Journal Articles

Below is a list of journal articles written by the JMissions authors. The opinions expressed in these entries do not represent the position of any organization, but only reflect the position of the author.

Webmaster:"Author Avatars"
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Aziz: "Church Growth and God’s Plan"
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Brit: "There is a Little Bit of Jonah in All of Us"
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Brit: "Churches in Jerusalem and Bethlehem: Clinical Assessment and Needs"
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Aziz: "The Myth of Ethics/Morality in War"
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Marie: "Is War a Christian Value? (Sept.11th Commentary)"
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Monday, September 11, 2006

Is War a Christian Value? (Sept. 11th Commentary)


On the anniversary of September 11th, as an American who was in New York during this tragedy, and as a Christian who is living in the Middle East, I though it appropriate to write briefly about terrorism, war, and fighting the good fight.

In 2001, I was attending college north of the Bronx, New York. I was in a Literature class that day, September 11th. The topic of discussion was how popular music acts as social commentary. I don't remember it being a particularly impacting discussion, other than partway through the class we had to shut the door because of all the noise coming from the hallway. When class dismissed, I entered a different world. The hall was crowed with hundreds of students, some hysterical, most confused, but everyone was pushing, trying to get a glimpse of a television set someone had dragged into the hallway. This was the first I knew of the events at the Twin Towers.

I stood on a window ledge to be able to see the television. "A terrible accident," most of the students said. On the set, hundreds of liberal arts students crowded to watch the now-infamous video of smoke billowing from the North Tower. Classes were dismissed. Our university closed the next day, and the campus remained in lock-down for a month and a half.

During those weeks in New York, I experienced first-hand what many Americans only watched from their television sets. The city was covered in a sour-smelling smoke and a dense ash which lasted for weeks. The bridges and tunnels into and out of New York were closed, and people abandoned their cars in the streets, fleeing on foot in a mass exodus out of the city. Stealth bombers hovered silently in the sky day and night. In the second week, I made a few trips to "Ground Zero." A friend and I snuck past some police barriers and wandered in and out of the emergency tents and news vans, trying to make sense of what had happened. My most poignant memory of that time was seeing devastated families scrambling to attach "Missing" posters to bulldozers as they entered the site, and the terrible smell of death.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)

At many times in my life, this passage has been difficult for me to embrace. But to demonstrate how life is always more complex than it seems, I want to fast-forward four years to my first visit to Israel-Palestine. In 2005, I came to visit Jerusalem on a mission trip. As a Christian visiting the "Holy Land" for the first time, it is always hard to reconcile the Jerusalem of the Bible with the modern and confused city that is now Jerusalem. Consequently, the trip was part pilgrimage and part work. It was also my first encounter with a large Arab-Muslim population and my first journey into the Third-World.

In New York, I had gained a deep respect for the Jewish community. However, Jerusalem was yet another world that needed explanation. I arrived at the same time as Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip, and the entire country was inflamed with political hatred. Protesters crowded the streets, shouting slogans against Arab terrorists and Israel's right to occupation. The leader of the mission trip, a Christian Arab, often had to sneak out of his house to be able to meet the disciples for tour activities.

Here, my most vivid memory came from a trip to the Occupied West Bank. Jerusalem's wealthy and modern houses suddenly came to end where a refugee camp had been hastily erected for Palestinian refugees. Rising above the bombed-out buildings and shanty-houses was what some euphemistically call "The Fence," a twenty-five foot concrete wall that towers over a wasteland of what used to be Arab houses. On the other side of the wall was a dismal world of squalid, cramped housing and impoverished families, surrounded by barbed wire and sniper towers. It was a stark contrast to the wealthy and sprawling Israeli cities.

Despite the poverty, I found the Palestinian community to be gentle and hospitable. Everywhere I went I was treated with respect, invited into homes and fed generous meals of rice and chicken. These people were not the Arab terrorists that I had come to know from the news. Instead, they were humans and families, devout in their faith and willing to listen to a variety of opinions. I was never slighted for being American, but recognized everywhere as an individual with individual thoughts and dreams.

My purpose for writing of my own experiences is to explain why, as a Christian, I have come to firmly believe in scriptures such as Matthew 5:9. Matthew reminds us that as Christians, we are called to make peace, not to wage war. However, many Christians today have been led to believe that war is necessary in order to make peace. This reasoning uses worldly wisdom, and is Biblically flawed. We have a war to fight, but it is not an earthly war.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)

September 11th revealed to the American nation that we have many enemies in the world. However, our enemy is not our fellow man. Even if the man is a Muslim terrorist or an Iranian nuclear scientist, he is not our enemy, but rather our neighbor. When Paul writes that our struggle is against the "authorities and powers of the world," he is not speaking about earthly authorities, such as the Iranian President Ahmadinejad or the North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-Il. They are not our enemies, either. Our enemy is a spiritual enemy; it is the forces which cause our neighbors to do acts which are inhuman. If Paul had meant "the powers of this world" to mean physical leaders, this would contradict his statement that our struggle is not against "flesh and blood."

It is also implausible that Paul meant us to war against nations or generalized political authorities. In 2 Corinthians, he makes this clear.

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Thus, as Christians we are not meant to wage war using worldly weapons. Even if we do fight against other nations or against ideas, we are not to use the weapons of the world. In fact, it is dangerous to wage war against ideas using worldly weapons. If we justify war by claiming our war is against ideas, such as the "war on terrorism" or the "war against extremism," we forget that these phrases are merely euphemisms. After all, a war of ideas still kills humans, not ideas.

J. William Fullbright wrote, "Man's capacity for decent behavior seems to vary directly with his perception of others as individual humans with human motives and feelings, whereas his capacity for barbarism seems related to his perception of an adversary in abstract terms." In other words, the more we view conflict in abstract terms, the more susceptible we become to justifying barbaric acts with the pretense of warring against ideas. This is not what God intended for His followers. Our wars against ideas, against spiritual forces, and against Satan must be fought with spiritual weapons, not with the weapons of the world.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a good example of what occurs when a "war of ideas" is fought with worldly weapons. Because ideas do not die, these worldly wars lead to further escalation of complex conflict, national fear and paranoia, increasingly gruesome bloodshed, and political unrest. As Christians, we are called to make peace, and abstain from waging war with weapons unsuitable to a people of God.

Our war is not a war of the world, and our weapons are not weapons of the world. Instead, our fight is a fight of faith. We are commanded to fight for salvation, and our victory is eternal life. The Christian imprisons his/her own thoughts to make them obedient to God. The Christian demolishes wisdom that is contrary to the knowledge of God.

Finally, our peace is not a worldly peace that we establish by waging war. Our security is from God, not from airline checks and intelligence agencies. The light that we give to men is not the light of democracy or any other worldly philosophy. We are instead ambassadors of peace, elected by God to preach the message of peace to all men in all nations.

My experiences have taught me the importance of these convictions. After September 11th, American started on a path toward greater entanglement in a war that cannot be won with earthly weapons. Today in Israel-Palestine, we continue to see the devastating consequences of what happens when godly men engage in ungodly wars. As we remember September 11th, let us remember the message of the gospel. We are children of God, commanded to preach the gospel of love to everyone. Our battle, and our weapons, belong to the Lord!