Friday, November 05, 2004


The international attention of the United States has been focused on areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq in recent days. No one doubts that the events of September 11th are largely responsible for this (although it should not be assumed that there is a connection between Iraq and the attack on September 11th). In both of the previous nations in particular it is interesting to note what the discussion focuses on. The great humanitarian benefits which have resulted because of the United States' military action is widely advertised. In Iraq, these discussion seem to be cited now as the primary reason for the war, possibly to shift attention to the bad intelligence initially used to justify the war. While the motives of those who now seem to focus exclusively on the humanitarian concerns with Saddam's regime might be suspect; it is neither right nor proper to minimalize or ignore the gross abuses which occurred in Iraq.

With all the media's attention focused on Iraq, Americans seem little concerned with other areas of the world which are in danger. The recent events in Haiti barely made B-roll on American media, and we sent peace-keeping forces as a last resort. Of greater concern are the events which are occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan. Since early 2003, 1.5 million people have been displaced, and 70,000 people have been killed. The only mention of this crisis was brief when Secretary of State Powell used the ominous word "genocide."

It is estimated that 250,000-300,000 people died under Saddam's rule, which began in 1979. No one doubts he sought to wipe out the Kurds in the north, and the United States with the United Nation responded with a strong military presences to protect this oppressed people. The other abuses by the Baath regime are well documented, and denied by none. The abuses in Afghanistan were also well publicized after the war. The oppression of women and any who did not hold to their stringent form of Islam and the public executions were frequently mentioned in the media. It is not like would be a surprise, since once again the Taliban's abuses were well-documented before 9-11, but consistently ignored in the United States (except of course when they destroyed the giant Buddha statues).

What then does this have to do with Sudan? It is a sad observation that our society is culpably ignorant of and unconcerned for other nations and cultures different from our own. If it were not for September 11th, I am sure the Taliban would still be in power. While the connection between September 11th and Iraq is tenuous at best, I am sure the same could be said. Humanitarianism did not inspire our actions in those nations. However, if humanitarian motives are now becoming (and I would heartily rejoice if they were) a justification for using military force, why not Sudan. Didn't the West pledge after 800,000 died in Rwanda in 1994 that we would never let it happen again? In 1995 the United States with other NATO countries sent troops to Bosnia as a response to a genocide there where 20,000 had been killed. Since there is precedent, why did both President Bush and Senator Kerry dismiss the notion of sending troops? The President has already broke his contention that the military should not be used for nation-building. Why are the American people not outraged at the apathetic response from the media and the government? Could it be that our pledge to never let another Rwanda happen was empty? Or maybe we are eager to stop a genocide when we can, but just not in Africa.

For a Christian, this must not be an issue to which we are neutral or indifferent, even if the rest of our society and our government is.


JD said...

I think you've done well explaining the imbalance, ignorance, and self-centeredness in American (evangelical) war/justice/terrorism issues. I whole-heartedly agree with you. However, what you've done is say how we should and should not *think*. In other words, what exactly should we be *doing*? Where specifically should we be looking?

For example, are there any better causes than, say, Iraq, the middle east generally, or Israel-Palestine? Are any of these causes more operable than the few on America's radar screen?

JD said...

PS, I started blogging again.

Keith said...

Welcome back Justin! Of course, I know your return as my faithful reader will mean someone will actually keep me accountable.

I think it is difficult to know what to "do." We can't buy M-16's and go and overthrow the evil regimes. I think we can be informed, and try to inform others of the other issues going on in the world; and challenge them to be as outraged with the senseless loss of life in Africa as they are in other areas of the world.

Prayer is a significant action, especially when one realizes that not only fellow men and women suffering, but also brothers and sisters in Christ.

Any thoughts?

JD said...

I guess my question is this: (a) What social issues are we confronted with as individuals/society that we can engage head-on? and (b) why do we think that these other "distant" causes are beyond our reach (except for via prayer)?

Example for (a): homelessness and poverty, AIDS/HIV, the elderly, etc.

(b) One such issue is the middle eastern muslim view of Jews. How can we do our job of properly seeking to explain to muslims how Jews really are so that they can change?

Where can we give our money? Do we give our money?

What do you think?

Keith said...

To briefly respond, to the question what social issues should we be involoved in- I see no reason to limit any social action. Unfortunantly, I think the history of evangelicism is to overreact to a supposed threat. If liberalism is concerned with the "social gospel," good, conservative churches will respond by having nothing to od with social concerns. Of course this is a gross overstatment, but I don't think as a general rule it is too far off the mark. Too much of what evengelicals spend their time and energies on I think demonstrate this. Suburban concerns such as worship style, finding fulfillment and whatever political issue is in vogue trump the dirty urban concerns like poverty, crime and corruption. The latter concerns do not build the megachurches, so they are convieniently ignored. I don't see any Biblical reason, however to limit any social action by a Christian; rather, the Biblical data (Matthew 25, Galatians 6, James 2) would seem to require it. Expending time, resources or physical energy are all good and necessary steps to making a significant contribution against these problems. Especially for domestic issues, I think the best place to expend resources is through the church becoming active in ministering to these needs, finding and becoming active in such a ministry should not be that difficult. Off the top of my head I can think of wonderful ministies such as Looking Forward Ministries in Camden, NJ; or Tenth Presbyterian's ministry to unwed mothers or homosexuals; or the ministries in John Perkins network of Christian Community Development.

To the second question, for causes beyond out reach- I think some are really beyond the normal individuals reach except through prayer. Using your example of the Palestinian/Jewish conflict, I doubt that many if any Chrisitans have a signficant weight to influence that issue. Even looking to determing who the good guy is confuses me. Terrorist activity is of course despicable, but so are collective punishment and overagressive military tactics. I am sure you have an opportunity to hear one side of the issue very well at school. My bigger concern with international attention I think is the tacit racism I see. Why do we automatically think the political upheaval in the Ukrane is more significant than Sierra Leone? Why are we so concerned to broker a piece deal in Northern Ireland and not in Uganda?

JD said...

I hear what you're saying, but I think you misunderstood where I was going. I'm not saying that the Church's goals should be limited in scope. Nevertheless I am saying the Church has limited resources. When I initially posed my question of what we should do, you pointed out we can't (shouldn't) go buy M-16s and kill all the terrorists. That is, you're agreeing that while terrorism is something we should fight against, you agree that's the wrong move. Yet you say we should be informed. That's fine, but that doesn't fix the problem--and that's what my follow-up quesiton is really about. If we can't go over to Iraq of Sudan to fight, either (a) what can we do about the issues over there since we're not there and can't impact directly, and (b) since by and large many of us can'd do very much for obvious reasons, what other targets could we instead be aiming at (targets that might also, hypothetically fight the problem, but perhaps in a more circumvented way by addressing side issues)?

That is, your what you've written admits that there are other issues, but it doesn't address how to deal with them beyond something like "prayer." While I think that may be the only thing some of us can do, I don't think that's the only thing that can be done. What do you think "the church" should be doing?

By the way, complete side issue: How would you feel about coming up to visit in Februrary? W's going to be gone for a month up in Roc, and I'll be all alone.

JD said...

Hey make a new post!

By the way, are you interested in coming to visit for a couple weeks in Feb? Wen will be gone all month and I'll be all alone.

Hey, I'll even let you polish my books...and even read a couple if you're really nice! ;)

JD said...

When are you going to post something? I'm waitin! I may be your only reader!