Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Loving our enemies--not just a suggestion

Mark Shea asks some provocative questions:

How do I do it? How do I reconcile concepts like loving God and loving our enemies? How can I be both anti-abortion and anti-torture at one and the same time? What mysterious thread ties together the utterly irreconcilable ideas of making a good examination of conscience with my objections to the pro-life movement sloughing off principle after principle in service to the needs of Caesar? Who can fathom my mercurial and contradictory whims?

The two issues I personally had the hardest time with as someone who is both Catholic and (more often than not) a GOP voter have been torture and the death penalty. How could I be a right-wing conservative True Believer and have any problem with beating the unprintable out of some filthy America-hating terrorists who are probably hiding a Ticking Time Bomb somewhere? How could I be a tough-on-crime type and oppose the use of the death penalty on practically all occasions? Wasn't there some wiggle room somewhere in my Catholic faith that would let me reconcile Catholicism with these political views?

I have sympathy for those in the throes of that same mental journey. But the same God Who told us not to put our trust in princes also told us to love our neighbor (defined as--well, everybody) and to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. Starting from that perspective, it's pretty hard to keep seeing Love in things like torture or the indiscriminate and too-frequent use of the death penalty (which, of course, remains something legitimate authority can have recourse to--I don't want to create the impression that the two issues are on the same moral footing).

When we realize that the command to love our enemies is not merely a suggestion, we're often going to be led out of our comfort zones, away from our partisan political leanings, and beyond our ordinary assumptions. And that's a good thing.

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