rhetoric and tears (changing the way we talk about war and iraq)
These are the words told to colleague of mine, recently.
The tragedy that is Iraq continues to deepen. This week fighting in Iraq is intensifying. Never mind the fact that the nation is in the middle of an orphan crisis. Yazidi widows face a life of rejection, pain and potential enslavement, their husbands murdered by ISIS. Today, at least 10,000 families are trapped between Iraqi and ISIS fighters in the city of Fallujah.
Understanding Middle Eastern politics is not an easy task. I will make no attempt to do that here.
However rhetoric is important. I believe we must change the dialogue. How do we move from a rhetoric of war-mongering, violence and hatred to that of peace?
A young lady named Lisa gave me my first lesson in this many years ago.
I remember where I was when news broke of US forces started bombing Iraq. I was a pastor at the time, and we were having a dinner after church. Someone came into the building, announcing the news of US advances and there was a sense of triumph and vindication in the room. A few cheered. Most felt a sense of gratification, with one memorable exception.
I also remember Lisa. She and her husband had just started attending our little church. She was a relatively new believer, and exhibited a lot of tell-tale signs of spiritual immaturity.
Her reaction to the news that day was much different from the rest of the room. While we cheered, she wept. She literally, physically wept.
And as I look back, I believe her tears represented the most spiritually mature response in the room.
I am humbled by Lisa to this day. In that moment, I was discipled by her on how a Christian should actually respond to death and violence against innocent people. Because, let's face it .... It's the innocent who have suffered through this decade plus long war: Family members on all sides who have lost their sons and daughters, wives and husbands. Iraqi civilians . The 10,000 families whose lives are in jeopardy on this very day (let's face it, the human suffering in Iraq and the rise of ISIS can all be connected to US foreign policy during this era).
Brokenness and empathy for those who are suffering is where I believe the rhetoric changes. Words of peace. Words of Gospel. Tears for those who suffer. That's much closer to Biblical, Christ-like thinking than rhetoric of war and the glorification of violence.
Words are dangerous, indeed. Both for the justification of violence, and for the justification of peace.
I must continue learning the lesson Lisa taught me that day. We all do.
And Lisa ... wherever you are ... should you ever read this: