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Turning the Other Cheek

Continuing the debate begun in Prayer in the Bush League, Dan writes:

Actually Rob having a degree in Religious studies with an emphasis on Christian assimilation of Judaism and Paganism, yeah, I'm familiar with the sermon on the mount, and you, like generations of westerners before you, have misinterpreted what "turn the other cheek" really means. Remember Jesus is in a semetic culture, and specifically says the right cheek. The cultural significance is that the striker has used his or her (yeah right, 2000 years ago a woman striking a man) left hand to do the deed. The symbolism is two-fold. One, the left hand is the unclean hand used for dealing with filth, bodily and otherwise. Two, the right hand is the sword hand of a soldier (handedness was not an option in the Greco/Roman run Syrian Legion) so if the soldier is using the left hand they consider the slappee to be a non-threat. Should that person then get up and present "the other cheek" they are telling the agressor that they ARE resistant and will have to be beaten or killed before they will be ignored. In other words, I'm scrappin' for a fight. Hence Peter, at the request of Jesus, carries a sword, and is rebuked only when he stands between Jesus and the cross. If you don't believe me check out Paul Funk's "Honest to Jesus." He's the chairman of the Jesus Seminar, a group of holy men, theologians, and scholars out to debunk the popular Jesus myths.

As far as Jesus and the death penalty, well he plainly tells Peter "If you live by the sword, you shall die by it." In his usual manner he speaks of the way the universe works, regardless of pity. Indeed the theme of the Bible as a whole has been argued to be Justice, but mercy for the repentant. Biblical courts might sentence people to death, but it was actually the witnesses that would carry out the penalty. Yeah, we kill a lot more than they did, and in the grand scheme We are probably quite wrong. How much work did Clinton/Gore do against the death penalty?

Mt 10:34-36 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter in law against her mother in law- a man's enemies will be the members of his own household." Hey- that sounds like a revolution!

Even salvation was not simply handed out. If you believe that you have to accept Jesus as your savior to get to heaven, then there is a certain responsibility that falls to man. It's a giveaway only if you are willing to work. I'm all for (as a bad Libertarian) helping people who need a hand up, but at some point, you have to accept the salvation and work. Or, food stamps and welfare? Sure! For eighteen months, that's plenty of time to change your situation. I know, I've been there.

I am not denying that Jesus wants us to love mankind, but sometimes love is harsh, sometimes it is a sword. Sometimes it's a cross.


Rob replies
>> Should that person then get up and present "the other cheek" they are telling the agressor that they ARE resistant and will have to be beaten or killed before they will be ignored. <<

You told me this before and I rebutted it before. Here's my rebuttal again, suitably enhanced since last time:

>> When you "turn the other cheek", you are standing up in defiance saying "acknowledge me", I am a threat and you will have to make me submit to your ways. <<

I doubt it. Most of the Bible is open to myriad interpretations. I'm sure I could find an interpretation that contradicts this one.

Even if your characterization has merit, seeking acknowledgment from someone isn't the same as defying him. Forcing him to make you submit is still, in the end, submitting. A presence may be a threat, but it isn't a violent threat.

>> Sounds like a conflict to me, standing up and doing the right thing. <<

Whatever. The point is that Jesus didn't strike back. He didn't employ violence in any way, shape, or form.

>> In other words, I'm scrappin' for a fight. <<

Nope. If you want to cite your degree in religious studies, I'll cite my extensive background and experience as a professional writer and my degree in mathematics. Don't try to guess what words mean or the logic behind them. Take my word for it.


The debate continues....
>> I'm sure I could find an interpretation that contradicts this one.<<

Only if you're looking in the wrong places. <<

Since the quotes I found (below) agreed with my interpretation, I'd say I looked in the right places.

>> Tell me that Jesus going to the cross was submission. <<

Okay, it was submission.

>> It is a violent act of defiance that led to millions of deaths both right and wrong. <<

We're not talking about whether the consequences of Jesus's actions were violent, but whether the actions themselves were violent. His crucifiers' actions were violent, but his actions were nonviolent.

>> He didn't employ violence in any way, shape, or form.<<

Really? How about cleansing the temple? <<

How about it? Is housecleaning a violent act? Apparently you're defining any act that hurts people's wallets, feelings, or germs as "violent," which is a made-up definition of the word.

