Jesus was not, and never will be, a military conqueror. The Final Coming, or Jesus' Second Coming, is NOT going to be the coming of Jesus the avenging Warrior King, leading a fierce, blood-soaked military campaign. Jesus is NOT going to loose the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword, winning a Necessary Final Battle. Why? Jesus has ALREADY won the battle for all time - through his redeeming death and resurrection.
Orthodox theologian Father Alexandre Turnicev urges us not to take such end times visions literally:
"This archaic conception perverts the evangelical texts in a literal, coarse and materialistic way, without penetrating the spiritual meaning of the mysterious images and symbols. This conception has increasingly been exposed as an intolerable violation of Christian conscience, thought, and faith. We cannot allow that the sacrifice of Golgotha has proved powerless to redeem the world and conquer hell. Otherwise, we should say: creation is a failure, and Redemption is also a failure.
Bradley Jersak, in "A More Christlike God," adds
"Christ's work on the Cross and his power in the Resurrection were insufficient? Now he's reverting to actual wrath and violence on the majority of the human race? Why? Because love wins...but not really, not completely? Having given love its best shot, Christ must return with plan B: fierce, blood-drenched, and merciless?.... Jesus is a Lion because he is the king who has already overcome; he is a Lamb because that victory came, not someday through violence and conquest, but already through kenosis - through sacrificial love. And this Lion-Lamb (in the Book of Revelations) is ready to rule, why?....
"Jesus' global, universal, and eternal kingship was established at the Cross and confirmed by his resurrection. His dominion over every people group will not be won by a someday-sword, but has already been purchased by his blood. His kingdom grows now - a patiently expanding regime of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation."
Jesus has shown us - as individuals, communities, and nations - the way: to live lives of sacrificial love, patience, forgiveness, and non-violence - and, as prophets to proclaim the Way of Christ as the Way of sacrificial love, patience, forgiveness, and non-violence. Jesus also, in his love for the poor, in his call for us to put down the sword, in his Beatitudes, calls his followers to work for peace by working for economic and social justice. Yet, how hard it is for us to be prophets preaching for justice, peace, non-violence, love, and reconciliation - in a violent environment!
Fr. Richard Rohr speaks of an ascending spiral of violence - the world, the flesh, and the devil.
"Traditional Catholic moral teaching...saw the three primary sources of evil as the world, the flesh, and the devil—in that order....
"By “world” we don’t mean creation or nature, but “the system.” It’s the way groups, cultures, institutions, and nations organize to protect themselves and maintain their power. This is the most hidden and denied level of evil. We cannot see it because we are all inside of it, and it is in our ego’s self-interest to protect the corporate deception.....Our culture is built upon the idea that there’s not enough, that we must always seek more—at others’ expense....
"Historically, organized religion has put most of its concern at the middle level of the spiral of violence, or what we called “the flesh.” Flesh in this context is individual sin, personal mistakes that you and I make..... Individual evil is certainly real, but ....When we punish or shame individuals for their sins, we are usually treating symptoms rather than the root problem or cause: the illusion of separation from God and others.
"There is a deep and direct connection between “the world” or “the system” with its culture and corporations and the evil things private individuals do. The entertainment and business worlds celebrate people who are greedy, ambitious, angry, vain, prideful, deceptive in the name of profit, and “lustful” in many ways beyond the obvious (these were historically called the “capital sins”). We can’t reward and promote evil at this level and then shame it at the personal level. It does not work. We can’t romanticize war, but then rail against murder. As my friend, Cardinal Bernardin, put it, we have no “consistent ethic of life.” Because of our inconsistency, more and more people do not look to Christians for moral leadership. If we are to be truly “pro-life,” we must defend life “from womb to tomb” and stand against all violence, including war, racism, capital punishment, hunger, lack of health care, the destruction of the earth, and all that impoverishes people.
"At the very top of the spiral of violence sits “the devil.” This personification of evil is hard to name or describe because it’s so well disguised and even idealized. If “the world” is hidden structural violence, then “the devil” is sanctified, romanticized, and legitimated violence—violence that is deemed culturally necessary to control the angry flesh and the world run amuck. Any institution thought of as “too big to fail” or somehow above criticism has a strong possibility of diabolical misuse. Think of the military industrial complex, the penal system, banks, multinational corporations subject to no law, tax codes benefiting the wealthy, or even organized religion itself. We need and admire these institutions all too much. As a result, they can “get away with murder.” Paul called this level of violence “powers, principalities, thrones, and dominions” (Colossians 1:16).
