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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Theology Tuesday: Whom Do You Serve?

It’s a rough time in America these days. While politics have always had a nasty side, there seems to be more of an “us against them” mentality then ever before. Similarly, those who are interested in politics, like us, find themselves engaged in heated discussions, sometimes on opposite ends of the debate. It is into this fray that we toss the words of Christ, to “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”.

That’s a hard message to hear. We wonder who Christ was talking to, and if it really applied to everything!

I like to discuss love often. One of the key elements of love is that we want the best for the object of our love. Realizing this may make loving our enemies easier. You see, loving an enemy doesn’t mean you condone his actions. But what does it mean?

I know what some of us may say – that loving our neighbors is best suited by defeating them, to provide a better life and opportunities for others. After all, they attack our ideals, our values, and the lives of others through their policies and legal wrangling, and continue to try to do so. Isn’t a rapid response with maximum force the best? I would say that the majority of Americans feel like this about those on the other side of the fence:

Love your enemies and do good to them that hate and use you--- is this not the despicable philosophy of the spaniel that rolls upon it's back when kicked? Hate your enemies with a whole heart, and if a man smite you on one cheek, SMASH him in the other! Smite him hip and thigh, for self preservation is the highest law! He who turns the other cheek is a cowardly dog! Give blow for blow, scorn for scorn, doom for doom--- with compound interest liberally added thereunto! Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, aye four-fold, a hundred-fold! Make yourself a terror to your adversary, and when he goeth his way, he will posses much additional wisdom to ruminate over. Thus shall you make yourself respected in all walks of life, and your Spirit----your Immortal Spirit---- shall live, not in an intangible paradise, but in the brains and sinews of those whose respect you have gained.

I think that those sound like the words out of a 1943 Marine manual, myself.

Compare it with this:

Ye have heard that it hath been 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. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 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; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Clearly, that is a difference of positions as wide as any found in politics today. Furthermore, neither seems to be the specific property of one party or the other. Instead I would place both parties in the camp of the first text with regards to the ways they speak of each other.

What about you? Honestly, how do you approach those whom you know to be on the other team? Not what should you do, but what do you do?

Now that you have considered the question, I should divulge the origins of those two quotes. The second many will recognize as part of the Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the 5th Chapter, verses 38-45.

The first quote?

It is from Book III of the Satanic Bible, by Anton LaVey.

Whom do you serve?


  • This is one of those thorny issues that butts heads with the fallen human nature. I think that one must first define the “vertical” relationship. Speaking of which, I’ve been hashing it out with two philosophy students…one is a Calvinist and the other argues for libertarian free will. I’m the odd-man-out in the debate. The two posts and comment threads (the good stuff in this case) are free will v. determinism and free will and the Problem of Evil. I’d be interested in your perspective, since you’re an educated theologian.

    By Blogger Robert, at 4/26/2005 05:16:00 PM  

  • Hammer,

    As the chicken asked "Isn't there a better way?" These are my only choices? Isn't there some way I can help certain people (those breaking into my house for instance and who are threatening my family, or those I meet on a battlefield who are threatening our freedoms?)...can't I help these people to

    "live, not in an intangible paradise, but in brains and sinews of ME whose respect they may have gained"---but who are no less dead?

    There has to be...hmmmmm...let's see, what priest should I turn to?

    Ah Hammer, all joking aside...I know this is a serious post. We will know the difference...we just try to make things too hard. Great post!
    I'm telling ya...for God's promise to have any meaning, it has to be something simple....something that does not require a keen mind turned toward that even simple minded folks such as I can understand it.
    Unless we're talking determinism eh?

    By Blogger David Hunley, at 4/26/2005 05:56:00 PM  

  • The post is not meant to imply that those of us (er, all of us?) who end up lashing out at others who disagree with us are Satanists! It is simply to show that the attitude that leads to such responses is not of God.

    David, I'd be surprised to find a commentary that thinks this command is intended to apply to the criminal who intends you harm, or to the soldier in the midst of combat on the battlefield. It is for our everyday life and situations.

    Robert, I'll check those out soon...I am not an educated theologian, but I will be starting seminary in the fall. Is that good enough? :)

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 4/27/2005 08:43:00 AM  

  • Hammer, I actually think that Christ did mean for this to apply in every situation, including all the obvious ones we would disagree with. Christ proved this with his own life and death. Imagine the ideal world if every single person followed his example?

    Jesus doesn't talk here about defending others; defending your children is different, perhaps then defending yourself. But I really do think Jesus was against violence against others in every form.

    This is my advantage of walking away from religion, I can see Jesus as a great, but potentially flawed human, the ultimate pacifist who willingly walked to his own death rather than fight.

    You have to make his statements the word of God that you must follow, but what Jesus asks is virtually impossible for the rest of us. Any society that actually followed his teachings would have died long ago.

    By Blogger Mark, at 4/27/2005 07:12:00 PM  

  • You have hit the nail on the head, Mark.

    The gospel of Christ is not that good people go to heaven. The gospel is that no one is good, but that we can be saved through the sacrifice of Christ.

    I mean, if God knew we couldn't get right to not cut our sideburns, he sure knew we wouldn't love our neighbor, right? He raised the bar for what he expects of us, but still paid the price for our future, known failure to do so.

    You've given me food for though for another post on violence, however.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 4/27/2005 11:47:00 PM  

  • Hammer,

    I wasn't just trying to be a wiseacre...and I think (I say I think...because I can quickly get out of my league in this area) I know what it means...but as Mark pointed out, there is room for interpretation. That statement That ye resist not evil: sounds pretty darned clear to me. I don't know how to reconcile that statement with defending my family or even myself.
    I do know that these kinds of theological discussions are way beyond my ken.

    By Blogger David Hunley, at 4/28/2005 07:40:00 PM  

  • The 1st quote appears 1st in the Raggnar Redbeard( AKA Jack London) novel MIGHT IS RIGHT. Later it is also used by Anton Szandor LaVey in the Satanic Bible.My only other comment is that all religions, that do not promote self preservation are just like the wooden idols of years gone by, and should be cast unto the fire as were their predecessors.

    By Blogger Paul, at 1/15/2009 01:15:00 PM  

  • Bad news Paul - all of those wooden idol religions ARE about self preservation. Want a good crop yield? Sacrifice a goat. Looking for more kids to carry on your genes? Go with a chicken. Want preservation from the plague? Sacrifice an enemy.

    Only Christianity demands we die to self. As the only religion that does not propagate self-preservation, it may meet your definition of a religion to be discarded - but it is the only one. Shouldn't that make you think?

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 1/29/2009 09:31:00 PM  

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