It was her instant answer to the question I posed to the group of young Christians. She didn't hesitate for even three seconds.
"Outrage," she said.
The question was this: If instead of his speech to Congress after 9/11 in which President Bush had promised to find and bring the cowardly killers to "justice" (usually code for "war"), suppose President Bush had instead proposed a different way forward. Suppose he had read the Beatitudes instead. What would have been the reaction?"
"Outrage," was the one-word answer.
No one in the group offered a different assessment. It seemed that I had tapped a category of thought so alien to us that it was as empty as the near-vacuum of space.
Last Tuesday, word leaked out that some Q'urans and other Islamic religious materials had been burned in a fire pit used to dispose of garbage and other refuse outside Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
There was immediate and predictable outrage. At least 28 people are known dead, hundreds more wounded. For many in the impoverished land of Afghanistan, the routine of life has been brought to a complete halt.
Thursday, two Americans were killed in retaliation. Yesterday, two more Americans were shot dead right at their desks in the Interior Ministry. They have families somewhere. So do the soldiers now on even higher alert. These soldiers' job had become much more difficult, if not impossible.
How did the books come to be fuel for a garbage fire? How was the decision made? Were they torn up fragments being given a dignified disposal by fire as one is to do with a torn U.S. flag? Would anyone consider burning a U.S. flag in need of retirement along with food scraps, packing material and other wastes?
No. We would be outraged.
But outrage leads only to more outrage.
That is, unless the cycle is somehow broken by responding another way. Jesus spoke the Beatitudes for a reason. It wasn't to show off a class writing project the he himself was going to read for a project--and then never pay attention to again.
The Beatitudes weren't a liberal coward's way out of the hard questions of life: great in theory but absolutely no traction on the road of life.
They are the word of God spoken by none other than the Word of God.
There's enough outrage to last eons.
Maybe a different kind would be nice to try for a change.
Why haven't we taken Jesus more seriously? At his word...?
That's, well... an outrage.