August 20, 2007

Turning The Other Cheek?

Christians are advised in their bibles and by their "savior" to "turn the other cheek" and "love" their enemies (Matthew 5:38:45). In fact, they are expected to believe that their own savior sought forgiveness for the very people who killed him (Luke 23:34). What then are we to make of the refusal of an overwhelming majority of American Christians to follow such admonitions when it comes to someone like Osama bin Laden?

Bin Laden is once again a hot topic, especially in the presidential debates, as questions mount about why we still haven't caught him and whether Iraq was an unwelcome distraction from doing so. It is probably accurate to say that he is the man Americans most hate and that he has been so since 9/11.

It it not my intention to defend bin Laden. He is a despicable example of the consequences of religious extremism, and his very existence should be a troubling reminder of what happens when religious zealots acquire the means to harm others. He is a dangerously deluded individual, bent on destruction, and I do not believe his actions are defensible.

Instead, my intention is to ask Christians how they reconcile the much-praised advocacy of forgiveness to someone like bin Laden. I'm not looking for any of the nonsensical Christianspeak about loving the sinner and hating the sin. Such gibberish has no place in rational discourse and contributes nothing of value to advance understanding.

I'm also well aware of the many parts of the Christian bible (including the New Testament) which call for violence and retribution. However, the Christian who offers up such an example opens the door to the accusation of selective biblical interpretation to justify one's passions. Christians are well advised to keep this door closed, for it leads to an abyss for which they are unprepared.

So why are Christians not expected to offer bin Laden their other cheek? Why is it acceptable for self-professed persons of faith to call for his extermination? Are those who shed his blood not also guilty of violating the commandment against murder (Exodus 20:13)?