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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ Please, Christians! ~


We applaud the conservative Christian publication of Christianity Today for giving a voice to diverse opinions. The publication prefaced these articles by asserting the editors do not fully agree or fully disagree with the writers. Likewise these excerpts of them are posted here with their references with no commentary from us. All credit for the following is attributed to Christianity Today.

"Please, Christians! Let's grow up and get over our childish wishes. If, like me, you had lived through the 17 years of Lebanese civil strife from 1975 to 1991 and were presently facing the real and gruesome prospect of another extended conflict, you'd be far from hoping and believing in any benevolent and sincere peace efforts of any external broker, supposedly neutral.

"I'll tell you, if you care, what I think those governments will help foster. I think that some pseudo-biblically motivated Christians with decision power, who believe 'that apocalyptic destruction is a precursor to global salvation,' are presently working toward provoking a Middle Eastern conflict of regional significance in order finally to settle accounts with Hezbollah- and Hamas-supporting Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and Palestine, who have committed the crime, as Gushee put it, of making their hatred for Israel 'crystal clear.' And how dare they, since the said state has only been acting as an aggressor and racist colonial state with neighbor-exterminating tendencies from the moment of its inception?

"(Of course, I will be accused of being an anti-Semite because of such words. But I will just shrug and sneer at that accusation and say: 'What makes you a Semite anyway?' Having just read the holocaust account of Elie Wiesel's Night with tears and deep empathy, having Jewish relatives on my Swiss mother's side who fled Germany to Switzerland during the period of the rise of Nazism, being an Arab Christian with Lebanese paternal ancestry, I have more Semitic DNA in me than most who will be reading this. My ethnic heritage may be a mess, but I can still recognize ethical wrong when I see it!)

"As an academic with a Ph.D. from Oxford University and specialist in Christian-Muslim and East-West relations, constantly seeking creative models of conflict resolution and better understanding, all of what I have just written is written in a manner far from what I would normally write or say with a cool head, far from what my Swiss-blood-flowing veins would normally permit me to utter. But then, perhaps academics sometimes owe their readers more genuine feelings, skin-level emotions gushing out of a deeply hurting, frustrated, desperate, and hopeless soul that has had enough of human arrogance and injustice.

"I am angry at self-centered Hezbollah, which has done the inadmissible of taking a unilateral war decision without consulting the Lebanese government of which it is part, never giving a second thought to the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Lebanese who will perish as a result of its selfish decision. I am angry that citizens of a nation like Israel, who have so suffered at the hands of others, would allow themselves such an out-of-proportion reaction, oh-so-far from the 'eye-for-an-eye and tooth-for-a-tooth' principle that we might have forgiven them. I am just as angry at—I have lost hope in—the international community that is keeping silent and not even budging with an official condemnation of this senseless instinct of extermination. By both sides, I would be lynched for what I have just said, if they had the chance. But what have I got to lose anymore?"

[Martin Accad is the academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon. He was teaching at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, and, as of this posting, is now unable to return home.]

Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today.

A 'Prayer' to Condoleezza Rice
After the water turns to blood at Qana, how long?
by Riad Kassis | posted 08/02/2006 09:00 a.m.

"Children normally pray brief and sweet prayers before they go to bed. Friday evening, my seven-year-old daughter, a Lebanese, and her four-year-old cousin, an American, stood side by side, stretched up their hands, and prayed. It was neither a prayer to keep them safe during the night nor was it a prayer to bless Dad and Mom. It was not even addressed to God or Jesus, as prayers usually are.

"It was a spontaneous prayer that came from pure hearts, mingled with politics and the current tragic events. 'Condoleezza Rice,' they said. 'We are in trouble in Lebanon. Please save us!'

"They repeated this prayer several times. When my daughter was told that prayers should be directed toward Jesus or God, she answered: 'But Condoleezza is able to stop the war on us, is she not?'

"Ms. Rice, would you hear and answer this prayer? It is not a prayer of just two children. It is a prayer of thousands of children who are displaced in Lebanon and thousands of children who are in shelters in Israel. It is a prayer of children who are physically and psychologically injured. It is a prayer that comes out of the rubble of southern Lebanon and Haifa.

"I beg you not to respond by saying that circumstances are not right for a cease-fire or that it is not politically appropriate to do so. There is and will never be an acceptable excuse for the killing of civilians. The excuse that the U.S. is waiting for a 'sustainable solution' without calling for an immediate cease fire is nonsense. It is only a green light for Israel to continue its atrocities in Lebanon. For stopping a war, for holding a fight, for checking the destruction of homes and livelihoods, for peace and negotiation, the time is always appropriate.

"Sunday morning, I woke up to the news that an Israeli air strike hit a residential building used as a shelter in the southern Lebanese town of Qana, killing and wounding more than 65 people, including 30 infants and young children. According to tradition, Qana is the village where Jesus Christ performed his first miracle by turning water into wine (John 2).

"Now I hear of fellow Christians who enjoy seeing the turning of water into blood in the name of end-time prophecy. Their call should rather be to turn water into wine of gladness, peace, and life. Are we looking for the presence of Christ in Lebanon and Israel or for the presence of U.S. smart bombs?

"Ms. Rice, I heard recently that you are an ardent evangelical. I have always believed that evangelicals are peacemakers. They are those who hold fast to the gospel of peace and reconciliation. Please answer the above children's prayer. Help me at least not to lose faith in calling myself an evangelical.

"Until such prayers and requests are answered, we continue at J.L. Schneller Institute in West Beqaa to pray and to work for peace. We continue providing care to hundreds of displaced people who took shelter at our institution and to others in neighboring areas. Please keep us and all of Lebanon in your prayers."

