Time's Cover

Lot's of discussion out there about Time magazine's cover this issue. As I look at it my heart just breaks and I struggle all over again with how to stand with the woman in the picture, the victim of Taliban violence.

I go back and forth with my inner Niebuhr and Yoder on this. Should I be "realistic" and understand that the only way to protect this women is to keep the US military involved in the war in Afghanistan? Or do I "go with the grain of the universe" and stand with the pacifists?

I find the responsibility of being a Christian in the world to be confusing, frustrating, and heart-breaking.

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28 thoughts on “Time's Cover”

  1. "I find the responsibility of being a Christian in the world to be confusing, frustrating, and heart-breaking."

    I couldn't agree more, Richard.

  2. Read Ester again; the answers just pop out. Sure, it may be a different form of government, but they all appear to work the same way.
    This is the United States responsibility to address not because we are a righteous country, but because her rulers are so very not righteous.

  3. I agree that being a Christian is confusing, frustrating, and heart-breaking, but not because of this story. Though it is a moving image and it illuminates a situation that is deeply saddening it is red-herring in the argument for or against war in Afghanistan.

    We did not go to war in Afghanistan to improve the lives of women (or anyone) living there. We have not accomplished any improvement even as an accident of our war. On the contrary we have dramatically and concretely worsened the lives of many, including tens of thousands of casualties we call "collateral damage". Improving the lives of the people of Afghanistan is still not our objective and I have yet to see a credible argument that we even could accomplish those aims through warfare. I certainly haven't seen any credible arguments that suggest warfare is the only or best way to go about attempting to improve the lives of people like the woman on the cover of Time magazine.

    In short there is nothing good to be accomplished by continuing the war while there is infinite potential evil. Stopping the war doesn't guarantee a good result either, but between an option which will result in much death and chaos as an absolute certainty and an option which will potentially result in death and chaos, but not by our hands - the choice is easy. Ending the war doesn't mean ceasing to work for Afghanistan, in fact it may be the only way we can get started.

  4. It is devastating what is going on in Afghanistan under the Taliban, but is violence the best way to stop violence? Being a pacifist doesn't mean to stand silently by and watch people suffer...it means coming up with creative nonviolent solutions to violent problems, and loving those who are oppressed and those who are oppressing. Jesus never called us to use violence but called us to a different, more creative, harder way than that.

  5. War is so much the easier path. It may cost a trillion dollars, countless casualties and a few years investment. And as Aric stated, no outcome is guaranteed and peace for the inhabitants is not sought after.

    By far the harder path is passive activism. Done right, and not just for show, this would take a life time or at least an unlimited time frame.

    That said, governments must do what governments must do. It is unreasonable to expect a government to be pacifists. They need war and the threat of war for survival.

  6. I do appreciate those of you calling me/us back to a non-violent position. That was one of the reasons I posted the Time cover. When I see things like this I get so angry I start to lose faith. So I posted to find some encouragement and faithfulness.

  7. i hope this doesn't come across as rude, and i don't have my mind made up on the issues... but it seems awfully easy to claim pacifism is the answer when we're sitting on our computers in starbucks and know that there likely exists no outcome that will cost us our own lives or those of our family and friends.

    i also feel christianity is quite confusing when it comes to terms of practicality in issues like protecting the innocent. the longer i live, the more i lean towards there not being an absolute right or wrong on some of these issues. where it might be wrong in one instance to do a thing, perhaps it's correct in another. we tend to skip over the bible stories that would teach these lessons (or we tend to skip over those sections at least).

  8. Oh, I completely understand where you are coming from.

    It's situations like this that have moved me closer and closer to a doctrine similar to "original sin." It's the conviction I have that we can't ever get "clean." I can't ever get to a place where my choices--nay, my mere existence--make me complicit in evil and suffering.

  9. We are doing, and have done, a very good thing in that part of the world. It is a noble cause, a just war, and one history will judge us well for.

