Forgiveness, and the Vicar of Baghdad

The Vicar of Baghdad holds very different opinions than I do, being far more British in outlook: but I feel he’s worth listening to. So, some excerpts from the article “The Vicar of Baghdad.”

Bias warning: the writer of the article is pretty sure that Canon Andrew White is a saint, in the usual sense of the term (uniquely holy and spiritual). As I only know something of his behaviour, not his actual doctrinal commitments – this is the Anglican Church, after all! – I’ll only say that he is a genuine peacemaker, and a good negotiator.

St George’s, White’s church in Baghdad, once had a congregation of more than 6,000 and a school, a clinic and a food bank. This great community has been more than decimated by Isis. ‘They killed over 1,000 of my congregation,’ he says. ‘Can you believe that? And now the others have fled, too.’

‘It’s not just Isis.’ This from a girl who looks 15 but is 27-year-old Dr Sarah Ahmed, sitting in pyjamas on the sofa. She’s White’s right-hand woman, a Muslim, still working in Iraq. She says: ‘The truth is that the congregation came to hear Andrew — Christians and Muslims both — and now he’s left, they’ve gone. There were 46 who came last Sunday. Forty-six!’

Muslims came to an Anglican church? ‘People respect faith in Iraq,’ says Sarah. ‘They can see he is sincere.’

  • It’s hard, running a church in Iraq.
  • Especially when the ‘moderate Shia’ Iraqi government is quite hostile to the Christian faith, nevermind the killers waiting outside the city borders.
  • But – if the people are sincere – there can be a easing of borders, between Muslims and Christians. More than I would have expected, myself.

‘Oh yes,’ says White cheerfully, but adds that it actually causes problems with pro-Israel western Christians, not with Israelis. ‘They say, “How can you deal with evil men? With these evil Muslims?” Well, I don’t like the term evil Muslims. They are no more evil than Christians are. We haven’t got a very good history either, have we?’

True – and something even the most hardline Christian theocrat should remember. Perhaps especially the most hardline Christian theocrat: not because his beliefs are wrong, as they may well be an accurate reflection of Biblical teaching!

(I certainly support Biblical Law more than the various idolatrous, “Glory to the State and the People!” morally threadbare elitist/dictatorial imitations running around…)

No, the strongest of believers must be wary, because King Jesus judges according to knowledge. He who knows the Lord’s will most accurately, will be judged by the most strictest of Divine standards.

And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?

Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.

But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;

The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. — Luke 12:42-48 (My bold, of course)

And also:

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? — Matthew 7:2-4

OK, back to the article.

‘The trouble is a lack of forgiveness in Islam. I have looked through the Quran trying to find forgiveness… there isn’t any. If you find it, tell me. This makes it very difficult to talk to Isis because they can show you quite clearly that it is what Allah wants. They can justify their position when Allah says you should combat and fight the infidel and they say, “Well, these are infidels.” So the question is, how can you prove that these are not infidels? And you can’t.’

And here is one of the mighty pillars of the Christian faith: something the Muslims and Secularists (and especially Marxists!) view with disdain and contempt, but the wise believer will keep close in his heart.

Other people, other religions, other cultures can choose to waste their time in the cycle of violence and revenge, from now to the end of time, over some evil that was done years or generations or centuries ago. Not so, the followers of Christ! We know that final justice is impossible on this world, and that debts end with the death of the criminal in question – and is not passed on to his children.

Christ is forgiving of those who repented (but NOT those who hold on to their sin!): as His followers, the adopted younger brothers of the only begotten Son of God, we must imitate Him in His righteous behaviour and judgement.

With forgiveness, peace (and her kinsmen, prosperity and liberty) has a chance to grow, and we can get on with the work of extending God’s Dominion across the world, instead of stewing in our poisonous hatreds.

So what’s the answer, Canon White? Is it ground troops? In recent weeks he’s been quoted calling for boots on the ground. He’s a tough guy, for all his soft heart, and an admirer of the military.

But is he quite sure that as a man of peace, he wants war? As White begins to nod, Dr Sarah pipes up again from the sofa. She says: ‘Andrew, come on. It will not help! Yes, maybe with violence they will make some temporary progress, but it will also fuel tensions.’ She turns to me: ‘If I am angry with Andrew and I hit him I feel better for two seconds but then he would hit me back and there is no end to it. No end.’

There’s silence for a while. We both look at White. He says: ‘I know what she says is right. War creates war and we have to find other ways round doing it. Even as a raving Tory like me, I have to say Sarah is right.’

It’s the measure of the man that he listens and doesn’t stick to his guns.

I’m with North (and Lew) on this one: the West should pull out of the Middle East completely, and let the locals deal with their own problems.

At home, you can either set up a police state, with ever-greater controls and ever-declining liberty – the humanist solution

…or…

let your civilian bear the arms (and the body armour!) they deem necessary to secure their liberty, let the civilians organize their own local defense and intelligence networks, and let them include and exclude in their communities who they wish (at the county/ward level), while insuring that there is only one Divine standard of justice, for locals and aliens alike – the Christian solution.

Oh, and one other thing:

“Is that smart, young Muslim women a plant?”
“Well, let’s just say that she represents a God other than the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.”
“So, should the Canon fire her?”
“If you are going to establish a church in a Muslim land, you are going to have to deal with the Muslims up close and personal, one way or another. As to who to trust, and how far to trust… that’s up to the man in the field, not some armchair quarterbacker thousands of miles away.”

Both Dr Sarah and Canon White agree on one thing: that however we combat them, Isis must not be underestimated. They’ve lived with Isis. They know.

Even now, post-Paris, the West is inclined to say: Oh, Isis are just idiots. If we grown-ups put any real effort into it they’d be easy to wipe out.

Not so, say Canon White and Dr Sarah. She tells a story about the way Isis captured a Yazidi village, which demonstrates unusual cunning: Isis first came to the village promising peace, she says. Then they said to the Yazidi: ‘We’re worried you’ll fight us, so if you really want peace too, give up your guns.’

This the foolish Yazidi did. On their third visit Isis came and surrounded the now unarmed Yazidi. They took the women and girls as sex slaves and shot all the men, bar one who played dead under the corpse of his brother and survived to tell Sarah the tale.

Clever Isis, tactical Isis.

Local, community rule will not save you, if you don’t know who you are dealing with. Yes, it’s a lot better than Trusting the Authorities, but local rule in itself is no cure-all. Both Sodom and Gomorrah had city-based/tribal governments, after all…

Moreover: Forgiving and trusting people who have not repented will have unpleasant consequences.

Let the Christian who has ears, hear.

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