What Would Jesus Bomb? The Last Temptation of America by Todd Huffman
Let me begin by stating that I’m not a deeply religious person. Raised Lutheran, I long ago left religion to get back to God. I consider myself more a spiritual person, not bothered by knowing that the religious see this as a cop-out, akin to paganism.
My “personal Jesus”, the one I’ve come to admire, was, in my view, a man—an amazing man, arguably the most important in human history—but a man nonetheless.
Arose from the dead? Allegory. Water into wine? Metaphor. As a man of science, I am simply unable to make the leap of faith towards belief in Jesus as God incarnate. Yet I do believe that Jesus’ inexhaustible insistence on universal human rights changed the course of human history, and culminated in the birth of our great nation.
The history of America is unavoidably inseparable from Jesus. Christianity has always been the majority faith. The first colonists were Christians escaping religious persecution. The teachings of Jesus imbued our founding fathers as they fashioned a document, unique in history, proclaiming “all men are created equal...endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”.
Our recent history finds Christians even coalescing as political organizations. Although a nation where church and state are separated by a constitutional wall, more politicians openly boast of their Christian roots, and seek to legislate their “Christian family values”. Ironic then that our nation is straying further away from Jesus.
Born of the most humble beginnings and raised in poverty, throughout his life Jesus was most concerned with the poor, the powerless, and the oppressed. He was the friend of sinners, of the undesirables, and of the outcasts. Ridiculed, scorned, betrayed, condemned, and crucified, his life was defined by suffering.
Jesus honored the victims, the sufferers, and the soul. In America, we honor the victorious, the successful, and the body. Jesus glorified the dignity of all, whether he agreed with them or not. We’ve come to shame the dignity of those we disagree with.
Jesus resisted all temptation toward spectacle. No dazzling, pyrotechnic displays of omnipotence, nor cruise missiles from him! In fact, Jesus refused the temptation of coercive power, knowing respect and faith are garnered through patience and compassion, rather than compelled through fear. Using power and the promise of securi-ty to force obedience was the way of Herod, the Rome-installed “King of the Jews”.
Jesus instead preached the way of God, the way of nonviolence. “Love your enemy” and “resist not evil”, he said. Jesus refused the temptation to destroy evil by force, preferring to destroy it by faith, and love.
If Jesus is right, a nation that rains down destruction upon another people, and then waxes triumphant, cannot possibly be becoming in God’s eyes. A leader who claims war as his providential mission is a leader whose Christianity needs to be born yet-again. Blessed are the conquerors! Blessed are the strong! No, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek”, and “Blessed are the peacemakers”. Never does Jesus allow for the exception of a “just war” or a “holy war”.
Moreover, Jesus saw people not as citizens of nations, but of Mankind. Nations he considered inventions of men; no one truly favored over another by God. I wonder if Jesus would consider it vainglorious to say “God Bless America”, as if America were divinely entitled— singled out for and deserving of special blessings, especially during wartime. Somehow I cannot imagine God up there in the cosmic bleachers as war plays down here on earth. Look! There’s God! He’s cheering for us! He’s waving our flag!
The God I believe in is impartial. If he shows favor, it is only towards the weakest and most humble members of humanity. This country once welcomed such people, as evidenced by Emma Lazarus’ eloquent invitation to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, and the homeless inscribed at the base of our Statue of Liberty. Now these are the people our country has forsaken.
Have we forgotten Jesus’ guidance when he asked “why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
We must resist the ways of Herod, and rescind our powers to force obedience and to destroy. We must pay attention to the planks in our own eye: our growing numbers of homeless and impoverished, our increasingly ill-educated school-children, our neglected disabled and chronically ill. Leaders must find a way to reconcile their faith with actions of compassion and grace. For as one of those founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, once said: “It is in our deeds and not our words that our religion must be read”.
Todd Huffman, M.D., is a pediatrician in Eugene, Oregon, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.