Democratic presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards told an interviewer from the religious website beliefnet.com that Jesus "would be disappointed" at how little Americans help the destitute who live among them. Jesus, Mr. Edwards said, "would be appalled" at our selfishness.
In the view of John Edwards and other Christians on the Left, Jesus would raise taxes, promote single-payer, i.e., socialized, medicine, be pro-choice and advocate same-sex marriage. But most of all, Jesus would be anti-war, opposed to the military and essentially be a pacifist.
This is based largely on one of His most famous statements: "Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."
The flaw in interpreting such statements as policy statements on how a nation should behave is that Jesus was speaking about the life of the individual -- the micro -- not about nations and the macro.
This confusion of micro and macro morality not only afflicts the Left, it also afflicts the Right. One example is when religious conservatives equate public and private cursing. While ideally one should refrain from using expletives in private as well as in public, there is no moral comparison between using such words in private conversations and using them in public. One trusts that if a religious conservative overheard a teacher using an expletive in a quiet conversation with one other person, he would not compare such speech to the teacher's using that expletive while teaching a class. The first may be a personal sin, but the second is destructive of society.
Nevertheless it is the Left that is most oblivious to the distinction between the micro and the macro. Its understanding of Jesus is a good example. The Left would have us as a nation put this admonition of Jesus into practice: "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."
But Jesus was clearly referring to interpersonal relations. It is critically important when trying to understand any portion of the Bible or any other text to read a passage within the context of the surrounding material. As biblical commentaries often put it, "Context is king."
Noting what precedes and what follows this verse shows that it deals with attitudes and behaviors of individuals in such matters as anger against another individual in one's personal life, adultery, divorce, oath-taking, giving to the poor, prayer, fasting, prioritizing, worrying, etc. Jesus was talking about interpersonal relations and noted that in our relations with people in our lives, it is not generally a good idea to hit back.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”