"If we do not recognize the roots of violence at the first and disguised structural level (“the world”), we will waste time focusing exclusively on the second and individual level (“the flesh”), and we will seldom see our real devils who are always disguised as angels of light (“the devil”). (Remember, Lucifer means “Light Bearer.”)
Evil only succeeds by disguising itself as good, Thomas Aquinas taught.
How does non-violence "play out" on the practical level? Thomas Merton suggests
“The tactic of nonviolence is a tactic of love that seeks the salvation and redemption of the opponent, not castigation, humiliation, and defeat. …True nonviolence … strives to operate without hatred, without hostility, and without resentment. It works without aggression, taking the side of the good that it is able to find already present in the adversary.”
Non-violence, in other words, is mainly concerned with our putting on the eyes of Christ and being able to see good, or the possibility for good, in our adversary. IF WE HAVE PUT ON CHRIST, we seek the good, the health, the salvation and redemption of the opponent. Our main approach to people is an attitude of kindness and equality, not hatred, hostility, or aggression. Not bullying. Not insults or put-downs. Instead, a non-violent Christian listens, tries to understand, uses diplomacy, prefers to collaborate instead of pitting people against one another. A non-violent Christian sees herself as an equal to everyone - because everyone is a child of God, and therefore all people are brothers and sisters to one another.
Prophets today must "call out" the violence implicit in our political parties, our corrupted "system," which currently works dysfunctionally through parties' attacks on each other and attempts to win rather than in peaceful collaboration to develop legislation that is just and for the common good. This "military mentality," this desire to win rather than be just, plays itself out in our politicians' relationships with other countries as well. And this violent, military mind-set comes from the Top.
I submit to you that a President who, instead of employing listening and diplomacy, insults the head of another nation by calling him "rocket man," and thus incites a leader who appears to be mentally unbalanced to further aggression, is not acting on the principles of non-violence. After Trump's provocative insults and warnings of war at the U.N., North Korea plans to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific:
"Given the inadequacy of existing US and Japanese ballistic missile defence systems, it is far from a sure thing that such a test could be intercepted. The risks are immense. Civil aviators and mariners in the target area may perish, given that North Korea does not offer international warning of its missile launch plans - unlike other states that routinely test ballistic missiles. The environmental damage and fallout could be catastrophic. Moreover, should the missile fail over Japan - or prematurely detonate - the consequences would effectively guarantee a nuclear war in retaliation." (The BBC)
Did our "Christian" President forget Jesus' words that those who live by the sword will die by the sword?
A sports figure, a citizen, peacefully protests the sometimes violent relationship between African Americans and police officers by kneeling down during the National Anthem - and the President calls him a "son of a bitch who should be fired." Whether we agree with the sports figure's way of protesting or not, the President is an expert in violence when he castigates, humiliates, and shows such verbal contempt and hostility. He further divides African Americans from White Americans, and threatens all our citizens' rights to peaceful protest.
And, of course, the President's adversarial reaction to the NFL's new rules for players to avoid their getting concussions should stun every parent worried about their children's safety playing football. At a rally in Alabama, he called the rules very much softer -"Uh oh got a little ding on the head? No, no, you can't play for the rest of the season."
"'The NFL ratings are down massively,” he said. “Now, the No. 1 reason happens to be they like watching what’s happening with yours truly. They like what’s happening. Because you know today if you hit too hard — [game officials penalize the offending team] 15 yards! Throw him out of the game! . . . They’re ruining the game! That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.' "DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said in a tweet early Saturday morning, 'The union . . . will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks.'” (Adam Kilgore and Abby Phillip, for "The Washington Post.")
