30 August 2006

Going Political

I don’t like politics. I’m one of those who really doesn’t like to vote (although I did in the last presidential election) because I’m not always on top of all the issues, and, hey, what does one vote mean, anyway? But, I’ve been thinking about this whole middle east war thing a lot lately. Agonizing over it is more like it.
I don’t know what to think. On the one hand, I long to be a pacifist. It just feels right considering the pray for your enemies, blessed are the peacemakers, and turn the other cheek passages. How is building bigger weapons and shooting terrorists supposed to propagate peace? It just deepens anger and escalates. Aren’t we playing right into their hands? Aren’t we giving them exactly what they want? And who exactly are we fighting for and fighting against? Are we fighting the Iraqis? Are we trying to help the Iraqis? Are we fighting for oil?
On the other hand (I realize I sound like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, a great musical, by the way), I see and hear things about the terrorists and the extremist Muslims about them burning tourists alive in cars, about them drafting and brainwashing children to wield automatic weapons and commit suicide (while the leaders remain safely hidden in dark undergrounds). If I was alive during WWII, wouldn’t I want to stop Hitler? If someone had a gun pointed at my sister’s head, wouldn’t I want to stop them? Is this the same thing?
But how many Christians have died for peace knowing that it would be wrong to fight rather than to love? What about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Peter and Paul and Jesus?
And here’s another weird factor: the Muslims view this as a holy war, a continuation of the crusades. The United States is a poor representation of Christianity. And the Crusades were wrong the first time around. Even if politically we don’t view this religiously, they do. Shouldn’t we want to represent Christianity as something different from fighting?
What would it look like if the United States as a political force pulled the troops out and let the Iraqis settle their political issues? What if, instead, the church sent more and more Christians to the middle east (and I realize that if I say this, I would have to be willing to go) to incarnate Christ’s love? What if we focused on being disciples of Christ rather than defenders of our country? What if I loved my neighbor, the Muslims in my literal neighborhood?
But I don't know. I don't know what to think of the situation. Can't we all just get along? The answer, truthfully, is no, because I am selfish and my neighbor is selfish. And why doesn't the Bible just tell us how to handle war? The Church's position before Constantine was pacifistic. War was wrong, and Christians shouldn't participate. After Constantine came "just war theory." What does that mean for me? For the Church today? Oy vey.
And yes, here’s my hypocrisy: I’m not volunteering to move to Iraq. And how does my view of the situation change the way I act in my daily life? Just call me Janus.


Mirtika said...

I don't think God wants us NOT to be torn. I think living in a fallen world, being fallen, means that sometimes there are no perfect answers. Since we do not have omniscience, we sometimes stumble on solutions (via grace?) and sometimes don't. But He sanctioned executions, wars (and future combat, as per Revelation), and He sanctioned governments to wield the sword (ie, use violence for good ends, to punish evildoers). So, we are supposed to ponder and agonize. It's part of our lot as human beings. Weighing and praying and trying to come up with the right solution.

And the right solution is, sometimes, war.

I am torn, too, btw--and suspect I always will be. My first reaction back in 2002 was a big YES to going to Afghanistan. My reaction in 2003 was NO, don't go to Iraq.

But I submit I may be wrong. I don't know if going to war was right on wrong in stance number two, though I feel it was right in instance number one. And five years later, we're still at war.

Of course, we were at war prior to that--we just didn't know it. Others planned to destroy us and had been attacking us overseas and at home (WTC 1993), but we kept turning a blind eye.

I'm convinced that if the whole world participated in getting the Muslim thing under control, we could do it. If they play deaf and blind, we'll lose, no matter our weaponry. This is not a solo fight. This is a global one.

And I think we're stupid if we think that turning the other cheek means the Muslims won't continue with their plan to expand the borders of the Islamic Empire.


willowtree said...

I normally would never comment on political issues, but you have raised valid questions:

The most important thing to remember when comparing this with WWII is that this is not territorial it is idealogical, something the Bush administration refuses to understand. It is not a fight against an army, its a fight against a belief and can never be won (just ask the Minute Men).

