"Christian" Hostage Wants Clemency for His Captors

A former British peace activist held hostage in Iraq wants to defend his captors in court. He's not just trying to shield them from the death sentence, but also from a "long prison sentence". He even believes that if they were released, that they may become hostage takers again.

As I've said from time to time on these pages, this is one of the logical outcome of Christian fundamentalism and New Testament literalism. Pacifism is a form of Christian fundamentalism and literalism.

I hope the reason I bring this up is obvious. But, to state the obvious to the clueless: When was the last time you met a Muslim literalilst or fundamentalist who was a pacifist? All religions, my friends, are not the same.

Christians face the problematic of justifying violence when pacifism, in my mind, is clearly an immoral position. As history shows, Christians have not had that hard of a time figuring out a way to justify violence when necessary (and often, when not necessary). But, most of the violence committed in Christianity's name comes only after the Church rejected a core literalist tennet: seperation of church and state.

Muslims, on the other hand, have quite the opposite problem. The Quran and the hadiths clearly show that violence is God's way of not only defending the faith, but also in spreading the faith and in enforcing its moral codes. Thus, for the Muslim, the problematic is justifying peace when the Quran, the sayings of Muhammed (hadiths), and Mohammed's example (sunna), when taken literally, indicate that "God" wants his "submitters" to act immorally.

And, like Christians who rejected a literal interpretation of Christ's "turn the other cheek" or Paul's invitation to soldier converts to "do no violence", because doing so in every situation would clearly be immoral (eg, allowing genocide), so too have many Muslims, over the years, worked out ways of justifying peaceful coexistence with infidels (eg, India--at least, from time to time) or in rejecting sharia as nothing more than a set of values not to be enforced by state power (eg, "liberal" or "secular" Muslims). Because human beings have a way of finding the moral thing to do, even when Allah commands them to "strike the neck of the unbelievers".

But just because we have the capacity to see the immorality of pacifism or of jihad & sharia, this does not mean that people always follow their conscience. Ideas can have powerful effects on killing our innermost humanity. Marxism is the main example that comes to mind. An idea so powerful that it lead to the deaths of tens of millions of people.

In any event, there is something deeply troubling about a man who takes his reading of the New Testament so literally that he wishes to translate his personal forgiveness of his hostage takers into a public policy stance which would set them free, only to take more people hostage. Of course, Norman Kember's forgiveness stance is much less troubling than Osama bin Laden's kill the infidel stance. Both are problematic, but only one leads to mass murder.

Reuters:

A year after his release from almost four months of captivity when he was chained to fellow hostages, deprived of daylight and denied contact with the outside world, Norman Kember wants to defend his captors.

The British peace activist, seized in Baghdad with two Canadians and an American in November 2005 and held hostage for 118 days, says he will plead for the lives of the men accused of holding him and killing his American friend Tom Fox even though he fears they could kidnap or murder again.

"It's certainly part of Christianity and it's part of other religions, that forgiveness and an attempt to restore people who have done you wrong is the most positive outcome of something like this," Kember said in a telephone interview.

Let me just add one more thing. Pacifism has been an essential part of a number of fundamentalist and literalist Christian sects for quite some time. But what is troubling about many of these so-called "Christian pacifists" is their relentless focus on stopping Western countries from war, but their total (or seemingly so) lack of interest for non-Westerners killing each other. Thus, their pacifism is really a form of anti-Americanism or anti-Westernism. Not all pacifists, of course, but a healthy number of them. For instance, how come there are no "Christian" human shields lining themselves up to protect Jews in Israel from attacks from Palestinian terrorists? Similarly, how come we don't see these so-called "peace activists" lining up for human shield duty at predominately Shia markets in Iraq?

For more, see our Norman Kember archives here.

PS-for the record, I am a "Christian" and a "fundamentalist" (ie, back to the basics) but not a Biblical "literalist". I go to church every week, in fact. I am a believer. Or, at least, a "suspecter". Which is what Orson Scott Card describes as, to paraphrase, something more than a "hoper" but something a little less than full of faith.

Posted by: Rusty at 09:02 AM

Comments

1 kember is krazy

Posted by: milky pilky at March 22, 2007 10:58 AM

2 All religions, my friends, are not the same.



Word. I have always been stunned at people who make that claim. Sure
there can be and are similarities here and there but overall there are
big differences.

Posted by: Randman at March 22, 2007 11:35 AM

3 That fool was buggered until here liked it.

Posted by: greyrooster at March 22, 2007 12:24 PM

4
Christians have generally not had a problem defending the concept of Just War because Jesus's commandment to "turn the other cheek" applies to individuals, not collectively. The logic is quite simple, considering I can only forgive a sin (turn the other cheek) committed against me (i.e., being slapped on the cheek), not one committed against somebody else. Pacifism, on the other hand, is the notion that you can turn the other cheek for violence being committed against others. They have no moral or ethical right to do that. It makes absolutely no sense at all. Pacifism is nothing more than well-intentioned moronity.

