"Why I Support the War ON Terror"
Last week as I was working in my shop I kept hearing bits on the radio news describing the horrific events of the London bombings. I found myself progressing through two waves of emotion, the result of which was a firm resolve of deep support for the War on Terror. Let me explain.
The first wave of emotion gripped me with great sadness and even mild panic as I imagined being suddenly assaulted by the shattering noise, confusion, chaos, and, yes, the terror that must have accompanied those horrible moments in London. The second emotion that washed over me was shame. Was the terror of those Londoners any different from the terror experienced by Iraqi women, men, and children as they lose family, friends and neighbors in the devastating U.S. and insurgency attacks that persist in their homeland? For that matter, what of the terror suffered by so many living under oppressive regimes propped up by world powers such as the United States for narrow economic interests: the Somoza regime and the Contras in Nicaragua, the Duvaliers in Haiti, the Khartoum government in Sudan? Why do so many of the people whose voices I hear most often seem more horror-stricken at the unjust death of 150 English people than the deaths of 200,000 Darfurians, 800,000 Rwandans or 8,000 Haitians? Why is it more newsworthy? Are we really so numb to the reality that we inhabit a world full of terror and pain, ensconced as we are in such unprecedented wealth that our number-one cause of death is our own overconsumption?
Then over the radio came Tony Blair's response to the tragedies of that day. He vowed that the terrorists would not affect the lifestyles of his people. My thoughts transported me to the cyber cafe in Port Au Prince, Haiti where on 9-11-01 I went to learn how our president, a professed Christian believer, would respond to the shocking news of the day. I anticipated a King David-like posture of rent clothes and sackcloth, of repentance, but was shocked and horrified as this man, our Christian president, invoked retaliation. And now Blair was reading from the same script. Once again, a window to repentance became instead a twisted mimicking act: terror for terror.
Have our actions not warranted the label "terrorism"? Our policies and leaders are callous. In the name of our Christian religion we prop up violent regimes, promote oppressive policies, and maintain strangling embargos. In radical adherence to fundamentalist ideology and greed we support massacre in Palestine and promote dehumanizing trade agreements for profit. This we justify with sanctimonious religious platitudes; we even refer to the fruit of these crippling policies as "blessings". Should we be shocked to learn that parents in Iraq are asking, "Where is the humanity of these people?"
What has been our response to the guerilla violence of our enemies, who with religious fervor and a sense of holy crusade resort to terrorism? We have retaliated using the full power of nearly every weapon at our disposal, raining bombs, directing tanks, and pouring armies of men and women into our revenge. Our "War on Terror" is more truly a War OF Terror. The vast majority of Iraqi citizens killed in the conflict have died not at the hands of any insurgency (as the flood of recent news stories might leave us thinking), but at the hands of U.S. bombs, especially during the early attacks of the war. (See "A Dosier of Civilian Casualties in Iraq" at http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/home.htm.) One Sunday morning a pastor in my community gave thanks from the pulpit that God is spreading his gospel to Iraq as a result of this war. I know that he is far from alone in this sentiment. We are wrong to deny that at least some of those on the receiving end of our War OF Terror might conclude that self-appointed American and English crusaders are evil terrorists that must be stopped at any cost.
Would the true gospel of Jesus Christ not have something fresh to add to this horrible cycle of hatred, violence, and shameless self-interest? Does the gospel of Christ respond to terrifying acts with terror waged against its enemies? On the contrary. The power of hate can only be overcome with its opposite – love – whose ultimate expression is the Cross. Impractical? Unrealistic? I don't recall Jesus ever telling us to decide when it is practical or realistic to apply gospel truths. Certainly the course of Jesus' own life was not determined by the "practical" or the "realistic".
Rather than a War OF Terror, what would a true War ON Terror look like? I am compelled to ask along with Tony Campolo what might have resulted had we air dropped and showered Iraq with food and medicines instead of with cluster and "smart" bombs. How might God work if people of faith tore clothes instead of holding up tightened fists? What if we knelt in confessional prayer rather than endorsing sanctions that starve children to death and engaging in tirades of self-justification and war cries of hatred, fear and revenge? What if we allowed for true faith to transform the content of our foreign policy? Am I alone in finding it strange that in a country where military might, material wealth, and individualistic pride are arguably the most visible features of our collective culture, we define ourselves as a Christian nation? These attributes are not the ones I read about in the biblical accounts of the Christ.
Was 9-11-01 justified? Are the London bombings or the oppressive rule of Saddam Hussein justifiable? No. But neither is the current War OF Terror. Does this war demonstrate the overcoming of evil with good? Does it model, in any consistent way, the nature of the power which Jesus prescribes as the greatest power ever known for the overcoming of evil, the power of love?
Love, best and most clearly demonstrated on the cross of Christ, is the only power that can defeat terror, both in the ultimate cosmic sense and in the details of our present day. This power does not rely on arms or armies and does not seek dominance to achieve its ends. It does not justify itself with platitudes and war cries. People driven by this power will seek justice for the oppressed, will love mercy and will walk humbly on this earth with God. And, passionate in their pursuit of justice and mercy, they will wage war against terror.
Will you join in this Faith-Based War on Terror? In this war, too, there is a coalition û not of the just barely willing, but of the passionate. This Coalition of the Passionate makes President Bush's reference to a "coalition of the willing" seem even more silly in comparison than on its own. Perhaps we who are members and would-be members can be encouraged as we find one another. Do you find this idealistic? A reality-based idealism is central to what faith requires. Faith is "believing", as Jim Wallis has paraphrased Hebrews 11:1, "in spite of the evidence, then watching the evidence change." It is time for a change.
Jeff Rogers is aápotter and founder of Faith / Works Global Gallery WWW.FaithWorksGlobalGallery.com, a gallery of fairly traded crafts from around the world.á He and his wife, Beth, spent several years living in Haiti working with craftspeople.
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