Dear Dr. Accad,
I rarely respond to comments critical of my writing. But your heartfelt essay, "Evangelical Blindness on Lebanon," spoke very deeply to me. I don't know you personally, but you are my brother in Christ. And your people are suffering. So I want to respond, and to do so publicly, in the hope of contributing to the edification of Christ's body and the healing of our suffering world.
I hear the desperation and misery in your voice. I sense your fear for the well-being of your loved ones and your grief over those already torn to pieces by Israeli bombs. I hear your rage at the nation that is inflicting this suffering on your people, and at Hezbollah for starting this latest round of fighting, and at the feckless international community, and at global evangelicals, especially in the United States, and at the U.S. government itself.
I, personally, am struggling deeply right now to have any hope about many of the same things that you are struggling with. I think the United States government has been pursuing a disastrous foreign policy since September 11 and that now we are reaping some of the consequences of that mixture of unilateralism, militarism, Wilsonian idealism, and negligent incompetence. My sympathy for Israelwhich is indeed deep, a mix of all kinds of factors, some rational, some emotionaldoes not extend to support for what has clearly become a massive and disproportionate military offensive. And when I read about Hezbollah, and Hamas, and Syria, and Iran, and the growing sophistication of the weapons being fired at Israel, and the emergent pro-Iran Iraq, and the tangled web of ties and dark plans that connect Israel's enemies, I sense a coming conflagration.
My reference to Ahmadinejad's apocalyptic messianism should have included a statement of my own rejection of all forms of apocalyptic messianism, beginning with the Christian ones. Because the Bible says so, I believe that one day Christ will return and at last (praise God) every tear shall be wiped away and all this killing will end. But elaborate end-times scenarios that conveniently involve apocalyptic warfare in the Middle East repulse me, for two reasons. One is that they are speculative creations that go beyond the Bible's own specific teachings. The other is that they cut the nerve of moral effort to make peace and work for justice right here and right now.
The only alternative in the Middle East is a conversation, involving all parties, ultimately leading to a just and sustainable regional peace settlement, or mutual annihilation. (Not just suffering; annihilation.) As Christians, we have no choice but to pray for, and demand of our government, every effort to contribute to such a conversation. Otherwise we will share responsibility for the coming annihilation, and undoubtedly share in its consequences.
Dr. Accad, my heart goes out to you. I am sorry for the shortcomings of my article, most notably that it did not adequately reflect the reality of suffering that you and the Lebanese people are experiencing. I will pray for you and your people every day. I hope to meet you someday in far happier circumstances.
In Christ's love,
Dr. David Gushee
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Gushee's earlier column is available on our site.
More articles on the fighting in Lebanon include:
Prince of Peace's Hometown Bombarded | Missiles' booms sound the alarm to our forsaken responsibility of peace making. (July 21, 2006)
Another Point of View: Evangelical Blindness on Lebanon | The academic dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary is angry at evangelical Christians, Israel, Hezbollah, the U.S., and the international community. (July 20, 2006)
Weblog: Secrets of the Lebanon-Israel War | Beyond the headlines in the Lebanon-Israel War (July 20, 2006)
When the Bombs Fell on Beirut | This week's fighting between Israel and Lebanon seems too familiar. (July 17, 2006)
The Middle East's Death Wishand Ours | We say "everyone wants peace," but we also want to see our enemies destroyed. (July 14, 2006)