Tuesday, August 10, 2004

More on enemies...

Reverend Ref+ pointed me to an interesting blog post about Imprecatory Prayer. According to Webster's, to imprecate is "to invoke evil on" or "to utter curses." I'd suggest reading the argument in favor of imprecatory prayers posted at The Family Letter and coming back to finish this.

The author of the post, Doug Giles, makes an argument in favor of Christians using imprecatory prayer as a defense against radical Islam. He states, "Radical Islam is incorrigible, period. So… face it and embrace it. We are not going to convert or appease these cats. We have nothing they want. There is nothing to negotiate. They want us exterminated. Capisce?"

After suggesting several courses of action, including unwavering support of President Bush, he concludes with, "As people of faith, dust off and use what’s afforded to the believer within the Old and New Testaments, namely the imprecatory prayers."

How does he describe imprecatory prayers? Like this:

It is a prayer asking God to crush a clear enemy of His, an enemy which is an aggressive adversary of freedom and peace loving people. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Precious Moments Figurine Collector, the Bible is filled with maledictions prayed by saints and speedily answered by God against violently impenitent enemies of liberty and righteousness.
So… start tossing imprecatory prayers heavenward and watch what God does to militant implacable Islam. The celestial spanking of terrorists is no big deal for God. And our prayers could save thousands of our soldiers’ lives, our citizens’ lives and the lives of innocent, moderate Muslims and others who get caught in the freak boys’ villainous crossfire.

As I said in a comment at the Family Letter, this is all fine and good if you're operating under the assumption that God is on your side. I think you have to be supremely confident that your view of the world, of the Bible, and God is absolutely correct. The unfortunately reality is that the world is an extremely complicated place and seldom can one extremist position accurately convey what's at stake.

We can construct our view of the world as an "us versus them" situation and pray ferverently that God will destroy our enemies. But that worldview ignores our complicity in creating the conditions that allow "radical islam" to thrive. I think it is a normal and very understandable reaction to want the terrorists dead. But that misunderstands the world that creates them.

Benjamin Barber is a professor at the University of Maryland and author of several fantastic books including Strong Democracy, Jihad vs. McWorld, and Fear's Empire: War, Terrorism and Democracy. In an interview will Bill Moyers on NOW, he had this to say:

BARBER: And the 9/11 Report says, Bill, very clearly that unless we deal not just with al-Qaeda and with terrorism and the radical sect Wahhabi Islam that gives them their ideology, but that we also deal with the millions and millions of young Muslim men around the world who are angry, who feel left out of the new world markets, who feel engaged in defensive ways by the aggressive American consumer mentality and materialist economy being pushed around the world that I called McWorld. Unless we deal with that, even if we excise the tumor of al-Qaeda, we will find new tumors growing on this same immune defective system.

MOYERS: But there is a school of thought which holds that al-Qaeda and the terrorists that everyone takes so seriously come not from conditions in the world but from a radical ideology embedded in Islam itself.

BARBER: But the problem with that argument is that it assumes that ideologies, whether it's Communism or radical Islam, grow in isolation from the conditions around them. Communism became a radical and virulent and dangerous ideology. But it came out of three centuries of class warfare.

It came out of the abuses and difficulties and contradictions of capitalism in the 18th and 19th century. That grew the ideology that in time grew Bolshevism and all the terrible costs that we paid because of Bolshevism. And radical Wahhabi Islam is very much the same. I mean, there's a good way to define a radical religious movement.

Radical religion is normal religion under siege. When people feel threatened in their normal religious beliefs, they become radical. So we have to do something about normal religion under siege if we're going to deal with radical Islam.

As much as we'd like to deny it, we helped created radical Islam. So as much as I believe God mourns all of the deaths at the hands of terrorists, I believe God also mourns the economic, political, and social systems created and perpetuated by the United States that result in global povery and inequality. As much as we'd like God to punish the sins of radical Islam in righteous anger, we need to acknowledge our sin in our relationships with the world.

So, Doug Giles, you're right. The Psalms are full of imprecatory prayers. But I believe as Christians we're called to greater responsibility. It's easy to pray for the destruction of your enemies. It is much harder to acknowledge your role in creating the conditions the bred your enemies. So while I hate what al-Qaeda does, I'm not going to pray for God to destroy them. I'm going to pray that our society will have the courage and humility to approach the Muslim world with grace in seeking justice and peace for all people.

I'd also suggest reading a sermon Tony Campolo posted at The Church of Fools, "Why many people in the world hate America."

That Jesus guy had a couple of things to say about this too. I think it's important to note that what many Jews wanted in their Messiah was a holy warrior that would drive the Romans from Israel. They (and we) got something completely different. We should remember that.

Matthew 5:38-48 (MSG)
"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: "Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

"You're familiar with the old written law, "Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, "Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best--the sun to warm and the rain to nourish--to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

"In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

Luke 6:41-42 (MSG)
"It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, "Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

If you'd like to read more of Doug Giles' wild, somewhat incomprehensible rants, visit ClashRadio.com.

This is long, sorry. If you've gotten this far you must be a glutton for punishment.



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