Democracy and “Turning the Other Cheek”
We advocates for compassionate immigration reform eagerly await a bill to be introduced in the U.S. Senate as early as this week. We’ve memorized the talking points, imploring people of faith to “welcome the stranger” among us. Now we’ll see the results of a national dialogue that has informed the work of the Senate’s “gang of 8.” That, of course, is not the end of the story.
Now comes the arduous process of committee work and consensus building. Legislators’ constituents continue to have a say along the way. It’s the democratic process.
I think it’s easy to take that process for granted. Democracy, as defined by American Heritage Dictionary is (1) government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives, (2) a political or social unit that has such a government, (3) the common people, considered as the primary source of political power, (4) majority rule, (5) the principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.” Respect for the individual. Social equality.
As we collaborate in our various groups about immigration reform, I pray that we remember to be civil, to simply ask ourselves these questions before we speak or write: (1) Is it kind? (2) Is it true? (3) Is it necessary?
As a Christian, I fail miserably sometimes at being kind, especially if I feel someone is being unkind to me. It takes a lot of emotional energy to both listen and speak up with those with whom I disagree. The Christian teaching of “turn the other cheek” edifies me:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5: 38-42.
In Jesus’ time, “Do not resist” meant to not retaliate violently. Being struck on the right cheek, backhanded, was considered a form of dominance. By turning the left cheek, one is neither fighting back nor accepting the abuse; he or she is asking for more. This calls attention to the bullying behavior and the system that allows it.
Politics can be brutal. There are times when I want to turn my attention to less difficult projects. Then, I see the hopeful faces of our undocumented brothers and sisters and ask myself the trite (but important) question “What would Jesus do?”
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