Crusades, Jihads and Other "Holy Wars"

A pregnant woman steps out of a car at a roadblock and, crying out for help, staggers toward the American soldiers. They respond just as their mothers and sisters would want and expect them to. A blinding explosion kills the four soldiers and the woman. She was pregnant with explosives, not a baby. She was pregnant with death, not life. It is an image that haunts me.

Saint John, in reflecting upon the passion and death of Jesus, concluded that to give one's life for one's friends is the ultimate expression of human love. There can be no greater act of love than to die for another. Jesus did not have to die. He allowed himself to be arrested and executed so that His love for each of us could never be validly questioned.

What about this poor girl about whom we know nothing other than her devotion to the cause she espoused with many others. Was her death, her sacrifice, "Christ-like?" Surely not! But, why not?

I am reminded of the young mother buried in the rubble of war with her child in Bosnia. Praying for the rescue that ultimately came, she opened her own veins to give nourishment to her child. She would have bled to death to save the baby's life. It did not come to that. They were rescued, but she loved her child enough to die for her. I, unhesitatingly, believe her sacrifice to have been genuinely "Christ-like."

But what about the girl with the obscene girdle of high explosives? What of her sacrifice?

I can weep for her, I can mourn her, but I cannot commend her. I do not applaud what she did because, dedicated and brave though she was, her immediate purpose was to bring death, not life. That is why it was not a "Christ-like" act.

But did she see it that way? I think not. I think that she felt that she was striking a blow against our culture; a culture and society that she understood as being totally inimical to her version of Islamic values. In other words, she believed that she was being of service to God. Herein we find the underlying evil. It consists in the conscious abuse of the religiosity of good people by manipulative leaders. Good people who want to serve God but are fed a confection of distortions for the sole purpose of violently altering the socio-political map and this for the sake of power and influence.

Down through the ages this has been the besetting sin of all too many Kings, Popes, Ayatollahs and Presidents in whose hands " young girls, pregnant with explosives," have been pawns.

However, the record of the most recent life-shattering events also includes convincing evidence of the universal vitality of HOPE. Never before has there been such a world -wide outpouring of good will and the seeking of peace. This might well be the most hopeful time in world history!

Jesus gave His life for that young woman who was pregnant with death, just as He gave His life for those who impregnated her. That is the message of Good Friday. The message of Easter and Pentecost is that He rose from the dead and breathed His Holy Spirit into the hearts and souls of all of us. It is a Spirit that never shouts but always whispers, never forces but always suggests and encourages. It is that Spirit which found a voice in the millions around the world whose plea for peace has punched irreparable holes in the drums of war.

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