Posted by: Jesusland Carlos at March 22, 2007 12:37 PM

5 For instance, how come there are no "Christian" human shields lining
themselves up to protect Jews in Israel from attacks from Palestinian
terrorists? Similarly, how come we don't see these so-called "peace
activists" lining up for human shield duty at predominately Shia
markets in Iraq?

Because maybe these well-intentioned fools aren't complete morons after all. They know that an American or Israel would hesitate to blow up a target being shielded by these fools, but a mooslim wouldn't hesitate even a single nanosecond to explode himself, taking the fool pacifist with him.

Posted by: Jesusland Carlos at March 22, 2007 12:54 PM

6 "Pacifism, on the other hand, is the notion that you can turn the other cheek for violence being committed against others. They have no moral or ethical right to do that. It makes absolutely no sense at all. Pacifism is nothing more than well-intentioned moronity."

Well said, and you can add to that "isolationism" especially these days! USA, all the way!

Posted by: Michael Weaver at March 22, 2007 12:54 PM

7 Let them keep him.

Posted by: greyrooster at March 22, 2007 02:08 PM

8 I think you have misinterpreted this particular guy's Christianity. As I recall, he is a Canadian. After his release here (Canada), the big news was that his 'spouse' kept quiet about his concerns for the hostage because he was afraid that his orientation would get him decapitated. He is a practicing homosexual in a committed relationship. He is almost certainly not a literalist or fundamentalist Christian. Rather, he is probably a far left-leaning activist who operates under a banner of Christianity, but whose beliefs are not Christian in any normative sense.

Posted by: Eric at March 22, 2007 09:08 PM

9 Eric is quite right. What you see here is not fundamentalism or biblical literalism. If it's true that he's a practicing homosexuality, he's obviously thrown out all the
verses about that, so he can't be a literalist or a fundamentalist.
Also: Christ wasn't talking about public policy but personal issues. A better application of the bible would be for this liberal in Christian's clothing to personally forgive his captors, and - following the example of Paul - sing hymns and spiritual songs while in captivity, and take every opportunity to preach the gospel to those around him and his captors, but expecting justice to be done because the crime isn't just against him personally but against the law itself. That would be the more conservative interpretation (which includes more than the most convenient verses) of the bible. It is the liberal, non-literalist interpretation that cherry picks what parts to apply and what parts to casually throw. Usually anything that involves hurting the feelings of certain groups or that isn't politically correct get thrown out.

Posted by: Michael at March 22, 2007 09:37 PM

10 Rusty says:

"Pacifism has been an essential part of a number of fundamentalist and literalist Christian sects for quite some time."

With all due respect, you don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about. The "Christian" pacifist movement was originally the product of Anabaptist theology (think Quakers and Plymouth Brethren), and in the past 100 years pacifism has been carried forward by theological liberalism, which is the very movement that fundamentalism was developed to correct and is in direct opposition to. The tiny minority of anti-war "fundamentalists"/evangelicals (think Jim Wallace and Sojourners) have long since abandoned "literalism".

If what you were saying were true, we would see vast swathes of fundamentalists aligned with the anti-war movement; but, in fact, we see the exact opposite. Evangelicals are the largest and most consistent segment of the American electorate defending the GWOT .

It's clear your doctorate is not in historical theology. You might want to leave the religious stuff to the people who do know what they're talking about.

Posted by: Scanderbeg at March 23, 2007 02:12 AM

11 What would Jesus do ?

Posted by: John Ryan at March 23, 2007 11:04 AM

12 This is not Christian literalism, but distortion of scripture. It's the making-a-whole-doctrine-out-of-a-single-verse error.

Just war is a widely held belief amonsgt Christians, and Jesus would be quite angry if we didn't come to the rescue of the innocent, or if we did not bring justice to those who pervert it. These peace-maker teams are also quite liberal in their theology, so they are by no means representative of orthodox Christianity.

Posted by: Richard Romano at March 23, 2007 04:45 PM

13 "What would Jesus do ?" Well eventually, after getting all sorts of chances to behave, the bad folks will finally get enough power to rule pretty much everything. Jesus will have run out of cheeks about then,so the bad guys will get thier unholy butts kicked. So I guess the moral is that after you've turned the other cheek, it's OK to get all Armageddon up in thier faces. We can consider it a test run for the main event. Is that 'right-wing-Jesus-freak' enough for you John?! But as I've said, the end times could be a million years from now. We have to manage till then. USA, all the way!

Posted by: Michael Weaver at March 25, 2007 04:29 AM






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