  10. Here is a great sermon series from the Meetinghouse:
    http://newcovenantbeliever.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/sunday-morning-podcast-11/

  11. Did it anger you when a man in your own community beat his ex-wife, broke her neck and then left her for several days without medical assistance? Where do you suppose her faith is right now? The woman on the Time cover is badly scarred both internally and externally. The woman whose neck was broken will never be able to care for her children in the way in which she was accustomed. I can nearly guarantee you that within six blocks of where you live or work, somebody is wishing that they could fight. It has been my experience that pacifists touting non-violence have never had to fight for their own lives against another person. It has also been my experience that Christian pacifists have difficulty distinguishing between violence that stems from a perpetrator and violence that stems from defending one's self. In some situations, to decry violence is to create innocent victims. Preach pacifism all you want to, but don't condemn those of us who have had to fight to save our own lives.

  12. A question for those who know the literature on this sad and painful debate: Is there a position analogous to utilitarianism that has been worked out? (That action is best which results in the least violence.) The approach attracts me because it gets everyone to admit that the goal is to eliminate violence, and then seeks the best practical approach.

    This, of course, leaves open the possibility that confronting bullies will be the best way to reduce violence, even if doing so--ironically--requires violence.

    Only historically nuanced, unbiased, and astute analysis, will be helpful in this. Is there any out there?

  13. Two things that haven't been mentioned...

    First, in a sense we are reaping what we've sown,as we trained the insurgents in their warrior morality. There's even a movie about how it happened - Charlie Wilson's War.

    Second, I can't help looking from my culture over to this culture of harm and thinking that there is a good side to cultural imperialism - that what we need over there is more "Leave It To Beaver" or "The Waltons" or some such. (I wonder what these TV shows would be like if the universal archtypical human values represented here were rewritten for Islamic cultural audiences in an Islamic setting?)

  14. The hundreds of thousands who died in part to end slavery and those who freed Europe from the clutches of nazism were not faithful?

  15. By the way you chose to phrase that it is obvious that you have already made your judgment about the moral nature of war and so whatever I say is likely to offend you, though it is in no way intended to give offense.

    You cannot be a follower of the Prince of Peace and go to war. The two are fundamentally incompatible. Faithfulness to the Sermon on the Mount, the core of Jesus' teachings is not reducible to nonviolence, but nonviolence is also an unavoidable conclusion if you read it with integrity. This is not a judgment uniquely on soldiers, who by and large go to war at the behest or requirement of their society. This is a judgment on every Christian, including myself, who has been supportive actively and passively of warfare for hundreds of years and to assuage their troubled consciences have made moral excuses for it to claim that Jesus would approve.

  16. Yeah, a more truthful caption for this photo would be "What continues to happen despite 10 years of occupying Afghanistan and killing tens of thousands of civilians."

  17. You have described a position somewhat similar to the Just War tradition, although utilitarianism is probably more prone to using violence to get ends than Just War faithfully followed. Peter Singer is one of the most active and interesting of Utilitarian ethicists out there and he has written on warfare plenty of times, though I don't know about anything specifically about Afghanistan from him.

  18. I fall into the category you describe - a pacifist who has never been faced with life-threatening violence. I have been in fist-fights and experienced both courses of action. I fought back with violence once, and nonviolently resisted in another case, but this is nowhere near the level of danger you have described and it is a fair point. I hope I have the courage to be faithful if that ever occurs for me, but until now it remains a hypothetical.

    But there are thousands of examples of faithful gospel nonviolence through history and even in our present day when faced with deadly threats. Ever heard of Ghandi? Martin Luther King Jr? Watched the news lately about the monks in Burma? Or listened to the stories of countless saints and martyrs who were persecuted or even murdered and chose to respond with kindness? It is possible, even more common than you probably think.

    Furthermore, every pacifist I am acquainted with does not principally preach to condemn people who have committed violence in the past, but to persuade them not to in the future. I have no interest in judging you or anyone for what you have done. I have committed at least as many sins. We all fail and fall down. What I am interested in is showing you the power of the path of Jesus Christ who blessed his persecutors, because I genuinely believe it is the way of the kingdom.