How can we trust a President who does not worry about safety - for our athletes, for our citizens of every color, even for the innocent North Korean people who are at the mercy of a deranged leader who needs to be "talked down," not "fired up"? The President certainly does not worry about the safety of our citizens, who need and deserve adequate health care as their human right. Pope John the XXIII spoke of human rights powerfully in his encyclical "Pacem In Terris":
"Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, he has the right to be looked after in the event of illhealth; disability stemming from his work; widowhood; old age; enforced unemployment; or whenever through no fault of his own he is deprived of the means of livelihood."—John XXIII.Pacem In Terris. 1963
Rather than develop a culture of respect and collaboration among politicians, the President foments a culture of intimidation and abuse, wanting to win rather than craft legislation that brings about justice in health care. Regarding the new Republican attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare through the Lindsey-Cassidy bill, "Sr. Carol Keehan, D.C., the president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association, was not caught completely off-guard when Republican Senators released their latest plan to turn back President Obama’s signature legislative achievement—this time without the assistance of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had washed his hands of the effort. “They have been so abused,” Sister Keehan says of Senate Republicans. She suggests that after weeks of scolding from President Trump and right-wing media because of their failure to repeal Obamacare after promising to do so for years, some Republicans in the Senate felt they had no choice but to act one more time against the Affordable Care Act.
“You can see how the goading has gotten to them,” Sister Keehan says.
Does she think this latest bill has a chance to pass? In normal times, no way, she says. But in these decidedly not-so-normal times, who knows?
“You just don’t railroad something through, something you’ve just whipped together in the last couple of weeks.”
"This legislative Pickett’s charge against Obamacare is being led by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. The “disastrous” plan, as Sister Keehan describes it, would end the federally funded expansion of Medicaid under the A.C.A., converting the program into block grants to states, which would have a broad authority to decide how to spend the money en route to a complete phase-out by 2026. According to a statement at the Catholic Health Association urging a “no” vote on the bill, that would mean $239 billion less over ten years than under current law, resulting in large cuts for many states.
"According to an analysis of Graham-Cassidy conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the bill would eliminate or weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions, allowing states to waive the A.C.A.’s prohibition against charging higher premiums based on health status and requirements for essential health benefits including mental health, substance abuse treatment and maternity care.
"As with the last Republican effort to end Obamacare, cut down in July by a surprise “no” vote from Arizona Senator John McCain, Sister Keehan is troubled by the Senate’s haste on an issue of such grave national importance. “The health of the American people as well as the health of the economy is incredibly important, and you just don’t railroad something through, something you’ve just whipped together in the last couple of weeks,” she says.
“You have to be careful that you do something only after real thought and attention to the issue and not just because you got goaded into it; that’s something you teach your kids.”
"Why the rush? Republican Senators need a vote by the end of September before special budget reconciliation procedures shielding the bill from a Democratic filibuster expire. This month, G.O.P. senators only need a straight majority vote; next month they would have to come up with 60 votes to move forward on an Obamacare repeal. Time and math are not on their side....
"The latest proposal has not been scored for its likely impact by the Congressional Budget Office—and will not be by the time the Senate will be forced to vote on the bill. C.B.O. number crunchers say they will need weeks, not days, before they can issue a comprehensive report.
"That means the Senate will vote without fully understanding how the plan will affect the health care of millions of people in a system that represents nearly a fifth of the U.S. economy. The bill proposes big cuts in Medicaid and would end the A.C.A.’s requirement that most Americans buy insurance and that companies offer coverage to workers.
"The C.B.P.P. reports that by 2027 the outcomes of the Graham-Cassidy bill would be virtually identical to a repeal-without-replace bill, suggesting that it would leave an additional 32 million Americans without health insurance over the next decade. Its deeper cuts to Medicaid should in fact mean that figure could be higher. The bill would result in even deeper coverage losses in the following decade.
"As this latest putsch against Obamacare began, Sister Keehan had been working on a competing Senate negotiation to shore up the A.C.A. spearheaded by Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democrat Patty Murray of Washington that she described as “bipartisan” and “transparent.”
"That draft bill “isn’t seeking to undermine A.C.A.,” she says. “We want it stabilized until we can come up with something better…until we can do the things to improve the A.C.A. that have needed to be done since it was passed.
“That’s what we need to do. We need to build on that, but you do that by following regular Senate order and holding committee hearings and inviting everyone to get involved in the discussion,” Sister Keehan says, “and not just have 13 guys hash this out in a closet.” (Kevin Clarke, "America" magazine, September 19, 2017.)
The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire. Be a true prophet. Read the signs of the times. Believe in non-violence. Be on fire - Serve by speaking out for non-violence, compassion, justice, and peace for our country and for our world.