Tell Me Again, How Does Evil Triumph?
“I don’t know how to answer that question. Some ministries are called to fight, and some are not.”
Indeed I respect his response that not all ministries are blessed with the charism of activism. The Little Sisters of the Poor were certainly not born to champion the cause of religious freedom. Yet, these little nuns have raised a battle cry in the wake of the recent HHS mandate that has now reached the ears of the Supreme Court.
Responding to evil with passivity can often be misconstrued as pious or virtuous. I recall listening to a radio show that was discussing Just War Theory, and asking whether or not a person is ever morally obligated to fight. A man called in who stated that Christ advocated non-violence, and his call to “turn the other cheek” meant that we are called to meet violence with love, therefore making it never appropriate to fight.
The guest speaker responded with a hypothetical situation, saying,
“So how would you approach this given scenario? It’s the middle of the night, and an intruder breaks into your home with the intent to do harm to your family. He’s armed, and you have a loaded pistol. He is high on something and unable to respond to any reasonable dialogue, but his intentions to harm your wife and children are clear. What do you do?”
The caller, a husband and father, went back and forth trying to avoid the obvious moral dilemma put in front of him: Do you fight the man, possibly killing him to stop him from harming your family, or do you choose not to fight and allow him to rape and murder your wife and kids? You can believe the host’s shock when the caller presumptuously responded, “I’d let him do what he wishes. My family and I are ready to go to heaven, and obviously he is not.”
Is this manly? Is this courageous? Is this virtuous or loving?
In no way do I advocate that our default response to conflict be to take up arms and brandish some brass knuckles. But we also cannot use Christ’s gospel of loving our enemy or turn the other cheek to hide from Christ’s other call to resist evil. Turning the other cheek, if we view Christ’s words in the historical and cultural context of the time, has a deeper meaning about upholding our dignity before an aggressor. A person in the time of Christ would never touch a man with his left hand, which was customarily used to wipe his backside. Therefore, he would be left with his right hand strike someone, using the back of his hand to symbolize superiority. Turning the other cheek would force the aggressor to strike you with his open palm, defying his attempt to subjugate you. In this context, the message communicates not only the invitation to refrain from escalating a violent situation with violence, but also a call to preserve your dignity before an aggressor and refuse to be a doormat.
So, are some men or ministries called to fight and others not? I know what the Little Sisters of the Poor would say. Discerning which battles to enter, on that note, must be of course waged with great prayer and wisdom. But, passivity is a great sin, a product of lukewarm indifference, and as Christ spoke to St. Faustina, these lukewarm souls wound His heart most painfully!
While we have countless men we remember for their courage to speak truth to power, there is a man in human history who will forever be remembered for his passivity. His name is Pontius Pilot, and his legacy will forever be the only person named at every Sunday mass throughout the world for his role in crucifying Christ.
Light up the darkness!