Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday Free-For-All

I know I promised to steer away from political stuff. But since this deals with fellow Christians, I am going to go there.

Four men from a group called Christian Peacemaker Teams, in Iraq basically protesting what the US & Coalition forces are doing, were taken hostage back on 26 November. It should be pointed out that the people who kidnapped them were the very people these four guys were supporting, not the people they were protesting against. Their self proclaimed goal was “documenting and focusing attention on the issue of detainee abuses… but the current focus of the team has expanded to include efforts to end occupation and militarization of the country.” The CPT motto appropriately is “Getting In the Way.”

Suffice it to say that I fundamentally disagree with their core purpose which “seeks to enlist the response of the whole church in conscientious objection to war.” I do understand the principles behind genuine conscientious objectors, and I respect Christians who hold those beliefs strongly. I happen to disagree with those who claim that war is never the right answer for Christians, though. There are times when evil must be resisted, and in our fallen world that means that there are times when violent force must be used. Now getting into the specifics of the current situation in Iraq gets too close to politics so I’m not going there today.

But that brings us back to the four guys from CPT who got in the way and found themselves kidnapped by the very people they went there to support. One of the four, happened to be the American of the group, was found dead on 10 March 2006. Based on intelligence gathered from a captured enemy combatant, a commando raid went in yesterday and found the other three alive and brought them out of captivity.

CPT posted a press release on their web site initially headlined, “CPT: Celebrates the Peacemakers Release.” In the second paragraph, after claiming that their guys were released, they said, We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq.” (UPDATE: I found the original wording of the statement again here)

It seems obvious to me that these folks don’t have a firm grasp on the English language. It is readily apparent to most folks that the only way these guys would have been “released” by the kidnappers who held them is in the same manner that the American was “released” a couple of weeks ago, with a bullet in the head. They were rescued by violent warriors who were willing to put their own lives on the line to see that the ingrates were not executed by their captors.

Now, since they received such a backlash from their fundamental misstatement and obvious total ingratitude of what was done for them, they have revised their press release to say that their guys were, get this, “freed.” It seems a weasely choice of wording to me, but I guess if they actually came out and said the truth, that their people were rescued, then they would have to re-think their fundamental beliefs about violence never being the right answer. No point in examining a core belief, is there?

Perhaps part of the answer can be found in the wording of Statement of Conviction which the guys who were kidnapped (one of whom was killed)signed, which says in part

“We reject the use of violent force to save our lives should we be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a violent conflict situation. We also reject violence to punish anyone who harms us. We ask for equal justice in the arrest and trial of anyone, soldier or civilian, who commits an act of violence, and we ask that there be no retaliation on their relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. Therefore, any penalty should be in the spirit of restorative justice, rather than in the form of violent retribution.”

So basically they forgive those who are their enemies. That part makes sense to me. But unfortunately their reaction to this whole chain of events crystallizes what can be seen throughout their web site, namely that they’ve twisted the concept of “forgive your enemies” to the point where part of it for them now includes, “resent your friends.”

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t work for me. It’s simply not what I find when I read the Bible.

But hey, at least they stayed true to their motto. They certainly got in the way.


I'm having a running debate with Dan over at Stones Cry Out about whether the CPT guys really have a balanced view of things. Interesting for me anyway...

1 comment:

Dan Trabue said...

"There are times when evil must be resisted, and in our fallen world that means that there are times when violent force must be used."

Chris, I understand you don't want to talk politics and that is fine with me. I did think I'd try to represent the other side's point of view on this.

Christian peacemakers fully agree that evil must be resisted. 100%. Often pacifists are tagged as passivists when nothing could be further from the truth.

We in no way object to resisting evil and, as you see with the CPT, are willing to even lay our lives on the line to do so. We resisted evil when we formed Witness for Peace teams to go live in Central American villages being assaulted by terrorists. We resisted evil in our stand against apartheid and our stand against US slavery and support of the underground railroad.

We resist evil.

What we object to is resisting evil with deadly violence. We do not find that justified based upon Jesus' teaching to Love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, to overcome evil with good.

Our approach tends to try to use a rightly understood interpretation of Jesus' model of turning the other cheek. Jesus told his followers

1. To not strike back AND
2. To not cower in fear BUT
3. To overcome evil with good, to stand and face the oppressor and turn the other cheek, as if to ask, "is this really what you want to do?"

I won't go on any further, but just wanted to let you know that non-violent resisters are not just idiots who want to be killed, nor are they weaklings with no way of stopping evil actions, but we're folk with conscience who believe there is a better way.

You may wish to go to my church's blog (Life at Jeff Street) for an interesting sermon on this topic to give you a better handle on what we're about.