THE FAR-RIGHT’S RELATIVISM
The Far-Right talks absolutes. It believes that every word in the Bible is the word of God and thus is inerrant. It also believes that Jesus is the Son of God and of the same substance as God, the Father. Therefore, the Bible is a composite of absolutes. The Far-Right scolds the Liberal-Left and dubs its situational ethics and its lack of reverence for divine absolutes—as relativism. But on some issues even ultra-conservatives deal in relativism.
Gary Bauer, a former Republican presidential candidate and Christian, in response to the question “Would Jesus Torture?” answered as follows: “There are a lot of things Jesus wouldn’t do because he is the son of God. I can’t imagine Jesus being a Marine or a policeman or a bank president, for that matter. The more appropriate question is, ‘What is a follower of Jesus permitted to do?’” Bauer’s answer: “It depends.”
What does it depend upon? Bauer believes that if the suspect is not a soldier but a terrorist who may have knowledge of an impending attack, then he believes that water-boarding is appropriate and that, even though it simulates drowning, is not torture.
Where are the words of God? Where are the moral absolutes? Bauer jettisoned them when he premised that Jesus was God and what Jesus would do was not relevant to the issue. Why are not the absolutes of the Sermon on the Mount pertinent to the issue of torture? They are not relevant to the Far-right because they are so morally challenging and so totally contrary to conservatives’ politics. Thus, conservatives must neutralize them with sophistry. What Republican would give his riches to the poor and follow Jesus’ way? Or would advocate turning the other cheek as a principle of international relations?
In both the Gospel of Matthew and Luke, Jesus takes to a mount and teaches a sublime morality. Whether he was God’s son or just a man with a moral message, he is the foundation of Christianity. But Christians fall over themselves in working for and supporting the display of the Hebrew Bible’s Ten Commandants on public or private land. However, it is egregiously strange that Christians do not work for and support the display of the Beatitudes or want to build a monument on Mt. Everest or on any mountain or in any public square displaying the tenets of the Sermon on the Mount. Why?
Well, the why is easily answered by just a few words from the Sermon: Jesus blessed the meek, the merciful and the peacemakers; he said one should not only not kill but not be angry with his brother; he said that one should not only not commit adultery but that he should not look upon woman with lust; he said eye for an eye should no longer be the law but it should be turn the other cheek, do good for evil and love your enemies and those that hate you; he said when giving alms, let not the left hand know what the right hand does; when praying go to a closet and shut the door; he said no man should swear an oath for any reason; he said that no man can serve two masters; he said judge not, lest one be judged by his judgment; and he said to him who would be perfect that he should give all that he has to the poor and follow him.
But to Bauer and the Christians of the Right, the Sermon apparently is just so much God talk and not to be introduced as an inerrant way into humankind’s marketplaces, politics and homes It is what God and his son taught but what they taught is to be guides and laws to Christian men and women—only under certain circumstances. To conservatives when they try to bridal liberals with their absolutes the words are absolutes but when they are faced with them they take the tack that it depends.
Bauer’s surrender to the call of relativism is not a first. In fact, one can go back to St. Paul and learn that he set aside conforming to the Sermon for salvation and premised that the way to salvation was through justification by faith. Not doing good works, not turning the other cheek and so forth, but just believing in Christ’s death and resurrection.
Paul differed with Matthews. Paul taught that followers of Jesus did not have to keep the law of the Jews but were justified by faith. Matthew’s Jesus taught differently: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
Martin Luther read the Sermon, looked into his heart and soul and agonized over his lack of moral will to abide by it. So, he compromised and settled for faith as the way to salvation rather than doing good works and walking the extra mile. It was the Creed’s victory over the Sermon.
The church fathers long ago recognized that a church based on the Sermon would never flourish because to abide by it would mandate, among other moral challenges, serving God and denying Mammon. So they evolved the Creed and made Jesus a God so that they could avoid the challenge of the Sermon and abide by the Creed, which required no moral sweat, in order to be saved and know eternal life.
Would Jesus torture? If there was such a man and if he taught what the Gospels declare he taught and lived, then without question, he would not torture. There would be no equivocation and no dependence upon circumstances.