Love your enemies… really

I have long been a fan of the columnist David Brooks and this piece may be one of his finest. I know it is refreshing to my thinking right now regarding ISIS.

When I read “conservative” Christians respond to ISIS and the beheadings, the first thing I often hear is how evil Islam is… and the corollary that goes unsaid is unsettling. All that is wanted is a harsh military response and let’s get on with life. The unspoken corollary is often, “And we know Muslims aren’t worth saving. All of Islam is ‘radical’ Islam.”  (We won’t say that first part because maybe Jesus COULD save a few… but that’s up to HIM… not us.)

We don’t respond well to criticism or people lashing back at us on the internet. We really don’t respond well to ISIS and their treatment of prisoners. We’ve gone back to an “eye for an eye” mentality. So many “conservative” Christians think Jordan’s respond of hanging two prisoners for the one pilot ISIS burned is the “right” response.

Brooks does NOT back away from the needed military response to ISIS. But he DOES offer tough thoughts on what it means to be “civilized.” I think he gives us the opportunity to understand once again that when Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” he just may have meant that.

These Islamic State guys burn hostages alive because it wins praise from their colleagues, because it earns attention and because it wins the sort of perverse respect that accompanies fear. We often say that terrorism is an act of war, but that’s wrong. Terrorism is an act of taunting. These murderous videos are attempts to make the rest of us feel powerless, at once undone by fear and addled by disgust.

We want to chest thump and match their barbarism. “You take a life, we’ll take out a village!” But that’s exactly the response they are looking for.

How should we respond?

The world is full of invisible young men yearning to feel significant, who’d love to shock the world and light folks on fire in an epic status contest with the reigning powers.

The best way to respond is to quiet our disgust and quiet our instincts. It is to step out of their game. It is to reassert the primacy of our game. The world’s mission in the Middle East is not to defeat ISIS, which is just a barbaric roadblock. It’s to reassert the primacy of pluralism, freedom and democracy. It’s to tamp down zeal and cultivate self-doubt. The world has to destroy the Islamic State with hard power, but only as a means to that higher moral end.

As citizens, we need to understand we can’t lose faith in a system we believe to be true: democracy.

As citizens of heaven, we need that understanding as well. While the “state” needs to deal with ISIS in a way that will deliver a fatal blow, that does not mean we need to live with this “eye for eye” mentality.

Psalm 23 is a constant reminder. He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. 

This is a hard way. It is not soft to talk of “loving” your enemy. It is the Kingdom way… and that way demands much of our soul.

Love your enemies… really. 

Remembering and Mourning

Today is the 11th anniversary of 9/11. It was actually a Tuesday when the attacks happened.

I was reflecting with one of my classes last week about things like 9/11. One thought struck me during that discussion is built on a conviction I’ve had for quite some time about 9/11.

We haven’t properly mourned 9/11.

In personal tragedy, if someone doesn’t really mourn a loss, if they don’t take the time to grieve, “issues” pop up later. Until there is real grief, sorrow, a letting out of emotions, we find ourselves struggling with raw emotions. Those emotions will surface at the oddest times and we will wonder where that came from!

I think this may be true on a national level. We had memorials and services, but I think our national emotions are still raw. We’ve divided, so that if people get upset with a mosque being built near Ground Zero, we chalk it up to “crazy conservatives.” If someone else has an opposite reaction to something else tied to 9/11, we lash out and say, “Weak liberal.”

It exposes raw emotion. I think it’s because we haven’t really mourned this day and this loss. We still search for the “why” in some way, but that search for “why” isn’t the answer to our grief. Bin Laden being dead isn’t the end of our grief. Hussein’s death doesn’t resolve grief. Revenge doesn’t resolve grief.

The first few weeks after 9/11 I remember people talking about re-evaluating what they do. One “gossip columnist” I heard on MPR spoke about the shallowness of her job. There was a sense of reality. A chance to grieve.

Then, we were told the most patriotic thing we could do was get back to shopping. We’re consumers. Go consume. Show those terrorists they didn’t win!

We went to war, we went to the mall, and we tore into each other. We blamed George Bush. We blamed liberals. We blamed France. We blamed anyone we could find for what was wrong in our world. And we’re still blaming. We still have raw emotions over all kinds of things not even related to 9/11… and it just may be because we haven’t really let out the emotions we truly feel from this day.

Then again, I could be all washed up on this one.

Today… I remember.