In the spring of 2003, when President Bush authorized the U.S. military invasion of Iraq based on the (later disproved) existence of weapons of mass destruction and a vague connection to the "war on terror," I was a freshman in college and was just scratching the surface of a peace-seeking, more global faith.
Also that spring, I took a class I like to call my "gateway drug" into the "dirty liberalism" I now espouse, called Perspectives. Sponsored by the U.S Center for World Mission, the goal of the class is to broaden the church's horizons and introduce Christians to the global community. Learning that America and American Christianity are not the center of the world was very eye-opening.
Thanks to Perspectives, I began to think about what it meant to be "pro-life." Did it just refer to the sanctity of fetuses, or just Americans? Did it just include Christians? Or only white people? I also began to explore the ramifications of being a wealthy American Christian, in a position of power and influence, and how this privilege affects the rest of the world, Christian or non-Christian.
photo © 2007 http://maps.bpl.org | more info (via: WylioI was involved with a Baptist group on campus--all very great people who have dedicated their lives to following Jesus--but I felt very alone when the U.S. invaded Iraq. I felt sick to my stomach, and wasn't sure how Christlike it was to pray only for the troops and to support our President in bombing another country.
I didn't speak up, because I wasn't at the point where I could articulate a pacifist stance. And I definitely wouldn't have labeled myself a pacifist at that point. The only option I knew at that time was that God had blessed America and our leaders, and we should trust in them. I thought that the only truth was "eye-for-an-eye," and that "just war" was the most logical, scriptural solution. I wasn't aware of any other groups articulating an alternative. Unfortunately, my disappointment with the American church's complicity in the war(s) eventually led me away from the church for awhile.
Contrasting the Iraq invasion with the reaction to Bin Laden's murder eight years later has been encouraging (as it can be, given the tragic circumstances). Perhaps part of the reason is that in the spring of 2003, social media was barely existent. But being connected and more aware that others feel the same way--that violence only produces more violence and the church should speak out against it--is a huge relief. Jesus really meant it when he said bless those who curse you and love your enemies, and he didn't come as a violent conqueror like most expected, but as an unarmed, subversive lamb.
Many have lamented social media the past couple of days, because everyone has an opinion and can find a Bible verse to support said opinion. But for me personally, I've seen something positive in this outlet that allows for a cacophony of (often proof-texting) voices: reassurance that fellow Christians are also genuinely trying to follow a consistent pro-life, peace-loving ethic. And knowing that many Christians do not equate their United States citizenship with their participation in the Body of Christ is uplifting.
I don't feel so alone anymore...and hopefully those who are just starting down the path of a more global, enemy-loving, unarmed, subversive Christianity won't feel so alone when they see their fellow Americans and Christians cheering the murder of a human being.