coming generations.

There is another way. Jesus taught a path of Love. It is not an easy path and it is not, as so many are now saying, a passive path. Being pacific and being passive are not the same thing. Jesus knew his disciples would encounter terribly difficult circumstances. He told them, Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. He also taught them how to act. He said, Be ye therefore as wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.
Doves and snakes would certainly seem almost polar opposites in character. How can a person manifest both qualities at the same time? All of us have the Light of God within us. All of us, if we are honest with ourselves, have darkness within us too. It takes great courage to uncover the dark places within us, but when we do, the Light can shine in and create something that is new, a quality of being that is desperately needed now in the world. It is time to rise to our potentials. It is time to dig deep and stretch far. Whenever it is possible, we must use active non-violent resistance to evil. Violence and war increases the separation between the participants and creates more darkness. Love is creative. It engenders great intelligence, and wisdom. It heals wounds and rebinds relationships that hatred has torn asunder. God is an able God. Love is the instrument of His power.

Jesus goes on to say, When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. This is the essence of true faith. Now is the time for our faith to manifest in our lives and actions.
It is certainly time to act. But what will our actions create? Do we want to bring on an age of darkness or of light? I know that this sounds unreasonable. I know it flies in the face of conventional knowledge. I know it is not how countries have chosen to act in the past. Last century saw the horrors of two world wars. What will this century bring? What will be your contribution?

My prayer is for the Light of Love, the Power of God, to fill the hearts of everyone on the planet. My prayers are with those who have died, and with their grieving families. My prayers are with those whose lives will be irrevocably changed by coming events. And my prayers are with those whose hearts have turned to stone and who feel nothing but hatred. I pray that love will melt their hatred and that the seeds of true compassion will grow and bear fruit. Amen.