>> Have you read the book of Revelation? <<

Bits and pieces, like the rest of my Bible reading.

God's violent, but not his son
>> Jesus was God- perhaps you'll tell me God never spanked us as His children. <<

No, I'll tell you Jesus is commonly considered the son of God, not God. True, the Bible sometimes refers to him as "God" also. That's why it's easy for us to interpret it and why it needs a rewrite.

No one ever claimed God was nonviolent. But Jesus is a different matter. He's a separate being—the man part of "man and God"—in this context.

>> In Luke 22:36, Jesus makes sure his followers are carrying swords. Was Jesus a thoughtless killer? <<

No. Nor did he advocate violence, if this passage is all you have to go on. Here he told his followers to arm themselves in defense because people would consider them "outlaws." There isn't one word about using the swords, especially not for offense.

Like your other tortured definitions, carrying a weapon isn't violence. Maybe he meant his followers to carry swords for show, to scare assailants away. The point is, he didn't act violently himself and he didn't tell anyone to do anything violent.

>> Certainly not, but he was on Earth, and on Earth there are times when violence is necessary- Jesus DID practice that. <<

Not according to any citation you've given me so far. Maybe the clearcut examples of violence or violence advocacy are in another message.

>> There is not guessing- that interpretation removes the guessing and puts it in the proper context. <<

Good guess, but wrong. I cited others who disagree with you, below. Your opinion that your interpretation is correct isn't worth the screen it's written on.

>> Quit thinking like a westerner. <<

Quit thinking like a conservative defender of violence who can't read English or understand logic.

Coming from the guy who cites the Greek translation of a word (below), your comment is amusing. A lot of the Bible comes to us through Greek interpreters, so Western views seem relevant here.

The meaning of "love"
>> I don't have to redefine anything- but you have to define it. <<

The dictionary defines "love" well enough. I'm going by the standard definition.

>> The word "love" here is the Greek "agappe", which James Strong gives a denotation of a social love, that holds regardless of what they do to you. In other words- wish them no ill-will, but put in the context of the other things Jesus says means "don't stand for the things that make them your enemy." <<

These two statements are internally inconsistent. You say it's a love "that holds regardless," unless something makes a person your enemy, in which case it doesn't hold regardless. When you've worked out this logical inconsistency, get back to me, and we'll discuss it further.

I don't know whether Strong's definition is widely accepted, but Jesus says "love thy neighbor" more than once. His statements refer to one-on-one love, between individuals, not just some diffuse love for mankind. Love thy neighbor, singular.

>> Other wise he wouldn't have chastized the money-changers. Physically. <<

What he physically did was overturn tables and chairs. I guess you could call that "violence"—to inanimate objects—so I'll amend my claim. Jesus advocated nonviolence in all cases except extraordinary situations that require harmless "violence" against tables and chairs to make a point.

>> So, you don't want the state to carry out God's judgement, but you DO want the state to carry out re-distribution of wealth in a Christ-like way? <<

By "judgment" I assume you mean capital punishment? God made it very clear he reserves the right to carry out his judgment alone. Christ made it very clear we're to follow his example in our lives. If you're a good Christian, you'll obey both precepts.

As you've helpfully pointed out, Jesus acted against the rich by denouncing the money-changers and overthrowing their tables. But if you want to turn into a Biblical literalist, okay. Let's see you and Dubya denounce capital punishment and denounce the acquisition of wealth, with harsh words and overturned tables. Then I'll excuse you two from further "socialist" admonishments, because the Bible doesn't literally say we should redistribute people's money.

Chastising money-changers = taxing the rich
Incidentally, denouncing money-changers is analogous to indicting people for breaking financial laws. Which is analogous to a redistributive tax. They're all forms of "penalizing" people for disobeying Jesus's mandate.

The form of the penalty is a detail. Your typical rich, money-changing conservative would oppose being denounced, being indicted, and paying taxes. They're all "wrong" to him because they impede his acquisition of wealth.

>> Convenient. <<

What's convenient is your finding obscure passages and torturing definitions to come up with a position that ignores the unmistakable thrust of Jesus's views. Your inventive reading of his philosophy conveniently saves you from having to examine your beliefs for hypocrisy.

