ten years gone

Fully knowing that they were only between 4 and 8 at the time, I asked a group of high school students where they were on 9/11.   The response was probably what you would expect.  They sort of remember it, but it didn’t really seem like it was a part of who they were. They didn’t comprehend the sadness, the fear the anxiety of the day and of the weeks following.  The anthrax scare that followed 9/11 didn’t even get on their radar.  To people who fully remember the events of the day, it is hard not to watch a remembrance video without tearing up.  It is difficult for your stomach to not sink a little when the vivid images of people jumping out of the towers roll across the screen.  In the weeks following 9/11 it was hard to step on an airplane and not profile someone (as guilty as I feel about this)…Airport security was always, “that way.” Osama Bin Laden was a household name.

I grieved a little that they did not share in the suffering of the day.  There is something about sharing in suffering that changes your perspective.  There is something that unites, that gives people a view of what’s really important.  Mostly I grieved because I realized that there is an entire generation that will never feel what I felt as I sat paralyzed in horror in front of my TV that day on September 11th.

I’ve learned that remembering is more than knowing facts.  Remembering involves feeling the pain of those whom we have a common connection with.  I’ve never felt people’s pain more clearly than I did on 9/11.  I’ve never felt more united with my fellow Americans than I did on that day.

The coming generation may never remember watching people in other countries burn American flags in the days following that horrific day.  Although some of the videos that the news was showing were shot months prior to September 11th, there was still some celebrating.  I remember how sickening that was.  I wasn’t angry but simply disgusted.  It was obvious that the up and coming generation didn’t get this because a few months ago when Osama Bin Laden was killed, we saw people celebrating in the streets.  Although there is a legitimate cause for relief in people’s mind that Bin Laden is no longer with us, it highlighted that we didn’t remember the suffering that plagued that day.  When we celebrated the death of Bin Laden we just created a cycle of vengeance.  To some Islamic extremist 9/11 was a taste of victory, for many who were hurt the death of Bin Laden was the same taste.  If we keep going down this same road, it makes me anxious to ask, what will the extremist celebrate next?  Then, what will we celebrate after that?

I learned that de-escalation of conflict is difficult when you have a people full of pain.  I also learned that genuine love conquers that pain.  I learned that loving my neighbor means protecting them.  I also learned my neighbor serves Allah.  I learned that cycles do exist and we can encourage them or discourage them.  I’ve learned that the world is smaller than I thought.  I learned that my kids who were born 8 and 10 years after 9/11 would somehow need to know the story.  They will somehow need to feel my pain.  They will somehow need to engage the world in a loving way as to not perpetuate the cycle of destruction in a world that is already devoid of love.  The will need to remember the suffering of a people who were gone before they arrived.

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redemptive violence

So many times in the church we talk about worship.  We talk about living your beliefs out as a form of worshiping God.  If that’s true, then sometimes I wonder which god we worship.  Let me tell you a story of the creation of the world, according to ancient the Babylonians. 

Apsu was the father god and Timat the mother.  These two gods gave birth to all the other god’s. Their children created so much noise that Apsu and Timat couldn’t sleep so in retaliation for the noise they plotted the death of all their children.

The children god’s found out about the plot and they killed their father, Apsu.  Timat (who is the dragon of chaos) was so overcome with rage that she plotted her revenge, which was the death of all her children.

Timat terrified all of the gods so they turn to the youngest son named Marduk for salvation.  Marduk negotiated with his siblings and the deal was that if he won the battle with his mother then he would become the head of all the other god’s.

Marduk eventually captured Timat in a big net, caused an evil wind to go into her belly, an arrow pierced her heart and he spread her corpse out to make the cosmos, from the cadaver of Timat the world was created.  To go even further since Marduke created mankind he also set up a solution for law and order.  Kings and queens were authorized to use force and violence as a means to restore order.  The highest value in this Babylonian creation narrative is restoring order over chaos.[1]

Now I bet none of us would really agree that this is the way the world was created.  However, creation narratives often have an ethic that is lived out by the followers of that God.  For example the ethic in the Christian creation narrative is that God love his people so much, he hides his image within them and walks in the garden with them.

In this Babylonian creation story we learn that order comes to a society through violence.  We learn that violence can actually be redemptive because it restored order to a society.

