Thursday, July 31, 2014

In our opinion: Confronted by power, Christ instead chose the truth. Will we do likewise?

Deseret News editorial

Published: Sun, April 20 12:00 a.m. MDT

 Faithful take part in a pilgrimage to the Cross of Villa Armonia during a possession to mark Good Friday in La Paz, Bolivia, Friday, April 18, 2014. Bolivian Catholics joined Christians around the world in celebrating Holy Week and preparing for Easter Sunday.

Faithful take part in a pilgrimage to the Cross of Villa Armonia during a possession to mark Good Friday in La Paz, Bolivia, Friday, April 18, 2014. Bolivian Catholics joined Christians around the world in celebrating Holy Week and preparing for Easter Sunday.

(Juan Karita, Associated Press)

The Bible recounts this exchange between the Roman governor Pilate and Jesus Christ prior to his crucifixion:

“Art thou the King of the Jews?"

“My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."

“Art thou a king then?”

“Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth” (John 18:33-37).

There it was, as stark as it ever has been: the conflict between power and truth. Jesus chose the truth.

The life of Christ was not as a political leader; nor was His a political kingdom. Yet billions of lives on earth today have been touched or transformed by the event celebrated today as Easter Sunday.

About 32 percent of humankind (2.18 billion) are Christian, about the same percentage as a century ago. In our globalized world, Americans are more familiar now than ever before with great faith traditions besides the Judeo-Christian, including Islam (23 percent of the world’s population), Hinduism (15 percent), and Buddhism (7 percent). Although many think of the United States as ethnically and religiously pluralistic, it is only moderately diverse, according to a Pew Research Center study this month.

What do Christ’s teachings say about living in a society where not everyone is of the same religion? Consider how these values impact civic life in democratic nations:

Showing civility toward those with whom we disagree, even to the point of turning our other cheek toward them.

The use of non-violence in the achievement of political goals.

The role of second chances. Innovation springs forth from an appreciation of the blessings of failure, and the opportunity new beginnings bring us for redemption.

Being a good Samaritan to those who seem to be strangers; or as Paul wrote, “ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens. ...”

Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

How faith in God brings hope to individuals’ day-to-day lives; how both lead people to have greater charity toward others.

Truth, honesty, justice, purity, virtue and praiseworthiness — how these principles and behaviors should be encouraged in society.

These are substantive teachings with a deep, and deeply positive, impact upon culture. They affect personal morality, and they affect our political morality.

Judeo-Christian culture and values are at the very core of Western society. There is good fruit born of this culture in nations throughout the world, wherever they be physically located. In the case of the United States, there is no metaphor more powerful than John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill,” his own 1630 sermon on the mount.

Two hundred years later, it was the gentle adaption of Christianity that struck Alexis de Tocqueville most forcefully: “In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country.”

The diversity of Christian sects did not pose a problem for democratic self-government, de Tocqueville said in “Democracy in America,” because “religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must nevertheless be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of free institutions.”

Nations around the world that respect freedom of religion experience this robust civil society and self-governance. Or as U.S. President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower said in 1952: “Our government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don't care what it is.”

Is this still so today?

Can democracy survive without the ethical undergirding provided by a respect for faith in God? Are the inalienable rights with which we have been endowed by our Creator valid no longer if society has disavowed the Creator? Can we call ourselves civilized, granting personal and professional courtesies due those who are weaker or different, when we discount and demean the intentions of people of faith? Rather than seeking comfort for the creature through violence and selfishness, we find — in looking to God — a wellspring of refreshment and a profound reason for honesty in all of our dealings.

By its nature, belief in and a willingness to follow God are a matter of personal conscience and life experience; it is something that is and must be freely exercised. This is why current threats to banish God from public life, if successful, would leave us without truth and subject to the whims of earthly power.

That is the message that Jesus Christ delivered to Pilate. He delivers it to us, too.

Recommended
1. Screwdriver
Casa Grande, AZ,
April 20, 2014

It's always interesting to note that Christ's message was NOT one of strict personal responsibility but one one strict communal responsibility.

2. marxist
Salt Lake City, UT,
April 20, 2014

" Can we call ourselves civilized, ... when we discount and demean the intentions of people of faith? " The answer is certainly no, especially if we discount or demean out of hand.

I don't wish to detract from this beautiful editorial (with which I almost entirely agree). But I would like to make an observation, that being when people of faith use secular learning to make a point, they should not be summarily discounted. An example would be the Christian economist Henry George who tried to explain economic inequality as being the outcome of the private ownership of land. His work "Progress and Poverty" has never gotten the attention it deserves from the Christian church.

An even better example would be Pope Francis who used some secular economic background to decry the inattention of the church to world poverty. He was, I think, called a Marxist by many for bringing up the matter. Let's be more reasonable and honest.

3. Hutterite
American Fork, UT,
April 20, 2014

Going through the list of christs' teachings, I can't help but think that, through todays' lens, he's a socialist through and through.

4. GaryO
Virginia Beach, VA,
April 20, 2014

I can agree with most of the author's opinions.

Yes, the teachings of Jesus Christ should be taken to heart. From His teachings we can clearly see that Jesus was, is, and always will be a Liberal and a Progressive who looked favorably upon the Founders as they created a government "for the people," and not just for the Sadducees, and the Pharicees, and those who hold great wealth.

Toward the end of the article though, I had to take exception to the contention that religion can rightfully insinuate itself into government. The "wall of separation" built by the founders should not be undermined. Patriotic and sensible Christians see wisdom in the Constitutional mandate separating church and state.

5. BBMG
PROVO, UT,
April 20, 2014

The huge difference between socialism and Christ's plan is quite clear. Democratic Socialism allows people to steal property from others through a gang style political process of majority voting for legalized theft. The Lord's plan was to allow everyone the freedom to choose to be charitable or not. Democratic Socialism confiscates free choice and eliminates the personal opportunity to exercise and receive the blessings of charity, by stealing the right to choose. Democratic socialism produces multiple victims: The tax collector becomes a thief, the government employees processing the redistribution become distributors of stolen property, the voters for redistribution legislation become conspirators/accessories to theft and the recipient becomes a receiver of stolen property. Charity blesses the giver, the receiver and all involved, whereas democratic socialism turns everyone involved into conspirators/supporters of an ugly, illegal, corrupt and dishonest counterfeit version of charity. Amendment V states that money cannot be taken for public use without just compensation, so democratic socialism is also a civil rights violation.