I started writing this post more than a week before Pope Francis visited the United States. I did not have the Pope in mind at the time. But this topic now seems so appropriate since he addressed Congress recently. Compassion is a reoccurring theme with the Pope and coincidentally on this blog. It is expressed in my Home page “I was sometimes the object of bullying and racism… all of which sensitized me to the plight of underrepresented and mistreated people…“. It is mentioned in the recent posts What PEACE Means to Me, Old Testament Attitudes, and Is the Price of Peace necessarily the Cost of War? But Pope Francis’ message of Compassion to Congress really brought it home to many there who had other agendas. It brought many to tears including Speaker John Boehner who supported more restrictions on illegal migration. Pope Francis embodies more of the Christ that I believe to be true.
I learned about compassion as a young kid going to Sunday school a lifetime ago. I still remember such lessons as the The Good Samaritan and The Golden Rule. Though I am now an agnostic my Christian values have changed little. In fact I feel that liberating myself from all the religious dogma of organized religion has allowed me to develop a greater sense of consistent personal responsibility by focusing upon basic moral concepts without consideration to God’s judgement or confusing Christian doctrine. It is the sense of Compassion through empathy, understanding, and forgiveness that is the overriding theme of this blog. Even this blog’s name ‘Our Social Conscience’ reflects this sentiment. I have been highly critical of government, organized religion, and society for not practicing more Compassion in our lives and in our government’s actions.
We seem to be a very violent society considering our supposed high social and moral development, as if our primordial instinct of becoming the next meal is very real. We seem focused upon racial, religious, sexual, and economic discriminating intolerance. We use mindless legalistic and outdated, even at the time of Christ, doctrines of our religious beliefs to dictate our behavior as if the goal in life is to live up to our creator’s expectations through blind faith. Our perception of a wrathful God who will Judge us when we die is obsessive. Our obsession with being the harbinger of God’s wrath are archaic. These are some of the reason that I left Christianity. It did not allow me to exercise my free will to understand Companion and thus Love unconditionally in its unencumbered context. It was always hooked into God’s expectations as interpreted in the Bible. Such a God was neither rational nor unconditionally embracing (see If the Universe is Rational Must the Creator also be Rational?). Love with strings attached. Compassion for only those who are worthy of it.
Would Christ have had compassion for only those who were not his enemies and done vengeance on those who kill, bomb, and behead our troops, citizens, and allies? How would he have responded to 9/11? The answer can be found in Matthew 5:38-39 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” How clear is that? The Christians persecuted by the Romans had roughly the right idea. Though they were often meals of Roman lions they ultimately prevailed to build their headquarters in Rome and thrive while the Romans perished. I think the message is clear, that all people whether enemy or friends are created by the same creator and loved equally like we love our children whether they are good or bad.
I’ve heard it said that you can’t have Love without Hate for injustice and evil. Is that true? In my experience I have seen much injustice and evil. But if one digs deeper into the reasons you will most likely find it is in itself caused by injustice and evil from the very ones making the accusation to start with. Early in the last century we went into the Middle East because of their abundant oil and tried to manipulate governments and tribe to our advantage. But we did not understand the culture so be did everything by force killing many Arabs and engendering their hatred for us. So now there are Arabs who hate us and kill us. These enemies are of our own making. Now when they kill us out of vengeance we do vengeance right back upon them. But Romans 12:17 clearly states “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” Where is this message ambiguous or murky? Where is our Compassion and forgiveness as commanded by God? What does this say about us?
I am no longer a Christian in part because I find too much lacking in Compassion and forgiveness by them as commanded repeatedly in the Bible. Many of them do not seem to understand what Unconditional Love means. “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…” Matthew 5:43-45. The problem with many Christians is that when they do follow God’s commands they do it our of duty, not from their heart.
So how do we as a people and as a nation rank on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the highest in Compassion and closes to the words of Love and Compassion attributed to God so quoted in the New Testament?