Advent hope for Iraq, captives and Limbaugh - news from ekklesia

Advent hope for Iraq, captives and Limbaugh - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
10 Dec 2005

Advent hope for Iraq, captives and Limbaugh

-10/12/05

[An edited excerpt of a reflection from Sojourners magazine web editor, Ryan Beiler, with grateful acknowledgement]

Today is the day that the Swords of Righteousness Brigade have set for the execution of Christian peacemakers in Iraq, if US forces do not release all detainees held in there.

Their survival would be a miracle. And yet, statements of support from the likes of Hamas and cleric Abu Qatada, a suspected al Qaeda terrorist imprisoned in the UK, are already miraculous. Our enemies - by conventional definition - have appealed for the release of our friends.

The cynic will say that support from such quarters merely confirms that CPT must be as anti-American as the terrorists. But hints of parable permeate: The Samaritan, a despised foreigner and outcast to Jesus' audience, disregards religious and ethnic division to aid one in need, while countrymen preoccupied with their own purity pass by.

Indeed, Rush Limbaugh [the US talk-show host] is glad these "leftist feel-good hand-wringers" are being "shown reality." To follow his version of the parable, they'd never have fallen among thieves if they hadn't been walking on the road to Jericho in the first place.

His reference to reality is intriguing, coming in support of an administration now widely regarded as out of touch with the reality in Iraq. Promises that we would be greeted as liberators, that Iraq would pay for its own invasion with oil revenue, that we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were, that only a few troops would be needed - all evaporated in the face of a reality that the likes of Limbaugh can only imagine, while the men and women of the armed forces, CPT members, and the people of Iraq experience its horror on a daily basis.

Hawks are always eager to chide doves that though war is hell, it's the only realistic course to security. But frankly, their reality is terrible. While the body count in Iraq surpasses 10 times that of September 11 (I will not here discriminate between theirs and ours), this week the 9/11 Commission has issued a report card filled with Ds and Fs - evidence that while our military misadventures overseas have exacted billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives, measures at home that could truly make us safer have been neglected. Katrina is merely one case in point.

Jesus warned us, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7.15). Watching file footage of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, and hearing their hollow promises followed by claims of "mission accomplished" - one is not sure whether to laugh at the absurdity or cry at the resulting tragedies such as Abu Ghraib. "A few bad apples," we were told. "You will know them by their fruits," Jesus said (verse 16).

But in stark contrast with neo-con messiah complex fantasies, Tom Fox had no illusions about the dangers he would face in Iraq. "I am to stand firm against the kidnapper as I am to stand firm against the soldier," he wrote more than a year ago. "Does that mean I walk into a raging battle to confront the soldiers? Does that mean I walk the streets of Baghdad with a sign saying ëAmerican for the Taking?' No to both counts. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right, then I am asked to risk my life, and if I lose it to be as forgiving as they were when murdered by the forces of Satan."

Far from "feel-good hand-wringers," these men knew the difference between good and evil, and that living out Christ's call is costly. They were so in touch with reality that officials preferred to ignore that they denounced abuses at Abu Ghraib long before the photographs came out - before anyone was listening.

I could denounce the Swords of Righteousness Brigade for threatening to kill the people who have defended the very detainees they demand be released, but that doesn't seem productive at this moment. Instead, I stand astonished as other Muslims - militants, politicians, and religious leaders - defend these captive Christians, and Jesus' upside-down kingdom glimmers.

CPT's risky Christianity, broadcast by al Jazeera, has done more to promote mutual understanding and goodwill than any ham-handed tour by Karen Hughes, the US State Department's head public relations envoy.

This week's Advent theme is promise - the promise that a true and trustworthy saviour is coming. We are called to anticipate a messiah who was willing to become vulnerable, to enter dangerous territory, to put his life in the hands of those who couldn't tell enemies from neighbours, and taught us to love them all.

While in a spirit of Advent anticipation we wait and pray that today will bring a new promise of life, I am confident that as they walk in his steps, the Christ who defeated death will work more miracles regardless of grim realities.

Petition for the release of the four.

