About a decade ago, I wrote a newspaper column offering a theological critique of Promise Keepers, the then-massive Christian men’s movement. Within a few days, negative mail (remember letters?) swamped my office. One missive proved especially memorable: “Dear Diana, Promise Keepers is all about love, you b—-!”
When I became a writer, perhaps nothing surprised me as much as such attacks. Public figures—reporters, writers, politicians, pastors, and yes, military generals—are on the receiving end of negative criticism on an almost daily basis. Although it isn’t fun, it is part of the job. Some of my friends say I have tough skin. Not really. I’ve learned that Jesus has something important to say about the rough-and-tumble of public exchange: Turn the other cheek. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.
Nobody ever suggested that the city council pass a resolution condemning the letter-writers—including the less-than-flattering letters that appeared in the local newspaper. No, I was left with my own spiritual resources to forgive those who attacked me.
I imagine that General Petraeus is a nice Christian gentleman, as are most of the military officers I know. And I also suspect that he has survived public and private criticism worse than the recent MoveOn.org ad. He did not need a Senate resolution to defend his honor or his achievements, as such things speak for themselves. And, if he is anything like other Christians who are leaders, he has long since learned the wisdom of Jesus’ dictum to turn the other cheek. Maybe he even prays for his enemies. I bet he can spiritually and morally stand up for himself.
This week’s Senate resolution was raw politics, as raw as the MoveOn ad itself, as they deftly moved the issue away from the war to a political ad sponsored by private citizens. Coming from the Senate, a body that depicts itself as above the fray, it proved particularly tasteless—and more than a little shocking—that the senators took time away from important issues to criticize the free speech rights of a political organization, no matter how unseemly the fashion by which those rights were exercised.
During the same week that the Senate passed a resolution to condemn an ad attacking a man who is clearly capable of defending himself, they failed to pass three separate resolutions with plans to end the war in Iraq. The Senate needs to stop playing politics and get the job done for which we elected them: to work on issues of health care, poverty, environmentalism, and to end the war. Senators, let us turn our own cheeks. As for you, it is time for you to move on with America’s business.
Diana Butler Bass (www.dianabutlerbass.com) is a regular God’s Politics blogger and the author of Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (HarperOne, 2006).