Part three in my four part series entitled “What Are We Fighting For?”
2001 CE: Modern Day “Crusades”
Here’s a quote taken from late 2001, after the attacks of 9/11:
“On Sunday, Bush warned Americans that “this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile.” He and other US officials have said that renegade Islamic fundamentalist Osama bin Laden is the most likely suspect in the attacks.”
Did I hear that right? Did George Bush use the term “crusade”? Yup. I’ve confirmed this with various sources. He did use the term “crusade.” It seems that we’re right back where we were in 1095 with Pope Urban II and his Holy War. Advanced civilizations? I beg to differ when I see quotes like this one. It’s like we’ve learned nothing from history.
The problem with the Just War position is that it means different things to different people. One person may justify war in order to defend themselves, but that war is likely to harm other innocent people that were not the target of that justified response. And, both sides in a conflict believe that they are justified in what they are doing. Surely both sides can’t be the “Just” side in the confrontation, can they?
And, we need look no further than recent history to see the problem of “Just War”: remember the weapons of mass destruction? Well… so much for that justification.
So the question then becomes: Which justification is the right justification? The US claims to have the moral justification in current world conflicts. But, non-Western people don’t view it that way. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? How do we judge? And, in what ways should we judge? War is so permanent, irreversible, and cripplingly painful to experience. The damage caused by mistakes in judgment are extremely expensive and can rarely be reversed.
To put it into perspective for you, here’s something to consider:
A few days ago, I stumbled across a heartrending picture (see my blog post of this event) of an 18 month old Iraqi boy who had been killed after being fired upon by US forces during a street battle in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood in June 2004. The boy, lovingly dressed in his best clothes: a pair of red shorts, a colourful buttoned up short sleeve polo shirt and a pair of sandals, looked like he was dressed to go to church, a family picnic or maybe even to school. In any other setting, he would have been a bright image of sunshine on an otherwise dreary day in Iraq’s war-torn land. But instead, his family was preparing to lay him to rest. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and frustration that family must have experienced that day, and for many days before and after. I’m sure it’s something that you could never recover from.
This picture really hit home for me, as I have a young boy myself. It really put into perspective for me how I would feel if one of my loved ones was hurt or killed in such a manner. The picture has repeatedly left me numb, unable to move. I keep thinking of the grief that has been experienced by that family and countless others from the violence that exists in the world today, much of it senseless.
Perhaps most of all, this picture provides a very real jolt to those that feel removed or disconnected from a conflict occurring far away from our comforts of home.
While I would like to think that I would have the moral strength to turn the other cheek and to try for a peaceful resolution with those that I felt were responsible, I know that my initial response would be one of anger and seeking revenge. It’s tough not to feel that way with something as permanent as death, especially of the young and innocent among us.
Can anyone justify any action when it results in loss of life in this way? Does it matter when irreversible damage is being done? Loss of life, loss of hope, loss of civility and respect are all at play here. There is no easy answer.
Is violent response an appropriate way to honour God? Is violent response an appropriate witness as a Christian? I want to go back to an item that I mentioned at the beginning of this sermon: the image of the baptized soldier, heading off to war in Iraq. What does that image say to you? There are a few tings that I see in that image:
- First, the image says to the American soldier: your actions are okay according to God;
- Second, it says to the American’s family, watching helplessly at home: your son or daughter will be watched over by God and his or her soul will rest with God should things end badly for them in Iraq;
- Third, it says to the rest of the Western World: God is with us on the battlefield. We have God’s backing. Our troops are walking with God in this war;
- And Fourth, it says to the enemy: These soldiers are Christian soldiers, marching off to war.
For a secular society, the United States certainly did frame the “War on Terror” as a religiously supported crusade. Very dangerous indeed.
And don’t kid yourself. This reflects upon all Christians. Time magazine is a very popular magazine. It is read by a huge cross-section of people every day. Do you feel at all mis-represented by the media in this way? Do you feel that the mainstream media misses the mark when it comes to capturing the spirit of Jesus and his message of peace?
Coming up next: Part 4: What are we supposed to do?