[Updated full chronological list of related articles on Ekklesia: Christian Peacemaker Teams full briefing (with links to features and stories on CPT's work); Christian peacemakers - a lesson to the peace movement (by Mark A. LeVine); Why are we here? (by CPTer Tom Fox); Embattled Hezbollah backs Iraq 'doves of peace' 09/12/05; UN secretary general calls for release of all Iraqi captives 09/12/05; Former Guantanamo Bay detainees call for release of Christian peacemakers 08/12/05; Jack Straw says he will talk on Iraq hostages 08/12/05; Abu Qatada pleas for Iraq captives as deadline is extended 08/12/05; Christians criticize UK Iraq war budget increase 08/12/05; Christian peacemakers say the work must go on 08/12/05; Last minute appeals made for Christian peacemakers 07/12/05 ; Muslim detainees plead for lives of Christian peacemakers 06/12/05; Faith groups in the US unite to back Iraq captives 06/12/05; French engineer seized in Iraq 05/12/05; Norman Kember's wife pleads for his life 04/12/05; Iraqi, Muslim and Palestinian support for peace hostages grows 04/12/05; Insurgents say they will kill Christian peacemakers 02/12/05; WCC calls for freeing of Christian peace workers 02/12/05; Vigils and messages of support for abducted peace activist 02/12/05; Palestinian bishop seeks mercy for Iraq peace workers 02/12/05; Anti-war campaigner flies to Iraq to plead for Christian peacemakers 01/12/05; Muslims urge release of Christian peacemakers missing in Iraq 01/12/05; Al-Jazeera releases film of Iraq peace hostages 30/11/05; Search goes on for Christian peacemaker kidnapped in Iraq 28/11/05. Key book: Patricia Gates-Brown (ed.), Getting in the Way: Stories from Christian Peacemaker Teams, Herald Press]Christian Peacemaker Teams full briefing (with links to features and stories on CPT's work); Why are we here? (by CPTer Tom Fox); Christians criticize UK Iraq war budget increase 08/12/05; Christian peacemakers say the work must go on 08/12/05; Last minute appeals made for Christian peacemakers 07/12/05 ; Muslim detainees plead for lives of Christian peacemakers 06/12/05; Faith groups in the US unite to back Iraq captives 06/12/05; French engineer seized in Iraq 05/12/05; Norman Kember's wife pleads for his life 04/12/05; Iraqi, Muslim and Palestinian support for peace hostages grows 04/12/05; Insurgents say they will kill Christian peacemakers 02/12/05; WCC calls for freeing of Christian peace workers 02/12/05; Vigils and messages of support for abducted peace activist 02/12/05; Palestinian bishop seeks mercy for Iraq peace workers 02/12/05; Anti-war campaigner flies to Iraq to plead for Christian peacemakers 01/12/05; Muslims urge release of Christian peacemakers missing in Iraq 01/12/05; Al-Jazeera releases film of Iraq peace hostages 30/11/05; Search goes on for Christian peacemaker kidnapped in Iraq 28/11/05. Key book: Patricia Gates-Brown (ed.), Getting in the Way: Stories from Christian Peacemaker Teams, Herald Press]

Advent hope for Iraq, captives and Limbaugh

-10/12/05

[An edited excerpt of a reflection from Sojourners magazine web editor, Ryan Beiler, with grateful acknowledgement]

Today is the day that the Swords of Righteousness Brigade have set for the execution of Christian peacemakers in Iraq, if US forces do not release all detainees held in there.

Their survival would be a miracle. And yet, statements of support from the likes of Hamas and cleric Abu Qatada, a suspected al Qaeda terrorist imprisoned in the UK, are already miraculous. Our enemies - by conventional definition - have appealed for the release of our friends.

The cynic will say that support from such quarters merely confirms that CPT must be as anti-American as the terrorists. But hints of parable permeate: The Samaritan, a despised foreigner and outcast to Jesus' audience, disregards religious and ethnic division to aid one in need, while countrymen preoccupied with their own purity pass by.

Indeed, Rush Limbaugh [the US talk-show host] is glad these "leftist feel-good hand-wringers" are being "shown reality." To follow his version of the parable, they'd never have fallen among thieves if they hadn't been walking on the road to Jericho in the first place.

His reference to reality is intriguing, coming in support of an administration now widely regarded as out of touch with the reality in Iraq. Promises that we would be greeted as liberators, that Iraq would pay for its own invasion with oil revenue, that we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were, that only a few troops would be needed - all evaporated in the face of a reality that the likes of Limbaugh can only imagine, while the men and women of the armed forces, CPT members, and the people of Iraq experience its horror on a daily basis.

Hawks are always eager to chide doves that though war is hell, it's the only realistic course to security. But frankly, their reality is terrible. While the body count in Iraq surpasses 10 times that of September 11 (I will not here discriminate between theirs and ours), this week the 9/11 Commission has issued a report card filled with Ds and Fs - evidence that while our military misadventures overseas have exacted billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives, measures at home that could truly make us safer have been neglected. Katrina is merely one case in point.

Jesus warned us, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7.15). Watching file footage of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, and hearing their hollow promises followed by claims of "mission accomplished" - one is not sure whether to laugh at the absurdity or cry at the resulting tragedies such as Abu Ghraib. "A few bad apples," we were told. "You will know them by their fruits," Jesus said (verse 16).