You can pretend your interpretation is mainstream all you want, but Pope John Paul II says differently. Read his views on violence in his speech Nothing Is Resolved by Violence. Paraphrasing Jesus, he said:

In response to violence, further violence is never a promising way to exit from a crisis. It is thus fitting to silence arms and acts of vengeance in order to engage in negotiations that oblige the parties, with their desire to reach as soon as possible an agreement that will respect the different peoples and diverse cultures, which are called to build a common society respectful of basic liberties.
At the end of our meeting, I encourage you to pursue your mission so that the Europe of tomorrow will first be a Europe of citizens and peoples who together build a more just and fraternal society, from which violence and the rejection of every human being's fundamental dignity will be banned.

So John Paul II denounces further violence in response to violence. And Jesus denounced "an eye for an eye." They're the same message two thousand years apart.

>> But Rob, we are resorting to violence in Bosnia, Kosovo, et al- how does that fit the values of Jesus? DO you think peacekeeping is passive resistance? <<

I've told you what Jesus believed. He was basically a liberal, though not a perfect liberal. I'm guessing he would've opposed abortion for the same reason the Catholic Church does.

I don't believe I ever said I agreed with him 100%. In fact, I've clearly said we should intervene militarily when necessary—as when someone's committing genocide against someone else. Even you should understand I've never argued a pure pacifist, anti-military position.

I agree with Jesus when he was right and disagree with him when he was wrong. I'd reject his whole God thing, for instance, because it leads to rote thinking, blind acceptance, and denial of responsibility. I can choose among Jesus's words without being a hypocrite because I'm not a Christian. What's your excuse?

St. Augustine supports Rob
But let's go to the fount of Christian interpretation, the man you admire so much, St. Augustine, and see what he had to say. From his Confessions, Book III, Chapter 8, 15-16:

For, just as among the authorities in human society, the greater authority is obeyed before the lesser, so also must God be above all.

This applies as well to deeds of violence where there is a real desire to harm another, either by humiliating treatment or by injury. Either of these may be done for reasons of revenge, as one enemy against another, or in order to obtain some advantage over another, as in the case of the highwayman and the traveler; else they may be done in order to avoid some other evil, as in the case of one who fears another; or through envy as, for example, an unfortunate man harming a happy one just because he is happy; or they may be done by a prosperous man against someone whom he fears will become equal to himself or whose equality he resents. They may even be done for the mere pleasure in another man's pain, as the spectators of gladiatorial shows or the people who deride and mock at others. These are the major forms of iniquity that spring out of the lust of the flesh, and of the eye, and of power. Sometimes there is just one; sometimes two together; sometimes all of them at once. Thus we live, offending against the Three and the Seven, that harp of ten strings, thy Decalogue, O God most high and most sweet. But now how can offenses of vileness harm thee who canst not be defiled; or how can deeds of violence harm thee who canst not be harmed?

So St. Augustine denounced all kinds of "deeds of violence." He called them "major forms of iniquity," offenses against the Holy Trinity and the Ten Commandments, and "offenses of vileness." With those explicit denunciations of violence, who's your Christian authority for your pro-violence position? Name names and quote quotes or give up the ghost.

>> He was very handy with the whip <<

Considering the Bible uses the words "whip" and "whips" only five times, I think not. Cite the passage if you can.

>> in only one case does he rebuke a follower with a sword, only because that follower did not understand how the revolution would be fought. <<

With the exception of the money-changers' tables, you haven't cited a single instance of Jesus either acting violently or advocating violence. Unless you have more citations up your sleeve, you lose. We could say Jesus advocated civil disobedience, which is nonviolent by definition, but he did not advocate violence.


The debate continues....
>> No Rob. "In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area..." Jn 2:14-15. You don't stop and take time to fashion a whip to beat a table. This was a physical act of revolution. <<

Oh, that whip. The word "whip" is often translated as "lash" or "scourge," according to my sources. Hence my problem.

Okay. Jesus acted physically once, although cracking a whip in people's vicinity is really no more violent than overturning tables. It's arguably less violent—a threat of violence only. And the other umpteen times he preached nonviolence. So nobody's perfect, even Jesus.

