I saw a picture of a US soldier holding the bloody head of a dead Afghan boy (aged 15!) – exactly in the same way a hunter holds the head of a deer or bear at the end of a successful hunt.
If you haven’t heard the story yet – go to Rollingstone.com and read the article: http://www.rollingstone.com/kill-team
I first saw this photo last week – a German publication (Der Spiegel) was apparently the first media organization to publish some of these horrible pictures. And since then, I have had a bit of a crisis of faith.
And you should too!
Of course war is brutal – I’ve read many first hand accounts of some of the horrors of the war in the Pacific (Tarawa, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima) and Vietnam. We’ve all seen graphic photos of “collateral” damage (polite way of saying “oops we just killed an innocent family”). And all you have to do is meet one actual combat soldier to know – even in the most justifiable of circumstances, war leaves deep, deep scars on those who have honorably served.
But this is a different sort of horror – a band of unholy brothers – thrill killers who gun down a young boy, hack off his finger, and then pose for their trophy shot.
OK, I digress . . . back to the crisis of faith.
Every day I hear stories of utter brutality. Not simply these thrill killers, but also stories of an 11 year old girl gang raped in CA; parents in FL who killed their adopted daughter and badly burned their son; a Mexican man who was recently sentenced to 40 years for bringing young girls to Atlanta, each forced to have sex with around 40 men each night.
So, I wonder, how important are all these never ending debates that we Christians get into?!!
Rob Bell just published “Love Wins” – a rather mediocre essay that may or may not (!) say that everyone gets to go to heaven. Some Christians are way too excited about this book – while other Christians couldn’t wait to sic the dogs of theological “orthodoxy” on him.
Fundamentalists are angry (surprise!) at a decision from a home school group for allowing Peter Enns (an author and former professor from Westminster Theological Seminary) to give a presentation because he is (gasp!) a theistic evolutionist.
My own denomination (the PCUSA) continues to argue over ordaining “practicing” homosexuals.
Not for one second am I suggesting that these aren’t relatively important debates – they certainly are! None of the examples I have mentioned are simple – there are complicated, two thousand-years old doctrines and interpretations to sort out. And the Bible matters – it is the unique witness to Jesus Christ. I just wonder if we ever get around to Jesus!
I guess what I am shooting for here is this – can we agree that these intramural debates are very important, can we give them a LITTLE bit of our time (enough attention that we are not forgetting the issues and the people involved) – and yet…and yet, can we all agree that maybe, just maybe the children of God who are outside the church are desperate to see our witness in the darkest places of human depravity?
What has happened to the moral influence of the church? Did we ever have it – or did we simply have a bully pulpit – did we simply seize the so-called moral high ground only to find that it was all an illusion – that we never really did have the hearts of the people we were cajoling into our stained glass edifices?
John’s Gospel says that the light shines in the dark. We (as Christians) are told that we are light – and that we are not to hide this light under a bushel.
Where is our light?
What if we would spend just 1/10th of the energy we spend on debating evolution, or sexuality, or the authority of the Bible, or whether churches should look like houses or cathedrals or shopping malls? What if we would spend half as much time praying to God on behalf of young girls being raped every minute of every day as we do praying for more people to sit in our pews? What if we would give $5 to an organization like International Justice Mission or Amnesty International instead of to McDonalds?
Isn’t it interesting that the Gospels show that Jesus only spent a fraction of his valuable time in debates with the scribes and Pharisees! Jesus teaches the curious, he heals the sick and the lame, he literally touches the “unclean.” Jesus walks and prays and teaches and heals – he doesn’t show off how much he knows, rather he shows how deeply God loves especially among the “unloved”.
I’ll end with this – I am not ranting at anyone. Well, maybe I am ranting just a little bit at all my brothers and sisters in Christ who talk a lot about Jesus. But I am mostly frustrated with myself. Frustrated that sometimes my priorities are really messed up! All the troubles of my church, my denomination, my faith, seem very inconsequential in the face of sex-trafficking, slavery, starvation, wars, domestic violence, children being neglected, etc(!). And I am frustrated because I know that alone I can do very little – yet together I also know that the Church can truly change the world.
We (both Christians and non-Christians) sometimes wonder why, if there is a God, why God permits all of this horror in the world. How can a good and loving God stand idly by while all of these people suffer gross injustice and inhumane treatment?
But I no longer do that. How is it God’s fault? He has always had a covenant people – a people meant to be a light to the nations. And what have WE done? We, who have the ability to seek justice, have instead fallen asleep. I fear that we are too much like the Disciples at Gethsemane – asleep in the garden when we should have been awake.
I don’t have any solutions. I just wonder – can we do more . . . can we be more?