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Archive for September 10th, 2011

I was rather disappointed reading an article by Christianity Today (what I once heard someone called “Christianity Astray”) titled, “How Evangelical Leaders Have Changed Since 9/11,” it can be accessed HERE.  I’m rather disappointed at how these “leaders” (some I even question their Evangelical status!) have some rather unclear thinking…and if that’s the state of Evangelical leaders reflection on 9/11 what about the rest of the General population?  I don’t have time to look at all the words given by various individuals.  The one that stuck out to me the most was Philip Yancey.  His comments in it’s entirety follows below:

The decade since 9/11 has taught us the limits of force. Imposing democracy on Iraq and Afghanistan has come at a terrible cost to all parties, with no guarantee of long-term success. Meanwhile, Tunisia and Egypt gained freedom almost overnight in a grassroots protest against powerful regimes.

As Christians, we believe in a counterforce of grace. Lewis Smedes and others have identified three stages of forgiveness: first, recognize the worth of the person you are forgiving; second, surrender the right to get even; third, put yourself on the same side as the one who wronged you. Increasingly, I’m convinced that we need more of this attitude toward those who seek to harm us.

In 1999, Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines was burned to death by a Hindu mob in Orissa, India. In 2007, German missionary Tilman Geske was tortured and murdered by five Turkish fanatics. The widows of both men made sensational headlines in those countries by repeating the words of Jesus: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

I am not a pacifist; I believe that we must pursue justice. Yet a Christian history stained by anti-Semitism—holding an entire people responsible for the actions of a few—teaches us the terrible consequences of not following Jesus’ way. We dare not do to Muslims what we have, to our shame, done to Jews.

My thoughts about his words:

  • “The decade since 9/11 has taught us the limits of force. Imposing democracy on Iraq and Afghanistan has come at a terrible cost to all parties, with no guarantee of long-term success. Meanwhile, Tunisia and Egypt gained freedom almost overnight in a grassroots protest against powerful regimes.”

RESPONSE: I’m more optimistic about Iraq more than Afghanistan’s long term future.  As to his claim that 9/11 has taught us the limit of force and his example of Tunisia and Egypt “gaining freedom,” I’m not sure that Egypt is a good example of grassroots protests that usher in long term success either.  It’s too soon to tell, it just happen this year!  If conditions within less than a year is sufficient evidence in Yancey’s view, I think one can make a better case for Iraq being “better” now for several years after the Surge.  In terms of Egypt, I don’t know how true it is that Egyptians “gained freedom” against powerful regimes.  It seems that the power in Egypt has always been within the military oligarchy.  When rumors started that the former President of Egypt wanted to break away from that tradition by having his son groomed as the next heir, that’s when the military industrial complex allowed protests to rid them of the President so they can step in and solidify their power.  Really can Yancey calls this a democracy or cite it as an evidence that force doesn’t work?  (Mind you, I’m not saying using force is always right, but making an observation that this does not fit as an evidence for him) I beg to differ.  And what does that have to do with 9/11?

  • “As Christians, we believe in a counterforce of grace. Lewis Smedes and others have identified three stages of forgiveness: first, recognize the worth of the person you are forgiving; second, surrender the right to get even; third, put yourself on the same side as the one who wronged you. Increasingly, I’m convinced that we need more of this attitude toward those who seek to harm us.”

RESPONSE: It does not seem to match biblical theology that forgiveness necessarily require the recognition of the worth of the person that needs to be forgiven.  God forgave us our sins, and yet our wretchedness makes us unworthy of His grace and mercy.  This statement is more problematic to me than the first, largely since this has theological implication and the former is more political (one can go easier on a Christian devotional writer for not being a clear political thinker I suppose).  Yancey is spot on that forgiveness means surrendering the right to get even.  But it’s rather disturbing to see that his lesson of 9/11 10 years later means that he is tellus to “put yourself on the same side as the one who wronged you…”  I don’t know what that means, and I’m sure Yancey does not mean joining Al Qaeda’s side against non-Muslims.  It’s one of those thing that sounds nice and dandy to say (almost Hallmark-ish) but what does it mean?

  • “Yet a Christian history stained by anti-Semitism—holding an entire people responsible for the actions of a few—teaches us the terrible consequences of not following Jesus’ way. We dare not do to Muslims what we have, to our shame, done to Jews.”

RESPONSE: This is probably the most incoherent statement of them all.  Yancey believes that “holding an entire people responsible for the actions of a few” is wrong and “not following Jesus’ way.”  He gave an example of this from  church history of how some in the past had anti-Semitism.  Yancey then goes on to give an incredible statement, “We dare not do to Muslims what we have, to our shame, done to Jews.”  If anyone has ever watched Monsters Inc., there a part in the movie where the one eye monster Mike tells Scully, “We?  Wait, there’s no me this time.  If you want to go through the Blizzard, then be my guest.  But there’s no we” (Paraphrase from memory, frogive me!).  That scene in the movie comes to mind, since Yancey here suddenly states “we” (why did he drag me into this) have done to the Jews, and something that is to “our” shame.  But most Christians, myself included have not practiced anti-semitism and I’m not saying it never has happened.  But why is Yancey “holding an entire people responsible for the actions of a few?”  This is according to Yancey, “not following Jesus’ way” and I’m appalled he doesn’t see this inconsistency stated within the same paragraph!

Over all, I’m rather sadden at Yancey’s comment on what he has learned and changed ten years after 9/11.  I have never read his book, and I hope he’s not like this in his work.  If he can’t process 9/11 with clear thinking and coherence, one wonders what he does with God and theology.

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