Mid East Crisis


Since the post below about our President seemed to strike such a chord, are there any answers to the crisis in the Mid-East? What do we as Christians do? How does the Church deal with radical Islam? Beyond the political process, are there any answers? Answers that won’t do:

Liberals: “Let’s drop butter, not bombs!”
Conservatives: “Let’s turn the Middle East into a crater!”

Tough question of the day: Are the interests of the United States the same as the interests of the gospel and the Church?

29 thoughts on “Mid East Crisis

  1. The simple answer is that they need the Gospel. One person at a time. It’s not exactly easy to achieve but it is the answer.

    The idea of a Christian nation seems fallacious to me.

  2. I have been reading a fantastic book on conflict resolution called “Sitting in the Fire”. I recommend it to eveyone who is really interested in the subject. If you have ever caught yourself asking why this group of people always seems so angry or “why do they hate us so much?” It can answer that question much better than I can.
    Buuuuuuut – if our administration has a sincere desire to resolve this situation ( something I am doubtful about ) I think we need to evaluate our ability, or really inability to communicate effectively. Our government is seen as arrogant and bullying. To understand why we are seen in that light we need to ask ourselves if we give other heads of state the same respect we demand for our own. Do we carefully listen to other nations and what they have to say or are we dissmissive and condescending? Or worse yet are we the big westernized white guys with the guns and the muscle talking down to the little brown men from the “backwards” countries. (Even though their civilization is almost as ancient as time itself and ours is in its infancy by comparison)
    Do we walk into a room willing to colaborate with others for answers, or do we walk in with our minds made up about how its going to be or else? And then walk away talking about how “they” can’t be reasoned with and there is just no talking to “those” people.

  3. There are times when religion and government or quasi governments mix. In the case of Islam today, this is in some quarter happening. In the idea of quasi governments, I include non-government militias. I think radical Islam is a case of such a mix, so the answer we give for the Church and the answer we give as a government, are likely intertwined.

    To think of Islam as one group would be more ridiculous than to think of Christians as one group. In one real sense Islam is at the stage of its history as were Christians when there were wars over religious differences. In those wars both sides considered themselves Christian. So there may not be one answer to the good Father’s question.

    I will not underestimate the saving power of Jesus in the mix of ideas that compose an answer to the Father’s question. But, evangelization is not in and of itself an answer. Religious freedom within counties that are mostly Muslim is part of the Church’s response to radical Islam. A small but open minority of Christians has been attributed as a stabilizing factor in Muslim areas like the Ottoman Empire. Religious freedoms bring a certain element of stability.

    An extension of the previous idea on religious freedom, is that the Church should support the suppression of groups which use force to suppress religious freedom or other civil rights. This be true for repressive governments or militias. The term Islamic-fascist is not without its problem, but at a certain gut level it is true. Appeasement to radical Islam will have the same outcome as appeasement of the fascist in the 1930’s. Appeasement only puts off the fight to later when the enemy is stronger.

    There is more to the answer to the Father’s question, but for now I end.

    Yours in Christ
    Scott+

  4. angevoix said… . . .Our government is seen as arrogant and bullying. . . . Or worse yet are we the big westernized white guys with the guns and the muscle talking down to the little brown men from the “backwards” countries. (Even though their civilization is almost as ancient as time itself and ours is in its infancy by comparison)

    We are the guys with the big guns, however, I would not say white guys. This is plain and simple the facts in the world today. I would not have it any other way. Might does not make right, but neither does weakness make right. Might give limited ability to enforce your will on others, being right is a moral choice.

    Chamberlain was wrong and Churchill was right when it came to facing fascists. Those who take our very measured response as bullying miss the important point that taking down an enemy is easier while he is weak than to do so later. Make no mistake about it, the parallels between radical Islam today, and Hitler’s brown shirts are very real.

    The Church’s historic idea of just war has it problems in the current context because the enemy is not another state. It was another state in Iraq, but is not so today. What to do with governments that are so weak as to allow Islamic-fascists militias, but are not overtly hostile is a problem.

