I’ve been having a back and forth with my friend Morgan over his recent blog post reacting against the attack on the Libyan embassy. Morgan is a deeply committed Christian and an articulate interlocutor. This exchange raised a question with me: how do Christians respond to the kind of senseless violence that seems to be so prevalent in our world?
Certainly, any reaction that blames all Muslims as a whole is to be vehemently denied. The above photo, from this story about an anti-extremist rally, is evidence enough that not all of Islam is violent (and it is sad indeed that we must keep reminding folks of this in a post-9/11 world).
It seems to me that a measured, loving, but honest response is warranted. Many of my liberal and progressive Christian friends were so quick to remind us that not all Muslims are terrorists that they seemed to forget that a tragic few are. They seemed more interested in offering an apologetic on behalf of moderate Muslims than in grieving the lost or crying out for justice. This strikes me as a “PC” response but not necessarily a Christian one.
As Christians, we are called to pray and work for and witness to the peace of Christ, the prince of Peace. How that plays out in the world of international politics, foreign policy, and non-state actors with RPGs is a complex question. Whatever else we say, we must know that the call for peace must not come at the expense of justice, or vice versa. The prophet Jeremiah thus excoriated the false prophets of his day:
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. (6:14, NRSV)
We must not be too quick to cry “peace” in the absence of justice. There is a time for peace and for war, a time for forgiveness, and a time for the sword of government to do its work. The time for reconciliation will come. For now, let us pray for the victims of this attack, for the people of Libya (especially those of the household of faith), and for the perpetrators: may they be brought to justice swiftly, and may the God of all people so draw them to Himself that they repent and are reconciled to God and neighbor.
For now, as the old song goes, let peace begin with me.