From the Saudi Crown Prince to the Prince of Peace, and Everything In Between

The Saudi Crown Prince, the late Jamal Khashoggi, and the Prince of Peace

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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This past week, we found ourselves viewing the macabre pre-halloween spectacle of the murder of a Saudi national in a Saudi embassy in Turkey, as if it was a play-by-play for a sporting event. I would first like to say that we as a society have now been reduced to being unwilling witnesses to organized international assassination. The best way for all of us to force this intrusion out of our lives is to cancel our subscriptions to cable and satellite TV. But in the meantime, we are faced with the reality that political assassination is a common occurrence in today’s politics. Our own Central Intelligence Agency has been directly linked to at least five political assassinations in the last 5 decades. They are Chilean dictator Salvador Allende, Muammar Khadafy of Libya, Osama Bin Laden of Saudi Arabia, our very own John F. Kennedy, the 37th president of the United States and his younger brother Robert 5 years later. The life sentence currently being served in federal prison by deposed Nicaraguan dictator Manuel Noriega is effectively the sixth instance of the CIA removing someone ‘undesirable’ (meaning, someone who puts people over profits instead of the other way around) from the reigns of power. The same can be said of Servia’s Slobodan Milosevic, who has since died in captivity.

It is American petrodollars that have made the Saudi’s into one of the wealthiest nations on earth. Their capitalist economic system mirrors that of the US. So it should be no surprise when a nation and a people emulate their economic and political fathers by assassinating those who have views and opinions contrary to their own. Just as America has been directly responsible for political assassinations in the past, their proteges the Saudi’s have evidently killed Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, after he entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey. As of this writing, president Trump is blaming “rogue elements” within the Saudi government, mostly because that’s what the Saudi’s are telling the world. Unfortunately for the Saudi’s, the world doesn’t believe them and neither do I. The main reason president Trump is going easy on the Saudi’s — at least for now — is because of his, and the military’s, business interests in that country. We are still citizens of a country that puts profits ahead of people, namely the USA, and which is an accessory to murder if we let the Saudi’s off the hook with respect to Jamal Khashoggi.

Everybody knows that one of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20: 13), which can be translated in modern terms as, “Don’t you dare even think about killing another human being, excluding matters of self defense.” As I sit and contemplate what I just wrote, I cannot think of a single instance when it is OK to kill someone, say, for profit for example. Jesus Christ added to this more than 1,000 years later and clarified it further when he said, “21) “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22) But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23) ‘Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24) leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5: verses 21–24)

I think a better translation of verse 22 would be, ‘Anyone who holds a grudge against, or who refuses to forgive, another person for any reason calls down judgment upon themselves.’ To the same degree they are angry with another, God will show that same anger back to that individual. In that same verse, the word ‘raca’, which is a profane Aramaic term of contempt, calls down God’s judgment for the same reason. “And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” This can be interpreted as an allegedly ‘worthless’ person, because there is no such thing in actuality. There is no way we can say we love God while hating other people all at once (see 1st John 4: 19–20). If we sincerely want to be used by the Lord Almighty for the betterment of his Kingdom, we must be willing to minister to anyone. There is also Biblical scripture that supports being a peace-loving person. Being tranquil and loving, practicing nurturing and compassion, these are ways of living taught by Jesus Himself at the Sermon on the Mount, and it’s in all four gospels. Allow me to quote our Savior in this regard:

You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an 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. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who loved you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: verses 38–48)

But instead, Jesus said this prior to making that last statement, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matt: 5: 7) Is our supposedly Christian nation living by these standards and obeying the commands of Jesus Christ? Quite the contrary, the US “leadership” and its military-industrial complex are embroiled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more recently in Yemen and Libya, and has been playing the role of global policeman since the 1940’s. For the last year or two, the Pentagon has been muttering about “regime change” in Syria and Iran. Maybe what America needs is some regime change at home instead of abroad. The Deep State, the Federal Reserve, the ‘alphabet soup’ spy and law enforcement agencies, and the Pentagon all need to either be done away with or merged and right-sized into something smaller and more accountable. Osama Bin Laden died long ago. The Drug War is an utter failure. And the Pentagon’s ultimate creation, the Saudi “royal family”, has morphed into a murderous monstrosity.