    The Church’s historic idea of just war must be extended to the problem of militias operational within other states. One could take the approach that failure to control a militia is a state act and thereby the acts of the militias become state acts, making war with that state just. This to me is a valid albeit not compelling rational. In practice it has heretofore not been a practical answer except maybe in Afghanistan.

    I take strong exception to the idea that the Islamic culture is as ancient as time. Islam is an invention that postdates the New Testament. The last of the ancient civilization you are referring to was destroyed by Islam. Iraq may be where western civilization began, but it is not that civilization.

    Scott+

  5. At no point in my post did I refer to Islam specifically – I am talking about nearly everyone else on the planet who isn’t of European extraction. So my comment about culture was more intended towards Arab culture, but could also be applied to India, China, Mexico, Iran, and
    so on …
    I don’t subscribe to the just war theory and I won’t until I read in the scripture where Jesus told us to bomb our enemies. Jesus reserved His harshest rebuke for those who claimed to know the Father’s will but failed to live it.

    I’m really not understanding how anyone would have a problem with the concept of leaders sitting down at the table and discussing their differences as adults and as equals. Unless you see the other side as children and inferiors . . . and again, then wonder why they hate you.

  6. angevoix said… At no point in my post did I refer to Islam specifically – I am talking about nearly everyone else on the planet who isn’t of European extraction. So my comment about culture was more intended towards Arab culture, but could also be applied to India, China, Mexico, Iran, and so on …

    But the you are dealing with Islam and not those other cultures.

    I’m really not understanding how anyone would have a problem with the concept of leaders sitting down at the table and discussing their differences as adults and as equals. Unless you see the other side as children and inferiors . . . and again, then wonder why they hate you.

    I really do have a problem with the idea that the Islamic-fascistic are the equals to the United States, Great Britain or any number of other great western countries. Just because you shoot at me does not make you my equal. I would have some understanding of the position, if the Islamic-fascistic goal was not to destroy Jewish and Christian civilizations. If your goal in life is to kill me or my friends, how do I have a rational discussion.

    I think they will hate me no matter what I do, so I will always wonder by what rational reason they hate me. On the other hand I irrational hating seems normal for Islamic-fascistic.

    I don’t subscribe to the just war theory and I won’t until I read in the scripture where Jesus told us to bomb our enemies.

    The just war theory is part of the history of the Holy Catholic Church. If the good Father wants to open a thread on Just War Theory, that is OK, but beyond this I think it out of bounds to discuss its merits in response to the current question. I am an Anglican Catholic and the just war theory is part of that heritage.

    That is enough from me for the time being. If the historic just war position of the western Church is not a common heritage, then meaningful discussion of the good Father’s question degrades into argument on the just war theory. Father’s question I see as much larger than a discussion on just war.

    I hope I have thrown some useful idea out there for consideration.

    Scott+

  7. “I think they will hate me no matter what I do, so I will always wonder by what rational reason they hate me. On the other hand I irrational hating seems normal for Islamic-fascistic.”

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

    First of all, let me state again that only about 5% of Muslims beleive in terrorism. Secondly your statement comparing Hitler’s brown shirt’s to the Islamic radicals could not be more appropriate as it was the very unjust World War I that led to the German support of the Nazi party which led to Hitler’s rise to power. So viewing our current situation in the Middle East and the resentment of Muslims over our constant interference in their governing affairs due to our greed for oil, your comparison could not be more apt.

    You brought up the Just War Theory, my friend.

  8. I forgot the tough question of the day: Are the interests of the United States the same as the interests of the gospel and the Church?

    There is no quick answer. The primary interest of the United States and the primary interest of the Church are not the same. The primary interest of the United States is to protect it citizens and of the Church is the great commission.

    Christians are part of the United States. They can be a voter, war fighter, or in any number of other roles. The Church has an interest in supporting Christians.

    The Church is not really part of the United States, but it members are part of the United States. The Church should influence it members, who as citizens influence the United States.

    The Church should speak out on moral issues. I think this should be legal even if it crosses into the area of endorsement of candidates. This is only the Church’s attempt to influence it members.

