From brother to enemy

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Army basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C.

We’re at the 100 year anniversary of the War to End All Wars; somehow I don’t think that concept worked so well.

Yesterday, a Cuban friend posted on Facebook a picture of his younger brother, who is performing his compulsory military service. My friend asked for prayers for his brother.

I looked into the face of the young man that I knew from numerous youth conferences, and I was moved. Moved by the thought that, for many of my brothers in Christ, this young man’s status could change from “brother” to “enemy” at the stroke of a politician’s pen. From being one to be hugged and loved, he would become another target to be shot at. All because someone in Washington D.C declared war on another country.

I can’t wrap my mind around it. “At least he’d go to heaven if he were killed,” is the reply I’ve received. And it doesn’t ease my pain.

Fortunately, Cuban troops rarely see action. But we know these things can change. It’s been a mere three decades since U.S. troops last killed Cuban forces (on the island of Grenada). It only takes a few politicians (or just one, if he’s president) to decide it needs to be done.

Of course, we all have full faith in every decision made by our Congress and our President. Don’t we?

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Desiree N. Palacios

Christians being killed

We hear stories of persecuted Christians around the world. They’re troubling to me, as I’m sure they are to you. It’s awful to think of people dying for their religious beliefs.

It’s puzzling to me, however, when I discuss war with other Christians and bring up the subject of Christians killing other Christians because they belong to another nation; “That’s just what happens,” I’m told.

Sorry. I’m as troubled by the one as I am by the other. I don’t believe in Christians being killed for their faith. I don’t believe in Christians killing for their faith. And I don’t believe in Christians doing for a nation of this world what’s wrong to do for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Greg Boyd on pacifism and government

Sy-mapI posted a link the other day to an article by Greg Boyd discussing what he (a pacifist) would say to the president about Syria. He raised some interesting points. I’m not sure that I’m in full agreement, but they seemed worthy of discussion. Here are some of the main ideas:

The first thing I’ll say is that I don’t believe that being a kingdom pacifist (viz. on who swears off violence out of obedience to Jesus) means that one must embrace the conviction that governments are supposed to embrace pacifism.… I don’t believe Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on the need for disciples to adopt an enemy-loving, non-violent lifestyle was ever intended to serve as a mandate for how governments are supposed to respond to evil.

The important point for us to see is that Paul forbids disciples to ever engage in the very activity he says God uses governments to accomplish – namely, taking vengeance (ekdikēsis). We are to leave “all vengeance to God,” in other words, and one of the ways God takes “vengeance” is by using sword-wielding governments.

I believe this teaching implies that there are “sword-wielding” offices in government that disciples simply can’t hold. But I think it’s a complete misunderstanding to think that kingdom pacifism entails that disciples should try to get their government to adopt a pacifist position. This is treating the government as if it were the church!

Since our government has (almost) always been committed to the just-war principle that violence should be used only as a last resort, I’d first press him on the question of whether or not we are absolutely certain Assad is guilty of having engaged in the atrocity he is being accused of.

Moreover, I’d encourage Obama to seriously take a careful look at what the long-term fallout of a violent intervention will be. While violence always looks like a solution in the short run, it turns out to only lead to an escalation of violence in the long run.

Finally, if Obama solicited my advice, I’d inquire if all other avenues of resolving this crisis have really been exhausted. Have we exhausted all attempts to achieve a diplomatic solution with Assad? Have we exhausted all attempts to dialogue with him and/or with his allies?

And if Obama answered “yes” to all these questions, I’d ask him if he’d allow me to ask one further, slightly more personal, question: “Brother Obama, as a professing follower of Jesus, how do you reconcile your position as Commander in Chief with your allegiance to Christ?”

I want to explore that final quote a bit more, but first, I’d like to hear your reactions to Boyd’s ideas. Is he right in saying that God wants Christians to act one way and countries another? Is there a difference in what he expects of government leaders and what he expects of ordinary Christians?

Leaving Meshech, abandoning Kedar

dronesBombs going off in Boston. Stabbings at a college in Texas. Bullets ending the lives of children in Connecticut. Unmanned aircraft dropping bombs on unsuspecting Afghans.

Heads of state threatening to unleash nuclear war. Terrorists calling for murder on a grand scale. Nations attacking others over land disputes that go back hundreds and even thousands of years.

Holy men calling for jihad. Christian leaders calling for the death of other human beings. Men taking up swords and guns in the name of the holy God.

“Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” (Psalms 120:5–7)

The first psalm in the Psalms of Ascent states the problem well: we are living in Meshech or in Kedar, far from God’s holy city. The third psalm in the group reminds us of where we want to be:

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”” (Psalms 122:1)

We don’t want to live in Meshech any more. We’re sick of Kedar. We long to go to the presence of the Lord.

Then let our songs abound,
and every tear be dry;
we’re marching through Emmanuel’s ground,
we’re marching through Emmanuel’s ground,
to fairer worlds on high,
to fairer worlds on high.

We’re marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful Zion;
We’re marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God.

No more speaking up for evil

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOK, I want to go back to a recurring theme on this blog, the idea of speaking to the political system from outside the system. I admittedly wrestle with terminology a bit, for I tend to think of politics in terms of partisan struggles, while others think that anything affecting the public (the polis) is politics.

What I’m talking about is Christians refusing to align themselves with human groups, be they liberal or conservative, Republican or Democratic. At some point, those groups begin to exist with the aim of winning elections and guaranteeing their continued existence. Ideas begin to be judged more in terms of practicality, feasibility, and electability, rather than in terms of right and wrong.

So we Christians speak out on the issues, but not with the same talking points that our non-Christian friends use. If your political views line up with a non-believer’s political views, your views probably aren’t Christian. It’s as simple as that.

One area where I’d like to see Christians take a firm stand these days is on the topic of life. We need to be pro-life, far beyond what those who merely oppose abortion are. We need to be anti-death. We need to stop saying, “Well, this form of killing is worse than that form of killing, so I’ll oppose it.” I read a Christian blogger who said that the conservatives are wrong for supporting overseas wars, while liberals are wrong for supporting abortion, but he’d support the conservatives because of “body count.”

No! When we choose the lesser of two evils, we are still choosing evil.

Let’s be known for saying, “I don’t care who gets elected. I don’t care if this idea has public palatability. I’m going to speak the truth.” Let’s be known as the people who won’t compromise their beliefs just to be able to identify themselves with a popular movement. Let’s be known as those who unwaveringly seek the truth. (imperfectly, yes, but relentlessly)

Let’s stand up for life. From womb to the tomb, as they say. We oppose abortion. We oppose war. We oppose humans causing the death of other humans.

Once we start speaking out against ALL killing, people will realize that we aren’t just another partisan voice in the political maelstrom. As long as we choose the lessor of evils, no one will believe that we are really speaking out for good.

 

photo from my old friend, MorgueFile.com