JUST WHAT ARE GOOD AND EVIL? Radical Bleeding Heart image


Let us examine this shockingly radical idea. (We will look at his other shocking notion — the simple life — in an other place).

The argument against Jesus is that if we were to renounce violence — turn the other cheek — we would capitulate before evil. Good would be destroyed and Satan would be triumphant. This is of course a powerful argument.

But simple truth is on Jesus's side: two wrongs will never make a right. The idea that wrongs can paid for with an equal and opposite wrong is fallacious. It is also dangerous. Currently we deal with law-breakers by brutalizing them for a set period of time and then setting them loose again. And we are shocked when they resume their anti-social ways. It does not occur to us that people do not become better from being brutalized; they become worse.

Giving up retribution does not mean giving up strength and force. We need to stop and restrain those who commit crimes, but we do not need to punish them. (Jesus may have thought that even this should be avoided). George Bernard Shaw, who gave this matter much thought, conceded that there are people whose violent and anti-social ways cannot be reformed. He recommended that we simply kill them, as painlessly and humanely as possible. Not as punishment, but as what might be called euthanasia of the criminally unfit.

People are shocked by this idea. It is curious that people who endorse capital punishment, people who like the idea of inflicting cruel and brutal punishments on criminals, are yet horrified at the thought of such cold-blooded killing. Is it alright to kill someone while filled with hate and bent on cruelty but wrong when it is a deliberate and considered choice of the lesser of two evils (inflicting a wrong on one person rather than let him harm many others)? Or is it moral cowardice?

At all events, seeking roots has led us to a radical proposition: to abandon punishment and retribution in dealing with perceived wrongs. Instead, we should always remember that the goal is simply to stop evil, not to match it. We may not be able to go as far as Jesus asked, but we can acknowledge that he had the right idea. Evil deeds cannot be undone, nor can they be paid for. We cannot atone for our misdeeds; we can only stop doing them.

This is a profound and important truth. It is time that it entered the public discussion. It is time, after more than two thousand years of worshiping His bloody execution, to take Jesus, the deep and gentle teacher, seriously.

Or do we have the courage?

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