Monday, May 09, 2011

Love your enemies, examine your heart

This is not an easy entry to write and I imagine that some may be offended, but in honor of Father Daniel Berrigan I feel called to gently upbraid the president of the United States.

Every day I download a podcast of the NPR 7 am news and try to listen to it regularly. Today I heard President Obama say something that really disturbed me.
“I think that anyone who would question that the perpetrator of mass murder on American soil didn’t deserve what he got, needs to have his head examined.”
I, then probably need to have my head examined because my heart says that though Osama bin Laden deserved to be judged and be held responsible for his crimes, no one deserves to be killed.

Today is Jesuit Father Dan Berrigan’s 90th birthday. In 1971 he told the Weather Underground, a violent anti-war group, that 
“No principle is worth the sacrifice of a single human being.”
We may need our heads examined but I ask the president to examine his conscience, his heart and to listen to the words of Jesus: 
"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you and persecuted you."
“Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone.”


Border Explorer said...

Hear, Hear!!
Let me join the head-examination line, too.

Ann said...

Thank you, John, for putting into words what was floating around in my heart. I keep coming back to what you said on 9-11 at STA.. "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind." That has always stuck with me, and it has really helped me to learn to forgive quickly and turn the other check.

John (Juan) Donaghy said...

The quote - "An eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind" - is, I believe, from Gandhi.

Charles said...

I'm not sure that scripture would agree with the statement that no one deserves to be killed. The point of grace is that God does not give us what we deserve.

The story of Paul is notable not only because it shows the workings of grace in extending his life, but it shows the subtle workings of justice. Paul calls himself a "violent aggressor," and blamed himself as a participant in the death of Stephen. Under the Law, these were sins worthy of death. That sentence was ultimately executed, but not until it had been re-written into being the capstone of a life of devotion to God and fame that has lasted through the centuries. In the course of it, Paul was on the other side of angry mobs, and therefore had a chance to experience in some detail what he had inflicted on others. So, grace transformed a death sentence into full repentance and a life that gave glory to God.

In saying that no one deserves to die, then, we make a judgment that is above our pay grade. Rather, I would say that killing people accomplishes very little. It does prevent them from continuing to do evil deeds, and it prevents them from boasting about their past deeds and therefore, perhaps, inspiring others to that dark road. These are not wrongful ends in themselves. But capturing, trying, and imprisoning a malefactor is a far more powerful way to accomplish them.

There are so many people whose plight calls me to prayer (and action) that there is no way that I can come close to fulfilling that call. Just as hating bin Laden is contrary to scripture, I think caring about him to the exclusion of caring about others may also be. "Let the dead bury the dead" is a way of saying, "Use your time on people who can most benefit from it."

Since you are lavishly generous in that regard, Brother John, I can raise no criticism if you feel called to this.


RNS said...

There was substantial agreement with your position both inside and outside the clergy here in the US. I didn't see media coverage to that effect, but it sure was a common theme on Facebook.