If many of us don’t who we’re against, we don’t know who we’re for. If we don’t who we’re for, we don’t who we are.
This dualistic tension holds the very fabric of modern society together, all of war depends upon it.
All of peace depends upon forgetting it.
Because the labor of peace is not itself violent or fraught with tension. Rather, the life of a peacemaker is absurd; utterly foolish as some might say.
In one of the most unexplored ethics of human history, in Jesus we see an alternative.
The largest justification for human violence remains the notion that state violence, war is the only means to thwart evil. Such a perspective is necessarily connected to hubris. Specifically, the arrogant premise that my nation maintains an exclusive handle on morality.
Such flawed systems of belief simply perpetuate the dualistic tensions that perpetuate armed conflict. Many profit from the wars, many suffer. Those who suffer are rarely given a voice, those who profit often have the ears of the nations.
And so in the business of peacemaking it is very easy to fall into a new dualistic trap–the nations are the bad guys, but the poor and outcast civilians are the good people I must protect. This is simply a new “us” and “them.” It’s inevitable conclusion is more violence.
In the classic story of Zacchaeus, Jesus publicly befriends an evil man. Not because he was icky or socially ostracized like some that Jesus was said to befriend, but because he was pure evil.
He sold out his faith and family for power, prestige, and money and actively joined the Romans in oppressing the poor people and belittling Israel. As the chief tax collector, he was directly responsible for the forced economic enslavement and oppression of hundreds of thousands of people. He was absolutely complicit in maintaining the Roman rule which slaughtered innocents and mercilessly maintained its grip of authoritarian power.
This is no “personal” sort of sin like many of the gluttons, and drunks, and sexual misguided Jesus was said to befriend. This dude was a little fascist on his way to selling out his own people for profit.
And Jesus publicly befriends him.
Because this vulnerability, this willingness to sacrifice image, this dangerous move to love the oppressor as much as the oppressed–Hitler as much as his victims–is the utterly paradoxical and petrifying foundation of the Jesus message.
And no one that I can think of has tried this.
Starving with the oppressed I get.
But dinner with the devil?
Perhaps it’s time to ask Assad if he has dinner plans.