Faith and War - What Would Jesus, the Ultimate Progressive Radical, Do?
by Cindy Sheehan
Recently, Sam, a friend of mine who is Chair of the Economics Department, invited me to speak to the students and faculty at the University of Dallas, a small Catholic college.
Surprisingly, this invitation received little protest. However I did notice there was a “Support the Troops” rally in the room next to where I spoke. Some Camp Casey friends accidentally went into that room long enough to hear the speaker call me names like “scum” and the rest of the people at my event “peace fairies.”
I was heartened to find the first three rows filled with young people smiling and vigorously nodding their heads at everything I said. Most of the audience clapped or laughed in the right places, so I was feeling pretty good, although I was a little sad to hear some snide snickers when I had the gall to call Iraqis “human beings.”
The first question I received during “Q and A” really amazed me. There it was, printed neatly on a 3 by 5 index card: “How do you reconcile your progressive ideals with your faith?”
As a person raised Protestant who received an excellent training in the Christian scriptures, the depth of ignorance about Jesus of Nazareth exhibited in this question left me astonished.
I answered the question, saying that Jesus cared about the poor. He admonished us to “feed the hungry,” “clothe the naked,” “heal the sick,” and “visit those imprisoned.” Jesus performed a stunning feat of civil disobedience by over-turning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple and was subsequently executed by the Empire of his time. Jesus was the ultimate progressive radical. Contrast the biblical account to the modern story in which Jesus’ name is exploited by our materialistic society at Christmas as he changes seasonally from the right-wing Christian warmonger to the “Prince of Peace.”
Jesus welcomed the “least of these” to his table. He didn’t exclude sinners, lepers or prostitutes who were the pariahs of his day. Today, I am convinced that if Jesus returned he would welcome gays and non-white people (even “illegal” immigrants) to commune with him. The only people I ever heard Jesus speak badly about were the “brood of vipers” (Mt 3:7) that were the Sadduccees (Democrats?) and Pharisees (Republicans?) who in the parable, with hypocritical piety, walked right by the man who had been beaten, robbed and left by the side of the road to die without helping him and they turned his “Father’s” house (the Temple) into a “den of thieves.” (Mt. 21:12).
My question for the questioner was: “How do you reconcile your faith with supporting war and killing?”
If Jesus came back today, I know, because of my faith in the inherent goodness of the Universe, that he would not be a “politician” but a public servant. Jesus would be in favor of single-payer health care, solar and wind energy, unions, free post-secondary education, Social Security, fair trade, free speech, civil rights, and human rights. Jesus would be against the death penalty, torture, extremist religions that exploit His Name for profit, extremist states that exploit His Name to kill innocent people, and the ultimate crime against humanity: war.
Whether one is a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or like me now—nothing—Jesus of Nazareth and his story is still worth studying and emulating. At the risk of sounding judgmental, I have a feeling that these reactionary Christian extremists of our time are going to be shocked when they go to meet their maker and find out that Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9). The converse of that saying is: “Cursed are the warmakers for they are not the children of God.” There is a very relevant saying of Jesus in the Bible that these self-proclaimed “Christians” should also pay closer attention to:
"You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:43)
Wise words for everybody to strive to live up to: From presidents to college students and everyone in between.
Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan who was KIA in Iraq on 04/04/04. She is a co-founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace and the author of two books: Not One More Mother’s Child and Dear President Bush.