The tweets that filled my feed after the death of Bin Ladin were pretty shocking. There were a few who rejoiced with the “USA! USA!” cheering. Mostly, there were Christians who cherry picked scripture verses as to express their views. While many of them spoke of the death of Bin Ladin as the justice of God, the majority seemed to express a general sense of disappointment and a reminder to “love your enemies.” (sidenote: this may say more about who I hang out with than the general tenor of American Christians.)
As first I was excited. Raised by a reluctant pacifist and wrecked in grad school by the neo-anabaptist writings of Stanley Hauerwas, I spent the Bush years growing increasingly uncomfortable with the inter-relation between American militarism and the Christian right. More and more I feel the need to distance myself from what some have called the “Christian Military Industrial Complex.” Could it be that all my Facebook friends felt the same?
I hope so.
There is an integrity problem that faces those of us who wish to see the Church act more in line with the justice teachings of the Hebrew prophets and the peace teachings of Christ. The problem is, we have failed to differentiate ourselves from the systems that help catalyze many of our modern problems.
In other words neither I, nor many of my Facebook friends, have lived through the situations that cause many of the problems our culture is wrestling with.
Defeating water scarcity, and the socio-political problems it creates is going to take more than raising money to build wells in Africa, although that’s part of it.
Defeating racial inequalities is going to take more putting an African American in the worship team, although it’s not a bad idea.
Defeating the disaster of poor stewardship of our planet is going to take more than buying organic, although it’s a good idea.
These are difficult problems. There is a danger in the current popularity of the justice conversation, and the growing pacifism conversation: we might be satisfied with just talking about the problem. Nothing this complex can be solved in a blog post, however I think there is one principle of Jesus that can help us get to the root of the issue.
When Jesus wanted to solve the problems of mankind, he showed up. As Eugene Peterson says, “the Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.”
I fear that our responses to Bin Ladin’s death are reveal a desire to see the church become peace-oriented. At least, in 140 characters or less. (and yes, I know the hypocrisy of calling this out on a blog….) It’s just going to take a lot more work.
Any attempt to solve the deep problems of our culture can only grow out of an incarnational understanding of the issue at hand.
But what does that look like? What does incarnation look like in:
- The deep misunderstanding and hatred between Muslims and Christians?
- The sense of sometimes self loathing experienced by rejected and closeted homosexuals?
- The lack of education in the third world?
- The lack of access to healthy food in urban America?
- The staggering divorce rates and co-habitation rates of modern America?