You're bastardizing the Bible, taking one incident out of the total context of Jesus's message, if you use that to justify your right-wing agenda. Give me something other than your soooo-Western opinion that Jesus's overall message was anything but one of nonviolence.

Can't do it? I thought not. I'll give you a gold star for uncovering the same one or two examples of violent text that every other right-winger cites to rationalize his hypocrisy. Now go beyond your narrow (mis)reading of the Bible. Step up and explain how those one or two examples outweigh the hundreds of examples of Jesus declaring nonviolent love his primary "weapon."

>> "I and the Father are one." "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." Even the definition of the Trinity given by Athanasius says "We believe in one God in trinity, trinity in unity, neither dividing the substance or confounding the persons." Basically modalism, God in three states. <<

I think Jesus meant he and God were metaphorically one, not literally one. If they were literally one, it would mean someone could've punched God in the nose—an enticing prospect. It would mean the universe was godless for three days when Jesus died.

Check the definition of "Son of God" if you need help on this point. It's logically and physically impossible for someone to be his own son. Again, I'm the math major and you're not, so take my word for the logic of the matter.

That Jesus had a dual nature—man and God—is a theological issue of extremely long standing. The Teen Bible study guide is one of maybe 100,000 sites on the Web that address the point. Check it out for some questions you may want to ask yourself.

>> But you're perfectly willing to debate theology like an expert. <<

Nope, just to debate theology like you. I'm also willing to debate comic books, multiculturalism, politics, economics, gun control, the WW II memorial, logic, statistics, and writing with you, even though I'm pretty sure I know more about these topics than you do.

>> You go read the source material, and we'll talk. <<

Prove to me you've done it, prove (rather than claim) its relevance, and then I'll think about it.

>> Try it in Greek and Hebrew if you can, but if not, at least get a Bible dictionary, and read several different translations. <<

I have two versions of the Bible, Strong's Concordance, Everyday Life in Bible Times, Religions of the World, and several historical texts. That's more than most people you'll meet, and more than enough to debate these basic points. Moreover, I have the Web to provide for all my research needs. That's how I've found so many people who disagree with your nonstandard interpretations so easily.

>> Then we can continue this debate. <<

We'll continue it if and when you provide evidence to support your case. One example of Jesus's acting physically proves he acted physically once, in a moment of extreme provocation. It says nothing about whether he advocated such actions philosophically. Make that your next challenge, if you think you're up to it: a quote or citation showing Jesus not just driving people from the temple, not just telling his followers to carry swords in self-defense, but advocating an overall policy of violence against others. Good luck.

Jesus mainly denounced the rich
As the letter I sent you stated, the vast majority of his (mainly verbal) attacks were against rich money-changers and the like. To say that because Jesus castigated the rich many times, perhaps using ominous imagery, he believed in the execution of poor convicts is ridiculous. What a sick falsification of his beliefs.

Not only is it sick, it's patently illogical. So Jesus castigated the money-changers. So what? If you say that justifies shooting burglars and executing killers, I say it justifies shooting Libertarians and executing the Irish. Do you agree?

You're doing back-flips to invent a justification for gun use and capital punishment while ignoring the more obvious conclusions. So let's examine your "logic" for a moment. You've said Jesus condoned violence. Fine. You've used the money-changers as your prime example. Fine. Can I kill a rich money-changer, according to the Bible, to punish him? Yes or no? Can I beat him to a pulp, according to the Bible, to punish him? Yes or no?

Good luck coming up with an answer that's consistent with both the Bible and your conservative sociopolitical views. You'll need it.

Back to reality. You can stretch your analogy with zero justification and so can I, but you can't provide a bit of evidence to justify it. Do you have any citations of Jesus explicitly stating that we can or should harm a non-rich, non-hypocritical person, violently or otherwise? Either provide the explicit citations or admit you can't. My money says you can't come close.

More exegesis for Dan
I hope your religious analysis of "turn the other cheek" goes much deeper than you've shown so far. In Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus explicitly repudiates the "eye for an eye" mentality. He reiterates his message of "turn the other cheek" with three similar exhortations. He phrases these exhortations the same way to reinforce his adamant rejection of violence, strife, and secular conflict:

1) "If a man wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well."

