When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he deliberately avoided becoming part of the cycle of violence.

When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he deliberately avoided becoming part of the cycle of violence.

April 6, 2015
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Christians must respond to fear the way Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, says Texas ethicist and author Scott Bader-Saye.

Despite his fear of being tortured and dying on the cross, Jesus did not fight the soldiers who came to pick him up but chose a less confrontational path, Bader-Sayer said at the ecumenical Social Justice Institute at Newman Theological College.

The ethicist said Jesus' example can be used to confront all sources of fear, individual and collective, including school shootings and racial tension, both seemingly rampant in the United States.

The March 27-28 institute brought together people of various Christian churches. Bader-Saye, an ethicist at the Seminary of the Southwest, an Episcopalian school in Austin, Texas, spoke about doing justice in a culture of fear during the two-day event. He is the author of the book Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear.

At Gethsemane, Jesus felt fear for the first time, he said. Afraid as he was, Jesus refused to find a quick way to save his own life. When Peter took out his sword to defend him, Jesus stopped him and ordered him to put it back, saying, "All who take the sword would perish by the sword."

Jesus told Peter he could have overpowered the soldiers in a minute had he wanted to. He didn't do it because he had chosen a different path. Peter wanted a dramatic response to an evil that was about to occur. Jesus, however, didn't think violence was the way to announce his kingdom.

PART OF THE CYCLE

In effect, Jesus said, "If I announce my kingdom through violence then I'm just going to be part of that cycle. This is not how my kingdom is going to be enacted. The end of my kingdom is that people may live in peace and reconciliation and therefore I can't use means that compromise the end of what I'm seeking."

In short, Jesus decided to take a path that Bader-Saye called courageous ordinary. "He was committed to this path that looked pretty ordinary; it looked like weakness."

As a result, he would be tortured and unjustly executed. "So in that moment, he showed us what it would look like to follow him."

Scott Bader-Sayer spoke on Doing Justice in a Culture of Fear at the ecumenical Social Justice Institute at Newman Theological College.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Scott Bader-Sayer spoke on Doing Justice in a Culture of Fear at the ecumenical Social Justice Institute at Newman Theological College.

Peter's way, which Bader-Saye described as heroic drama, is to do one big act in which everything gets fixed. "But most of the time that act involves some type of coercion where we force others to do the right thing."

THE LONG VIEW

But the path Jesus chose is a path that took the long view. "In fact, it is a very long view; we are 2,000 years plus working out that redemption that Jesus brought us through the cross and resurrection," Bader-Saye said.

"Jesus could have said 'Alright, I'm going to end it. I'm going to destroy evil and things would be good.' Instead, he decided to open up a path and then invited people in."

In short, Jesus took the harder path, which is what Martin Luther King, Jr. implied when he said, "The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. And so we keep going. We press on because we believe that."

U.S. government statistics show that the main causes of death among young people between five and 24 are unintentional injury, suicide and homicide. Between one and two per cent of all homicides happen at school. School shootings, one of the main sources of fear among Americans, are responsible for just 0.6 per cent of all deaths.

ARMED GUARDS

"Nevertheless, we are putting all our time, energy and resources into making schools safe," lamented Bader-Saye. "The tendency here is toward a heroic response. It's all about keeping the school buildings safe by hiring armed guards or arming the teachers. It's a lot like Peter drawing his sword."

In his view, "the courageous ordinary response to this issue might be addressing mental health issues among young people, putting more priority on treatment of mental issues for those most likely to do this and addressing suicide.

"Actively working toward suicide prevention, working against bullying in schools and dealing with some of the poverty and hopelessness that drives youth to feel like they have nothing to lose looks a lot more like the path chosen by Jesus (than arming the schools)," he said.