    Scott+

  9. To Neo’s first question: What are some things the church should be doing, I’d offer up the places where Just Peacemaking and Alternatives to War are talked about. Here are a couple:

    http://anabaptist418.blogspot.com/2006/
    08/practices-of-just-peacemaking.html

    http://www.fcnl.org/ppdc/

    I could repeat some of their ideas, but as dealing with peacemaking is a BIG issue, possible solutions are BIG and I didn’t want to tie up the comments space.

    In summary,

    1. IF we all truly want war as a last resort, then we ought to be spending as much effort and money on developing peacemaking strategies as warmaking – we currently don’t come even close.

    2. There ARE methods out there that have been tried and proven valid. Are they foolproof? No, but neither is war.

  10. As to the tough question of the day (Are the interests of the United States the same as the interests of the gospel and the Church?), you don’t really think this is a tough question at all, do you? Isn’t the obvious answer, No – not even close? (or “God forbid!” or “Heck no!”?)

  11. OK. I’ll play. I’d say “Yes, they are.” This comes under the cultural conversation topic, American Exceptionalism. The spirit of America, identified by Alexis de Toqueville, was identified with the church from nearly our nation’s birth. Our orientation towards support of freedom, upholding human rights, opposing tyrany and despotic regimes, opposing genocide, involving ourselves in relief efforts around the globe, supporting the United Nations humanitarian aid programs and even the UN itself when all it does is attack us. All these things are a result of our sense of Manifest Destiny and the exportation of good will and fairness wherever we direct our national influence.

    Come and get it, Angevoix. I just served up a lulu. Try to restrain yourself, just a little.

  12. Dude, you can make the claim, but it’s not a biblical claim. God is not a god of any particular nation, but of ALL nations.

    All of humanity is fallen and there is no evidence that any nation is “exceptional,” as you suggest. 6,000 years of humanity is pretty strong evidence against your case.

  13. Manifest Destiny idea got me to thinking, so I will spend a few minutes this morning with a new posting. How this relates to the Church is that there is good and there is evil. The Church should support those who fight for good over evil. In reviewing the post, I see I am going over some ground already covered, but I have no time to edit same, so I will leave the duplication.

    I think the idea of Manifest Destiny started with the westward expansion of the United States. But the term has been used in a more general sense. Manifest Destiny is an idea which has in recent years taken on a bad context because of some abuses. However, it is not a totally bad idea. When you are as strong as the United States or Great Britain there is a moral duty to use that power for good.

    The great western democracies are not all powerful even in the secular meaning of that term. That is to say they cannot participate in every conflict out there. They could not be the world policemen. It is generally considered proper that some national interest is required before the committing of troops. This has been the basic policy of the United States except under President Clinton.

    After the WWII it became clear that the United States was going to be the strongest of the western democracies. No other country had the resources to take on that leadership role. The winning of the Cold War, was a win made up of most tactical losses but a strategic win none the less. The Cold War was not US versus USSR it was clash of ideology. It was the strength and albeit at time faltering resolve of the USA which prevent world domination by the USSR.

    What did the US do to the USSR which made it mad. Let me see, we helped them get defeat the Nazis. While there is disagreement, if the invasion of Europe by the USA, the British and the British Commonwealth had not occurred, the Nazis might have defeated the USSR. We did force them into war crimes trials for the Nazis. They wanted to just shoot a bunch. Of course they did this in private anyways.

    Some ideologies are sent on world dominance. That is their goal. While they may find support in this or that offense by others, world dominance is their goal. Hitler found support because he stood up against the post WWI policies of the victors. But Hitler’s goal was world dominance.

    Prime minister Churchill is quoted as saying the WWII was a preventable war. While we will never know it, many who study such things agree.

    I remember in the early 1960s there were television ads which were supporting the UN. They talked about several places where the UN troops “might have stopped WWIII.” Well the UN has become worthless. It cannot even muster enough troops to control and area that I think is smaller than the city of Los Angles. So it is left to the western democracies, lead by USA to stop WWIII.

