Easter in Iraq - The War Goes On
Sojomail - March 27, 2008
As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say, "That's a terrible statement," I grew up in a very segregated South, and I think that you have to cut some slack. And I'm going to be probably the only conservative in America who's going to say something like this, but I'm just telling you: We've got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told, "You have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can't sit out there with everyone else. There's a separate waiting room in the doctor's office. Here's where you sit on the bus." And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had ... more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.
- Mike Huckabee, offering his perspective on the preaching of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. (Source: MSNBC)
Easter in Iraq - The War Goes On
While that series is formally ending, the war and the suffering go on. On Easter Sunday, four U.S. soldiers were killed in Baghdad, bringing the total to 4,000. Around the country of Iraq, more than 60 people were killed in attacks. The Iraq Body Count database has now documented 90,000 civilian deaths – other estimates go into the hundreds of thousands. And this week, new fighting is raging in several Iraqi cities, causing additional casualties.
More than ever, as our statement says, "The U.S. occupation must end; a transition to an international solution to Iraq must be found. A peaceful resolution is possible and must be pursued. Our country should end this war, not try to "win" it, and we must help the Iraqi people build a safer and more peaceful country."
While the media pundits continue to debate levels of violence, "surge" successes and failures, and the lack of political progress in Iraq, we must continue to raise the larger and deeper issue of how fundamentally wrong it was to launch a pre-emptive and primarily unilateral war against Iraq. There were far better ways to deal with the evil of Saddam Hussein and the threats of terrorism - which this war has only made worse. Repentance means a fundamental change in direction; and that is what we must now call for in U.S. foreign policy.
On Easter we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the new life he brings. Where is Easter, that new life, for Iraq? How long will the suffering and killing go on? The need to lament, to repent, and to continue praying and acting to end this war is more important than ever.
In our little circles, we've been talking a lot about the need to create new holidays and rituals of remembrance as a Church – this peculiar, set-apart people of God. The early Christians talked a lot about how they no longer celebrated the "festivals of the Caesars" or the holidays of the empire, but had new eyes through which they looked at the world (this is a major theme of our new book Jesus for President). They had a new calendar. They had new heroes and sheroes (not just kings and presidents and fallen warriors). And they had new liturgies and songs. That's what Holy Week is all about, a new holiday – Easter is our President's Day. And our Holy Week here in Philly was magnificent, a stunning celebration of the commander in chief who loved his enemies so much he died for them.
Jesus came with a job to do, to complete the work to which Israel was called. This work, from the call of Abraham onwards, was to put the human race to rights, and so to put the whole creation to rights. As the gospel writers tell the story, this task was to be accomplished by Jesus bringing about the sovereign healing rule of the creator God. Jesus was addressing the question, "What might it look like if God was running this show?" And answering, "This is what it looks like: just watch." And then, "just listen." In what he did, and in the stories he told, Jesus was announcing and inaugurating what he referred to as "the kingdom of God," the long-awaited hope that the creator God would run the whole show, on earth as in heaven.
I was conscripted into the South Africa military in the late 1980s. Still in my teens, I was shipped off to do two years of "service" for my country. This included not only military training, but also indoctrination about "the enemy." I was taught about the threat of communism, of the dangers of insurgents and the evil inherent in those who wished to destroy the "freedoms" we held so dear in our land.
We are told the war in Iraq is a necessary part of the "War on Terror" (WOT), and its goal is to bring democracy to the Middle East. Despite this rhetoric, it is blatantly clear the US is pursuing its own interests at the cost of democracy in the region. This raises the level of anger in the Muslim world more than Americans can imagine.
As Christians, our obligation is two-fold: to care for God's creation, and to ensure the continued existence of the Iraqi people. We must do this through a combination of academic, legislative and humanitarian efforts, and we must begin now. It is up to Americans and Iraqis to work together to demand a change in policy and in practice.
In May 2006, Sojourners editorial projects intern Celeste Kennel-Shank wrote a great feature article for us titled Green Hair, Grey Hair about the D.C.-based project "We Are Family" started by Mark Anderson. Now, for the first time on the independent screen, one of our articles has inspired a movie!
Environmental consciousness seems to be gaining momentum with increasing numbers of "eco-friendly" products out there from organic bath towels to hybrid cars. But are we really being more environmentally conscious when we buy these products? Are we actually thinking twice about the ecological consequences, or are we just switching from "brand x" to "brand organic"? A recent Washington Post article, Greed in the Name of Green, critiques the idea of the "new green consumer" and challenges the notion that we can buy our way into environmental sanctification.
In writing my new book, Founding Faith, I was struck by two things of possible importance to today’s religious progressives. First, the 18th century evangelicals had a very different approach to religious freedom than many of their 21st century descendents. They were crucial advocates for separation of church and state. This ought to be a challenge to both modern liberal secularists who assume that evangelicals are always on the side of tyranny, and for religious conservatives who have disowned the arguments of their ancestors. If not for evangelicals, we wouldn’t have religious freedom.
On Easter Sunday, sermons about new life and transformation, resurrection and redemption, abound. At our church we celebrated the baptism of a young man living in a halfway house and doing work-release in our community. The genuine hugs and welcome from the mostly black congregation for this young white man were warm and genuine. One church member sponsors work release, another church member picks up the four to five who come for events and church - and this young man felt touched by God in the welcoming community. He stood holding the baptismal candle and asked God and us for help for the journey of restoration ahead.
We stand before the world as fools. We are foolish enough to believe that Jesus' way is stronger and truer than the way of the world. We rest secure in the knowledge that he has, and will, overcome. We are called to be fools for Christ, a people saved by his cross and converted, finally, by his resurrection. May God convert us to such foolishness.
During my recent trips to Israel and Jordan, I lost track of the historical discrepancies regarding where a given bit of biblical business occurred. Despite the debates over the exact place where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, the specific church that marks the spot where Gabriel brought to Mary the good news that would change the world, and other historical critical snafus, I seemed to feel the presence of God's saving grace throughout history every time I stepped on a piece of seemingly sacred soil.
Letters to the Editor: 'Progressive evangelicals' a major force for change
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