January 25, 2012

Booing the Golden Rule

A personal message from Perry Willis, Co-Founder and Vice President of the Downsize DC Foundation

Ron Paul called for a “golden rule for foreign policy” during the recent presidential debate in South Carolina. The audience booed. 

This reaction shocked me, given that most of the people booing were almost certainly Evangelicals. Jesus taught the Golden Rule. Did Christians now hate it? Would Jesus have booed what Ron Paul said? Is there some Christian principle by which Jesus’s teachings DO NOT APPLY to foreign policy, national defense, and the conduct of war?

I called Jim Babka to discuss this. Jim is a believer, and I am not. Still, we agree about many things. We were both shocked that Christians would boo the Golden Rule — IN ANY CONTEXT. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Jim had lots of insight to offer, some of which appears below.

We both think our society has a huge moral failing when it comes to recognizing and condemning state criminality. We both think that the Evangelical community is especially at fault in this regard. Too many Christians support actions by The State that they would condemn as criminal if committed by an individual. In other words, many Christians are moral relativists when it comes to The State.

Jim and I both think that changing this is essential to Downsizing DC.

But we have failed to take action to help cause this change because of FEAR that my fellow NON-BELIEVERS would oppose the project. So I want to ask the non-believers reading this to seriously consider the following questions . . .

Can you achieve your goals if the Christian populace is against you? Does the math work? Are there enough of you to gain what you seek without the aid of your Christian neighbors?

And if you need the help of Christians in order to win, how can you gain that help if you will not talk to them and address their concerns?

If you’re going to talk to them, wouldn’t it be most effective to do so using their own religious language and concepts?

Shouldn’t those of us who are non-believers be the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for a project to encourage Christians to defend the Golden Rule in all things?

Even though I’m a non-believer, I very much want to collaborate with my Christian neighbors in Downsizing DC. I asked Jim to write a “chain-letter” that the Downsize DC Foundation would distribute among Christians as part of our educational mission.

The booing of The Golden Rule during the South Carolina debate is a teachable moment. Jim’s letter addresses this.

Jim was enthusiastic about the goal, but fearful that the non-believers on our list would protest. So that’s the purpose of what you’re reading now — to convince fellow non-believers to support this project.

Jim and I have quite different religious beliefs. But we work together every day to promote shared values. Please join us in this cause.

  • I strongly hope that the non-believers receiving this will embrace Jim’s letter to the Christians, just as I do.
  • And if you’re a Christian then I hope that you’ll help spread Jim’s letter to your fellow believers.

Personally, I think The Golden Rule is a self-evident concept about which believers and non-believers should be able to agree and unite. Let’s make common cause for the defense of this profound principle, which has existed in all societies as far back as we have records. Jim’s epistle to the Christians follows my signature. Please help it to win a large audience. Spread it to every Christian you know. Forward it. Link to it on Facebook and Google+. Tweet about it.

Thank you,

Perry Willis
Co-founder and Vice President
Downsize DC Foundation

Would Jesus Have Booed Ron Paul’s “Golden Rule for Foreign Policy?” by Jim Babka for the Downsize DC Foundation

This is an open letter to my fellow Christians. If it moves you, please share it with other believers. It is intended to be a chain letter, to spread and cause discussion.

Here is The Golden Rule as expressed by Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ . . .

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” And in this instance its “golden” because it “…sums up the Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 7:12 (NIV)]

On Tuesday, January 17, 2012, in the South Carolina Republican debate, candidate Ron Paul said the following…

My point is, if another country does to us what we do others, we’re not going to like it very much. So I would say that maybe we ought to consider a golden rule in foreign policy. [loud boos begin to drown out Paul] Don’t do to other nations what we don’t want to have them do to us. [indecipherable angry shouts can be heard]

The booing stunned me. Maybe it wouldn’t have a while back. Maybe I would’ve booed too. After all…

I was brought up in a fundamentalist church, educated at a Baptist school, thanks to parents who listened to Christian radio. My father was a Goldwater/Reagan Republican. I was a College Republican and a “dittohead” (Rush Limbaugh fan). In my adulthood, I taught Sunday School in two mainstream Evangelical churches.

Therefore, I understand that South Carolina crowd. But there’s no disputing that many of them booed the words of their professed Messiah.

My heart has grown and my mind has transformed. So when the booing happened during the debate, I thought…

“Would Jesus have booed?”Jesus advocated The Golden Rule. Ron Paul advocated applying The Golden Rule. But the Christian crowd booed the words “golden rule.”

Someone committed an error. Was it Jesus? Was it Ron Paul? Or was it the church-going crowd?

Is there any way to defend that mob without rejecting Jesus?

As I said, maybe I too would have booed in the past. I suspect I would’ve justified myself as follows…

  1. The Golden Rule doesn’t apply to government, which according to Romans 13 was given the “power of the sword” to “terrorize evildoers.”
  2. Ron Paul was being naive. These are dangerous Muslim terrorists, and they want to kill innocent Americans. The Golden Rule doesn’t apply to Al Qaeda. They will see meekness as weakness and hurt us some more.