2) "If a man in authority makes you go one mile, go with him two."

3) "Give what you are asked to give."

Go ahead and explain how people in Jesus's time considered giving someone their coats an act of rebellion. Also explain how walking two miles rather than one meant someone was "scrappin' for a fight." Finally, explain how giving what you're asked to give—i.e., submitting to authority—is the same as not giving what you're asked to give.

These messages all lead to the same conclusion, which Jesus sums up as "Love thy enemies." He continues reiterating this message until everyone seems to get it but you. "There must be no limit to your goodness" (Matthew 5:48). How do you square that with killing people...or with despoiling the environment, cutting HeadStart funding, or Bush's* three criminal arrests?

Good luck with your answers. Again, I'm afraid you'll need it.


The debate continues....
>> Rob, you are sooooo western. <<

Says the guy who once offered Buddha as a Western hero. Dan, you are in soooo deep over your head. Nice try shifting the debate, but it ain't gonna happen. Not now, not ever.

Coming from a guy who sees no difference between Hercules and Coyote myths, who thinks the Irish saved civilization, who believes American comics are well-integrated, your "sooooo Western" isn't exactly a crushing characterization. When you argue the pro-Western position 99% of the time and then turn around and call me "sooooo Western," that must be your idea of a joke. As a serious criticism, it's laughable.

Try reading a couple of my postings:

Multicultural origins of civilization
Greek lies, historic truth

Then we can discuss your hysterical assertion that I have a myopic Western viewpoint—compared to you or anyone.

>> If I give my coat in those days to someone, and my shirt too, I am now naked, a far bigger offense than refusing to give my coat. <<

Let me know when you recall what this debate is about. I haven't said Jesus never offended someone. I've said he promoted and used nonviolent techniques. If you're defining nudity as violence, I give up.

People were lightly clothed throughout the Near East, so I don't buy that it was a worse offense. But if you're right, I'm sure you can cite a source for your position, either in the Bible or elsewhere. Go ahead and do so if you want to keep your head above water.

>> Syrian soldiers in Roman employ were only allowed to make a Jew carry their gear one mile. If I carry it two, I have just forced the soldier (or authority) to break the law. <<

Again, a nonviolent technique. Again, your interpretation, not mine or that of anybody you've cited. The Bible refers to anyone in authority, not "Syrian soldiers in Roman employ." And if Jesus volunteered to carry the gear an extra mile, no one made him do it, so no law was broken.

>> If you don't ask for a loan back, you have just made the shifty borrower a thief. <<

Again, a nonviolent technique. Again, your interpretation, not mine or that of anybody you've cited. Giving someone a coat isn't a loan, so borrowing isn't the issue. Jesus reiterates the point when he says, "Give when you are asked to give"—period.

But I must say your interpretations are most amusing. If Jesus hung around any man, you could claim he was trying to tarnish the man's reputation. To paint him as a homosexual or a traitor to the Jewish establishment—both of which were punishable by death.

You see, I can make up stories too. But your imaginative opinions about Jesus's motivations don't make them so.

Still more challenges for Dan
While you're telling stories, let's hear your fanciful suppositions about the following:

4) "Do not set yourself against the man who wrongs you." (Matthew 5:39)

5) "Pray for your persecutors." (Matthew 5:44-45)

6) "There must be no limit to your goodness." (Matthew 5:48)

Incredibly, you seem to be claiming Jesus didn't profess a message of universal love. Cite your sources for that whopper, friend, because it flies in the face of millennia of interpretation. As well as the Biblical text itself.

In addition, all your interpretations show Jesus acting one-on-one to supposedly harm people. Strong's "agappe" definition of love is irrelevant if Jesus was dealing with individuals. The Sermon on the Mount is replete with references to what you, personally, should do to be good.

But let's return to the main point. Your fanciful suppositions are irrelevant to the nonviolence debate. Allowing yourself to be slapped isn't committing violence and neither is anything else you've mentioned.

>> Learn the culture Rob <<

Learn how to debate, Dan, rather than inventing another argument that's barely related to the argument at hand. Your defense of Jesus's alleged violence continues to be unconvincing and almost nonexistent. Which may explain why you're trying to fabricate a new debate about whether Jesus truly loved his enemies.

