Tuesday, June 9, 2009

To Passivity and Keats

So I thought I'd share some thought from some of my reading this week. In the book, Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, they talk about peacefully approaching our "enemies." They suggest DISARMING others. To refuse to oppose evil on its own terms but instead to transcend both passivity and violence in a third way. I thought I'd pass on a beautiful quote to whoever might read this.

"Evil can be opposed without being mirrored... oppressors can be resisted without being emulated... enemies can be neutralized without being destroyed."

In the three examples Jesus gives in Matthew's account, there are outlined three ways to disarm others. One is to look them into the eyes and let them see your scared humanity, not responding in anger but in humility. In Jesus' times, if you hit someone with your left hand, you could be banished for ten days, so you'd use a backslap to hit someone on the right cheek. A backslap is an insult, degradation, and form of humiliation. By not responding but leaving your right cheek available for the slap, you are showing them exactly how inhuman they are acting.

Second example is that if someone sues you for your clothes, give them your cloak also. In Jesus' times, only the poor were subject to this abuse since they had nothing else to give. By stripping themselves naked, the poor expose the greed of the rich and pour shame onto the one who has caused their nakedness.

The last example was that if a man asked you to walk a mile with them, you should walk two. Under Roman law, a citizen was required to walk a mile with a soldier to help them carry their supplies. To walk a second mile was actually an infraction of the military code. By walking that second mile though, they were saying, "I want to get to know you; You're important to me and I want to get to know you as a friend. I am willing to do more than you ask because I realize that you are a child of God."

These responses are "neither submission nor assault, neither fight nor flight." It is simply a loving call to those who haven't experienced the love of God. Our enemies are simply versions of humanity that have gone a little astray. And since God is love, if we deny someone love, we deny them God. And I'd hate to be the one looking into God's eyes when He finds out that his little child was denied access to his love because of a stuck up Christian.

To change the topic again, I read a beautiful poem by Keats and thought I'd share it with you.

"Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No-yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair lady's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever-or else swoon to death."

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