18 October 2013

"Terrorism thrives only in places of chaos"

"Terrorism thrives only in places of chaos." ~ Rami Khouri, Director of Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy, American University of Beirut.

I went to a lecture at the University of Denver yesterday sponsored by the Joszef Korbel School of International Studies. The talk was given by Rami Khouri and was titled, "Has the Arab Spring Failed? The Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East."
       Khouri made an interesting comment about terrorism. He said it can only exist and thrive in the midst of chaos. He cited growing terrorist movements in Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan as current examples. All three countries border on lawlessness. I thought of other countries in the region where terrorism is at a minimum - Algeria and Qatar come to mind. Both of those countries are stable and relatively safe. Algeria is ruled by a strong military, Qatar is one of the most economically prosperous in the world.
       So how do you fight terrorism? You dispel chaos! What's the antidote to chaos? Shalom - wholeness, completeness. People who seek shalom squeeze out any place for a terrorist. It's just like light and darkness. Light always dispels darkness; darkness cannot overtake the light.
       This is one of my motivations for introducing Muslims to Jesus. The Muslim world is the seedbed for much terrorism in the world (although there are other non-Muslim contexts as well). If Jesus is "the Prince of Peace" and the "Light of the World," it makes sense that terrorism cannot co-exist with Jesus.

12 October 2013

My Favorite Week

Most years I make a mini-pilgrimage back to Central New York where I attended university a couple of decades ago. I try to go in the middle of October, because the changing colors are usually breath-taking and life-giving to me.
       I take off for New York on Friday and am there for a brief two days. Hopefully the changing leaves will be as spectacular as I remember them from past years.
       I think I like Autumn for a number of reasons - I like cooler weather for one thing. But more important, I appreciate the changing seasons. They provide a certain rhythm to life that I appreciate a lot.
       I also find it fascinating that just before the leaves "die" and fall off the trees they are most beautiful. And then those same trees are bare and must become dormant before new life can spring forth next year.

07 October 2013

WIsdom in the Midst of a Government Shutdown

There is so little that is worth talking about in regards to the shutdown of the U.S. government. At the moment, I simply feel embarrassed by the elected representatives of the citizens of the U.S. - both Democrats and Republicans.
       The chaplain of the U.S. Senator offered the only wisdom I have heard in the past week when he prayed this prayer:

02 October 2013

Last Words Matter ...

My wife reminded me this morning of Lewis Smedes' spiritual memoir, My God and I, which turned out to be the last words he wrote before his sudden and untimely death more than a decade ago.
       His words so captivated my heart and soul when I read them many years ago, and they did so again this morning. Lew was a spiritual giant.

"This is where I find myself now on the journey that God and I have been on, at the station called hope, the one that comes right after gratitude and somewhere not far from journey's end. It has been 'God and I' the whole way. Not so much because he has always been pleasant company. Not because I could always feel his presence when I got up in the morning or when I was afraid to sleep at night. It was because he did not trust me to travel alone. Personally I like the last miles of the journey better than the first. But, since I could not have the ending without first having the beginning, I thank God for getting me going and bringing me home. And sticking with me all the way."

01 October 2013

Keep an Enemy ... or Make Peace?

There is a certain equilibrium created when we know who our enemies are and we can defend ourselves against them.
       For much of his life, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has known instinctively that Iran is Enemy #1 of his people. After all, Iran has had leaders who have said they wanted to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.
       So I understand why Mr. Netanyahu went to the United Nations and said that the new president of Iran is a "wolf in sheep's clothing," even as the previous Iranian president was a "wolf in wolf's clothing." The real crisis for Mr. Netanyahu will come when President Rouhani of Iran actually does want to make peace.
       It will be a crisis because Mr. Netanyahu and Israel know how to wage war, but has little experience in "waging peace." In fact, Israeli leaders who have sought peace have either been assassinated (Izchak Rabin) or somewhat marginalized (Shimon Peres).
       Nonetheless, I find it somewhat astounding that Mr. Netanyahu could be so clear and confident that Mr. Rouhani is a "wolf in sheep's clothing." Does he know Mr. Rouhani personally to make such an assertion? How was Mr. Netanyahu informed so that he could make this bold pronouncement? Does Mr. Netanyahu assume that Mr. Rouhani is deceptive because that is a trait of Iranians in general?
       My people (i.e. Jews) should be the very last people on earth to make generalizations about a culture, ethnic group, or an individual. We Jews have been called "wolves in sheeps' clothing" as well - by people who persecuted us in places such as Russia and Germany.
       We would do well to withhold judgement on people such as Mr. Rouhani and wait to see if his actions match his words. That might even lead to that ever elusive ... Shalom!