whytheology

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What is the Christian response to the unrest around the world concerning Americans?

I’m not offering any answers today, only questions. As an American living in a city where a massive protest against the US has recently taken place, where similar protests have turned violent in the Middle East, I am certainly concerned. I’m also greatly saddened by the loss of an American ambassador who believed the country where he served had great promise. I am also saddened by all those injured or killed in these attacks.

On the other end, I am a bit confused and troubled by the calls from many of my citizens for war, or for the US to exert more military might. Haven’t we been in a war we regretted getting into? Who would we declare war on? The mob? What about those people who were not engaged in the violence, or who condemned it? Should they, by virtue of their citizenship, be equally condemned?

I am saddened and troubled and curious as to what you think. Should the US increase its military presence? Should it treat hostile actions with equal hostility? I don’t personally like to get to political (so you can bet I have another question). My real question is, what is the Christian response? Should we pray for those who persecute us and continue to do good to them? What if they aren’t persecuting us for our faith, but our nationality? Should Christians advocate violent action? Is inaction preferable? Again, I don’t have any easy answers, and I’m a little wary of those who do offer easy answers. These are hard questions. These are things with which I grapple. What I want to know is what you think, and more importantly, why.

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10 thoughts on “What is the Christian response to the unrest around the world concerning Americans?

  1. Anonymous on said:

    I agree these questions are difficult. The council of scripture offers help in Romans 13. Many Americans are disappointed with the response our president gave publicly, but we get what we deserve as a nation for electing a worldly man.

  2. There are two issues here, as I see it. First, the worldly and practical governmental/political response, which is to say, there should have been and, I suspect, now will be, well-armed Marines stationed at such hot spots as our consulate in Benghazi. This is too little too late and should reflect poorly on our Secretary of State and President; however, they appear to be the true “teflon” politicians of our age and will probably escape any blame for their misfeasance. Second, the Christian response, which is, I think, not so difficult to formulate, just difficult to live. That is, we are to love our enemies and pray for them that they might know Jesus Christ (See Matthew 5:44). We are to forgive them and, in whatever manner possible, reach out to them in love. The Christian response is a good way to get killed, but Jesus didn’t say to follow him until it got dangerous! Paul reminds us, in Romans 8:36-37, “Just as it is written, ‘For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” The Christian response does not require that our enemy be opposed to us for our religious beliefs (Although, in this instance, I believe this is a factor.). It is a response of love regardless of the opponent’s reasons.

    How will we actually respond? The USA will probably respond in some militaristic way to the deaths of our Libyan staff. The President will speak blandly of “working with our friends in Libya” while we hunt down those who murdered our people and use drones or other means to kill them. If there is any prayer involved, it is likely to be the prayers of our soldiers who go into harm’s way to prosecute our act of vengeance. We may be a nation that is viewed as “Christian” by the world, but we respond like any other injured party in this world, we just tend to be more lethal and more self righteous. Mind you, I’m not condemning this nation, I’m just acknowledging that our nation’s Christianity is limited in scope, with a “Don’t tread on me” All-American, worldly attitude at its heart. Semper fi!

  3. Just a reminder to those commenting, I understand that there is a political element to this question, but I’m not wanting a *partisan* political answer. I don’t think that McCain nor Romney would have acted any different in this situation had they been president when it happened. I don’t think it should be used to score political points for either side. It is tragic and troubling. That said, what do you think should be the reaction? Should the Christian just be content to pray? Or should the Christian call upon the government to take militaristic action (or the opposite)? Or is there another response the Christian should take. I am seriously asking, and not for any political agenda (in fact the partisan politization of it troubles me as well).

    • I think the Christian response would be: “We understand your anger and your fury at the fact that some people make fun of your religion. Let us help you get relieve from the poverty and suppression you have been living under for a long time.” As this goes completely against all my instincts of fighting for what is right, I’m not sure I can take my own counsel here! But I do think that this is what Jesus would have expected us to do.

    • Mr. Medley,

      Hey, I didn’t mean offense. I apologize if I did offend.

      I am quite certain that politicians of either major party and most minor parties would respond in the same manner described in my comment. It just so happens that Barack Obama is our president and Hillary Clinton is our Secretary of State. I used their names because they are the people currently responsible for our embassy staff and the nation’s response.

