Again, “We adore God Who is love, Who in Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, Who offered Himself on the Cross to expiate our sins, and through the power of this love, rose from the dead and lives in His Church. We have no God other than Him.”(Pope Francis, 6/21/14)
What about literate Christians? How is it possible for Christians who can read not to see the Nonviolent Jesus and His Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies on the pages of the Gospels? Certainly it does not require the fifty years of high academic Biblical study put in by Rev. John L. McKenzie to see there the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospel and His Way of Nonviolent Love toward all under all conditions and circumstances. As McKenzie states,
“No reader of the New Testament, simple or sophisticated, can retain any doubt of Jesus’ position toward violence directed to persons, individual or collective, organized or free enterprise, he rejected it totally…If Jesus did not reject any type of violence for any purpose, then we know nothing of him.”
I suppose in considering the issue of the literate Christian who thinks that Jesus justifies the use of violence against enemies, it first must be remembered that everyone, before he or she is literate, is illiterate. Human beings are raised within a society and a culture. They mimic, absorb and have embedded in their brains its values, attitudes and beliefs long before they are able to read, “See Jack run. See Jill run.”
A language is not the personal creation of the person but rather is a communal, cultural phenomenon into which a human being is born. It carries in its agreed upon signs and symbols what a particular culture finds good and evil, what it likes and dislikes, what it embraces and fears, etc. The child learns these with every new word he or she learns. The language with its spiritual, moral, psychological, emotional and cognitive content creates the interpretation of the world in which the child lives and moves. The language creates the child’s nomos, his or her “unquestioned taken for granted knowledge” about everything from God, to good and evil, to whether the earth is flat, round or oval, to whether people of Irish decent should always be unwelcomed or should always be “as welcomed as the flowers in May.” Literacy exists within the context of language and culture, not independent of it.
If language as received by a child is used as a medium for hardwiring the brain of a child into what is untrue, that untruth is simultaneously hardwired into a child’s self-understanding, reality-understanding and God-understanding as truth. Then regardless of how self-evident and blatant an untruth is to everyone outside the particular culture, that untruth will be beyond reproach as truth within the culture and a person of that culture. Indeed, the higher that incontestable evidence mounts invalidating the hardwired untruth masquerading as truth, personal and culture, the more stiff necked the person will become in his or her insistence that the self-evident truth or provable truth is not the truth, but that his or her deeply nurtured untruth is the truth. When a well-packaged untruth has been sold gradually to a particular group of people over generations, the presentation of a truth that directly contradicts the cherished hardwired untruth will seem utterly preposterous. This is the root of Gandhi’s reflection, “The only people in the world who do not see Jesus as nonviolent are Christians.”
Literacy and incontestable evidence, e.g., that the Jesus presented in black and white in writing in the Gospels is Nonviolent and teaches a Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies, are not an absolute bulwark against accepting untruth as truth, against not being able to see a truth that is staring one in the face. Constantinian Christianity knows well, that to acknowledge as true what is written unambiguously on the pages of the Gospels, simultaneously means that its opposite is a glaringly absurd.
But, it is hard to affirm a truth, even if it is right there in black and white, when its opposite is what a person wants to hear, indeed, needs to hear to protect a big investment—spiritual or physical, psychological or financial, personal or institutional. But truth does not become untrue because there is a cost involved in acknowledging it. And, that is the case in every area of life, including the truth of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. A person can logically and with integrity maintain that what Jesus teaches is not the truth. But he or she cannot logically maintain with integrity that the Gospels do not present Jesus as nonviolent or do not present Him as teaching as the will and way of God unto eternal salvation the Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies in imitation of Him.
The problem of not acknowledging a clearly communicated incontestable truth and with clinging obstinately to a previously hardwired but now proven untruth is exacerbated to infinite dimension in the case at hand because it directly involves the truthful answer to the question, “How does Jesus save?” Or, more pointedly, the question, “Can the love by which Jesus saves in the Gospels and which He communicates to His disciples as the love they should share in and live as part of the process of salvation ever have violence or enmity as part of its content or expression?” Church history for the last 1700 years overwhelming says, “Yes,”—but not infallibly. The Jesus of the Gospels and of the primitive Church says, “No.” Which one is telling the truth in answer to the question, “How does Jesus save?” To choose one is to renounce the other. What is at stake is of infinite consequence for the each Christian and for all humanity.
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy (To be continued)