|9/11- Pain and Grace|
(Mat 5:38 NKJV) "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and
a tooth for a tooth.'
A decade after 9/11, the World has become a more dangerous place with an unending war and terrorist threats a common danger. There's lots of pain but more grace and healing.
As Christians, we have not been very blibical nor evangelical in our response that has all but shown hate instead of love. 9/11 shows the unredeemed nature of our heart. It is time both Evangelical and progressive Christians in America ask God for forgiveness and repent for the harm caused when we took out the sword in a war path that has killed a hundred times more than the 9/11 casualties. Is it all worth it?
There was so much pain that America had sufferred because of 9/11. Ten years later, the pain is still there but slowly going away with the wars and death of Osama. Should we have handled pain differently and response instead with love, forgiveness and grace being the core of Evangelical Christianity and of the Gospel message.
When the planes hit the twin towers in New York, it was evening here in Singapore/Malaysia, the CNN website giving us the update. Soon, over flooded, the CNN web site and Yahoo news sites went down. But the live news feed continued on the television and we saw the collapse of the towers with shock and horror at the news of thousands dead and the destruction caused.
In the aftermath, the Arabs were reported to be jearing at the terrorist acts with loud shouts of celebrations shown a few days on the CNN news feeds after 9/11. President Bush quickly countered that the major faiths are about peace and the terrorist actions to be attributed to a few extremists. However, it soon dawned that it was not a small terrorist acts of a few, but the mastermind was Osama of Al-Qaeda who was supported by Taliban which was a conservative religious government in Afganistan. Hence, war started against the religious state.
The Sojourners article "10 years after 9/11 - the good and the bad" talks of the necessity to respond by love. A picture was painted of "hateful diatribes of fundamentalist leaders in all our religious traditions" in the US, but the reality was that the hostility faced in the US by Muslims was far less that what Christians had faced in Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Pakistan where many are tortured and executed on a routine basis according to Open Doors. These common attrocities against Christians are seldom reported in Progressive circles.
Whilsts as Christians we should respond in love, and not hate, Sojourners had over generalised those responsible as 9/11 as isolated extremist when strong grass roots support exists for their actions. Religion is not necesarrily rooted love but in some major faiths, their strict prescriptive religious laws are harsh and harmful especially to minorities such as the gay community. Thousands of gays for example have been executed in Iran, and other Arab countries all in the name of religion.
Some progressives have highlighted a Pastor Terry Jones, who burned religious text, and equate it to the Afgan mullahs! All faith traditions have extremist they generalised, but for most thinking Christians, burning paper could not be equated to killing others in the name of religion or violate the sanctity and dignity of life.
The United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon gave an amazing insight in Christianity Today stating that “American Christians may look back upon our response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat … when our people felt vulnerable, they reached for the flag instead of the cross.” However, the failure in response is not a failure in love per say but a failure in good theological construction. 9/11 happened after the Christian Right took over the Government, and along with it came:-
a. A Law based Christianity based on the Old Testament. This was highlighted by their gay bashing using OT verses to use gays as a wedge issue to stir up Christian voting block to win the election. This resulted in an "eye for an eye" approach where they went after the terrorist to the ends of the earth.
b. A Dominion type theology where Christians are to dominate over other mountains outside the mountain of religion, hence, an attack on America was seen as an attack on Christendom itself. The response was a religious war, was aptly potrayed in Benny Hinn's "this is your day" which showed the US navy going to war with fighter jets taking off the US carriers in the background sound of "Onward Christian Soldiers". They have gone after gays in the voting booths, limited basic gay rights and now time to straighten out the opposition.
At the core of biblical Christianity is however a much more pacifist tone. When the religious OT bible believing Pharisees arrested Jesus sending a company of troopers with Judas identifying Jesus, Peter took up the sword to defend Jesus. The disciples and their large groups of supporters could have started a civil war and possibly win. Yet, Jesus stopped them and declared that those who draw the sword will ultimately die by it.
26:52 NIV) "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for
all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
There are many faiths in the world, some even with swords in their banner, but the Christian banner is not an armoured knight with a sword/shield of the crusades, but the Cross of Calvary. It is Jesus dying for us for our sins, not us killing people for their alleged sins against us. This is God's grace and mercy for which no religion, no law based old wine skin can contain.
When we draw the sword to kill others, there will be innocent people who suffer and die. The names of many people of faith in the bible was never mentioned eg the good Samaritan, the woman at the well etc, yet the "sword" incident of Jesus arrest was so profound, that the high priest servant whose ear was cut off by Peter was mentioned in name in John 18:10. The Servant's name was Malchus. When the innocent suffers, God is always there and takes down their names.
When the sword is drawn, it will end with much more bloodshed and those who draw the sword will also die by it. And the Americans have suffered incredible "death" as a result of the sword being drawn, many more than the 3,000 who died in 9/11. As at 05 June 2011, according to Washington Post, "Faces of the Fallen", there were 6,026 casualties of war. The Arabs and their supporters of Al-Qaeda also suffered when they drew the sword. Their deaths is said to be in the hundreds of thousands in Iraq and Afganistan. The cycle of death is never ending based on hate and revenge.
The backlash of two wars by the Bush and his Christian Right supporters who came into power using gays as a wedge issue was also devastating. The cost and the economic impact of the war increased the expenditure of the military putting a large dent in the budget. Bush won the 2004 election on the basis of his strong stance in the war, and a shameful attempt to ellicit Christian support by banning basic gay rights on the voting booth. Bush won and 8 years later we are on a slippery slope of financial and military disaster.
Osama recently met his demise by the sword but the war hasn't ended. Osama hated America for supporting Israel, and for helping to sustain the monarchy of Saudi Arabia. It was a religious war for the hearts and minds of Arabs to start a new religious revolution. And for a moment, it had very strong support despite the attempts by progressive Christians to paint him as a lone extremist. Ironically, he may have succeeded in bringing down America financially with a grinding war which cannot be won wihout changing the religious hearts and minds of the local population.
The proper biblical Christian response to 9/11 should not only be about love, but a love in action personified by Jesus Christ who would have forgiven the terrorists, and not gone to war. That would be the greatest message of love, not to seek revenge nor justice, but to give grace and mercy. For at the Cross of calvary, Grace and mercy was given to us.
We cannot win a physical war, because it is a religious battle for the hearts and minds of souls. It can only be fought by the Good News message of the Gospel, of God's love and redemption in Christ Jesus. It is Jesus Christ who changes us from within when we received Him as Lord and Saviour.
Similarly, for the GLBT tribe, especially Gay Christians, the key to church growth is not only reflective progressive theology of loving ourselves, of how God created us wonderfully, but to forgive, and give those who has all but destroyed our lives and limited our basic rights, the grace of God. We have too much hate and anger, too much bitterness of the grave harm done to us, when we should put on the mind and heart of mercy and grace. God will do the rest in our quest for justice, and equality.
The battle belongs to God and not to us. When we raised the sword and fight for ourselves, we end up being no different than those who were against us. Perhaps after 10 years of a fight back, it is already too late to put the sword back into the sheath for the US and for Evangelical and Progressive Christianity which the US represents.
We pray for healing for the nations that love prevails over hate, and religious divisions.