Who is our enemy?

This morning a friend sent me a link to an insightful article by Glenn Kessler in today’s Washington post. Kessler focuses on the underlying doublespeak behind the way Bush uses the terms “free”, “moderate” and “terrorist”. While we’re all used to Bush’s buzz words, this article sharply tears away the veil to reveal just how untrue the president’s words are.

Yet Kessler doesn’t resort to to black and white truisms that mirror those of Bush. Instead, he lets the gray areas speak for themselves. First he points out that, despite Bush’s claim that “free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies — and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance”:

In the two of the most liberal and diverse societies in the Middle East — Lebanon and the Palestinian territories — events have undercut Bush’s argument in the past year. Hezbollah has gained power and strength in Lebanon, partly at the ballot box. Meanwhile, Palestinians ousted the Fatah party — which wants to pursue peace with Israel — from the legislature in favor of Hamas, which is committed to Israel’s destruction and is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department.

He also points out that the countries Bush describes as “moderate” such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia rank about the same as Cuba and Burma on the Freedom House rating scale (see links above for their respective ratings).

As Christians, this question of who is our enemy has a special importance because these are the people Jesus calls us to love. We sometimes prefer just to focus on the enemies that others, such as our president, choose. But if we are radicals and dissidents then we must recognize that we too have enemies. As we discussed in Brian Hamilton’s post on dissent, our response to those who use violence to control and repress must be grounded in Christ’s gospel of Shalom. So what does this mean in Burma or Saudi Arabia? In Loving Without Giving In: Christian Responses to Terrorism and Tyranny (link to a review I did last year), Ron Mock creatively combines enemy loving with defiance of tyranny and terrorism. He suggests that Christians are called to act in defiance of fear and sometimes go to the places where others are being cowed into silence to stand with them and suffer the same fate as they do. All of us watched as four CPTers lived this out as hostages last year in Iraq, but Christian missionaries quietly take this risk on a regular basis in countries around the world. Does loving our enemy mean finding common ground in unexpected places?

There’s a lot more to be written on this theme, but I’ll just call this Part 1 and pick up the theme another day.