Faith opinion: ‘God is on our side’
Isaiah 45: 4-6: “It is for the sake of my servant Jacob and of Israel … that I have called you by your name, have given you a title though you do not know me” (v. 4)
Matthew 22: 15-22: “‘Give us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ [Jesus replied] ‘Show me the money you pay the tax with.’ They handed him a denarius, and he said, ‘Whose portrait is this? Whose title?’ They replied, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Very well, pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar — and God what belongs to God.’” (vv. 17, 19-21)
— New Jerusalem Bible
Whose “side” was God on in the National League pennant race? Well, I had hoped that God was on the “side” of the Milwaukee Brewers, but it looked like He wasn’t. All kidding aside, let us look at this business of “sides.”
“God is on OUR side” has been the claim of warring nations throughout history. That means God is placed on BOTH sides of the battle. Doesn’t that sound a bit hypocritical? And, if you question anyone who says that “God is on OUR side,” you are immediately branded as a heretic or as unpatriotic.
Every time I hear someone say that, I get very uncomfortable. After all, we are supposed to believe that every human person is a child of God, and that God loves us all.
We know that war is justifiable if military defense is necessary, especially with 9/11. But it is difficult for us humans to try and love everyone. As Samuel Coleridge, a British author wrote: “I love all mankind. It’s just a few individuals I cannot stand!” Loving my neighbor can be uncomfortable!
Speaking of discomfort, let us look at Isaiah: He had to remind his listeners that God used King Cyrus, a pagan, to deliver His Chosen People back to their homeland. That was a disturbing message for the Jews (Isaiah 45:4-6). And the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus into saying something against either God or against the Roman conquerors. Jesus avoided that trap when he showed that there is more involved in being a good citizen and also being true to the faith. (Matthew 22:15-22)
There is nothing wrong with maintaining high moral standards in political situations. Jesus and the prophets before him (like Isaiah) stood against the political powers of their times. Mother Theresa of Calcutta violated India’s caste system by caring for all the dying, regardless of social status. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached high moral standards, challenging the political leaders of his day. Those who stood up against the injustices of Saddam Hussein, Pho Pat and Iddi Amin were assassinated by those leaders’ henchmen.
High Christian moral standards are being challenged today by the “Pharisees” of our society. This does not mean that we condemn those who commit these sins. Abortion kills innocent human persons; homosexual and lesbian “marriages” violate the natural law of human behavior and the definition of marriage that has existed for centuries, regardless of the sense of commitment; physician-assisted suicide is legal in two states; and the federal health care law of 2010 violates several federal laws protecting freedom of conscience.
I repeat: This does not mean we condemn those who commit these sins. And it is so easy to condemn others! Christ accepted the public sinners of his day as children of God, but did not approve of their sins. As followers of Christ, we must do the same. By using the force of war or immoral laws against high moral standards, we stray from the gospel message respecting the dignity of all human persons. Our political obligations and duties as citizens are not to be confused with our obligation to God. God is on the side of righteousness, not political correctness and expediency. (I still wish He had been on the Milwaukee Brewers’ side!)
This column is the opinion of Father Eric Wiseman, parochial vicar at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Eagle River.