Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rumors of War

This post is intended for the eyes and minds of Christians. That does not mean no one else may read it, but the context will be difficult for someone lacking the Christian focus. For example, Christians believe in the will of God, and also the veracity of Holy prophecy. Human history can be best interpreted in the illumination of God’s will and its clear enunciation in prophetic Scripture. The lack of clear Scripture can also provide meaning and improve understanding, when contemplation is used along with reason.

The Bible is full of prophecy, but that prophecy is spotty in places and times. There’s no end of people jumping up trying to show how a certain prophecy fits a given situation, but in the main it seems obvious – to me at least – that when considering prophecy we must remember that the Lord gives it for a purpose, which is aligned with His will, rather than our curiosity or desire to feel important. When Scripture is read holistically, it becomes obvious that prophecy is issued in support of God’s will, a signpost if you will of a major point in time. We see many things which matter to us but which may well be, from the larger perspective, insignificant. Which brings me to the discussion of our present wars.

I believe that President George W. Bush was doing God’s will when he was President. Even so, things did not work out in the Middle East as he hoped. Part of this was due to the despicable way politics were played in the House and Senate, as well as the cowardly refusal of Europe to stand up for a moral cause, but in the larger sense I believe President Bush misunderstood his role to some degree; the Lord was willing that Iraq should be reformed and established as a democratic republic, but not that the whole of the Middle East should be given peace and made whole – there are many greater issues which we must understand will continue to the very end of this age. This is difficult to understand, in the same way that to us it makes no sense that disease, poverty, famine, and all the other ills of this world should continue. There is good and there is evil in this world, for purposes beyond our ken, and all our hubris and technology cannot change this.

Wars are paradox. On the surface there is nothing good about war, senseless destruction, pain, loss and death. And in too many cases the victor in war is cruel and malicious, by no moral right able to claim the rule of nations. Innocents are often the worst hurt and the first victims. Yet wars, for all their terror and destruction, have ended tyrants, slavery, established protection of the rights of the people, and enabled representative government. In many nations the army boasts the most trustworthy and honorable men, the best in character and fortitude. The best leaders and rulers, especially in democracies, most often have served in their nation’s armed forces. Such men understand the cost of war and the need to plan carefully the nation’s welfare, protecting the nation’s strength while avoiding needless violence. The Bible tells of different kinds of war. Some wars are human vanity and therefore are evil and useless, while others serve God’s will and therefore while terrible they at least happen for a better reason than human arrogance. That is, humans start wars for evil purposes but God brings good out of them so that the suffering may be limited and goodness may advance. In some cases a war may even be fought for good purpose, though without God’s help all wars must of nature devolve into chaos and evil. It is therefore of paramount importance that any leader considering war must commit his efforts to the Lord’s service, and first seek the Lord’s counsel that his course of action will be grounded in true obedience to God rather than human arrogance.

This brings me around to the current situation in the Middle East. Looking at the long view, things do change and sometimes the change can be sudden, but for the most part few things change and there are some things which seem to be very much locked into place for some reason or purpose. I am not saying that democracy, human rights, and peace should not be sought, but for all our best ideals we must realize that some limits exist, and our inability to see them does not make them illusory. Jesus warned that we would hear of war, and rumors of war. That second part is intriguing, as it reminds me that war is a subtext to human history – even in peace the threat of war, the danger of it showing up must always be kept in mind. The same Christ who warned that those who live by the sword will die by it (Matthew 26:52) also specifically instructed His disciples to buy weapons (Luke 22:36). This is a dangerous world for individuals, peoples, and nations. What will be will include war.

The chaos surrounding the presidential election in Iran should surprise no one. What remains to be seen now, is what will come of the revolution now beginning there. Iran was the cradle of resurgent Jihadism, that foul cult which seeks to control nations and people through a fascist theocracy. History shows this cult popping up from time to time, and its always bloody. Even Islam had a big problem with the Jihadists. For example, the English word assassin is derived from the word hashishin, the drug-controlled killers from the Nizari branch of Shiite Islam who killed political enemies and targets on instructions from men who would establish the Fatimid Empire in the Middle Ages. A similar Jihadist movement erupted in Sudan and Egypt against the British Empire. The region has always held the potential for intense hatred and violence, and no one, no mater how strong or well-meaning, has been able to end the causes or settle the countless feuds and grudges. Because the hatred and violence in the Middle East is noted in both the books of Daniel and Revelation, we must sadly accept that they serve some vital role in the way of things, and while some part of the region may be stabilized and made safe for decent people, as a whole this monster is beyond our strength to slay. What we may hope and pray for the people of Iran, is that through God’s grace the people may rise to establish a more democratic government, to make homeless the beast of Jihadism for a time, to weaken it and dislocate its strength. But we must not expect more than has been done before, for reason that we cannot see the limits which affect all concerned.

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