Some Jesus-Centered Voices on Paris: Bruxy, Volf, Merritt, Smith

I've been hesitant to weigh in, significantly at least, on the Paris attacks and the events that have followed - including the inevitable military counterpunch from France in the form of airstrikes on Syria, and the news of U.S. governors refusing Syrian refugees because of perceived security risks. But I've heard a few voices (amidst the online din) that have stood out for their clarity and Jesus-centeredness, and I wanted to share them here.

The day after the attacks, Bruxy Cavey offered this video, which makes it clear what the Christian response ought to be to violence like this, and provides important balance highlighting both the bad idea of violent jihadism, and the bad idea of violence and killing in retaliation. Again, Bruxy is clear that nonviolence is the particular calling of Christians (though others may join in this vision):

Miroslav Volf (one of my foundational theological voices) offered this counter to the possibility that religion is, itself, to blame for this kind of violence and terrorism. Here's an excerpt from his article at the Washington Post

The data does not support the claim that world religions are by nature violent. They are likely to become violent under certain circumstances. What are these circumstances? As the sociologist David Martin has argued in “Does Christianity Cause War?” the single most significant factor in determining whether a religion will be implicated in violence is the level of its identification with a political project and its entanglement with those striving to realize and protect that project.

Put the glove of religion on the hand of either a revolutionary or a statesman, and religion will be pulled into the dynamics of cohesion, control, acquisition and maintenance of power, and the marking of boundaries — and will more likely than not turn violent. In other words, align moral self-understanding of society, state and religion, and even most peaceful religion will become ready to “take up the gun"...

...Drawing the distinction between the community called the “Body of Christ” and the political order of the empire, early Christians, for instance, embraced different levels of loyalty: Christ gives substantive direction to Christians’ lives, and they give him ultimate allegiance; the political order provides for the conditions of their living, and they give it conditional loyalty. All world religions provide resources and motivations to make similar distinctions...

...For the sake of the identity and reputation of the religions themselves and for the sake of justice and peace in the world, religions need permanent reformation.

At the heart of reformation must lie the conviction that, as the Apostle Peter put it in the first public sermon he preached, that “we must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29), asserting that “religion” and “state” are two distinct cultural systems. Such reformation of religions will not stop the blood and tears from flowing, but religions will no longer be implicated in the carnage.

Today, Jonathan Merritt offered three points that push back on the fear about accepting Syrian refugees to the U.S. These points are a breath of fresh air because they add practical data to the biblical call to welcome the stranger. Here's the second point from his article:

2. Many Christians oppose accepting Syrian refugees because they fear many will be terrorists. The State Department says that only 2 percent of Syrian refugees who’ve been admitted to the United States are “military-aged men with no families.” Of the Syrian refugees being referred by the U.N. for settlement, more than half are children under the age of 18. A large proportion are women or elderly men. What this means is that the vast majority of refugees who have been and are being considered by the United States do not fit what someone might consider a suspicious demographic profile.

Finally, my friend Mandy Smith just wrote this "bedtime prayer for terrorists" for Missio Alliance, and I think it provides some important perspective:

Wherever an extremist has joined ranks to find meaning, Fill his dreams with your purposes.

Wherever one has joined from disillusionment with his parents, Fill his dreams with your Fatherly love.

Wherever one has fled to fight because he’s a misfit in his community, Give him dreams of belonging in Your family.

Wherever one has joined from loneliness, Find his longing and let him dream of your longings.

Whoever falls asleep plotting, fill their dreams with uncanny peace. Whoever falls asleep hateful, fill their dreams with inexplicable joy.


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