'Patriotism is Not Enough' by Peter J. Gomes
POLLS SHOW that most Americans, frustrated, alas, by the ephemeral character of the "war on terrorism" and still angry and confused about Sept. 11, 2001, want to do something. As we know, however, in angry, vengeful moments, the desire to do "something" is easily translated into the will to do "anything," and that "anything" may very well be the wrong thing. Bombing Iraq into oblivion as payback to those who have done us injury at this moment seems to me to be the wrong thing to do. Polls do not get at the truth. Thirty-five years ago, most polls showed significant majorities in favor of whatever it was we were doing in Vietnam, and eventually the majority in favor concluded that the minority opposed were, in fact, right. Polls simply tell us where we are, not where we ought to be.
The gospel, however, does tell us where we ought to be, tough, untenable, and difficult as that place may be. Love, justice, and righteousness are superior to wisdom, might, and riches. How often do we have to be told that? "And these are God's words," says Paul at the end of Romans 12: "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head." Don't allow yourself to be overpowered with evil: Take the offensive and overpower evil with good. That is what Paul is saying: Take the offensive: Overpower evil with good! Now that is a radical foreign policy. That would scare the bejesus out of a lot of people, to know that with all of our power we decided that we were going to overpower evil with good—and what a topsy-turvy world this would be! That should give all the hawks in Washington something to think about, that if they want us to be noticed, the world would notice us if we took seriously the idea of overpowering evil with good.