Thursday, February 12, 2004

A Kingdom response to Iraq?

We were talking about the Kingdom of God and the war in Iraq today. We talked about how Christ could have led a revolution. He had the influence of the mob. He could have violently overthrown the oppressive powers of Rome. But he didn't. He ushered in a new way of setting things right. He began a new way of living together. He inaugurated a Kingdom which set the oppressed free not by means of violence but by the way of suffering.

So how do we respond to the war in Iraq? No one would argue that the Iraqi people were oppressed by a cruel dictator. But how do you free them from that? Conservatives would say that Bush did the right thing. You have to use force to overthrow a dictator. After force is used then freedom can come. After all, this is the American way. This is exactly how America won its freedom from England.

Liberals would disagree. They would say that it can be done politically. Through political pressure, economic sanctions, and various other manipulations, the political world community could have pressured Saddam into giving up his weapons. If enough pressure is applied, we may have even been able to get the dictator to improve the living conditions in his own country.

Are these our only options? That is it? That is the best we can do? And as Christians we buy into these political parties as if these are OUR only options. We are either for the war or against it. There is no other ground. One is either conservative or liberal, republican or democrat. We are a bi-polar nation. I am not so sure following Christ means following an either/or of political parties.

How do we help the Iraqi people and how do we do it non-violently? I think even the liberal democrats and the conservative republicans can agree that political pressure would only go so far in changing the life situation for the Iraqi people. Why isn't there a whole think-tank of Christians who are trying to think of responses to these situations which would be in line with Kingdom thinking?

What I mean is that if America went to war to help the Iraqi people and to get rid of WMD, aren't there non-violent, non-political ways to do this? One might respond, "No, how would you do that?" But that is my point, no one is even thinking about how to do that. Why? Because it is the way of suffering, and Lord knows we Westerners don't want any of that.

Already, 500+ troops have died as well as many Iraqis. Conservatives say, "Well, that is the sacrifice for freedom. Both for the safety of America and the freedom of Iraqis". Liberals say, "That is too many lives lost. If we would have done it politically, no lives would have been lost. Even if we would have only vaguely secured WMD and never freed the people of Iraq, at least no one would be dead."

As I Christian, death is certainly not the worst of things. I have a greater hope. There is more to this life than what is here on earth. I have an eternal hope. A truly "Kingdom of God" type response would probably cost more lives, not less. More people would die. Why? Because it wouldn't be done politically and it certainly wouldn't be done violently.

I wish I had more concrete examples. But one might be the Civil Rights movements. If they had gone purely through the political process, the reality is that we would still have segregated schools today. Often going through the "established" means of change makes for very, very slow progress.

So instead of just petitioning their governors and representatives, they marched. Now they could have marched violently. They could have caused riots and reeked so much havoc in society that the government would have been forced to listen. But then they would have only changed laws and not hearts.

No, instead they marched in peaceful, non-violent protest. It changed a nation. And continues to do so. It changed not only our laws, but our hearts. All of this was led by a Baptist preacher named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who wanted change to happen the right way. He was bound by Kingdom principles as a minister and man of God.

So what would this look like in Iraq? It could have looked like a fleet of Christian volunteers who legally or illegally entered the country and began feeding the hungry and doing surgery on the broken. As they set up communities of hope in Iraq, the persecution probably would have been enormous. 500 dead? No, probably more like thousands dead. And the more Christians died, the more Christians would have gone over to Iraq to be a part of setting the oppressed Iraqis free. Why would Christians do this? Maybe to win converts? No, they would do this because that is what the Kingdom of God is about. And in the process, Jesus wouldn't have needed to be preached, He would have been seen all over Iraq.

My guess is that if this happened, things would have changed. God has a way of working powerfully through a small remnant. My guess is that in time there wouldn't have been a dictator. My guess is that the country would have been transformed from the inside out. My guess is that thousands upon thousands of Christians would have had to die to see it happen. But it would have happened, and this without a shot fired in the other direction. It would have happened without political manipulation or revolt. That is the way of the Kingdom. That is the way of the cross.

So to all you Conservatives that wanted war and to all you Liberals that wanted bureaucratic non-sense, you both are wrong. Sure, both ways are more comfortable to the Western world and even to me. But American ways are not the ways of the Kingdom of God. And I need to chose this day which Kingdom I will be a citizen of.

Can I honestly say that I am willing to help, sacrifice, and die for the people of Iraq? No. But I might be able to say that I am willing to help, sacrifice and die for the Kingdom of God. My task now is to stop trying to push the Kingdom of God into some transcendent, apocalyptic future. And realize that Kingdom living began with Christ. And that I am called to be apart of it.

Lord, give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to feel the movement of Your Kingdom in the world.


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