Friday, December 23, 2005


Reading Mary Gabel's response (Praying for Light to Reach Peacemakers' Captors, Embassy, Canada) to CPTer Greg Rollins' letter from Iraq made me think. In addition to such gestures of solidarity, there is a good deal of vitriol out on the web (especially among bloggers) about Christian Peacemaker Teams in general, and the four captives in Iraq in particular. People with jerky-knees doubt their integrity, their sanity, their grasp of reality - and, in the US especially, accuse them of being mere ideologues in religious garb.

Much of this is as unfair in selection as it is nasty in tone. There are legitimate questions to be asked about the politics, theology and tactics of CPT. But they are not to be found in the mean distortions that circulate in some quarters, often introduced with the prefix 'so-called' to deride and dismiss a costly vocation. Besides, other analysts have a different perspective on the politics of peace. (See also Denying reality, by Dave Warnock, who has discovered the curious, alternate universe that is SoCal).

On the Canadian Christianity website, there is a rounded piece by David F. Dawes, Hostage-taking provokes international outcry, which examines a range of reactions, including those from people suspended in Limbaugh (a state which, ahem, I thought had been abolished by the new Pope). As Ted Olson and Rob Moll of Christianity Today observe, "the only thing some people like less than a terrorist is a peace activist." Discuss! See also the different responses to Michelle Goldberg's Salon article, Love Your Enemies, about Tom Fox.

Among the other pieces of spleen currently circulating is an article called Pray for captives, not the captors in the Toronto Star - a normally reliable paper which sadly has not distinguished itself with concern for verifiability in some aspects of its coverage of the Iraq hostages situation. There are many misunderstandings in this piece. Tim Nafziger of CPT UK, the Anabaptist Network and the London Mennonite Centre [enough seasonal plugs for you there, Tim?] says:

Rosie Dimann's call to pray only for "our side" and not the captors goes against everything that the men being held stand for. She draws on a Christendom theology that claims God for "us" and ignores the clear [injunction] of Jesus to pray for those who persecute us. She claims to support the hostages but belittles their friends, family and supporters for following God's call to love our enemies. It is not relativist compassion, but a radical commitment in the transformative love of Jesus that is at the core of the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams.

One can, of course, support the captives without agreeing with them. And one can find their commitment too one-sided or radical. That's an arguable position. But it is sad that those who feel this way often resort to little more than insult and innuendo.

[On the tricky question of relating principled Christian nonviolence to realpolitik, see - as one starting point - Of Bishops, bombs and ballast. Also the post below on the UCC statement]

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