The german newspaper „Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung“ carried on 29. January 2003 an article on Mr. George W. Bush, the President of USA. I was really surprised to find out that he is a very active member of the United Methodist Church. It seems, every day he begins the work in the White House with a Bible Service, and his colleagues are invited to join, if they like. By all means he makes sufficient time to study the Bible every day. He prays regularly out of his own personal conviction. He opens every Cabit Meeting in the White House with a prayer. And he believes deeply that he is in the service of Jesus Christ and his actions are aligned to the question “What would Jesus do?”
On the other side, three days after the bombing of the world trade centre on 11th September, Mr. Bush told the participants during a memorial service in the National Cathedral in Washingtom, “I am a man of love, but I have a job to accomplish and I will do that.” And the determination to use terror as a remedy for terror followed. The commandment of Jesus, “to hold out the other cheeck” applies to him only personally. But he finds himself helpless to react like a faithful, nonviolent follower of Christ as the President of the USA.
What happens around us is a good opportunity to reflect about ourselves. What the others do holds out to us a mirror in which we can see ourselves. We can find the contradictions of a secular society in the separation of two behaviours in the same person -- the bahaviour of Mr. Bush as a Christian and his behaviour as the head of a nation. Not only Mr. Bush, America as whole, is predominently christian. On the other side, they are secular in political administration and in the leading principles of public institutions. When we look at the whole situation closely, officially speaking, the gound convictions of their personal life are of no use to their political and public life, in the development of their national culture and in their relation to their enemies. Sounds hard, but the gospel is very unequivocal.
We find here a dichotomy between the ethic of personal life and the ethic of the kollective life of the nation. When we develop a life-program that is contrary to our convictions and faith, such a dilemma invariably opens a conflict. Jesus has himself said, “No man can serve two masters; either he will hate one and love the other or vice versa (Lk 16.13)”, that means, either political domination or global brotherhood. This principle applies also to the enemies America is fighting against. Compulsions of politics are understandable. But our private self-righteousness can never justify the public evil that we perpetrate.
Today we are celebrating the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. And we are told that Mary and Joseph, according to the Law, brought Jesus to the Temple, to present him to the Lord. They must also pay to the Lord a pair of turtledoves in order to take back with them what in fact belongs to the Lord. But that was not the end. In the life that follows, they live out fully and develop further the meaning of this presentation. They bring up Jesus in such a way that he still belongs to God. Mary and Joseph are only the faithful servants of God even in relation to their son, Jesus. And they demand nothing from God in return. In the Presentation of Jesus in the temple, and in the life that follows, as they present Jesus to God, they present themselves to God. That is really a life called by God. That is supposed to be a way of life of a Christian.
So, self-presentation is supposed to be the way of life of a Christian. If we look at our life closely, we can find, that man requires nourishment, love, understanding and care from the world for his growth. And he gets them, each in his own way. When he does not get them, he demands and fights for them. Therefore, we must know and admit, that it is not right to deny others the same. It destroys the balance in the world to demand love and to offer violence. Anyway people suffer and die with the crimes of some. When we do the same, we are only multiplying the suffering and death of people who would like passionately to live as we do. And if we use violence against violence, it is a gospel-contradiction. Unless we return to the fundamentals of our faith and ethic, there is no solution to this contradiction.
We are called to remember that beyond the demands that we make, battles we fight, our urge to retaliate and the violence we offer, the gospel (Lk.2.22-32) calls us to self-giving, commitment and self-sacrifice for the happiness and wellbeing of the other. That is the key to our own peace and happiness.