When you say that Islam has deemed this a holy war you are right, but it was Bush who escalated it to that staus by declaring it a war of good versus evil and declaring himself the 'good' team.

The crusades were ultimately won by the Isamic forces, which is why it's convienient for them to say its a continuation. But throughout history, Christianity has always been the aggressor, and nothing's changed.

I'm not Muslim, but then I'm not Christian either so I have a dispassionate view of the whole affair (theologically that is). Both sides are wrong, but you have to ask yourself - how desperate would you need to be to kill yourself in order to make a point as the terrorists do.

From the outside it appears that Bush and his bunch of Christian Right zealots are just a fanatical as the muslim terrorists.

One last point, you talk about terrorists burning tourists in cars, rockets fired from F15s do the same thing.

There's horror (rightfully so) at the beheading of hostages, but at least the baddies get blood on their hands and don't just push a button as if they were playing nintendo.

I wonder how horrified you guys would be if you saw the footage we see over here of the carnage caused by US bombs. Civilians with arms and legs blown off, faces missing and babies just a bundle of blood soaked rags. I know from talking to friends in the States that your footage is censored to the point of propaganda.

And don't forget Rumsfeld's response when asked about civilian casualties, "Oh, I think it's around 70 to 80 thousand" Excuse me? If Rumsfeld thinks plus or minus ten thousand dead innocents is close enough, that really shows his compassionate nature doesn't it!

Sorry to be so strident but this whole thing bothers me.

Having said all that, I have to agree with Mirtika, the aim of Islam is Global Islamic law and it will be accomplished by either aggression or migration. And that's scary cause those bastards have no sense of humour!!!

Sorry Heather, but I'm just trying to be helpfull here....

If you want to understand how it is so easy for America's enemies to hate it (I don't, but then I'm not an enemy) just look at its Petty vindictive actions against Vietnam and Cuba. The rest of the world knows that after having gone to Veitnam and failed (but not before casusing catasrophic damage that still affects the population), American in a fit of pique placed santions on a third world country for over 25 years, causing massive unnecessary suffering and death. It has attempoted to destroy Cuba by similar means. To it's enemies, these do not appear to be compassionate acts.

Dineen A. Miller said...

Mir's right. We are in a fallen world. Peace is impossible, at least until Christ's return. What do you do in the meantime? Whatever God puts on our hearts. The big picture can seem overwhelming—start with one person.

I read in Galations 5:6 today:
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

I can't say it any better than that.

Heather said...

WT - don't be sorry for posting an opinion for which I asked! (Besides, isn't that why we blog?) Your perspective, along with Mir's and Dineen's (and numerous others from other conversations) helps me work through this mess. I still haven't reached a "conclusion." I probably never will. Thankfully, I am not in a position that I need to reach a decisive action point.
I hate war. I hate death. I hate destruction. I hate that there is evil in this world. I can't wait for the recreated, renewed world of peace and joy. All creation groans.

Robin said...

Compelling...challenging...what to think? How to respond? Great post, great comments, I have so little to offer in this discussion. Mir is sooo amazingly thoughtful and contemplative; Willowtree has an intriguing perspective as well, although from a very different frame of reference.

I'm apolitical. Why? It's like world hunger, I cannot envision a realistic solution in this life. There are no "answers"--we're talking about changing culture, ideologies, religions, all seeped in centuries of their own respective abuses.

Here's where I end up, it's all I can get my mind around. It's kind of where Dineen "landed". I don't try to solve the problems of the "masses", but I try to live a life consistent with the teachings of Christ among those within "my sphere". Love effects change, it just does. To demonstrate active concern in the lives of others affects their lives; there's a ripple effect. Of course, as a follower of Christ, He's my example, He's the one I hope to emulate; I'm His image bearer on earth.