    Back to the topic, what should the Church do in these matters. Large institutions like the Latin or Roman Catholic Church may have some role as being honest brokers, but in the fight with radical Islam, I see this a very limited. I do think there is clearly good and evil sides on this debate, and radical Islam is not the good side.

    I do not see the need for the Church to raise up Armies in the fashion of older days. The Church should support the war-fighters who fight Radical Islam. May there never be a day again, when people claiming to be the Church disrespect the war-fighter. I pray we never see the disrespect paid to those who fought to protect against the evils of the USSR and Red China during Vietnam.

    War is not pretty, but I think it will always be necessary, for if good people are not willing to go to war, bad people will win. This to me is the case today with radical Islam.

    Scott+

  14. Dan Trabue said: . . . 1. IF we all truly want war as a last resort, then we ought to be spending as much effort and money on developing peacemaking strategies as warmaking – we currently don’t come even close.

    Dan, I would suggest that you first must be sure that you can win the war, if war does come. That in the reality of limited resources mean you will likely spend much more effort on preparing for war than on so called peacemaking. The idea of speak softly by carry a big stick, works only if you really have a big stick. It also only works if people believe you will use the big stick.

    Mutually assured destruction, (MAD) sounds like a very crazy idea. But it keep the world out of nuclear war for sixty years. It was however based upon a common understanding of self preservation. We spent a lot of money on weapons which we never used. This to me was a good thing.

    Again MAD worked because all sides believed in self preservation. Now the world may have changed we are looking at an enemy which does not care for his own life or that of his family in many cases. Do you have another idea, rather than to hunt him down and kill him? I wish I did, but I do not.

  15. “I would suggest that you first must be sure that you can win the war, if war does come. That in the reality of limited resources mean you will likely spend much more effort on preparing for war than on so called peacemaking.”

    This gets to the heart of part of the problem of war-as-solution – especially when that war-as-solution has been expanded beyond purely defense-of-borders: The cost to blast problems away is astronomical.

    It is costing us over half a trillion dollars a year to maintain our military at its current level. And, if the war-supporters had their way, we might start wars with Iran, with N. Korea, withe Syria? And what of the genocides and oppression that are occurring in multiple countries around the world – shall we war our way to a solution there?

    Who could possibly pay for that kind of preparedness to win? If we’re stretched thin managing a defeated country such as Iraq and a relatively supportive nation like Afghanistan, how much will it cost to be prepared to win if we expand the war-as-solution to trouble spots around the world? Five trillion dollars? Ten?

    Man, a trillion dollars here and a trillion dollars there really adds up.

    We can’t use war-as-solution to “solve” serious problems around the world if we wanted to. There’s just not enough money, manpower or resources. Talk about your massive gov’t!

    No, we MUST invest in peace-making if we hope to have any positive impact on genocide, oppression and dangerous regimes at all. Our choices aren’t war or nothing – our choices are doing something with peacemaking or allowing genocide, terrorism and oppression to continue.

  16. Morpheus – I love you. Keep that Guiness cold because I am coming out there to retrieve it.

    I will show restraint. I will answer your post with this:

    Native Americans

  17. …seeing as there’ve been no further responses, allow me to continue.

    Father Neo asked:

    “How does the Church deal with radical Islam? Beyond the political process, are there any answers?”

    And, as I’ve already pointed out, since the political process has always failed and war-as-solution can’t possibly work, this is why the Good News of God is so vital.

    We have some answers, it’s time we:
    1. Put them into practice ourselves, and,
    2. Tell the world.

    When Jesus told us to turn the other cheek and overcome evil with good, he wasn’t being pollyanna or utopianistic. That’d be a tough accusation to make for those of us who believe Jesus is God!

    No, Jesus understands human nature. A soft answer does turn away wrath. Responding to evil with kindness is heaping burning coals upon the heads of the evil.

    It is damned hard to keep slapping a person who won’t slap you back. And other folk won’t stand around and watch a person just be repeatedly slap very long. They’ll rise up on the side of the oppressed. Or, at least they’ll want to if they feel they have some legitimate answer.

    This is human nature.

