By Rudy Barnes, Jr., October 21, 2023
Jesus taught that loving our neighbor extended to loving our enemy (Matthew 5:43-47). Christians believe that if they follow Jesus they can experience a new world in the morning; but hatred has become pervasive in America’s tribal partisan politics; and while Russia and Ukraine are Christian nations, they are enemies at war who have no love for each other.
A plaque on the Army War college in Carlisle, PA, quotes Elihu Root’s assertion in 1901 as the U. S. Secretary of War, that the purpose of America's military is “not to promote war, but to preserve peace.” As a graduate of the Army War College and a retired Army officer, I share Root’s belief that America must be prepared to go to war in order to preserve peace.
A universal civil religion is needed to fill the moral vacuum left by a failed church after a majority of white Christians crucified Jesus on the altar of partisan politics in 2016 by electing a narcissist Donald Trump as President. The altruistic teachings of Jesus provide the moral standards for a universal civil religion that can reconcile America’s corrupted moral culture.
Jesus was a maverick Jewish rabbi who never promoted any religion, not even his own. He was a universalist who never claimed to be divine; and America had a Universalist Christian Church until it merged with the Unitarian Universalists in 1961 and left Christianity with a church that subordinated the universal teachings of Jesus to exclusivist church doctrines on salvation.
Thomas Jefferson provided a precedent for Jesus to be the exemplar for a universal civil religion. He considered the teachings of Jesus as “the most sublime moral code ever designed by man,” but he detested church doctrine. The altruistic moral values taught by Jesus could be a reconciling force for a universal civil religion, but they won’t save an exclusivist church.
The teachings of Jesus are summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors, including those of other races and religions as we love ourselves. It’s a universal common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims that’s taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus, and has been accepted by Islamic scholars. It should be adopted by Jews, Christians and Muslims as the moral foundation for a universal civil religion.
Hatred is at the root of the war between Gaza and Israel, and reconciliation is the only antidote for that hatred. Muhammad considered Jesus a great prophet who should be followed, but rejected his divinity. As a prophet and moral exemplar of God’s Word, the moral teachings of Jesus can reconcile the Abrahamic religions without changing their unique mystical beliefs.
A new world in the morning in America requires a reconciliation of competing cultures. That’s God’s will, while Satan’s will is to divide and conquer. Peace is the province of God’s spiritual domain, and hate is the province of Satan. While the church has failed to promote reconciliation, Satan has done a convincing imitation of God promoting religious hatred and political divisions in the church and politics, and corrupted cultures around the world.
Being 81 years old, I can relate to Roger Whittaker’s, “New World in the Morning”:
Everybody talks about a new world in the morning. A new world in the morning so they say.
I, myself don't talk about a new world in the morning. A new world in the morning, that’s today.
And I can feel a new tomorrow comin' on.
And I don't know why I have to make a song. Everybody talks about a new world in the morning.
New world in the morning takes so long.
I met a man who had a dream he’d had since he was twenty. I met that man when he was eighty-one.
He said too many people just stand and wait until the mornin',
Don't they know tomorrow never comes.
And he would feel a new tomorrow coming on. And when he'd smile his eyes would twinkle up in thought. Everybody talks about a new world in the morning.
New world in the morning never comes.
And I can feel a new tomorrow coming on.
And I don't know why I have to make a song. Everybody talks about a new world in the morning. New world in the morning takes so long.
On Elihu Root, see Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elihu_Root.
Thomas Jefferson wrote Henry Fry on June 17, 1804: "I consider the doctrines of Jesus as delivered by himself to contain the outlines of the sublimest morality that has ever been taught; but I hold in the utmost profound detestation and execration the corruptions of it which have been invested by priestcraft and kingcraft, constituting a conspiracy of church and state against the civil and religious liberties of man." Thomas Jefferson, The Jefferson Bible, edited by O. I. A. Roche, Clarkson H. Potter, Inc., New York, 1964, at p 378; see also Jefferson’s letter to John Adams dated October 13, 1813, at pp 825, 826; Jefferson's commentaries are at pp 325-379. See also, Introduction to The Teachings of Jesus and Muhammad on Morality and Law: The Heart of Legitimacy, at page 10, note 2, posted at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3gvZV8mXUp-aTJubVlISnpQc1U/view. They are compared with those of Muhammad in The Teachings of Jesus and Muhammad on Morality and Law: The Heart of Legitimacy, an interfaith study guide based on Jefferson’s Jesus and is posted in the Resources at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/. The Introduction (pp 10-15) provides an overview of the study guide, and reference to Jefferson’s 1804 letter to Henry Fry is at end note 2 at p 425. On the views of Thomas Jefferson and Alexis deTocqueville on the moral values of religion in American politics, see Religion, Moral Authority and Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/07/religion-moral-authority-and.html.
On the Greatest Commandment as a Common Word of Faith, see
See also, Who Is My Neighbor? at
http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/01/who-is-my-neighbor.html, and Love over Law: A Principle at the Heart of Legitimacy, at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/01/love-over-law-principle-at-heart-of.html.
On universalism, see Musings on Reconciling the Abrahamic Religions with a Common Word of Faith at
http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/01/musings-on-reconciling-abrahamic.html; also, Musings on the Need for Universal Religious Standards of Morality at
Lex talionis is an ancient theological principle in Judaism and Islam that expresses the principle of retribution or reciprocal justice “measure for measure” in personal and national conflicts. See Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_for_an_eye. Jesus took exception to the lex talionis standard of retributive justice in his emphasis on reconciliation rather than retribution.