Indeed, according to Romans 13, government leaders are to be a terror to evildoers. The “power of the sword” may be required.

But candidate Paul advocates policies that accord perfectly with Romans 13. He admits that war is sometimes necessary. His only caveat is that Congress must first declare it. Mr. Paul argues that this legal impediment helps to ensure that war is pursued rarely and with sufficient cause. This position has the virtue of being consistent with Christian tradition (Just War) and the Constitution.

But is it somehow naive? And if so, was Jesus naive?

Consider what some call the hardest verses in the Bible, Matthew 5:38-42. They come from the Sermon on the Mount…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”

And these thoughts are echoed in Romans 12:17-20 (see also Proverbs 25:21-22)…

“17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Is this how we conduct our foreign policy? Is this how we defend ourselves? Or is it possible that Jesus knows more about true security than either our politicians or that Christian crowd in South Carolina?

Didn’t our Savior admonish us, AT A MINIMUM, to at least stop for a moment and ponder the following possibility…

  • that listening to our enemies,
  • considering their concerns,
  • and treating them always as we would want to be treated,
  • even going the extra mile with them

. . .  might help them decide that they no longer want to terrorize or attack us? Conversely…

Isn’t it possible that our hyper-aggressive, vengeful approach has actually created more enemies for us than it has killed? Don’t Christ’s words strongly suggest that this is not only possible, but probable?

And haven’t Christians made this mistake before?

Every good Protestant knows that a lot of harm has been done to the reputation of the church due to crusades and inquisitions. But what American Evangelicals don’t seem to know is that in certain other parts of the world the crusades are still underway, AND WE ARE THE CRUSADERS.

Stated differently, millions of Muslims think Christians are not ambassadors of The Gospel (good news). Instead, they view “Christian” America as a military force, intent on occupying and looting.

This problem goes back decades. Our politicians have constantly propped up foreign rulers who are friendly to us, but oppressive and offensive to their people. This has made the American people complicit in the crimes of dictators. It has made people hate us. By contrast…

A Golden Rule foreign policy takes note of the actual motives of your enemy, not the made up propaganda ones like, “They hate us because we’re free.”

Moreover, in the economy of God’s Kingdom — where the last are first, the greatest is the servant, and enemies deserve love — love is a battle strategy! It’s a way to quell your enemies, even to heap coals on their heads.

It’s also the parsimonious method of achieving victory. Lives are saved, literally and spiritually. It avoids the killing of innocents, the death of troops, and the destruction of the bodies and minds of war survivors. And the profiteering of bankers and agents of death are all minimized or eliminated.

Having a Golden Rule foreign policy is not a doe-eyed innocent’s suggestion that suddenly the lion is now ready to lay with the lamb. It’s NOT pacifism. Rather, it’s an assertion that there’s far more war than there needs to be. It’s the faith that a Tower of Babel, full of wise men (politicians), can’t accomplish nearly as much with coercive force as can be achieved following God’s instructions, from Scripture, with grace.

But what if they STILL want to kill us?

Well, even candidate Paul voted to go after Bin Laden following 9/11. Having a Golden Rule foreign policy doesn’t rule out a Congressional declaration of war (something that hasn’t happened since 1941). Sometimes, you have to fight.

But the policy of our current leaders, in BOTH parties, is that we should be LOOKING for fights, until every nation is acting in OUR interests. Listen to the words of the other GOP candidates; you’ll hear it. In the debates, they’ve been especially fond of saying that Pakistan and Afghanistan should be looking out for U.S. interests.

How would we feel if some other power was trying to make us look out for them, instead of our own interests? Oh wait: That’s The Golden Rule popping up again.

You see, we want to be treated a certain way! Jesus taught us to empathize. He said that we must show AT LEAST equal respect to others. But, as you’ve already seen, he actually advocated going even further. He said we should consistently treat people even BETTER than they deserve!

The equal respect part of this — The Golden Rule — is very nearly a universal ethic. It can be found in virtually every major religion and most major philosophical systems. It teaches us, as does nature, that we cannot expect to be treated well if we don’t treat others with decency. That makes The Golden Rule the most practical rule in the world.

It’s a law of reciprocity. But compare it with other forms of reciprocity, like an eye-for-an-eye. The Golden Rule is an ethic that is not only more gracious, but also potentially rich with opportunity. It’s reflected in the words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” when we all know that instead, the man who spoke those words could’ve called ten thousand angels to his aid.

Instead of booing, shouldn’t we pause and prayerfully consider whether our Savior’s wisdom applies?

Who was wrong? Was it Jesus? Ron Paul? Or the Christians who booed the Golden Rule?

I think the answer is obvious. What do you think?

Copyright (c) 2012 by Jim Babka. Permission to distribute this blog post for educational purposes is granted, if done with attribution to the author and the Downsize DC Foundation. Permission to use for commercial purposes is denied.

This message is an educational service of the Downsize DC Foundation. Please share it with others.

If your comment is off-topic for this post, please email us at feedback@downsizedc.org


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