Note: When covering international crises, such as the current fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, Christianity Today takes care to listen to evangelical Christian leaders in the places most affected. We may find their views corrective, provocative, or even abhorrent at times, but in each case we learn about areas where we stand together and areas where we disagree. In the case of this submission from Martin Accad, academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, there are many areas where we strongly agree, and there are some areas (particularly his characterization of Israel's history and U.S. diplomacy) where we strongly disagree. We present it here to illuminate at least one Lebanese Christian leader's perspective. Eds.
It is normally easy enough for me to dismiss with a smirk some of the simplistic comments that I constantly read or hear from Christians around the world as pertains to events that are going on in the Middle East. These comments hit much deeper at a time when my country is once again hurting beyond pain, under the murderous aggression of Israeli armed forces for the past five days.
It is striking how normally highly reasonable and spiritually aware people can suddenly lose any sense of ethical, let alone Christian, balance when it comes to Middle East conflicts involving modern political Israel.
"Great. All we need is a nuclear-armed Iran led by a messianic president who hates Israel and believes that apocalyptic destruction is a precursor to global salvation," writes David P. Gushee in a recent Christianity Today online column, in reference to Iran's president Ahmadinejad. On the whole, Gushee's article is fairly balanced from a certain point of view, and I suppose within the limits necessary to avoid being attacked and branded by those in our churches who have but disdain for Arabs.
But how is it that he, like so many others, fails to notice that world events in the last few yearseven decadeshave had as their main catalyst tens of thousands of evangelical Christians with a "messianic" mentality who believe that apocalyptic destruction of all but their beloved Israel will be "a precursor to global salvation"?
"Nuclear-armed Iran"? How about the Israeli jet planes that are bombing, as I write, my country and its population, my sisters, my brothers, my fathers and mothers and grandfathers, my children and nieces and nephews? According to the Lebanese health minister, Israel is even using phosphoric bombs, which are forbidden under international conventions! Are my people to consider Iran more dangerous than this? Are we safely in good hands with such actions? Come with me to Beirut and see how inoffensive Israel is. Ask the thousands of Western nationals that are presently being evacuated by the shipload. Ask the hundreds of U.S. and other Western missionaries that are running for their lives from Lebanon as you read this, through the most dangerous routes. Ask them whether weapons of any kind are in safe hands in any bloodthirsty human hands. And if they were not bloodthirsty, why would they have them? Why would anyone have them?
In the past, tit for tat has been the only way for any Arab country or armed group to get anything from Israel. So once more last Wednesday, Lebanon's Hezbollah ventured into kidnapping two Israeli soldiers in order to force the hand of Israel into a prisoner exchange. "The actual result," Gushee wrote, "is predictable. Israel responds with massive (sometimes disproportionate) force; civilians get killed accidentally along with intended militants."
"Sometimes disproportionate"?! Talk about an understatement to describe a one-weekand still goingmachine of annihilation that has destroyed in days what had taken 15 years of reconstruction. Civilians "killed accidentally"?! Explain that to the young mother squatting right now at my parents' home in Lebanon, having just heard her husband was torn into pieces by an Israeli bomb as he was carrying out civil relief in villages of South Lebanon! But of course these civilians were at fault, since they had been warned by Israeli flyers to evacuate their villages the previous night. But to go where? To my father's living room?! They are welcome, but it's getting really full. Tonight I had my finger hovering over my computer's "send" button for at least one long minute before I was able to bring myself to sending to a few friends who might care to receive them, some of the gruesome images of war, of torn infant flesh from my bleeding country.
And then this wish: that "our own government will undertake policies to help foster a reduction of tensions in the region." Oh what wishful thinking! When did it ever?! When did the U.S. ever use anything other than its veto power at the United Nations, precisely in order to prevent policies and resolutions that might potentially have been helpful to my people?
Please, Christians! Let's grow up and get over our childish wishes. If, like me, you had lived through the 17 years of Lebanese civil strife from 1975 to 1991 and were presently facing the real and gruesome prospect of another extended conflict, you'd be far from hoping and believing in any benevolent and sincere peace efforts of any external broker, supposedly neutral.
I'll tell you, if you care, what I think those governments will help foster. I think that some pseudo-biblically motivated Christians with decision power, who believe "that apocalyptic destruction is a precursor to global salvation," are presently working toward provoking a Middle Eastern conflict of regional significance in order finally to settle accounts with Hezbollah- and Hamas-supporting Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and Palestine, who have committed the crime, as Gushee put it, of making their hatred for Israel "crystal clear." And how dare they, since the said state has only been acting as an aggressor and racist colonial state with neighbor-exterminating tendencies from the moment of its inception?
(Of course, I will be accused of being an anti-Semite because of such words. But I will just shrug and sneer at that accusation and say: "What makes you a Semite anyway?" Having just read the holocaust account of Elie Wiesel's Night with tears and deep empathy, having Jewish relatives on my Swiss mother's side who fled Germany to Switzerland during the period of the rise of Nazism, being an Arab Christian with Lebanese paternal ancestry, I have more Semitic DNA in me than most who will be reading this. My ethnic heritage may be a mess, but I can still recognize ethical wrong when I see it!)
As an academic with a Ph.D. from Oxford University and specialist in Christian-Muslim and East-West relations, constantly seeking creative models of conflict resolution and better understanding, all of what I have just written is written in a manner far from what I would normally write or say with a cool head, far from what my Swiss-blood-flowing veins would normally permit me to utter. But then, perhaps academics sometimes owe their readers more genuine feelings, skin-level emotions gushing out of a deeply hurting, frustrated, desperate, and hopeless soul that has had enough of human arrogance and injustice.
Having come to the U.S. at the wrong time to teach a course for two weeks, I find myself at the wrong place at the wrong time, stranded after my country's airport was sent up in flames by Israeli jets. There are two Israeli soldiers imprisoned by Hezbollah hands, 10,000 Arabs in Israeli jails, and one poor soul imprisoned in the U.S. by human madness and bloodthirsty governments.
I am angry at self-centered Hezbollah, which has done the inadmissible of taking a unilateral war decision without consulting the Lebanese government of which it is part, never giving a second thought to the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Lebanese who will perish as a result of its selfish decision. I am angry that citizens of a nation like Israel, who have so suffered at the hands of others, would allow themselves such an out-of-proportion reaction, oh-so-far from the "eye-for-an-eye and tooth-for-a-tooth" principle that we might have forgiven them. I am just as angry atI have lost hope inthe international community that is keeping silent and not even budging with an official condemnation of this senseless instinct of extermination. By both sides, I would be lynched for what I have just said, if they had the chance. But what have I got to lose anymore?
Martin Accadis the academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon. He was teaching at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, last week and is now unable to return home.
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
CT also interviewed Accad following the "Cedar revolution."
Accad was also interviewed on WILL AM.
Christians and Muslims In Lebanon Martin Accad, Ph.D., Academic Dean at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut
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More coverage since the breakout of hostilities in southern Lebanon includes:
The Middle East's Death Wishand Ours | We say "everyone wants peace," but we also want to see our enemies destroyed. (July 14, 2006)
When the Bombs Fell on Beirut | This week's fighting between Israel and Lebanon seems too familiar. (July 17, 2006)
See our past coverage of the Israel-Palestine fight, Iran, and Lebanon.
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