For a supposedly Christian nation that was presumably founded upon Christian values, the United States has a rather bellicose history that is entirely incongruous with the Christian message of loving your enemy and turning the other cheek. As easy as it was for most of us to have been caught up in the patriotic fervor of striking back at the stronghold of the 9/11 hijackers, that response was fundamentally un-Christian. Not only does Jesus say that one must turn the other cheek but that one must likewise love those that are engaging in the cheek slapping. That’s a pretty difficult message for anyone to accept. But if you are a Christian it is pretty unambiguous. Even if the message is honored at the individual level it must likewise be honored at the collective level. It is a rather large feat of cognitive dissonance to believe one man may not kill another man but that 100 men acting in unison may justifiably kill another 100 men. War is simply the collective actions of individuals. If it is wrong for the individual to kill then it is wrong for the collective to kill. If it is commanded that the individual love his enemy then it is commanded that the collective love their enemy. If you are a Christian and believe the US is justified in going to war against Syria then you need to reexamine your beliefs. You cannot simultaneously believe in the divinity of Jesus and pick and choose which of his commandments you will adhere to.
Now that I’m done chastising the pro-war Christians don’t think the pro-war non-Christians are getting off so easy. Even if you do not accept the divinity of Jesus, this particular directive of his, of loving your enemy, contains within it an essential lesson that is theologically neutral. What is that message? That in order to break the cycle of violence someone must be the first to actually break that cycle. Someone must step forward and say, “I have been wronged, but I refuse to respond in kind.” The ability to make a conscious decision about our behavior that runs counter to every instinct built into our being is one of the defining characteristics of humanity. “Mind over matter” is what separates us from the instinctually driven animal world. A dog bitten will bite back; he knows no other response. Two dogs caught in this cycle will continue until both are nearly destroyed or one dies. Are we mindless animals unable to rise above our base instincts of an eye for an eye? Or are we intellectually superior to our enemies such that we alone are capable of recognizing the merry-go-round we are on and realize the only way to get off is to simply jump and say “no more.”
So, Jesus’ message of “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek” is not so much a commandment as it is a key. With this key we have the means to unlock the cycle of violence and finally bring true peace to the world. A peace based on mutual respect and understanding. Such a peace is preferable to the global peace currently being proffered by those running the United American Empire, namely the “peace” that exists between well-armed prison guards and their prisoners.