globeandmail.com : The Vatican is taking a tough new line on radical Islam

This was an interesting bit in the Globe and Mail today. Daniel Pipes talks about the Vatican’s new, hard-line approach to radical Islam. The quote he uses from Monsignor Velasio de Paolis is “Enough now with this turning the other cheek! It’s our duty to protect ourselves.”

Its easy to see where the sentiment comes from. The rise of radical Islam has meant many dangers for the world, not least to Christians living in Muslim countries who are prevented from freely worshipping. But its a shame that the Vatican is willing to ignore Jesus specific words in order to feel ‘safer.’

“Ye have heard that it hath been said “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. But I say unto you that ye resist not him that is evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

That’s a pretty clear statement. Pipes goes on to quote the Vatican stressing the need for reciprocity in matters of faith, and I certainly don’t disagree that suck reciprocity is something we should strive for.

But nowhere does Jesus ever suggest its required. In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount, he’s pretty clear that reciprocity has nothing to do with the way Christians are supposed to act. “whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” That’s NOT reciprocity .. instead, its a specific repudiation of the notion of reciprocity. The POINT of the Sermon, and this part specifically, is that our morality is judged on how WE behave, and the actions of others towards us can NEVER serve as a justification for our own action.

If Jesus thought Christian charity, Christian tolerance, and Christian peace were based on the notion of reciprocity, then he would have said so. The fact is, wherever he talks about tolerance and peace, he does so with no mention of reciprocity. In the Good Samaritan, he does not command us to help the fallen stranger only if that stranger would help us … He commands us to help the fallen stranger, period. When he comes across the crowd stoning the woman, he doesn’t command them to stop because she wouldn’t throw stones at them … He commands them to stop because what they are doing is intrinsically wrong, regardless of the actions of the woman. And on the mount, he doesn’t command us to turn the other cheek only when people treat us well … in fact, he specifically commands us to turn the other cheek when we have been attacked.

For the Vatican to be talking about reciprocity in relation to tolerance, or to non-violence, is very sad to me.  Jesus was VERY clear on this fact … Christians are NOT tolerant to others because others are tolerant to them … Christians are tolerant because its what moral people are.  If Jesus had meant to tell us we should expect reciprocity, he would not have said”whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”   That sentiment is the exact opposite of reciprocity.

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