Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lent | Responding To Our Enemies

“But what nobody should doubt is that whatever the debates about tactics, the strategy is clear: to bring about enduring change in the Middle East as an indispensable part of our own enduring security. The poisonous ideology that erupted after 9/11 has its roots there, and is still nurtured and supported there. It has chosen Iraq as the battleground. Defeating it is essential. Essential for Iraq.
But also, now, for us here in our own country. Self-evidently the challenge is enormous. It is the purpose of our enemies to make it so. But our purpose in the face of their threat, should be to stand up to them, to make it clear that however arduous the challenge the values that they represent will not win and the values we represent, will.”
Tony Blair, PM, to the House of Commons, 21 February 2007

I must confess to finding speeches such as the one the Prime Minister made in Parliament yesterday disturbing. I am not ‘pro-terrorism’; nor am I ‘pro’ a refusal to take a stand against terrorism. But I do believe that the stand taken by the political leaders of the US and the UK since 9/11 has been deeply misguided, and has had disastrous results. We in the West have believed for centuries, and still believe, that our values are better than the values of the rest of the world; and that our values should be imposed upon the rest of the world, for their own good and betterment.

In the Middle-Eastern desert, Jesus came face to face with his enemy, satan (see Matthew 4:1-11 // Luke 4:1-13). And we could say that he countered the vision the enemy held out for the future by knowing clearly what he valued, and living according to those values. Values such as:
a sense of security in his own identity that does not need justification through flashy display;
a choice to live in harmony with his environment, rather than exploit it to satisfy his own needs;
a disinterest in expansionist political power;
a refusal to take a “the ends justifies the means” approach;
a commitment to live a life of worshipful service in response to God’s revelation;
a patient trust in God’s being at work in the world…

St Francis of Assisi is attributed with the dictum: “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” I’m not convinced that the values we, as western society – and in particular the UK and US – represent are better than anyone else’s right now. I’m not even convinced that we know what our values are. And I’m sure we haven’t taken the time to understand what their values are, and why they hold them. So, if our values win out over theirs, we’re all in trouble…

Lord, have mercy on the oppressed,
and on the oppressor.

Christ, spit in our faces
and open our blind eyes,
to see you in the eyes of those
we have demonised,
and to see signs and symbols pointing to you
in the cultures and values
we have despised and rejected.

Lord, expose us
where our values are but white-washed tombs,
trading on the past;
and where our pride prevents us,
and our militancy prevents others,
from entering into your life of freedom.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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