Jesus, Bombs, & Ice Cream
Can we imagine a world with fewer bombs and more ice cream?

I was in Baghdad in March 2003, where I lived as a Christian and as a peacemaker during the "shock-and-awe" bombing. I spent time with families, volunteered in hospitals, and learned to sing "Amazing Grace"… in Arabic.

There is one image of the time in Baghdad that will never leave me. As the bombs fell from the sky and smoke filled the air, one of the doctors in the hospital held a little girl whose body was riddled with missile fragments. He threw his hands in the air and said, "This violence is for a world that has lost its imagination." Then he looked square into my eyes, with tears pouring from his, and said, "Has your country lost its imagination?"

That doctor's words have stayed with me.

In a country that is going bankrupt as it continues to spend $250,000 a minute on war, it is clear that it is time to re-imagine things. That doctor's words have inspired a little something.

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of September 11, Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, and I are teaming up. And we have rallied a bunch of other artists and storytellers to create a 90-minute variety show and multimedia presentation to raise questions about violence and militarism and share stories of reconciliation and grace.

We're calling it "Jesus, Bombs, and Ice Cream."

A victim of 911 will share about why she insists that more violence will not cure the epidemic of hatred in the world.

A veteran from Iraq will speak about the collision he felt as a Christian trying to follow the nonviolent-enemy-love of Jesus on the cross…while carrying a gun.

A welder will tie an AK-47 in a knot while a muralist paints something beautiful on stage.

We're going to do a Skype call with Afghan youth working for peace, and hear their dreams for a world free of war and bombs and other ugly things.

I don't want to give the whole thing away, but I will say we've got the world's best juggler Josh Horton doing an original anti-violence routine. And we've got some of the finest musicians rocking out some old freedom songs.

Ben and I are sort of like the ringmasters of the circus. He'll do this spectacular demonstration with Oreos where each one representing $10 billion of federal spending so we can see how the money stacks up with all these budget talks. I'll share about Jesus, and that grace that dulls even the sharpest sword.

We hope you can make it.

Oh, and word on the street is – ice cream will be served.

But even if you can't make it to Philly on September 10 for our little party, find some way to do something that doesn't compute with the patterns of violence. It's time to re-imagine the world.

Find a way to interrupt injustice and to build the kind of world we are proud to pass on to our kids – a world with fewer bombs and more ice cream.

I hope to go back to Iraq in a year or two, find that doctor again, and tell him: "We have not lost our imagination."

Here's a video invitation from Ben:

August 17, 2011

Displaying 1–10 of 33 comments

Bill Williams

September 09, 2011  2:43pm

Sheerahkahn, I appreciate you living up to your word. You quoted your original "answer"; and although I'm sure it made sense to you because you knew where you were coming from, for those of us who don't live inside your mind, we needed you to connect the dots. If you could've been more straightforward from the beginning, perhaps we could've saved ourselves a lot of time. Don't be so amazed that I couldn't pick up on it myself–we often don't communicate as clearly as we think we do, so it's important that we be patient with others when they don't understand us. I wish you had been more patient with me, but it is likely that the way I tried to communicate didn't help either. So, I can see where you're coming from, now; and there is much I agree with. A bit of the future does die with each "collateral damage." We in America are incredibly desensitized and ignorant to the violent nature of war. And in this context, I get your objections to Mr. Claiborne's event. I can see how it can come off as meaningless, frivolous, inappropriate. But remember, Mr. Claiborne was there. Mr. Claiborne saw the horrors of war first hand, and I believe him to be sincere in trying to do something about it. So even though you and I may not agree with his point of view, I think he has at the very least earned the right for us to respect his point of view. Regardless, thank you for helping me understand your point of view. I hope this demonstrates that I was being sincere, regardless of how you may have interpreted what I wrote. I know you are moving on, and I don't expect you to respond, but I do hope you at least read this message. Because I want to finish by repeating something I wrote earlier. I keep sensing that you have experienced things that have made you cynical, pessimistic. But I just want to encourage you not to let the experiences you've had define reality for you. Go back to the Bible and discover the hope it gives us!! Yes, perhaps the future IS dying–BUT CHRIST HAS RISEN FROM THE DEAD. Satan, death, sin, war, injustice–all of that is a defeated enemy!! Every innocent child that died will be raised back to life! Everyone who has followed the way of Satan will share in his sentence! The future may be dead, but God will raise the dead. That is the hope of the entire Bible, both the Old and New Testament. And no one can follow Christ, as you claim to do, without experiencing that hope. So, like I said, I don't expect you to respond. You have fulfilled your word. But I do hope you read this, because I truly want you to experience this hope!!!