  19. A very interesting discussion that is clearly among people who have never been called to military service nor have had to wrestle with the moral dilemmas inherent therein.
    If the problem of war is confronting violence with violence, then the problem of pacifism is confronting violence with inaction. The protests of Ghandi and King may have been nonviolent but they were active and confrontational.
    Peace and justice are not theoretical concepts. They are dirty, bloody, and people die seeking them.
    So unless you fired a weapon in conflict, were bitten by police dogs in Alabama, or were crushed under a tank in Bejing... your pacifism is a hollow philosophical concept with no connection to this world's reality.
    One final thing...before you write off WWII as some kind of triumph of capitalism...read the reactions of the soldiers who were the first to fight their way into Auschwitz or Krakow. Every one would have gladly given his life to free his fellow human beings. What could be more Christ-like than that?

  20. In your first sentence, you claim to not know me. In your second sentence, you tell me that I am not a Christian. You then imply that, if one is not Christian, one cannot comprehend nonviolence. Gandhi was not a Christian and influenced Martin Luther King with regard to nonviolence. Since you have opted to make assumptions about me, you have opened the door for me to make some assumptions about you.

    My guess is that you are a theology student no more than 25 years of age. I would say that you are either an oldest or only child, because somebody has taught you that you are superior and can know what is in another’s heart. You demonstrate arrogance (something not associated with Jesus) by implying that, because you do not believe me to be a Christian, I should not participate in this discussion because what you say will have missed the mark with me. Your perceptions are wrong. Just because I don’t believe exactly as you do and I didn’t jump at the chance to be converted by you doesn’t mean I do not follow Christ. Even if I didn’t, neither I nor anybody else requires your approval to follow another faith. You have an ego the size of the Hindenburg (remember what happened to that air ship?), and much like it is your mission to convert everyone you meet into your way of thinking, it is my mission to combat arrogance wherever it appears. Check your ego before it comes crashing down in a ball of flame.

  21. Anonymous, sort of,

    I was finding the discussion between you and Aric quite interesting and engaging and then... this. Sorry, but Aric's post didn't remotely imply what you claim it implied, and I think he has actually been fairly humble in presenting his views. You've turned the discussion into a nasty battle, and I honestly don't know why (other than mis-communication, especially in regard to "tone," being all too common in this medium).

    My motives for posting this are rather selfish: I want to see where this discussion should have gone--especially since I think I might agree with your position, but am not yet sure.

  22. Hi. We've obviously misunderstood each other. This medium is probably partially to blame.

    Just to be clear. I have made no assumptions about you. I've tried to understand what you are saying. I said you give the impression that you are not christian because you repeatedly referred to "Christians" in the 3rd person as if they were someone other than yourself. There is no implied judgment there. I honestly don't have a stake in it either way, though you seem to think I'm trying to convert you, which I am not. I apologize if I gave that impression.

    I did not say one cannot comprehend nonviolence without being Christian. I used Ghandi and Buddhist monks in Burma as two of my examples. I said that attempting to persuade you that the gospel calls us to nonviolence would obviously fail if you don't identify as Christian. I was trying to explain the context of my own remarks - not making judgments about you.

    You're welcome to believe whatever you want about me. The only point I was trying to make in this thread, which I apparently failed at, is that there are many pacifists who have heroicly faced deadly violence. That calling people to that stance, which was Jesus' own, is not principally a judgment on those who have lived by violence, but an invitation into a new form of life, a life marked by the Cross, but also destined for the Kingdom.

  23. You are engaging in hyperbole. The US military has not killed "tens of thousands of civilians" although too many casualties have occurred. Most civilian deaths have been at the hands of the Taliban - car bombings and the like.

  24. I'm still not convinced that keeping US soldiers in Afghanistan will keep anyone safe. How many armies have occupied Afghanistan?

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