i was on tour a few weeks back when word got out that Osama Bin Laden had, supposedly, been shot and killed by US troops. Immediately, we were bombarded by a country in dark celebration. Our (Showbread’s) immediate thought was that someone whom Jesus had cherished (a human being) had been killed and that his loved ones were in need of prayer. But when you make an effort to lift the heavy cross of enemy-love that Jesus commands his followers to lift, it seems there are still many prepared to throw a few stones.
(for the story behind the painting featured here, check out this post from Greg Boyd’s old blog)
This is one of the reasons I have decided to forsake all others and follow Jesus: his ways, 2,000 years later, are still too radical for the world to accept… even the ones who claim to be his followers.
The following days and weeks were very trying for me personally. I became tremendously discouraged by the church as it ignored the scandalous gospel of love in order to wave a flag of celebration over the corpse of a man for whom our savior gave his life. Simultaneously, I was being challenged and uplifted by the surprising amount of those willing to stand up and confess, “Jesus died for Osama Bin Laden.”
Most of us would like to think that the god of hate and vengeance is sole-property of Westboro Baptist, but I’m afraid he thrives in the heartbeat of our own Roman Empire america. The call of the true God—the God who IS love—continues to ring out: to be a distinct and peculiar people, ready to love, bless and do good to our enemies, to put down our swords or beat them into plowshares, to turn the other cheek and to accept a terrifying offer to deny ourselves and to love the way he has loved us. While the empire wields the sword, the church loves and blesses.
I’m reminded of the story of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, in Acts 7. When blood-thirsty religious fanatics surround Stephen and begin to kill him because he professed faith in Jesus, Stephen prays for them. Verse 60 tells us: “Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.” A prayer not unlike the one our savior prayed for his executioners during the execution itself. How far removed from his heart we have made ourselves when we stand and cheer for murder. Jesus himself prays forgiveness over unrepentant sinners as they are literally in the act of murder itself. This incredible spirit of grace and mercy makes its way into the hearts of the first Christians as Stephen echos his master’s prayer. The american church has much to learn when it lifts its arms to cheer for the death of its enemies rather than lifting its arms to pray for them.
It’s no secret that along with a myriad of pivotal figures in the faith, Showbread advocates what some folks call Christian non-violence, biblical pacifism or what Walter Wink calls “the third way of Jesus.” We believe that the New Testament is absolutely conclusive in its call to utterly reject all violence and retaliation. For more on non-violence as a theological concept here are a few excellent books on the subject: Greg Boyd’s “Myth Of A Christian Nation” and “Myth Of A Christian Religion“, Walter Wink’s “The Powers That Be“, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw’s “Jesus For President“, John Howard Yoder’s “The Politics Of Jesus” and “What Would You Do?”, Jaques Ellul’s “Anarchy And Christianity”
after this post was made late last night, I received several e-mails and comments from folks confused by my decision to include criticism of the generally accepted story behind September 11th. I have decided to revise that portion of this post with a few considerations. The focus of the post lies completely in the above text, the originally included after thoughts on 9/11 were included as just that: afterthoughts. why include them at all? in hopes that followers of Jesus would ask questions, especially when this means questioning the empire. my intention was genuinely NOT to endorse a certain conspiracy theory or to endorse public opinion, but to ask questions about where our bogeymen come from in the first place, and to create an atmosphere where Jesus-followers can ask these questions without name-calling and senseless accusations, after all, questioning the empire is NOT questioning Jesus, rather, questioning the empire and following Jesus often go hand in hand. some folks called on “respect for authority” as a new testament teaching to discourage the entertaining of conspiracy theories, but i think we would do well to remember 1st century Christians as a rag-tag group who believed in submission to authority, but were often locked up in prison for subverting the very authority they “submitted” to.
if anyone feels so inclined to investigate either side of the debate surrounding 9/11, here are two documentaries that deal with the issue as a conspiracy: “Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup” and “In Plane Sight.” And, in the interest of fairness, here is a debate between the producers of Loose Change and the editors of a book that attempts to debunk their documentary and a complete documentary that attempts to do the same: “Screw Loose Change.”