There is a grave danger this week for those watching global events– to become excited and drawn into alignment with pretender saviors of the vulnerable. Today I am trying to deliberately contemplate how Jesus came into Roman occupied Jerusalem as Savior of the World, in contrast to global leaders like Assad, Putin and Trump. It seems we must continually decide who saves and how it is effectively accomplished.
The US bombing of the Syrian air force base in retaliation for Assad’s use of chemical weapons to kill 80 defenseless civilians brought together liberals and conservatives. Both groups and many others share outrage at a horrific crime and guilty perpetrators. The defense of innocent children was the pretext and rallying cry. Abuses then and now are certainly barbarous and must be stopped, but how?
Today a fleet of US Navy destroyers, aircraft carrier and submarines accompanied by Japanese warships heads to the Korean Peninsula to intimidate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un ahead of possible nuclear weapons tests. Would Jesus council these acts of intimidation and possible bombings and invasion to remove this dictator should he refuse to back down?
I readily admit that destroying weapons of destruction like MiG fighter jets appeals to me. But leveraging the use of violence and fleets to threaten more violence and calls to remove thug dictators in defense of women and children move us all closer to more death and chaos.
We can certainly see evidence that US intervention to remove dictator Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya brought further violence and chaos to these countries. And we must remember that the United States of America and the United Kingdom are the #1 and #2 weapons producers in the world—so can their council be trusted?
The US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson said earlier this week that the USA would come to the defense of innocent civilians “anywhere in the world.” Considering our track record in Iraq and Afghanistan it is unlikely that our way of defending will bring peace. Better that we begin by taking logs out of our own eyes.
Barely two weeks ago the US was directed by Iraqi security forces to bomb two buildings in Mosul, Iraq that that were full of women and children, killing over 200. US forces have recently been active in combat in Syria in which defenseless civilians have lost their lives (see this article). In our attempts to save we kill, as violence begets violence, spilling over and consuming unintended victims.
Closer to home thousands of unaccompanied minors fleeing gang violence in Central America are being deliberately kept from crossing the US-Mexican border, or are being deported back into life-threatening situations.
Should Assad and Kim Jong-un refuse to bow to pressures and continue forward with their plans, how will the US administration respond? Will war erupt that will take yet more lives and breed more chaos? Today the USA dropped a 22,000 pound bomb (its largest non-nuclear bomb) to eradicate ISIS fighters in Afghanistan, and I cringe as I anticipate the results. Now is the time to expose efforts to unite people against demonized enemies.
Today on this Friday of Holy Week we’d do well to remember how the crowd was easily rallied by religious leaders against Jesus as they called for his execution. In taking the place of the innocent victim as God in the flesh, Jesus subverted forever the scapegoating mechanism that brings false unity to punish and kill. It’s now up to us to continue to live in the freedom of that subversion.
Jesus absorbed human hostility at his crucifixion, interceding for us in our blind violence: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Let us agree with the mission of Jesus, who “draws all people to himself” in a true, redemptive unity rather than going along with calls to beat up on more bad guys. Let us find inspiration and empowerment from the resurrected Prince of Peace, waging peace alongside the vulnerable instead of war against the guilty. And the resurrected victim Jesus promises to be with us, to the end of the age.
For further reflections on Jesus’ mission, see my new book, The Beautiful Gate: Enter Jesus’ Global Liberation Movement, which can be ordered here.