And learn how to read so I don't have to do it for you. When the Bible speaks of giving, it means giving, not borrowing. When the Bible speaks of any authority, it means any authority, not some small subclass of Syrian soldiers. If this is the quality of thinking your school taught you, no wonder you said you were uneducated.

>> you'll see why The Church has spent 2000 years selling us a false Christ <<

Except in its interpretation of Jesus's nonviolent philosophy, which has come to the fore in recent years. That interpretation is spot-on.

>> No- Bush doesn't exemplify Christ any more than you or I do. He certainly does it no worse than Bill. <<

I'd say Bush* does do worse than Clinton. His self-righteous arrogance against world opinion, spurning allied views on global warming and anti-ballistic missiles, is a worse sin than anything Clinton did.

Others agree with Rob
When you're finished trying to refute my logic, you can dispute all the people on the Web who disagree with your interpretation of "turn the other cheek." Here are a few of them:

The admonition (Luke 6:29), "Unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other," means simply, "Resist not evil" (Matt. 5:39; 1 Pet. 2:19-23).

Matthew, Chapter 5—ChristianAnswers.Net

I think that what is being said is that those who follow Jesus are not to draw their behavior patterns from those who victimize them, but respond to others as they want to be treated. A person's behavior towards others is to be the reflection of the treatment they want to receive.

From Mickey the Pharisee

To get hit on the left cheek with the right hand required, first, that the striker acknowledge the stricken as something that wasn't of a lower class, wasn't dirt beneath his heels but a real man. Second, it does imply that one shouldn't return bad for bad, violence for violence.

Liralen Li's Faith page

Joseph Campbell, the eminent scholar of mythology, sees "love your enemies" as the most distinctive teaching of Jesus, and Leo Tolstoy sees "turning the other cheek" as the essence of Christianity.

Jesus' ruling out of violent retaliation is supported in other scriptures such as the Suffering Servant song in Isaiah 53 and Paul's advice in Romans 12.

These illustrations of non-violent resistance could be multiplied many times.

Jim Wolfe, professor at Butler University, from his website

As Gandhi and ML King proved, resisting is not synonymous with scrapping or fighting. Resisting is resisting, period. Does a rock "fight" the ocean by not jumping into the water after one wave washes against it? Only if you strain the definition of "fight" to the breaking point.


The debate continues....
>> I never called for violence- you are misinterpreting me. <<

You said Jesus was "scrappin' for a fight," in your own memorable words. In other words, he condoned or advocated violence. If you meant some nonstandard definition of "scrappin'" or "fight," why are you arguing with me so vociferously? My position is that he advocated a nonviolent approach, not giving up or caving in to enemies.

As many have said, nonviolence is an approach for the brave of heart, not the faint of heart. It takes guts to stand there and get slapped. There's no question it means acting, even fighting (metaphorically speaking), for what you believe in.

>> I called for not rolling over and getting walked on. Big difference. <<

You explicitly condoned submitting to the cross, which you deemed a violent act. And cleansing the temple, even if it means overturning tables and chairs. And carrying swords, presumably for offensive purposes.

In fact, you summed up your beliefs as "there are times when violence is necessary." I'd call that calling for violence. Your position may be correct in the "real world," but you won't find it in Jesus's words. If he uttered one or two ambiguous phrases, the hordes of clearcut ones demanding universal love outweigh them completely.

>> As for most of your quotes, they are old fashioned and fundamental <<

"Fundamental" sounds good to me in this context. "Old-fashioned" is probably okay too, since your new fashion is interpreting the Bible wrongly to support right-wing orthodoxy.

>> with the exception of Campbell, who did not consider Christ divine and simply lumped him in with Buddha as one of his "heroes with a thousand faces." <<

Regardless of Jesus's divinity, the point is that Campbell affirmed his message.

>> They agree with you because they made the misinterpretations that taught you. <<

No, they agree with me because they're reading plain English rather than playing interpretative games that can't stand up to scrutiny.

>> God is a God of Justice as well as mercy, and the dichotomy between the two is what humans have tried (and failed) to find for millennia. <<

I agree, except God made clear that he has the power to judge us, while we can only love each other unconditionally. Not the other way around.

