I can’t help but wince when listening to the reductionist version of the Beatitude. Jesus is so often forced to fit the agenda of those who use him to excuse actions that he himself would condemn.
When we invaded Iraq in 2003, Larry King had a panel of Christian ministers on his show. He asked one of them how she understood “blessed are the peacemakers” in the context of this preemptive war. Without missing a beat she said, “Our soldiers are peace makers. They will invade Iraq, kill our enemies, and make Iraq a more peaceful place. This is exactly what Jesus had in mind.”
True, I’m recalling her words, and they may not be exact, but her message was as I portray it.
A year or so later, I was attending a Christian rock concert in Nashville and heard the MC ask the joyous crowd, “OK, how many of you are ready to kill for Christ?” At first I thought I misheard him, but when he repeated it, and when the crowd shouted happily that they were ready to do just that, I left. It’s never safe for Jews in crowds of Christians ready to kill for Christ.
I don’t mean to suggest that this is kind of thinking is unique to Christianity. One can hear much the same sentiment, with different particulars of course, in certain Jewish and Muslim settings as well. It just saddens me to see the Prince of Peace used to excuse acts of violence.
You need not respond to this. I know you feel the same. And there is no need for, or even way to, excuse the fear, greed, anger, and violence that passes for religion in so many people’s lives. All we can say is this is why we need prophets like Hillel, Jesus, Rumi, Hafez, Kabir and others who have seen through the veils of human difference and seen the One who is all.
On to the next Beatitude?