By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Illustration by Bob AulRemember when candidate George W. Bush was put on the spot by a reporter asking who his favorite philosopher was? Bush named Jesus, possibly out of utter sincerity or possibly because he couldn't remember those confusing foreign names from his blotto days in college.
Since Sept. 11, Bush has mouthed the timeworn detritus of religion—we're on a crusade to purge evil from the world, don't you know—but not once has he publicly mused or given any indication that he has privately pondered, "What would Jesus do?"
In case they don't have Gideon's in the rarified places he stays, let me offer a quick refresher on Jesus' teachings:
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."
Jesus didn't leave a lot of wiggle room on the subject of payback. Even at Gethsemane, when his enemies came with clubs and swords to send him to the cross and one of his disciples drew his sword and wounded an attacker, Jesus said to him, "Put your sword into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword." According to Luke, who had a whole gospel according to him, Jesus even healed his attacker.
But George W. Bush isn't looking to the New Testament these days. Instead, the rhetoric coming out of the White House surpasses even the "eye for an eye" retribution of the Old Testament, promising a "massive and disproportionate" military revenge upon evildoers.
Truth be known, I don't spend a whole lot of my day wondering what Jesus would do. Whatever part of me is a Christian is not so much so that I don't also seek wisdom from the Buddhist, the Hindu or Henry Miller. I think every religion and mode of seeking has its mystical side, revealing facets of the eternal, and each has its dogmatic side that persons use to cement their fears and prejudices rather than unshackle their love. That is the part demagogues and fanatics rely on, the part that sends every army off to war convinced God is on its side.
I don't think I could live up to the unswerving standards Jesus set. Despite every true word he, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. said, I still crave some retribution that would ensure this horror not happen again.
But what I long for even more is justice, that we don't just smite whomever is handy while also bombing tens of thousands of innocents' eyes out of their sockets. And I desire that we be true to ourselves, that we not be rooting out the specks in others' eyes while there's a log in ours.
And any president such as Bush who rode into the White House on the hem of Jesus' garment—and who, as Arianna Huffington noted, ignores Jesus' admonition to "beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them," to instead turn prayer into a photo opportunity—should at least temper his words and actions with a bit of Christ's compassion and insight.
Instead, the president is quoting Western movie "dead or alive" posters and calling these terrorists "who would slit women's throats" on the hijacked planes "a new kind of evil."
No, it is entirely an old brand of evil—and one we know. Ask the dead heaped in unmarked graves resulting from our incursion into Panama. Ask the victims of the 1980s, U.S.-backed, Central American military governments and death squads, who even murdered American nuns. To add abject irony to the horrors of last week, Congress rolled over and approved G.W's U.N. ambassador, John Negroponte, who has been linked to '80s death-squad activities and to covering up their actions.
Our own Dana Rohrabacher was right in citing the intelligence community's massive failure in anticipating last week's attack on America. Though Rohrabacher generously blames Clinton, the failure began two decades ago, when the Reagan administration—of which Rohrabacher was a part—provided $3 billion in U.S. aid, weapons and training to "courageous Afghan freedom fighters" (some of whom later formed the Taliban) and "new evil" poster boy Osama bin Laden. The weapons we gave them to fight "Godless communism" are the ones they use now to blast religious artifacts into oblivion.
If Christ's teachings are too much for Bush to grasp, what say we lower the bar a little and ask, "What would Captain Kirk do?"