One Sunday night nearly a decade ago, I watched the news as it crescendoed around the president’s speech declaring the death of Osama bin Laden. The talking heads worked capably with what few details they had. On the split screen, familiar spliced video footage replayed what little most of us know — or care to know — about bin Laden: wearing a turban, sitting drinking tea, a long salt and pepper beard, speaking to friends, crouching holding a machine gun, skyscrapers smoking. Blah, blah, blah. Twitter gave a way to take the public temperature. Some passed information without editorial: “Bin Laden is dead!” Others tried to score political points: “took Obama 2 years to do what Bush couldn’t do in 7,” or “THAT’S a ‘mission accomplished.’” Reports said impromptu crowds gathered in front of the White House and at Ground Zero exuberantly chanting “USA! USA!,” singing our anthem. Others — like myself — retorted that they would not celebrate any person’s death, no matter who it was. Still others retrieved reams of unsettling data about what it has cost us to find and kill bin Laden, in dollars and human lives.

Finally, from those with an intimate connection to the innocents of 9/11, there were tweets about tears. Tears of relief? Tears because the news dragged them back to the still-tender memories of a 9/11? Yes and yes. All of these responses are authentic for a Christian who lives in America. Bin Laden has had more influence in the last decade over the way we live our lives than any other person. He was a wedge in our politics, he disrupted our ability to come and go freely; he triggered a vast global security and surveillance apparatus. He was directly or indirectly the focus of two Middle Eastern wars that affected the material well-being and peace of mind of millions here in America and across the world. He desecrated Islam and radicalized Christianity, making some Christians more enthusiastic about military action than they might have been otherwise, while making others more enthusiastic about trying to find peaceful solutions to global problems. He robbed people of mothers and fathers, took away their children. He made a whole nation feel vulnerable and fearful of unpredictable catastrophic violence.

One thing we might do well today is give permission to each other to feel all of the things that we might be feeling. There was no one manner by which to respond to Bin Laden’s death, because his life impacted all of us, sometimes in radically divergent ways. Beyond our feelings, we might also spend time considering our Lord’s call to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. This is not easy. If we call ourselves Americans as well as Christians, we may feel a strong civic sense that what our government did in our name was the embodiment of public justice. But our political identity and our identity as followers of Jesus are rarely reconcilable. Jesus did not meet enemies with violence. He asserted that the way to loose ourselves of our enemies was, counter-intuitively, by loving them and forgiving them — by wanting God’s best for them and believing in the Holy Spirit’s power to convert any person to faithful obedience. Jesus implied that if the Spirit does not convert them to goodness in this life, any judgment of their deeds is to be left in the hands of their creator — God alone. Our job is to never cease praying that they receive God’s blessing.

In a way, I am not surprised by news of Jamal Khashoggi’s death at the hands of the Saudi’s. By becoming their sponsors on the world scene, mainly with respect to oil, in my eyes, bin Laden and the American Empire died long ago. We have died to goodness; we have died to mercy; we have died to peace. We have died to the things that God cares most about. Jamal Khashoggi was alive until this week — but we died to life a long time ago for being the sponsors of those who murdered him. I have wondered over the years about the confounding ability of human beings to resist the love of God. I wonder about these things for Jamal Khashoggi, and I wonder about the same things with respect to my own life. Today, as I have many days before, I pray for my enemy, the US military-industrial complex. I pray them all into the hands of the God of Justice and of Mercy.

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Rev. Paul J. Bern is a Web pastor and blogger on The Social Gospel Blog on Medium, Wordpress and others. Longtime Atlanta Ga. resident; stroke survivor, coach

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Pastor Paul J Bern

Pastor Paul J Bern

Rev. Paul J. Bern is a Web pastor and blogger on The Social Gospel Blog on Medium, Wordpress and others. Longtime Atlanta Ga. resident; stroke survivor, coach

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