      For the record, I am pretty conservative, but I am very comfortable with the fact that God has these people in these positions at this time for His purposes–whatever those may be.

      • Sorry if I singled you out (I did not intend my comment to be a direct reply). I think you responded quite respectfully. I just wanted to put that into the comments before anyone decided to be disrespectful to anyone (of any party) because that wasn’t the point. No worries.

  4. Much of what I have seen and read about this issue (and especially from the US) seems to miss the point that these demonstrations are not unprovoked. All of this happened because someone in the US used their vaunted “freedom of speech” to demean the founder of one of the world’s largest religions. I think the first response of the church should be to remind us all that we are free, but must not use our freedom to hurt others. I don’t know who made the film or whether they claim to be Christian, but this warning needs to be borne in mind in any response that is made.

    I do not in any way support the killing, and agree with Lemoed above. I think it would be far better if Christians stopped seeing muslims as the enemy and started to regard them as fellow seekers of God who have just gone down a wrong path. We won’t win them over to Christ by condemning them but by loving them.

    • Yes, it unfortunately seems the makers of the “film” appear to be a non-profit religious group “Media for Christ” in LA. Whether they were the primary organizers or not, I don’t know. I think the actions of making the piece of smut (that’s what it is) should certainly be condemned. Yes we have free speech, but you can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater. The question is whether this amounts to speech intended to incite violence or not.

      • We should not judge our own speech (as Christians) by the standard of “is it intended to incite violence” but rather by “will it cause harm/hurt/offense”. If we cannot hold ourselves to a higher standard, then what is our faith worth? If the Arab world saw us all band together to condemn such ignorant and offensive behaviour then maybe things could be calmed down somewhat.

  5. First of all, let me say that I really appreciate the overall gracious tone of your post, which is a welcome contrast to the majority of the writings that have come out since the attacks.

    I think the first thing we can do as believers in Christ is to not make generalized statements about Muslims and speak respectfully of the vast majority of Muslims worldwide who do not participate in such violence. This is exactly what we want from those who criticize Christianity. It’s extremely annoying when people try to use the actions of Westboro Baptist Church or abortion-clinic bombers to make all Christians out to be crazy or violent. We expect better, and so we should take care to not make those same kind of generalized statements about the 1.57 billion or so people who claim to be Muslims.

    Also, in order to formulate a Christian response, we should make concerted efforts to fully understand the situation well. For example the situation in Libya, while extremely tragic, is not a sign that the revolution in Libya failed, or that they are against us, or any such nonsense that has been said lately . Overall, Libya is doing quite well. They are transition from an extremely violent revolution to peaceful democracy, which is not easy. However, they recently had elections, and contrary to most of the other Arab Spring countries, they voted for mostly secular or moderate candidates. It was the Salafis – the ultra-conservative party – that was left out, and consequently marginalized by the Libyan people. If anyone has paid any attention, the newly democratically chosen prime minister is a moderate who used to teach at the University of Alabama – Huntsville, and in the election, he handily beat the Muslim Brotherhood candidate. Many Middle Eastern observers take the murders in Libya as a planned attack by the newly marginalized group to grab attention and conveniently were able to use the small demonstration in Benghazi as cover. Again, it is extremely tragic, but the newly Libyan government condemned the attacks and is using it’s police and justice system to go after the attackers. There were also large demonstrations of support for the US in the wake of the murders. In the situation like that, the absolute worse thing the US could do is the respond militarily against the country as a whole. It could destroy any progress that has been made there. So sorry that is long, but it is a complex and nuanced situation, and as Christians, we should understand the situation there well, so that we can voice wise and Christ-like responses that contrast with the reactionary, simple-minded, hate-filled responses that were typically given.

    The situation are different in each place (some are much more serious, some less so), and I don’t have time to share what I think about what is going on in other places; it would be long and boring, if it hasn’t already reached that level 😉

    Let me close with the post of my former-Arabic teacher, who incidentally is a devout Muslim. Her English isn’t that great, but she made what I thought was one of the most eloquent statements that I have seen about the whole mess:

    “Dear ‘religious’,

    Who said that religious is to be imposed? Your colors are boring, your strict views are derogatory and your life styles is only yours.

    I denounce your perspective of life and announce my rebellion.

    Sincerely…”

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