The link below is to a thoughtful article by one of the great voices at Lipscomb University these days, Dr. Lee Camp. It, as well as his new book Who is My Enemy?, comes at a time (10 yr anniversary of 9/11) when the Church needs to be (re)thinking how distinctly different our response to violence and suffering should be from the rest of American society.
The anniversary as well as the following article connect with questions I think about often:
1. Does faith in a story of a crucified, suffering, violence-refusing Lord allow us room for the use of violence against those who seek to do evil?
2. How should have the Church's voice been different post-9/11/01 than our government and the general American population?
3. Even if one believes that war, at times, is justifiable for Christians to participate in, what standards are set to define which wars are to be supported and which ones are not? Is it fitting for Christians in America to always, without question, "support our troops" and say "God bless America" when we are in armed conflict - regardless of the reason for the conflict, the means we are using, or the location of the battle? Are there circumstances when Christians in America should pray against American military efforts and not support those doing the fighting? If so, what are they?
4. Since the 10 year anniversary falls on a Sunday, how should the Church recognize that day so that their voice is distinctly Christian and not generically American?
5. How does the teachings of Jesus to "love your enemy," "turn the other cheek," "not return evil for evil," "not refuse an evil person," etc. apply to acts of warfare and great, violent tragedies like 9/11? Are these ethics just personal? Did Jesus leave us on our own to figure our the ethics of national/political/military conflict?
6. Were Jesus a 21st century American citizen, what would His teachings have been the day following 9/11? What would He say about the current war?
I realize that these questions are large and some of them do not have a "right" answer. I also realize that simply by posing such questions I risk stirring seriously negative responses. I do not intend that, nor do I ask these lightly. I ask because of my firm conviction that the way of Jesus must influence every thing we think, say, and do. I ask because if we as the Church can't have this conversation openly and in a spirit of gentleness, then we have failed. I ask because I do not accept that Jesus is just my "personal savior" here to forgive my sins and leave me to figure out on my own how to engage in the great injustices and tragedies of our world. He has something to say about all this. We as His body must listen to each other in figuring out what.
We as the Church must always have a distinct voice because we base our lives on a distinct Story - a Story about a God who breaks the power of evil through suffering and resurrection.
I once saw a bumper sticker that equated a soldiers death for our freedom with Jesus' death for our freedom. Though I ache over the death of all persons - adult, child, soldier, teacher, American, or Afghani - these sacrificial deaths are not fully comprable. Yes, they both died for the sake of others. The soldier, though made heroic in death, succeeds most in taking life and protecting his own and others'. Jesus succeed in the act of dying, and He refused every weapon against his enemies except forgiveness and love.
How can we live the Jesus story in a heavily militarized age? What is our voice in this?
What are the questions your faith causes in you as we approach 9/11?
What have you learned about following Jesus as you relate to and respond to purveyors of evil, hatred, and violence?
My leanings are obvious. I sincerely apologize if I sound as if my developing thoughts on this are presented as airtight conclusions. I do write with question marks because these are honest questions that I have, even if I do have some theological conviction undergirding how I will work through the answers. I write and ask because I want to learn and listen. Let us share our ideas and honest struggles with these real questions in the Spirit of the Prince of Peace who died to make us one.
Your searching/seeking brother,