An Antidote for the World’s ills


This is an excerpt from the link in Robert Perry’s post to a paper of his on Matt.5:38-48….

Yet even as just a goal, a lofty summit that we are slowly climbing toward, this vision, I believe, is a genuine antidote for what ails the world. J. Harold Ellens has written eloquently about his “conviction that the main psychosocial and political problem in modern and postmodern culture arises from the apocalyptic worldview willed to us by that ancient ambiguous religion” (2007a, p. 2). He describes the effects of that apocalyptic worldview:  The worst of all this is that religious metaphors that we have been given in the dominant report about God’s nature and behavior, produce unconscious psychological archetypes in human beings, which get acted out unsuspectingly in behavior that is justified by those metaphors.

If God solves all his ultimate problems by quick resort to ultimate violence, how is it possible that we can expect humans to do significantly differently?  Sick gods make sick people. If God persuades us of his psychotic notion that he is caught in a cosmic conflict, the battleground of which is human history and the human heart, of course it is inevitable that we shall wish, unconsciously or consciously, to help him out; to be on his side in the war; to undertake God’s cause against the infidel, to fight the bad guys, to exterminate our enemies, as apparently God tries to do with his. (2007b, p. 3)  The logic is inescapable: If God exterminates enemies, then must we not do likewise? As Ellens says, “Monster gods make monster people” (2007b, p. 2). What is so striking, of course, about Jesus’ vision in Q is that his picture of God and consequently of appropriate human behavior is the precise and diametric reverse of this. It is as sublime as the apocalyptic worldview is monstrous.

Imagine, then, that Jesus’ vision had stuck, that rather than being swallowed up by the “Master Story of Western culture” (Ellens, 2007a, p. 4) centered on divine violence, it had become the heart of a new Master Story centered on divine impartial love. What kind of people would that new Master Story have produced? What kind of world might it have produced? So much of the suffering in the world is that which we unnecessarily inflict on each other.  Guided by a narrow sense of self-interest, we cast most people outside the inner circle of our hearts. The lines that mark off the outer circles become rifts in our personal lives and battle lines in our international affairs. The private seed of spite that quietly draws the circles can easily burst forth into full-blown violence, even on a global scale. The painful effects of those circles, then, are all around us.

Those effects define our world. Therefore, in calling us to love our enemies, Jesus was calling us to a different kind of world. Imagine a world in which the multitudes of Jesus’ followers passionately believed that rather than destroying the enemy in God’s name, we should genuinely love the enemy, again in God’s name.

How might the world have been different if this vision had been held onto? How could it be different if this vision were recovered?