According to the two creation narratives what god does our society serve?  Almost any movie, TV show or video game will tell you the way to restore order in a society.  The story of good conquering evil through violence is actually a religious belief.  In the ultimate reversal, Jesus conquered evil through an act of violence done to him!

So when we shout for revenge, who is it that we serve.  When we come to the conclusion that violence can restore order to a society, did we just stumble into the ultimate lie?  If you study your history you would see link to wars that started in 1618 (the thirty years war) to the war in Iraq.

Does violence do the trick?  We obviously can sit idly by and watch a Hitler destroy a people group, but would there have been a Hitler if there were a different solution other than violence?  We clearly can’t stand by and allow Osama Bin Laden to operate a terrorist group that will result in the deaths of thousands.  Loving our neighbor demands that we protect them, but how do we protect our neighbor without engaging in a violent act?  How do we worship Jesus and protect?

For those who believe that the only way is violence, I would suggest that the ethic of the ancient god Marduke is hard to shake.  In fact I would suggest what we live out shows who we worship.

I am strongly aware that our society has been conditioned to believe that violence is redemptive, but this is simply a well-crafted lie.  Violence does not restore order; it begets more violence and chaos.

Don’t buy into the lie.

May you let the love of Christ conquer the desire to live out redemptive violence.


[1] This story can be found in Walter Wink’s, “The Powers that Be”

 

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jesus loves terrorists

I think God mourns the death of Osama Bin Laden for one reason, because He loves him.  I do agree that the man was evil and assuming that he did not make a decision to follow Jesus then I think we could say that he is living in separation from God. I do agree that he is a murder and I abhor all that he has done.  However, this is the main challenge of Christianity, How can God love a murdering terrorist? This is a problem for a lot of people and it was for the early church too.  The apostle Paul wasn’t always an apostle; he was the Pharisee Saul who breathed out murderous threats against followers of Jesus.  In fact he was present at the murder of Stephen and was on his way to kill others in Damascus when God supernaturally changed his course.  He was a terrorist until Jesus intervened in his life, now we look at his writings as profound and sacred.  Bin Laden was an evil man, it does not change the fact that Jesus loves him.

A few years back a friend, Holland Prior was teaching at a worship service where I serve as a Pastor.  She taught on the violence in the bible and what she had to say was very relevant to this topic.  She talked God’s wrath being played out over the course of history.  First with Noah and the flood, second with some nations, then with some people groups and finally, God’s wrath on mankind was satisfied in one person, his Son. If you accept this reading of the Bible then it affects the way that we would look at the death of Bin Laden today.  If the death of Jesus satisfied the wrath of God, then we couldn’t really say that God killed Bin Laden, or that this is God’s justice. God’s wrath was satisfied in his son, and that is great news for us.

I believe God has a lot of compassion for those who do not love him.  I think He want’s all people to be with him but is way too loving to force anyone to choose.  These two verses show God’s love and patience for those who do not love him in return.

Ezekiel 33:10-11 God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked but he would rather that they be saved

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

So how do we respond to the death of an international terrorist who had murdered thousands of innocent men women and children?  I believe we remember those who died from the USS Cole, 9/11 and other attacks.   Those who have lost family and friends will miss them long after Bin Laden fades from the American memory.   I think we look at this man and ask questions that will force us to remember honestly.  Why did Bin Laden so hate the western world?  How do we create more allies rather than enemies?

As Americans we must face the harsh reality that there is an entire world out there that hates America. However, If our enemies stay enemies, how many more 9/11’s, USS Cole, Madrid bombings and shoe bombers will we see in our lifetime?  If we accept the reality that these people are our enemies and there is nothing that we can do about it, then they will always be our enemies.  But what if all that changed? What if we showed the rest of the world that Americans don’t want to be enemies with the rest of the world

 

 

***I want to clarify that when I say “God”  this is who I mean.  I believe God is one made up of three eternal expressions of the Father, The Son (Jesus who is God revealed), and the Holy Spirit.  I believe that the Bible reveals this God to humanity.  I believe the contents of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments contain all that is necessary for salvation.  It is extremely important that my readers know this while reading.  First, many people do not agree with what I just wrote and serve a god that sounds similar but is all together different.  Two when you say God, which can mean a lot of things to people with different cultural and religious upbringings.

 

 

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