Last Sunday I visited a neighborhood church–one of those small churches where folks of all ages come together for Bible study and worship; the spiritual backbone of American Christianity and culture.
The bulletin for the service had some “Christian One-liners” on the back. Some of the catchy phrases are old but still true: “It is easier to preach ten sermons than it is to live one;” “When you get to your wit’s end, you’ll find God lives there;” and “Don’t complain about your church; if it were perfect, you couldn’t belong.”
The one that caught my eye went like this: “Don’t let your worries get the best of you. Remember, Moses started out as a basket case.” This alludes to the story in Exodus, where Moses’ mother placed him in a wicker basket to save him from Pharaoh’s order to kill all the Hebrew boys.
In times like these worries can get the best of us. The idiom, “basket case,” is a grim slang phrase that began with the British military during World War I. A totally devastated, ruined and no-longer-useful soldier was a basket case.
It is a phrase that clearly describes the situation today in war-torn Iraq. Iraqis die daily by the dozens, and American soldiers continue giving their lives in the senseless carnage. Hundreds of journalists have died (the most in any war in history).
Last week word came that the body of Tom Fox, 54, a Quaker, was found in a garbage dump in Baghdad. He was one of four Christian peace activists held captive there since last November. He had a single gunshot wound to the head.
“In grief we tremble before God, who wraps us with compassion,” Christian Peacemakers leaders said in a statement released after Fox’s death. “The death of our beloved colleague and friend pierces us with pain…. We mourn the loss of Tom Fox, who combined a lightness of spirit, a firm opposition to all oppression, and the recognition of God in everyone.”
Fox was abducted Nov. 26 in Baghdad, along with Norman Kember, 74, who is a British Baptist; and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32. The Islamic Swords of Righteousness claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.
The Christian Peacemakers released a statement: “In response to Tom’s passing, we ask that everyone set aside inclinations to vilify or demonize others, no matter what they have done.”
Peace can never be achieved as long as there are men (women do not start wars) bent on using their military power to solve their problems. Great inventions have developed during wars, but that does not compare with the heartache and grief brought upon the people who make up the backbone of our society. Ask the families who have suffered the loss of loved ones since our president decided to invade Iraq three years ago.
Such slaughter goes against everything the Prince of Peace lived and died for. I no longer sing the old gospel song, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Sure, it has a spiritual meaning, but there are better ways to express your love of the savior than using military terms. (Please don’t write me of the many Bible verses using military language. Had women been the scribes who recorded the Bible they might have used better illustrations and experiences to express the Christian life.)
One last Christian One-liner: “God promises a safe landing, not an easy passage.”
Britt Towery, a former local National Guardsman and Air Force Reserve Chaplain, though never on the battlefield, has buried many a military hero.