Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The World Is Left Naked

Is my security worth another's life

"...There was a time when the church was very powerful -- in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators." But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey Gad rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent -- and often even vocal -- sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century..." - MLK Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

In January 2007, the United Nations reported 34,000 Iraqi civilian "violent deaths" in 2006 alone (click on article link). The Defense department has confirmed 3,138 total U.S. soldiers killed since March 2003. Saddam Hussein expired beneath the hangman's noose, yet the Iraq war continues to consume the lives of Iraqis and US soldiers. The above passage comes from MLK's Letter from Birmingham Jail, which addressed the criticism of white clergyman that thought civil rights protests were "unwise and untimely." The above passage is a searing critique that the 21st century church must heed in midst of such dangerous times. King invokes the power of the early church that didn't simply observe public opinion, but sought to transform it. He mourned the contempory church's silence as African-Americans endured the police dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham. Where has the sacrificial spirit of the church gone? Is today's church content with the status quo? Is today's church still consoling the power structure by keeping silent about the obliteration of life in Iraq?

The tendency to compartmentalize the value of one's life represents the biggest crisis infecting churches in America today. One's human nature compels him to place the life of a fellow citizen over the life of an alien stranger, but one's Christian calling allows him or her to deny such impulses. The Christian cannot draw the line between those who should live and those who should die since Christ made no such divisions and died for all men and women regardless of place and time. Any divisions between human beings that exist are human constructs as all God-made divisions were removed in the death and resurrection of Christ. When one claims Christ as Lord, then he or she can no longer justify the killing of alien civilians or combatants so that we preserve American security and prosperity.

More than ever, I am convinced that my security and well-being here in America is not worth the lives of 34,000 Iraqi civilians and over 3,000 fellow countrymen. I would rather Iraqi civilians and myself face the evils of terrorism together than have Iraqi civilians and US soldiers solely take on the yoke of suffering as I sleep pain free in a warm bed. The notion of "just-war" simply does not exist under the lordship of Christ. The only actions permitted under the lordship of Christ are just-love, just-compassion, just-forgiveness, just-peace, and just-suffering. Even these actions become justified only when they are reciprocal. Like the war in Iraq, these actions become unjust when Christians in America remain content to cloth themselves with these actions while the rest of the world is left naked.



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