Sometimes the daily scripture readings literally jump off the page in their timeliness and truth. Today’s gospel was from Luke 6:27-38,
Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
The unfolding protests and violence in the Middle East surrounding an insulting movie about the Prophet Mohammed shows how far we have yet to go to reach universal religious understanding and tolerance. News reporters are scrambling to get accurate details about the movie. The authorship is being questioned. Actors are claiming they were unaware of the final product; that lines were dubbed in after production editing.
I checked out clips from the movie on YouTube and it is truly amateurish in its production, making the claims of a five million dollar budget seem dubious indeed. As with many controversial works of art, it would have few viewers if it was not making head-lines around the world.
An article in The Vatican Insider outlines events in recent years that have prompted angry and often violent rioting from Muslims. As Christians, it is tempting to say that the violent responses are proof that love and tolerance are not at the core of Islam. This is not only simplistic, it is wrong. As with most religious violence and hatred, it is promulgated by fundamentalist extremists who skew the teachings of the faith to suit their own agendas. Muslims do it. Christians do it. Jews do it. Wars have been waged in the name of God for centuries. It is to our shame when the banner of faith is raised to rally souls to hatred.
Jesus knew well our human propensity to anger and bigotry. Enemy is a strong word. Yet, how often do we view the other not as a worthy opponent, but as an enemy? We see this in the current political battles in the US. We see it in the polarization within our church. Heck, we allow our own blood to boil at the slightest provocation. The person who cuts us off on the highway becomes the enemy of the moment!
Love your enemies. If these words were a universal philosophy, hate-filled propaganda would not exist. Insults and violence would not be countered with more insults and violence. Difference and disagreement would be an invitation to dialogue, not an endless cycle of anger and revenge.
Moments like this make you realize the futility of arguing over doctrine, theology and liturgical details. At the heart of our Christian faith is a person, the person of Jesus Christ. And his message is simple as can be.