But in stark contrast with neo-con messiah complex fantasies, Tom Fox had no illusions about the dangers he would face in Iraq. "I am to stand firm against the kidnapper as I am to stand firm against the soldier," he wrote more than a year ago. "Does that mean I walk into a raging battle to confront the soldiers? Does that mean I walk the streets of Baghdad with a sign saying ëAmerican for the Taking?' No to both counts. But if Jesus and Gandhi are right, then I am asked to risk my life, and if I lose it to be as forgiving as they were when murdered by the forces of Satan."

Far from "feel-good hand-wringers," these men knew the difference between good and evil, and that living out Christ's call is costly. They were so in touch with reality that officials preferred to ignore that they denounced abuses at Abu Ghraib long before the photographs came out - before anyone was listening.

I could denounce the Swords of Righteousness Brigade for threatening to kill the people who have defended the very detainees they demand be released, but that doesn't seem productive at this moment. Instead, I stand astonished as other Muslims - militants, politicians, and religious leaders - defend these captive Christians, and Jesus' upside-down kingdom glimmers.

CPT's risky Christianity, broadcast by al Jazeera, has done more to promote mutual understanding and goodwill than any ham-handed tour by Karen Hughes, the US State Department's head public relations envoy.

This week's Advent theme is promise - the promise that a true and trustworthy saviour is coming. We are called to anticipate a messiah who was willing to become vulnerable, to enter dangerous territory, to put his life in the hands of those who couldn't tell enemies from neighbours, and taught us to love them all.

While in a spirit of Advent anticipation we wait and pray that today will bring a new promise of life, I am confident that as they walk in his steps, the Christ who defeated death will work more miracles regardless of grim realities.

Petition for the release of the four.

[Updated full chronological list of related articles on Ekklesia: Christian Peacemaker Teams full briefing (with links to features and stories on CPT's work); Christian peacemakers - a lesson to the peace movement (by Mark A. LeVine); Why are we here? (by CPTer Tom Fox); Embattled Hezbollah backs Iraq 'doves of peace' 09/12/05; UN secretary general calls for release of all Iraqi captives 09/12/05; Former Guantanamo Bay detainees call for release of Christian peacemakers 08/12/05; Jack Straw says he will talk on Iraq hostages 08/12/05; Abu Qatada pleas for Iraq captives as deadline is extended 08/12/05; Christians criticize UK Iraq war budget increase 08/12/05; Christian peacemakers say the work must go on 08/12/05; Last minute appeals made for Christian peacemakers 07/12/05 ; Muslim detainees plead for lives of Christian peacemakers 06/12/05; Faith groups in the US unite to back Iraq captives 06/12/05; French engineer seized in Iraq 05/12/05; Norman Kember's wife pleads for his life 04/12/05; Iraqi, Muslim and Palestinian support for peace hostages grows 04/12/05; Insurgents say they will kill Christian peacemakers 02/12/05; WCC calls for freeing of Christian peace workers 02/12/05; Vigils and messages of support for abducted peace activist 02/12/05; Palestinian bishop seeks mercy for Iraq peace workers 02/12/05; Anti-war campaigner flies to Iraq to plead for Christian peacemakers 01/12/05; Muslims urge release of Christian peacemakers missing in Iraq 01/12/05; Al-Jazeera releases film of Iraq peace hostages 30/11/05; Search goes on for Christian peacemaker kidnapped in Iraq 28/11/05. Key book: Patricia Gates-Brown (ed.), Getting in the Way: Stories from Christian Peacemaker Teams, Herald Press]Christian Peacemaker Teams full briefing (with links to features and stories on CPT's work); Why are we here? (by CPTer Tom Fox); Christians criticize UK Iraq war budget increase 08/12/05; Christian peacemakers say the work must go on 08/12/05; Last minute appeals made for Christian peacemakers 07/12/05 ; Muslim detainees plead for lives of Christian peacemakers 06/12/05; Faith groups in the US unite to back Iraq captives 06/12/05; French engineer seized in Iraq 05/12/05; Norman Kember's wife pleads for his life 04/12/05; Iraqi, Muslim and Palestinian support for peace hostages grows 04/12/05; Insurgents say they will kill Christian peacemakers 02/12/05; WCC calls for freeing of Christian peace workers 02/12/05; Vigils and messages of support for abducted peace activist 02/12/05; Palestinian bishop seeks mercy for Iraq peace workers 02/12/05; Anti-war campaigner flies to Iraq to plead for Christian peacemakers 01/12/05; Muslims urge release of Christian peacemakers missing in Iraq 01/12/05; Al-Jazeera releases film of Iraq peace hostages 30/11/05; Search goes on for Christian peacemaker kidnapped in Iraq 28/11/05. Key book: Patricia Gates-Brown (ed.), Getting in the Way: Stories from Christian Peacemaker Teams, Herald Press]

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License. Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.