"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Cost of Discipleship

A recent exchange on the blog Imitatio Christi, a blog that explores the implications of imitating Christ for all aspects of human existence (http://imitatiochristi.blogs.com/imitatio_christi/) focuses on the issue of forgiveness. A meditation on 9/11 and the forgiveness of enemies contained the following statement, "In fact, the 9/11 bombings, the bombings that followed in Madrid, Spain, and the recent bombings in London demonstrate the moral relevance and force of Jesus’ world for our life." It was followed by much questioning of the "One Nation Under God" response of mainline churches. My response was the following:

I would like to begin with a simple question, "Why can't the Pentagon adopt a policy of forgiveness?" Pause for a moment. What would be the consequence? Islamist radicals would be stunned, perhaps stunned into silence, the silence of awe, a silence that would drain the fierce focus of their attacks. Momentarily (only momentarily?) the cycle of violence and counterviolence would be broken. For a blessed moment, our world would look completely different. "Behold I make all things new."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "The only way to overcome evil is to let it run itself to a standstill because it does not find the resistance it is looking for. Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames. But when evil meets no opposition and encounters to obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match. Of course this can only happen when the last ounce of resistance is abandoned, and the renunciation of revenge is complete. Then evil cannot find its mark, it can breed no further evil, and is left barren." - The Cost of Discipleship.
If we completely abandon the revenge that lives in our hearts and feeds on the flames of self-justification, perhaps this is the sign from us that God awaits to shed as-yet-unknown graces. Do we have hearts to imagine such miracles?
If we fail to react as the bombers secretly wish, then indeed evil has no mark. Study how the Bush reaction to bin Laden violence has fed that violence, how, on some unfathomable level, the two sides need each other to fan each other's justification. The spirit of Christ that lives within us is the match, the true answer to the violence of bin Laden and Bush, two halves of the same demonic coin, two offerings to the lord of this world. The cycle of revenge and justified counter-violence can only be ended by a creative act that steps beyond the assumptions which rise so automatically. What about a Department of Peace and Forgiveness? The worst that could happen is that we would be nailed to the cross.

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