Today we face an epidemic of wounded bullies who resort to tactics of warfare (violence, threat of violence, propaganda, censorship, espionage, diversionary actions, attacks and counterattacks, toxic weapons of individual as well as mass destruction of persons, social standing and property rights, etc.). With the encouragement of a culture that mistakes violence as means of promoting safety, they impose their agendas of physical and emotional dominance within our homes, neighborhoods, communities, nations and world. In wrapping themselves in verbal cloaks of self-justifying excuses, they claim as their back-up authority extreme misrepresentations of religious texts, Constitutional provisions, laws and other verbiage that is readily subject to distortion by angry men and women. And few in their audiences bother to study the true nature of the cited religion, Constitution, laws and other source of justification to discover how completely the bullies are distorting these revered sources.
As anger clouds their reason, bullies seek reverence by association, being unable to feel secure in it for themselves directly. In truth, they use such revered sources to avoid being aware of guilt and shame they carry in hidden places in their hearts and minds. While citing external authority for their actions, they know in their hearts that they lack legitimate authority. Grievously wounded in childhood, bullies turn the tables and do unto others as was done unto them until they experience healing and restoration to sanity.
We call some of these bullies “radicals” or “extremists.” In fact, all bullies are radically afraid and extremely wrong in their misguided approach to problem solving. Their fear of failure drives them to stamp out all forms of accountability by which their failures might come to light. Theirs is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fear is their deepest truth. It drives them insane with shame to even consider that their inner pain and turmoil would ever become public knowledge because they view personal struggles and the honesty and humility needed to address them as signs of weakness. They fear the stigma of being publicly pointed out to be mistaken and deprived of the social acclaim they so desperately crave. They are the “heroes” who master the art of ridicule and scapegoating of anyone who dares to disagree with them. Having mastered this art, they fear now that it will be used against them by others who seek to dethrone them and become society’s alternate heroes (“good ones”).
Radical or extremist Christianity offers the true alternative to this self-fulfilling prophecy by offering the model of Jesus’ life and his principles that everyone can put into practice. Anyone can follow Jesus’ example and put his principles into practice to alleviate the pain others suffer in silence and open the door to reconciliation between bullies and those they have bullied. There need be no guilt or stigma for being mistaken nor guilt or stigma for having inflicted, silently condoned or fearfully tolerated violence in any form upon anyone. Jesus calls his followers to release everyone from guilt and shame by mastering the art of unconditional love, with its reconciling tools of repentance, forgiveness and acceptance within relationships that set us free from any and all misguided ideas we ever adopted as alternatives to truth.
Radical Christianity can be practiced not merely to first do no harm but to secondly undo harm (heal). To practice radical Christianity requires that all who have endured harm in any way become masters of the art of unconditional love and grow to apply it in every single circumstance in his or her life, without exception. Jesus did that. We can also do that. We can become aware that all forms of harm done to us are birthed within pain in those who seemed to have harmed us. We can become aware that all seeming attacks upon us are cries for love – cries to be released from guilt and shame. And we can reach within ourselves to find the wellspring of unconditional love that flows there and offer endless cups of refreshing restoration to innocence to all who seek it from us.
Do we have to wait until someone recognizes his or her own mistake or attack as regrettable before we release him or her from its karmic consequence? No. We can release as immediately as we become aware of feeling the pain that signals we are in the presence of a carrier of pain. As Jesus declared from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” we can similarly call upon Abba, Father, to shower blessings not curses upon those who spitefully use us — whether by intention or by ignorance. We who have ever been social scapegoats at the hands of society’s heroes stand in the most favorable position to invoke the same authority and power that Jesus exercised throughout his life. In Isaiah 53:3, the Bible tells us that Jesus “was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.” Likely having even anticipated that feature of his ministry on Earth, Jesus nevertheless prayed in the garden of Gethsemane (as well as other times most likely) for the power to do God’s will and not shirk the opportunity to demonstrate God’s power to bring forth new life from the grave mistakes we are all capable of making.
Let us consider Jesus’ example and assess our own lives for the opportunities we have to follow in his footsteps in radical ways, not just to the cross but beyond it and the tomb. We who have been scapegoats have already experienced the cross and the tomb. What now presents itself to us for our exercise is the power of the resurrection and new life. God offers it both to scapegoats and bullies alike. We who have been scapegoats have every reason to feel empathy and compassion for the bullies because we know the experience they will pass through in order to be free of their self-inflicted guilt and shame. We hold the keys to their hell on Earth. As keepers of the peace, we must use those keys wisely and widely without regard to persons on account of any criteria by which those who do not yet know Jesus nor follow him radically may judge and condemn us or others. We release ourselves from the remnants of our own hells on Earth when we release others from theirs.
Is it not time to set ourselves free by setting others free? That’s how the Golden Rule works at this radical extreme in society’s need for an end to interpersonal violence and planetary exploitation.
© Art Nicol 2017