A Different Perspective on Iraq

Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution

I am slowly but surely still reading through Shane Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution. Many of you are familiar with Shane’s work with the Simple Way, and maybe read my earlier post on his visit to Princeton. I found the section on his trip to Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams particularly moving and wanted to share a few quotes:

In a section explaining his motivations for going to Iraq, Clairborne concludes with:

I went to Iraq as a missionary. In an age of omnipresent war, it is my hope that Christian peacemaking becomes the new face of global missions. May we stand by those who face the impending wrath of the empire and whisper, ‘God loves you, I love you, and if my country bombs your country, I will be right here with you.’ Otherwise, our gospel has little integrity. As one of the saints said, ‘If they come for the innocent and do not pass over our bodies, then cursed be our religion.’

I am challenged by how we as Christians all over the world can be right there with Iraqi Christians if not in body, but in spirit.  I would love to hear how others respond to Claiborne’s challenge here to live the gospel. Claiborne goes onto describe the strength of the Iraqi people, the Iraqi Church, and the children of Iraq:

As we were playing a little game of balloon volleyball, bombs began to explode in the background. The adults all looked uneasily at each other, but we kept playing. Then one explosion hit very close. A couple of us huddled down with the little children. I looked at this young teenager who had the courage I could only dream of; she looked deep into my timid eyes and said, ‘It’s okay; don’t be scared.’ And she smacked me on the head with the balloon. These children were raised hearing bombs–in 1998, in 1991–and yet they will still play in the park with people whose country is destroying theirs.

Finally, Claiborne recounts a conversation he had with one of the bishops who had organized a worship service for them while they were there.

…I explained to him that I was shocked to find so many Christians in Iraq. He looked at me, puzzled, then gently said, ‘Yes, my friend, this is where it all began. This is the land of your ancestors. That is the Tigris River, and the Euphrates. Have you read about them?’ I was floored–by my ignorance and by the ancient roots of my faith. It is the land of my ancestors. Christianity was not invented in America…how about that?

The bishop went on to tell me that the church in the Middle East was deeply concerned about the church in the United States. He said, ‘Many Americans are for this war.’

I nodded.

And he asked, ‘But what are the Christians saying?’
My heart sank. I tried to explain to him that many of the Christians in the US are confused and hope that this is a way God could liberate the Iraqi people.

He shook his head and said, very humbly, ‘But we Christians do not believe that. We believe ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’ We believe if you pick up the sword, you die by the sword. We believe in the cross.’ Tears welled up in my eyes as he said, ‘We will be praying for you. We will be praying for the church in the US…to be the church.’

These words of the Iraqi bishop haunt me, because they are so similar to the ones spoken by a pastor from Pakistan who came to Princeton and told us, “We don’t want your money, we simply want your solidarity, we want to know that you stand with us as brothers and sisters.” He said this as he showed us slides of his church which had been burned to the ground. When we as Americans speak of the Church, how powerfully it changes our perspective when we consider the global church, and not just our own vision for what we desire.

As Claiborne writes,

Too often we just do what makes sense to us and ask God to bless it. In the Beatitudes, God tells us what God blesses–the poor, the peacemakers, the hungry, those who mourn, those who show mercy–so we should not ask God’s blessing on a declaration that we will have no mercy on evildoers. We know all too well that we have a God who shows mercy on evildoers, for if he didn’t, we’d all be in big trouble, and for that, this evildoer is very glad. Rather than do what makes sense to us and ask God’s blessing, we’d do better to surround ourselves with those whom God promises to bless, and then we need not ask God’s blessing. It’s just what God does.

Amen.

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