The Only Moral That Matters
By Michael Goodspeed
In the opening scene of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, we see Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane engaged in a battle of wills versus Satan. As Satan attempts to plant a seed of doubt in Jesus's heart, the serpent enters the Garden and slowly slithers towards Jesus. Suddenly, an expression of resolute calm comes over Jesus's face. He stands...and shockingly crushes the serpent's skull with a stomp of his foot.
Upon witnessing this sudden act of violence on the part of Christ, many members of the audience let out startled cries of surprise and disbelief. I remember that this particular scene bothered me more than anything else in the movie, including Jesus's prolonged torture and murder. I must forthrightly say that I am not a religious person; in fact, I have never set foot in a place of worship or religious observance (at least not voluntarily). With that said, if I were a betting man, I'd stake every penny in my pocket that Jesus would not have taken the life of even the "lowest" creature in God's Creation. Not a worm, not a bug...not even a slimy serpent. Jesus was a pacifist continuously and unconditionally. Ironically, just a moment later in the film, we see my theory put to the test. The Romans locate Jesus and attempt to take him captive, upon which Jesus's disciples offer violent resistance. Jesus, however, remains passive, even if his non-resistance means the death of his good friends. Even when they've gained the upper hand, Jesus tells his followers, "Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword."
I found Jesus's passivity more moving than anything I'd previously witnessed in film. He begs forgiveness for his torturers, exclaiming to God, "Oh, forgive them, Father! They don't know what they do!"
I cannot quote from the Bible with anything approaching literacy, but as the product of a Christian nation, a few choice lines do stand out in my memory. I feel a deep resonance with the words, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," AND, "Judge not lest ye be judge," and most notably, my favorite of the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not kill." These words are so elementary and uncompromising that one would think they could never be a source of confusion. But surprisingly few people, including the most allegedly devout of Christians, seem capable of understanding the most basic of God's instructions.
The words, "Thou shalt not kill," could not have been more plainly written. Notice God did not add any conditions or caveats to this COMMAND. He did not say, "Thou shalt not kill...Christians, Americans, the law-abiding, the righteous, the good, the innocent, the attractive, the educated, the wealthy, the able-bodied, the smart, the charismatic, the well-clothed, the height-weight proportional, the hygienic..." Nor did He even say, "Thou shalt not kill HUMANS." God's Commandment - absolute and unambiguous - is that ALL Life is touched by the Divine spark. As the children of God, we did not CREATE Life, so it is not within our moral authority to take it away.
Like everything else in life, God's words are made "confusing" by the MORAL RELATIVISM of our "great thinkers." Through all of history, mankind has found legal and "moral" justification for the selective extinguishing of Life -constant warfare stands out as the defining characteristic of the human condition. I will KILL this person because he has wronged me and my family, my community, my country, my religion.
In 21st century America, we see moral relativism as the underlying cause of a culture of DEATH. The rule of "law" says that Life can be taken when: 1) the Life is not "worth living," because the life is "contemptible" (euthanasia, the Terry Schiavo case); 2) the Life is "inferior" and poses an inconvenience to a "superior" Life (abortion); 3) the Life is "evil" and/or poses a threat to innocent life (capital punishment, the war on terror); 4) the Life is not HUMAN (the perpetual slaughter of all animal life, including the food industry.) But I have been told by Bill O' Reilly that America is a fundamentally CHRISTIAN nation. Are these instances of legalized murder consistent with the most FUNDAMENTAL principle of Christianity? Jesus stood as a passive observer even though by doing so he ENDANGERED THE LIVES OF HIS CLOSEST FRIENDS. His words, "Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword," implied that even those who kill to PROTECT THE INNOCENT are only contributing to the endless perpetuation of violence and death. This lesson is apparently lost on many self-described Christians who view justifiable homicide (including warfare) as their happiest duty.
Christ's teachings are clearly predicated on one simple fact: as human beings we are NOT CAPABLE of delineating between a "worthy" Life and an "unworthy" Life. Look at the things we view as "admirable" in other people: namely fame, fortune, and physical attractiveness. Are these things of any import to God? Does God view the invalid as less than the able-bodied, the poor as less than the wealthy, the "ugly" as less than the attractive? The transparentness of our own insanity is the greatest evidence that the taking of ANY Life is the domain of God, and God alone. If American policy makers - the senators, the governors, the congressmen, the Supreme Court justices, and the President -lived in CONTINUOUS and UNCOMPROMISING observance of the Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," would evil in the world be more or less prevalent?




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