[Riad Kassis is executive director and chaplain at the J.L. Schneller School in West Bekaa, Lebanon. He is also lecturer in Old Testament Studies at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut and formerly at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Beirut Lebanon. Those interested in supporting the Schneller School can contact its partners in Germany (EMS- Maurer@ems-online.org) and United Kingdom (BibleLands- Nigel.Edward-Few@biblelands.org.uk)]

Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today.

Where Atrocity Is Normal
Understanding Christian soldiers who have seen the horrors of war.
by Patrick Stone | posted 06/30/2006 10:00 a.m.

"Some of the news reports from Iraq regarding the conduct of U.S. soldiers have been disturbing these past months. We have heard about the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison and more recently the alleged mass killing of at least 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in November 2005 by a squad of U.S. marines following an improvised explosive device (IED) that killed one of their comrades. How do we as Christians react to such events, especially when the men or women involved return to our homes and churches? Denial and feigned ignorance has generally been the historical reaction during previous wars. Let the former soldiers remember (and suffer) in silence. Let them work it out with God.

"Nothing in this article should be seen as justification for war crimes, but Christians need to be informed and transformed as we struggle with the moral, ethical, legal, and spiritual issues raised by these events.

"Several years ago, I was teaching at an African university when a Christian student asked to talk with me. She had heard that I had been a soldier. Over several hours, she struggled to share her story with me. At a young age, her family had emigrated from an East African country to the West where she was raised and educated. At age 16 she requested to return to her homeland to see relatives and discover her roots.

"While visiting, a war broke out between her country and its neighbor. Because she was a legal citizen and had just turned 17, she was conscripted into the army. The young woman saw horrific combat, but one event disturbed her most. While on patrol, her squad captured eight young enemy soldiers. Since no prisoner of war facility existed in the country that could pass the Geneva Convention mandates, she and her squad were ordered to execute the prisoners. The squad leader went to each member of the squad and handed them one bullet with the instruction to either execute one of the prisoners or use it on themselves. This student took her prisoner into the desert where the young man pleaded for his life. They were close in age, and he showed her pictures of his family and his grade reports from school. With great difficulty she shot him, but two years later she told me about her daily memories and nightmares of her action and its victim.

"Thirty-six years ago, I was in Vietnam where my platoon was set up for the night. Near a stream, I had trained two new men how to set an effective booby-trap. We knew the enemy had tracked our long-range patrol throughout the day and had every reason to believe that we could be attacked that night. Just before dusk, the booby-trap exploded followed by a brief silence and then moaning. We feared the sound would serve as a beacon for our enemy to locate us. As the equatorial night closed around us, my platoon leader whispered to me to take some men and 'shut them up.'

"I was one week from my 20th birthday, a dedicated Christian, and the acting platoon sergeant. As my small patrol of three moved into the high grass, I struggled with what I should do. The man behind me sensed my hesitation, stepped in front of me, and shot the wounded person in the head, killing her. I felt relief as we headed back to our night location. But after talking to the shooter, I learned we killed a young Montanyard woman who had no weapon. She was missing both legs from the explosion.

"I felt sick and vowed to God to never put myself is such a situation again. The next morning we discovered a young family of four children and a young woman hiding in some nearby rocks. It seemed likely that the woman we killed was the mother of several of these children and that she was simply looking for water. We fed the family and requested that they be taken out of the field with us by helicopter that afternoon when we were to leave the area. But when the choppers arrived, it became clear that we didn't have enough 'lift capacity' to evacuate the troops and the family. As the helicopters departed, I watched artillery rounds envelop the area of our pickup. I believe the family was killed.

"Why are these stories important?
"We underestimate the role of environmental forces at work in our lives. In combat, you cannot predict with any certainty how you will act when your life is in extreme jeopardy and your friends have been gravely injured and killed. There can be a second's difference between a cowardly or heroic act. If you are in combat more than a few seconds, you will most likely have opportunity to display both.

"Most of us cannot imagine ourselves acting in inhumane ways. Scripture refers to such presumption as "self-righteousness." Because we are good, decent, moral, born-again Christians, we think we would never participate in the evils that the battlefield holds. Combat, to many Americans, involves identifiable soldiers killing each other until some side "wins." This is sometimes true, but the reality of warfare is that given enough time in combat, most soldiers will be faced with moral choices that will take a lifetime to untangle.

"Following my return from Vietnam I spent most Sunday mornings in a church pew wondering, 'What does this have to do with what I saw and did in Vietnam?' This was especially true on one of many anniversary dates such as June 19 (first time I got shot at), June 23 (longest night), August 16 (two friends killed), November 22 (date I was wounded), etc. Since leaving Vietnam 36 years ago, I have rarely attended a Sunday school or church service where specific questions have been raised, let alone discussed, that addressed the events of my tour. Somehow I believe we Christians do not want to be soiled by the brutality of the battlefield, even though we are forced to confront our own involvement in the war as we pay taxes, vote, watch television, and occasionally have firsthand contact with survivors of combat. There is enough blood for all of our hands.

"What are we to do?
"It is the political leadership of this country who must ensure that whenever we engage in armed conflict, the 'realistic' ends will justify the ugly means. It is the military's job to provide leadership, training, and, when necessary, ensure that soldiers make the best choices in impossible circumstances.

"When soldiers finally return from war and we hear their stories, Christians can be more active. We must grasp the emotional and spiritual significance of combat for the veterans we meet. Most will move forward with their lives, but some must deal with their numbness and callousness, others may struggle with survivors' guilt, and some may remember too much, while others will remember too little. Each will be in a different place. Only God knows the actual path each will follow. It is our responsibility as family members, friends, and churches to provide refuge for understanding, reflection, and healing throughout their lives."

[Patrick Stone is a psychology professor at George Fox University. He has worked extensively with Vietnam veterans.]


John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
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