The bearded young man in his thirties had been targeted by the
sect of his religious tradition that had aligned with the occupying forces. His
actions, his speeches, and the crowds that followed him appeared to threaten
the old order. Officials of the occupying force acted preemptively to maintain
stability and to avert any possible insurrection.
This young man had been regarded as an agitator, perhaps an insurgent. Some might even had called him a terrorist had the term been in vogue twenty centuries ago. His followers called him "rabbi." His message was radical; it was about peace. This young pacifist called for compassion, for forgiveness, for loving one's enemies. He had high regard for the poor, the merciful, the gentle, and the peacemakers.
But his message did not die with him. For almost three
hundred years, his followers, although severely persecuted, remained true to
his teachings. They were pacifists who preached empathic love, cared for the
less fortunate, and were brutally sacrificed for sport. Then, in an amazing
turn of events, a leader of warriors, for political reasons, took their banner
into battle and then promoted their doctrine. As religion, state, and military
quickly became intermingled, the spiritual ideals were compromised and became subservient
to the political power structure. While the dissident's followers went from
being outcasts to being the establishment, their values largely died.
The teachings were corrupted. Without a clear distinction
between church and state, religious scholars would rationalize the use of
violence and justify war for political ends. Today, warfare has spun out of
control. It's become an integral part of our violent culture. It's our primary
instrument of foreign policy. We glorify war and warriors; we demean
peacemakers and pacifists.
But if our country were guided by this bygone agitator's
teaching and example, we'd be a whole lot better off. He healed the sick and did
not discriminate between rich and poor sick people; he was an equal opportunity
health care provider. Following his lead, our country would have universal medical
He advised the rich to discard their possessions, to give
them to the poor. Heeding his instruction, America would have no super rich. We
wouldn't be considering tax breaks for the wealthy. Instead we'd return to the
90% tax rate that the affluent enjoyed in the 1960s. Through social programs
and job creation, we'd distribute the wealth equitably and eliminate poverty.
Yes, the dissident was a socialist.
He condemned violence, decried vengeance, and advocated
forgiveness even after an attack. Love your enemy; turn the other cheek;
forgive your brother seventy times seven times. With such a moral principles, the
U.S. would not be engaged in trillion dollar wars. We wouldn't have the entire
planet divided into military commands. We wouldn't have troops stationed in 156
different countries. And we wouldn't be killing innocent civilians and
detaining and torturing young men in their own Middle Eastern countries whose
language and culture we don't understand and whose only crime is to challenge
the existing order.
We would, however, have much more money and many more resources
for constructive projects, job creation, and tending to the well-being of the
planet and its people. (Incidentally, how's the war economy working for you?)
We need this bygone radical's preaching to be born again--and
this time, we need make sure it gets practiced. Is there a better time to start
than the season of "Peace on Earth"? Think of this dissident's message of peace
and compassion when you pass by a homeless person, when your preacher prays for
the troops (but ignores the victims of "collateral damage"), or when you are
stuck in a traffic jam near the shopping mall.
Yes. It requires a new way of thinking and feeling, and a
rejection of things past--a societal "Scrooge moment," if you will. I'd like to
hope that humanity is able to, and wants to, evolve morally. John Lennon said,
"War is over, if you want it."
But, then, he was killed, too.
Kim Carlyle is inspired by our great teachers of compassion and peace including Buddha, Gandhi, King, the Dalai Lama, and, of course, Jesus.