Tea with Hezbollah
- Thursday, February 18, 2010
We both have a personal, profound belief that there is purpose in this world that has little to do with rules and regulations and has everything to do with faith in God. We both believe that whether you are Christian or Muslim, the teachings uttered by Jesus in the Middle East two thousand years ago are utterly life changing. We both believe that over the centuries those teachings have been misunderstood and misappropriated by most of those who claim to revere them, both in America and abroad, Christian and Muslim.
And we have both developed a fascination with the one teaching that Jesus himself claimed was second only to his instruction to love God, namely to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Carl was right—Martin Luther King and Gandhi were both killed in large part due to their message of hope based on this one teaching.
But who is willing to follow Martin Luther King today? Who will turn a cheek to the enemy's batons as Gandhi did? Who will love the heretic as Jesus did?
Two thousand years ago the world was torn by conflicting beliefs and terrible political struggle. The Romans occupied Palestine and subjugated the Jews, among many others, stripping them of their rights in the same way that today invites war. Into this world was born a man who came with a message so offensive that most followers abandoned him two years after he went public with his outrageous teachings: to love rather than revolt against the Romans who subjugated them. Even more extreme, to love heretics, such as the Samaritans, who were viewed as the Great Satan, blasphemers, so deceived and evil that they could hardly be counted as human.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself. This was his cry in the wilderness. When those who had given their lives to following God asked him what he meant by loving your neighbor, Jesus did what he frequently did.
He told them a fictional story.
Like all good tales, his story had a strong antagonist, a killer who took a man, pummeled him within an inch of his life, and left him for dead. And it had a strong protagonist, a man who went out of his way to nurse the victim back to life after others refused to help the dying man.
But what really cooked the goose of those who heard the teaching that day was the twist at the end of the story. In this story, you see, the protagonist wasn't the pious man or the religious leader. The hero of the tale was a Samaritan. A heretic. A bigot. Scum.
It would be like telling a story in which the hero was a Christian among Muslims. Or in the West, a Muslim among Christians. This man, Jesus said, was following the most important teaching. This man was the hero of his story.
So, what is it like to love an enemy? What are our so-called enemies really like, one on one? What are their favorite movies? When was the last time they cried? What is their favorite joke? If we could only take People magazine-like snapshots of the very people who make many in the United States cringe.
And what do our "enemies," being deeply religious people, think of this great teaching to love your neighbor, even if that neighbor is your enemy? It's no secret that Muslims believe that even though Muhammad is the last prophet, Jesus is also greatly revered, having lived a perfect life, and destined to return one day and claim his own. What do they think of the parable of the Good Samaritan? Do they follow its lesson as poorly as most American Christians?
The events and people of the Middle East are inarguably crucial to every human being's future, whether or not they recognize that fact. Our presidents are elected and rejected in part because of what occurs in this misunderstood land so far away. Mothers will lose their sons, and daughters will lose their fathers, as ideas and convictions clash in the desert. Countries will stand and fall. It's an important place and its people are even more important. Are they our enemies? And if so, should we love them?
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