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September 09, 2011  1:51am

"Well, sheerahkahn, I did ask you directly (again!); but unfortunately, you have not been true to your word and you have not given me any straight up answers." but i did answer you, mr williams. the answer is right there... "At least Mr. Claiborne didn't kill the child...and ,he didn't kill the mother, and he didn't kill the other mothers and children, and he didn't kill the old men who were hiding with hte mothers and the children." i'd bold the entire sentence for effect, but the first part sums it up succinctly. perhaps you remember the nations first encounter with the words "collateral damages"? former general colin powell utter those sacrilegious words on national television due to the deaths of ~400 women, children, and old men. i was part of that mr. a small way, i was part of that...much like paul except that i worked on the –––– that enabled us to do...such...precise work. america is very good at war...unfortunately, americans are completely and totally ignorant of the costs of war. when you have seen that many children die, and their bodies stacked up on their dead mothers...that mr williams, amazingly that you couldn't pick up on it yourself, is what a dead future looks like. the future dies each time a child dies, that is sad, and cause to mourn; but when they die en masse...that mr williams is a very dead future. I could write a book on how meaningless an ice-cream social is...a wake would have been more farewell to our faerie like dreams of a city on a hill...but that is for another time. i have done what G-d insisted i should do, and you have your explanation mr williams...i am moving on.

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Bill Williams

September 03, 2011  12:45am

Ben Blackwell, I think you've made some really good points. We live in this age in a constant tension between the two realities that through God all things are possible, on the one hand; yet through sin many things that are possible just don't happen, on the other hand. The good news is that, despite some people's pessimism towards the future, one day we will live in a new world–new heavens and a new earth. One day our prayer will be answered–God's will WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven. In the meantime, our calling is to live in THIS world in way that is consistent with how we will live in THAT world for all eternity. This, of course, will make us look weird, out of place. Because, indeed, we are! We're strangers living in a strange land. We're (for example) Vietnamese immigrants living in a small town in West Texas. What this also means is that we will be open to the God-inspired possibility that even though we cannot stop EVERY bomb from falling, maybe we can stop SOME bombs from falling. Maybe there are SOME innocent Iraqi girls (or Afghan, or Libyan, or Iranian, or from wherever) that won't have to die. And that's a start. For those whose lives may be saved, it'll make all the difference in the world. Now, whether or not Mr. Claiborne's event will actually have any influence in this way is an issue that can be debated. Actually, I agree with sheerahkahn in that I have my doubts that it'll do any good (I suspect he may have assumed things about me, as well!). But that's fine, because I have no problems at all with God proving me wrong for doubting, even if I never find out in this world that I was wrong. Regardless, it's something. Mr. Claiborne can do his thing, and I'll put my efforts in doing whatever I can do in the place God has put me.

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Bill Williams

September 03, 2011  12:11am

Well, sheerahkahn, I did ask you directly (again!); but unfortunately, you have not been true to your word and you have not given me any straight up answers. Needless to say, I'm a bit disappointed, as I really wanted to understand how the death of the future, in your understanding, is worse than the death of an Iraqi girl. Fortunately, I've learned to live with lots of unanswered questions, so I'll just consider this as one of them. I will drop in every now and then, however, in case you ever decide to be true to your word and give me a straight answer to my two questions. I hope to hear from you...

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Ben Blackwell

September 01, 2011  10:03am

I don't say anything to start controversy. But wasn't is God who said that through Him all things are possible? And in James chapter 5, James says that the prayer of a righteous man has much power, and that Elijah was just like us and He prayed that it might not rain, and it didn't rain for 3 and a half years. And then he prayed again and it began to rain. Maybe we have lost sight of the power that Christ has brought to us. I know that I need help in getting there, but that's why we as God's family can work together to do this and have God's glory fill this earth. I love you all with Christ's love. May we all learn to live righteously with God our Father together. Ben

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Bill Williams

August 28, 2011  1:44pm

Sheerahkahn, in an earlier post I wrote the following: "As for your statement: '[I]f you think I'm being condenscending then I really need to up my game...' I'm not quite sure what that's supposed to mean. Are you trying to say that you could be MORE condescending if you wanted to? Are you holding yourself back? But maybe I'm reading you wrong." I acknowledged that, yes, I might be jumping to conclusions–which we all do, as you pointed out. But I think I asked pretty directly for an explanation of what you meant, because I really did want to understand. I never got a straight up answer from you. Later I wrote: "We live in a country that produces people who think the death of some abstract concept of the "future" (what does that even mean?!) is MORE HORRIBLE than the death of an actual, concrete, living, breathing, flesh and blood innocent girl whom God created in his image." I asked you directly what you meant by the "death of the future." I never got a straight up answer. In that same post I wrote: "No, sir, you are absolutely wrong on this. The 'death of the future' is not worse, it is not more horrible. Read the Bible again, and you will see that Christ died on the cross, not to redeem and restore some abstract theory, but to redeem and restore ALL OF CREATION, including that Iraqi girl." Your straight up answer to my assertion that the "death of the future" is not worse than the death of an Iraqi girl was basically, "No, I'm not." Nothing to back that up. So I am well aware that I have had to assume things and jump to conclusions. Although I'm not quite sure what YOU think I'm assuming; and I think I'd rather not assume anymore what you think I'm assuming. But the reason I've had to assume things, the reason I've had to try to read in between the lines, is because you haven't given me ANY straight answers. You say now that you would've if I had asked you directly. But I've just reminded you of two direct questions and one direct challenge to something you said. You never responded to any of them. So now, in your latest post you wrote the following: "At least Mr. Claiborne didn't kill the child...and he didn't kill the mother, and he didn't kill the other mothers and children, and he didn't kill the old men who were hiding with hte[sic] mothers and the children." Yes. Great. But I'm sorry, I don't get what this has anything to do with what we've been talking about. Like I said, maybe I'm not smart enough or spiritual enough to get it, but I'm going to need you to connect the dots on this one a little more for me. Let's review. I began by expressing my surprise that you and elegance showed more indignation at Mr. Claiborne's event (whose biggest sin, from what I could understand from you, was that it was preaching to the choir, the people who needed to hear that message wouldn't be there to hear it, and it was pointless), than at the description of the suffering of an innocent Iraqi girl. Eventually you responded by saying that the death of the future was worse than the death of the Iraqi girl. So, no assuming things, no jumping to any conclusions, I'm asking you as directly as I possible can and hoping to receive some straight up answers: 1. What does the phrase "the death of the future" mean? 2. How is that worse than the death of an actual human being?

