southeast asia

Has Drone Firepower Conquered Christ's Love?

Keith Tarrier and spirit of america / Shutterstock
Obama has personally ordered drone strikes. Keith Tarrier and spirit of america / Shutterstock

For centuries, followers of Jesus have wondered how they should relate to states and governments. Recent documents from Amnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch, and the United Nations bring such concerns to the fore, highlighting the cruel collateral damage of many of President Barack Obama’s personally ordered drone strikes — strikes that according to the president, are legal and in accord with international law, use technology that is precise and limit unnecessary casualties, eliminate people that are real threats, and prevent greater violence.

Rather than considering the humanity of our (perceived) enemies and seeking reconciliation and restorative justice, we default to catching and killing. In doing so, we give the widest berth possible to Jesus's teachings and examples of self-sacrificial enemy love. In both Matthew 5 and Luke 6, Jesus tells us that to love our enemies is to be children of God, for radical love and kindness are his nature and his perfection. Loving enemies is essential to anyone who would claim God as his or her Father. Jesus said, "Love." Not, "Love unless you happen to be the ones in charge and in possession of firepower. In that case, kill the bastards."

We are charged with loving our world indiscriminately, self-sacrificially, and with great humility, and that should always inform our relationship with the state and government.

Works of Mercy

EVERY TUESDAY, AI JIN and two other young women from one of China’s underground urban Christian churches get together to pray—then walk the streets of a mafia-run red light district to tell girls as young as 13 who work in brothels that they can get out of prostitution. “Eight years ago, the average girl working in brothels was 25. Now it’s 14 and 15,” Ai Jin tells me. “I think it’ll get worse since it’s more difficult to find jobs, especially for girls from poor families with no education. They desperately need money to survive.”

Ai Jin and her two colleagues work with Mercy Outreach, an organization that offers prostitutes and trafficked women a safe home and alternative jobs. Started in 2003, Mercy Outreach is one of the first social enterprises of its kind based near the infamous “Golden Triangle”—the euphemistic name for one of the world’s busiest drug-trafficking routes. Running through Thailand, Burma, and Laos and bleeding into China, Vietnam, and Cambodia, it is a potent mix of extreme poverty, sex trafficking, rampant illicit drug production, and complicit local government leaders and warlords.

Ai Jin, 28, is part of a new breed of daring young women pioneers from the underground church reaching marginalized people, such as prostitutes, who had not previously been readily welcomed into house churches. “My pastor told me that what I’m doing in reaching out to prostitutes is what Jesus did,” Ai Jin says. “When I first started working at Mercy Outreach, I didn’t even want to shake hands with prostitutes. Every day I prayed for more love for the women. Now I can treat them like my own family.”

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Tavis Smiley and Cornel West's 'Poverty Tour'

Broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor Cornel West just wrapped up their 18-city "Poverty Tour." The aim of their trip, which traversed through Wisconsin, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and the Deep South was to "highlight the plight of the poor people of all races, colors, and creeds so they will not be forgotten, ignored, or rendered invisible." Although the trip has been met with a fair amount of criticism, the issue of poverty's invisibility in American media and politics is unmistakable. The community organizations working tirelessly to help America's poor deserve a great deal more attention than what is being given.

The main attack against the "Poverty Tour" is Smiley and West's criticism of Obama's weak efforts to tackle poverty. For me though, what I would have liked to see more is the collection of stories and experiences from the people West and Smiley met along their trip. The act of collective storytelling in and of itself can be an act of resistance.