>> If you think Jesus came to wipe away the Old testament, you are sadly mistaken. <<

I'm correct that Jesus explicitly denounced the "eye for an eye" mentality, because I see it in black and white and I know how to read. We can invent all the scenarios we want—perhaps Jesus was a space alien who performed his "miracles" with a matter converter—but the Bible's point isn't to look for loopholes to justify behavior that God and Jesus would condemn. It's to read God's and Jesus's words as written and follow them.

If you're a good Christian, that is. Luckily I'm not, so none of this applies to me. Too bad George "Executioner" Bush* can't say the same.

What guides me through this troubling debate is my belief that all life, with the obvious exception of the many, many people I've executed, is precious and should be protected....

Bush*, quoted semi-facetiously in "The Boondocks" comic strip, 8/22/01


The debate continues....
>> The Old Testament does not preach Eye for an Eye, it preaches Justice. <<

Wherever hurt is done, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, bruise for bruise, wound for wound.

Exodus 21:24-25

>> Jesus uses the Old Testament to make his argument for mercy. <<

Right. So you agree Christians who advocate capital punishment are hypocrites? Because they don't grant mercy to killers as Jesus would? Good. I'm glad you're finally coming around to my position.

>> As far as Jesus and the death penalty, well he plainly tells Peter "If you live by the sword, you shall die by it." <<

Jesus also says "Love thy enemies." Have you found a way to redefine that crystal-clear statement too? In addition, he says God alone shall judge us. "You shall die by the sword"...because God will mete out the punishment you deserve. Not because the state has the power or right or duty to usurp God's role.

>> How much work did Clinton/Gore do against the death penalty? <<

Not much, since Clinton favored it. But his beliefs and actions were more Christ-like than Bush's* will ever be.

>> Hey- that sounds like a revolution! <<

Yes...a peaceful revolution of values that involves turning the other cheek, loving thine enemies, and letting God, not the government or individuals, judge morality.

>> Or, food stamps and welfare? Sure! For eighteen months, that's plenty of time to change your situation. I know, I've been there. <<

You had the advantages of being intelligent, well-educated, and (presumably) healthy physically and mentally. Many people don't. Studies show that welfare limits are removing people from the welfare rolls, but are not eliminating poverty.

>> I am not denying that Jesus wants us to love mankind, but sometimes love is harsh, sometimes it is a sword. <<

The phrase "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword" is meant to reiterate, yet again, Jesus's message that violence is wrong. That people who use violence can expect nothing to come of it except their own ruination. If you think Jesus thought people who used a sword should die by a sword...that he approved of people's being maimed with physical violence...your interpretative skills are sadly lacking. This is English Comprehension 101, not Religious Studies 101, so you can trust me on this one also.

In other words, Jesus wielded a sword only metaphorically. Bush* and his violence-loving cohorts wield weapons literally. They've failed to meet Jesus's standards.


The debate continues....
>> Says someone who is looking at a phrase that has been translated through three languages and countless cultures. <<

Apply that to your previous suppositions, which all went through the same translations, and you'll see why I don't take them very seriously.

>> Good job Rob, you've shown me the error of my ways! <<

You're welcome.

>> Here I thought Jesus was just saying you'd reap what you sow... <<

No, what you thought was that this phrase justified the death penalty. At least that's what you wrote:

As far as Jesus and the death penalty, well he plainly tells Peter "If you live by the sword, you shall die by it."

If you've changed your interpretation to the correct one, I don't mind taking credit for it. "You reap what you sow" means God or fate—not your fellow men—will mete justice. The only thing Jesus meted to wrongdoers was mercy.

For someone with a religious studies background, you sure invent some strange interpretations of the Bible. Fortunately, you don't have to take my word for the correct interpretation. A quick search of the Web shows that almost everyone agrees with me.

Turning the other cheek is obviously a form of resistance, since one remains standing there to be slapped again. But it's a passive, nonviolent form of resistance. Jesus "fought" for his beliefs with words and ideas, not by lifting a finger against his opponents. He clearly believed in nonviolence and any talk of wielding a sword was metaphorical.



*Not the legitimate president.

Related links
Prince of Peace or God of War?
A just war or just a war?
What Jesus said
Winning through nonviolence

* More opinions *
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