    We must not run from Jesus’ more scary, radical teachings but rather embrace them. Strive to live them out ourselves. Can you imagine what sort of world this would be IF ONLY a tenth of the people claiming Christianity embraced the fearless sort of peacemaking that Jesus advocated?

  18. Dan Trabue said…It is damned hard to keep slapping a person who won’t slap you back. And other folk won’t stand around and watch a person just be repeatedly slap very long. They’ll rise up on the side of the oppressed. Or, at least they’ll want to if they feel they have some legitimate answer.

    Dan, you make an assumption here which is true now but would not be in the world which you envision. That assumption is that someone has the means to standup to those who would want world domination. If it were in fact slapping, men have the natural ability to restrain a slapper. However, we are talking about armed conflict, and being prepared for armed conflict take preparation. It takes arm, munitions, leadership, training, and the like. This does not come quickly. In order to engage in armed conflict a government must prepare ahead of time.

    The turn the other cheek I see as instructions to individuals. It has applicability in larger groups and maybe even government for a time. In the lesson about turn the other cheek, there is an assumption inferred. That assumption is that you have the ability to take action. I see Christ as saying, there is moral value in not using strength that you have. I do not see him as saying there is moral value in being weak.

    In regards to my above quotation of you. Should we have not attacked Iraq when they invaded a neighbor? Was it wrong to take down leadership which was killing many of its own people? Was it wrong to standup to a movement which was set upon world domination and one of whose idea is the total suppression of Christianity?

    We must not run from Jesus’ more scary, radical teachings but rather embrace them. Strive to live them out ourselves. Can you imagine what sort of world this would be IF ONLY a tenth of the people claiming Christianity embraced the fearless sort of peacemaking that Jesus advocated?

    I am not running from the teaching of Jesus. I am standing up to a misunderstanding of that teaching. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is clear that Israel was commanded at times to go to war. God intervened on the side of Israel in time of war. I do not see the scriptural warrant in you alleged “fearless sort of peacemaking.” I see you radical pacifism as not consistent with the Church’s idea of a just war.

    It is damned hard to keep slapping a person who won’t slap you back.

    Dan, for those who a set upon world domination it is not hard at all.

    Scott+

  19. Hey Ange,

    The Native Americans were pushed aside by the frontier expansion often without conscience as to the genocide that was being perpetrated on them. That is true. We are not perfect. We are men, after all.

    The “violence” in Jesus that threatened the existing worldview of the Sanhedrin and Sadducees was the spur to their insistence that Jesus be killed. It was not turning the other cheek that caused Jesus to embarass them in front of their peers by calling them names. It was not turning the other cheek to pick up a whip and drive the money changers from the Temple. It was the wrath of God’s justice, not the warmth of His love. He was killed, not for turning his cheek, but for seditious acts, in their view. Sometimes, in the case of a tyrant who is killing the people, it is important to “give war a chance”. Your assertion that it never works would be incorrect in WWII, of course. It stopped Hitler and saved the Jews and homosexuals and “defectives” that he couldn’t reach. If we had followed Neville Chamberlain, he would have finished the job. WWII restored the social order. It stopped the insanity that was Europe in that era. It’s true that it led to the cold war between the remaining totalitarian regime on the continent, I suppose. Is that what you mean? Or, are you a true Utopian who actually believes that you have the answer to peace on earth?

  20. Scott said:

    “The turn the other cheek I see as instructions to individuals.”

    All I’m asking is that we follow this teaching as individuals. The gov’t is not a Christian entity and it will choose as it will. In a democratic republic, we have the chance to voice our opinion in the matter, but still the gov’t will take whatever action it deems wise (whether it is or not).

    But we Christians have our instruction that we’ve been given. We must follow it as individuals and as the church if we wish to follow Jesus’ teachings.

    “I see Christ as saying, there is moral value in not using strength that you have. I do not see him as saying there is moral value in being weak.”

    I agree with this within the constraints of Jesus’ teaching. We DO have great strength. The power of God, the power of love, of turning the other cheek. And we ARE to use this power when confronting evil.

    Whether or not we have deadly power is rather a moot point, beyond the instruction not to use it but rather to overcome evil with good. I mean, Jesus certainly had the power at hand to call down an army of angels and wipe out the oppressors. He chose not to. Giving us an example. A better way of living. A new teaching.