I have a difficult time thinking globally (what my role or response should be) but I'm grateful for those who do; for those who are out there, trying to solve "world hunger" issues.

A soldier who's spent some time in Iraq spoke to our adult SS class back in the Spring. He said something I had never heard before: "Don't pray for the war to be over, for the troops to be withdrawn...." His point was that there was a presence of Christ there (and wherever we're stationed) because of the war, that the gospel was being shared by believers who served in the military. Definitely a different way of looking at it.

Engaging post, Heather, the kind that makes me want to be a different person sometime....

sage said...

sometimes I think God has a wicked sense of humor... Muslim nations have more oil than they need, non-Muslim nations need oil for their economy as well as a lot of other things we can supply (I know, we have some of the blame for our gluttonous appetite for oil, you can't lay it all on God's shoulders, but that's not where I'm going). We're stuck with each other and we better learn how to work it out.

Although I am not a pacifist either, I find myself envious of our Mennoniite and Quaker brethern.

Jennifer said...

I'm glad you shared these thoughts. I am also pretty apolitical and I don't know where I stand on this issue. I usually go back to the fact that someone has to stop that kind of behavior, but does it always have to be good 'ol Uncle Sam? I just buried my grandfather, a proud WWII vet, and I do think about the Hitler thing. I am reading The Greatest Generation right now to learn about what compelled all those men to give so much all those years ago (just started it so I have no insight yet).

Beyond Words said...

Heather, I've been agonizing over these things, too. I can't find any New Testament justification for war except "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's."

As much as I've hoped and prayed our presence in Iraq would lead to democracy and peace, I'm beginning to agree with Willowtree that the battle is idealogical, not territorial (although I believe the Bush administration understands that, whether or not they're dealing with it effectively) and therefore impossible to resolve through force. The only thing that will stop the conflict is a new ideal--the culture of life that Christ offered through the resurrection.

In the meantime, I think I have failed as a Christian because I bought the lie of the warrior Christ, who doesn't exist except in the imagination of people who interpret the language of Revelation literally.

The Christ who drove the money changers out of the temple hardly qualifies--he didn't maim or kill anyone with his righteous wrath.

Even Paul pleaded for Christians to lead a separate life from the one offered by Pax Romana--a brutish peace held in place by military occupation.

I had a serious discussion with my daughters about this today. I asked them what they thought the worst thing that would happen would be if we decided not to fight any more wars, even to defend ourselves.

Daughter Mary said, "We'd probably die or be persecuted."

Sounds a whole lot about what Jesus and Paul promised would happen to followers of Christ. The fact that is doesn't happen to Christians in this country should raise a red flag.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying I'm ready to live like this. I'm a comfortable coward, living a privileged life in the heartland.

But my conscience is pricked and sore by what I see going on as a result of war.

Makes me wonder if we're delaying the coming of the Kingdom.

Margo Carmichael said...

Mmm, could you be more specific? Weren't they originally to take back Christian and Jewish holy sites that had been overrun and claimed by others?
Joan Peters, a journalist, went to Israel to do research and prove the Israelis wrong--and came to the totally opposite conclusion. See her book, From Time Immemorial.
http://www.amazon.com/Time-Immemorial-Arab-Jewish-Conflict-Palestine/dp/0963624202/sr=8-1/qid=1157599425/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-0467155-1566417?ie=UTF8&s=books Copy and paste if necessary. Mir is right. : )

Pamela said...

I pray for President Bush. I prayed for each President before him. My prayers have no politics. Whoever sits in that Oval office needs as much prayer covering as he can get.

I'm small in this big world.. thats the job for me I think.

San said...

Heather, you raise the kinds of questions we should have been asking long ago. I've been reading Claiborne's IRRESISTIBLE REVOLUTION (Zondervan), in which the author tells of going to Iraq to be with the people as we bombed them. For too long Christians have been loyal to the Republican party before Christian ideology, but I see that changing. Example: If we are to pray for our enemies, when is the last time you heard someone pray in church for the Taliban?