Crashing Cultures
This has been a very deadly month for U.S. troops in Iraq. And the war, politically, is becoming a real drag on the administration. That’s not a partisan remark; that’s just an observation; everyone sort of knows that. And even people in Congress who voted for the initial resolution to go to war are now looking for a way to distance themselves from that decision, and are increasingly able to do that without looking like they are being soft on defense, or that they’re weak. It occurs to me that this is one of those times when you’re up so close to the trees that you can’t see that there’s a forest there. In the grind of casualties like these, it makes people wonder, “Should we have been in Iraq in the first place? Was this an appropriate time and place essentially to invade another country?” And as we’re wondering, “Was that the right thing to do or not?” there’s great ambivalence in America over it for various motives and for various reasons. Whether or not it was a good idea or not, the fact is it happened. This is now one of many, many instances where – for sometimes pure and sometimes impure motives -- people came crashing into other people’s cultures, and ultimately, good came out of it. When the Europeans came crashing into North America, sometimes partnering with the Native Americans and sometimes in armed conflict with them; sometimes honorably carrying out peaceful treaties; sometimes shamelessly breaking treaties and stealing Native American lands, there were both acts of nobility and cruelty, justice and injustice, all mixed together. That’s part of the American story, and really that’s part of the story of all nations. And we really just need to kind of take a deep breath and look at the larger picture. The separation of the Muslim world from the West – when we Westerners had no access to information; where very few people in the West understood anything at all about the Middle East… I mean, probably 15 years ago, not one American in a hundred knew that there were Shiite and Sunni Muslims, and that those were major cultural differences in that country of Iraq. So a much greater awareness of life in the Middle East is now ours, and for better or for ill, people in the Middle East now have a much clearer idea of life in America. And sooner or later, and I hope sooner, there will be no more American troops left in Iraq, and we can get that thorn out of the side of our international relations. But the fact is the two cultures have come together, and this is now part of just the ongoing churning of peoples that has been going on since Bible times and since the very earliest times of societies. Civilizations and peoples have crashed into each other, sometimes migrating in search of food; sometimes expanding because of overpopulation or drying up of grazing lands. And sometimes those interactions between peoples were violent and bloody and not noble; and sometimes they were a peaceful intermingling of peoples. But the fact is that they happened. They’re happening now, and they will continue to happen till the end of time. This current situation is just one of them. And it’s an opportunity for God to cross-pollinate the world with the Gospel. When people are talking with each other it provides opportunities to share the Word with each other. In spite of the fact that Europeans did much to hurt and loot Native American cultures, especially in Mexico, the fact is they brought Jesus, too. They brought a caste system, European diseases, and racism, but they brought Jesus, too. And they brought communication with the rest of the world. And ultimately, I think we all come out ahead as we learn more about each other and realize how small the world really is. And for us as Christians, especially – we’re always looking for ways, in the midst of trouble, to make the name of Jesus great. The best evangelism usually happens in times of crisis, pain, stress, or dislocation. So let’s give God a chance to bring some good out of all this mess and pain, and some day a hundred years from now historians, even Christian historians, will look back and say maybe we got into this war for the wrong reasons, but the outcome of it proved helpful to world development. We can’t see that outcome yet. But let’s let God have enough room – enough blank canvas – to paint and write, that he may bring some good out of all this mess yet.