    “For this is the will of God, that by well-doing you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men…For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps…Who, when he was cursed, didn’t curse back. When he suffered, didn’t threaten, but committed himself to him who judges righteously…”

    1 Peter 2

  21. Scott said:

    ” It is clear that Israel was commanded at times to go to war. God intervened on the side of Israel in time of war.”

    Do you really wish to embrace the OT model of warring? You know God repeatedly told Israel NOT to depend upon a big army or kings, but upon God. Shall we get rid of our standing army and only rally a small, underarmed militia in times of crisis, as Israel did?

    Shall we slaughter every last man, woman and child as it appears God told the Israelis to do in the OT?

    Do you really want to embrace that model?

    Scott said:
    “I see your radical pacifism as not consistent with the Church’s idea of a just war.”

    I’m asking for us to not rely upon church tradition but Jesus’ teaching.

    But as to Just War, I’d be enormously GLAD if states would move even that far towards godliness. Just War Theory is, to me, not a horrible model for the state (not that Christians could participate, but it’s not a bad model for a secular state). It would be at least a step in the right direction.

    We’re not following JWT principles in our war-making currently. Both of the last two popes (at least) have indicated as much, for instance (not that I’m catholic, but just as a reference).

    Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) said:

    There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a “just war.”

    By all means, begin by embracing Just War Theory. But Father Neo was asking what Christians should be doing as followers of Jesus. That’s why I’ve answered as I have.

  22. Morpheus asked:

    “It’s true that it led to the cold war between the remaining totalitarian regime on the continent, I suppose. Is that what you mean? Or, are you a true Utopian who actually believes that you have the answer to peace on earth?”

    I’m not a Utopianist any more than Jesus was. I’m just trying to embrace Jesus’ teachings. I don’t think turning the other cheek is a pollyanna answer. I think it a practical one.

    As to your questions about WWII, I’d have two thoughts:

    1. Just as war is not a perfect solution in a flawed world (obviously!), neither is peacemaking. Lives may well be lost, tyrants may be difficult to overcome, atrocities may occur.

    One difference between the two approaches is that WE won’t be the ones committing the atrocities.

    2. But practically speaking, one may ask, would you do nothing against a Hitler?!! (That’s the question always asked, no matter how many times it’s been addressed.)

    Yes, Peacemakers would take action against a Hitler (or a Saddam or a Bush or anyone committing atrocities). I’ve referenced here several times the actions we might take, see the links in my first post.

    3. As to the efficacy of a peacemaking response vs a war-as-solution response, consider: WWII had some 30-50 million deaths as a result. The Cold War that followed had its millions (tens of millions?).

    We’ll never know what a difference a peacemaking response would have made. But it’s difficult for me to imagine a more peaceable, christ-like response doing worse.

    But maybe that’s just me.

  23. Thanks for clarifying Morpheus – I began to read the last bit and wondered, “Jeesh, what cow pie did I step in this time !?!”

  24. It is, and you know that your view and approach are honored by me, Dan. They are always courteously stated and reasonably presented, and therefore always thought provoking…this time, too. I do think we need to have a Christian response to everything, not just war. I try to do the same, but I’m more likely to go to the sword without conflicted feelings than you are. Just me, I guess.

  25. I’m asking for us to not rely upon church tradition but Jesus’ teaching.

    As an Anglican Catholic, I rely upon Church tradition to prevent me from reading into Holy Scripture, what I want to see there. If the Church tradition is not important to you, we have a radically different view of Christianity.

  26. Church tradition is important but it does not trump the clear teaching of Jesus. Human tradition can be wrong.

    Ask the pharisees.

    Apparently the last two popes were at least questioning JWT’s applicability in the context of modern warfare.

    Then, too, I am from a different church tradition than you. I’m anabaptist and our church tradition IS pacifism (as was church tradition for the first ~300 years of the church).

    So when I’m talking about not relying up Tradition, I’m talking about the tradition of modern mainstream churches, not my church.

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