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August 27, 2011  1:37pm

"I was sincerely wanting to understand where you were coming from." You have a funny way of expressing that, but understandable given the forum. want to understand...alright, since the memories have come back... At least Mr. Claiborne didn't kill the child...and he didn't kill the mother, and he didn't kill the other mothers and children, and he didn't kill the old men who were hiding with hte mothers and the children. You see, Mr. Williams, perhaps if you had asked me directly, instead of assuming things you would have gotten a straight up answer...but, and this is where G-d is talking to me now, but I should grant you the benefit of the doubt because, like me, you're human prone to jumping to conclusions before all the facts are lined up before you. And, therein, is Mike's answer...perhaps, as a people, before we act like a pack of rabid baboon's strung out on meth, we actually took a step back, and thought out our actions before we acted on them...we might, as a people, much less as a church, be less prone to make regrettable decisions that will haunt us far into the future.

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Bill Williams

August 23, 2011  10:26pm

Sheerahkahn, I've been thinking all day about how to respond. Honestly, I'm a bit disappointed that you're closing off the conversation. You never really addressed any of the substantive issues I asked about. You never explained what you meant by the "death of the future", and you never explained how that was worse than the death of an innocent girl (by the way, the "I wish I was wrong, but I'm not, because I said so" argument doesn't fly). You completely ignored Mark E.'s request about constructive ideas on how better to address the issue of war. I was sincerely wanting to understand where you were coming from. Maybe you think I'm not smart enough or spiritual enough to understand something that is so obvious to you. But, oh well. I can't do anything about that. But what I can do is try to give you a word of encouragement. I've been thinking about what you wrote in one of your posts, that experience was your most valuable tool. Then all of a sudden, it clicked! Don't let experience be your most valuable tool. Let the BIBLE be your most valuable tool! I imagine you must have gone through some difficult experiences that have left you cynical. And for that, I'm sorry. But I hope and pray that God will grant you the grace to look past those disappointing experiences to the glorious future God has promised us! You see, when I read the Bible, I realize that God, more than anyone else including you, has the most reason–the most experience–to be cynical. But he isn't. He never gives up on us, and he never gives up hope, because he knows that he is not dependent on us to accomplish his purposes. He is the one in control. Like I said in my last post, the future is not dead. The future–our future–is safe in his hands. And no matter how many times we disappoint God, how many times we fail him, how many times we don't "get it," he is always able to take us, with all our messiness and all our failure, and use us to further his kingdom. So don't be discouraged, Sheerahkahn! There is HOPE! GLORIOUS HOPE!! For you, for me, for Mr. Claiborne, for everyone of us who follows Christ, even if we do it imperfectly, and even if we do it in a way you don't agree with. Don't let anyone take this assurance of hope away from you. Don't ignore your experiences, but do submit them to the vision of God's kingdom revealed in the Bible, the vision of a kingdom where all wrongs will be made right, the vision of a kingdom that will last for all eternity!

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August 23, 2011  1:22am

"No, sir, you are absolutely wrong on this." mr. williams, i wish i was...however, done is done... hmm... well, that's it for me. fare you well mr. williams i leave you in G-d's care.

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Mark E.

August 22, 2011  2:25pm

Hey Sheerakahn, Dude I like you. You usually have something intelligent and thought-provoking to say. Your best posts point out errors in thinking and can push people to look past the often shallowness in our practices of faith. But on occasion, whether you want to admit or not, you do let the cynicism in your head/heart bleed all over other posters here. I don't know if Shane's event will do anything at all or if it is the right step, but it is certainly a better alternative than the "crying over the death of the future and oh-how-lost, stupid, and worthless the Western church" mantra of your last post. Rather than just disparage the attempts of others, let's hear your ideas on how to do it better. I'm sure you have some good ones–and I mean that sincerely.

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