Stories, pictures and lost heads …

I listened to an interview this morning. One of the morning shows offered a “breaking story.” This new idiom grew from the “ho-hum” of the news. In order to get your attention while regular programming rolls on, anchors now hope to get your attention off the dog, the inside of your eyelids or other sideshow and onto the screen.

One of the soldiers accused of “abuses” in an Iraqi prison responded to questions posed by newscasters. The pictures are abailable across the internet. Now it seems there are other scandals surfacing.

Part of me wants to cry out, “what do you expect from war.” War does things to people – on both sides of the issue or line of demarcation. Jobs will/are being lost because we assume it is natural to engage battle and things will be pristine and clean. My musing regards the shock and surprise of those of us who are stateside. We certainly do not want to encourage such activity. We don’t want to ignore inhumane behavior. Yet, what are we thinking, that men and women thrust into an altogether different culture and the intensities of combat are going to pretend to be playing “cowboys and indians” in the backyard?

What about the outrage over the beheading of Nick Berg? We “expect” that from terrorists so in some regards it does not inflame as much. What about our soldiers bodies dragged through the streets? This is war. But, when it comes to soldiers activities in prison it is all of the sudden not war.

War affects everyone involved – both sides. We are affected in ways we could not imagine. Psychologists will have a name for this after we leave Iraq. A syndrome will develop. Could we agree – war does things to people. Not many, if any, are good.

Should this reality cause us to reconsider the nature of people?

People need stories of “Good News.” How will we tell the story of God in places where war has left is ugly mark?

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

8 comments on “Stories, pictures and lost heads …

  1. says:

    One challenge of not talking about war and showing its abuses is that we won’t realize that war is indeed hell. If we allow ourselves to “just not think about it” or pretend that war really isn’t that bad, or that its only about who is killing the other side, we bury the reality of the effects of war on each person. We dehumanize the reality that men and women and children are dying cruel deaths (on both sides).

    But this issue about the recent torture is not just about the nature of war but of our country’s own sovereign belief that it isn’t accountable to the Geneva Convention or rules of conduct. The detainees in the Iraqi prison were not war criminals but men and women caught up in street sweeps- and to treat them as we did ought to outrage (and scare) us all. Rumsfeld’s brushing aside of the issue as mere abuse fails to take into account the serious nature of his actions- and seems to imply that he believes the military’s torture is legitimate.

    And, as we examine the lectionary reading this Sunday about Jesus’ peace being different than the peace the world offers, perhaps we might examine whether the way we’re we’re trying to bring peace in Iraq is the way Jesus would want us to bring it about.

  2. says:

    Bo – I really think this is beyond issues of the Geneva Convention. Some media outlets note those abused were not picked up in street sweeps but were indeed those insurgents killing, car bombing etc. Some want to make these actions the justification for the abuse.

    My intention was to wrest the ideat that war is an “evolutionary” necessity so the fittest will be proved to survive. We could go deeper and discuss the legitimizing of this action on a “Christian” basis. But, where is the outcry for social justice in other places and is military action the only solution.

    I confess to not having all of the details and that from where I sit there is not a media outlet around that is willing to give some balance – including FOX “fair, honest and balanced.”

    As for Rumsfeld – he did his job. Whether or not we like the job nor whether or not we would as soon not need the job, at some point those who are given a job to do must be given the space in which to do it. If we are going to war then we must give the tools and support to win the world.

    Your last paragraph is where I hoped to get. Would it not be “Good News” to know about the peace that comes with the declaration of the Resurrection of the Son of God? How does that fit with the liberation of a country and are we really seeing it played out as good news?

  3. says:

    I commend your confidence in our leaders- sometimes I get so pessimistic in our administration that the joy of my faith gets worn out.

    I honesty believe we are all accountable for our actions, even Rumsfeld- giving him space to break the laws that we promised to uphold shouldn’t be about giving him license to do whatever he wants. And knowing that this administration pulled the US out of the World Court prior to the start of this war, I am thinking we (the people) have given this administration way too much license to do “whatever it takes” to begin with. And that worries me to no end.

    If we break our support of the Geneva convention this time, we’ll have no confidence (or recourse) when other countries won’t do the same at another time. The Geneva Convention was created to provide some sort of accountability after war for the actions committed during it. Since we’ve removed ourselves from the World Court, it seems like we’re doing whatever we think is right without fear of inspection or accountability. Given human nature- I don’t think anyone or any administration should be given or tempted with this much power to be accountable to no one. It should come as no surprise that greater evil can more easily occur when we lord our power over others (regardless of how honorable the intentions may be).

    The hope of the Good News is a challenge and I am glad you point it out. I really don’t know how God’s love can be proclaimed in this situation but I do have the confidence to know that, ‘the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For when we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.’ (Rom 8:26) Perhaps even outside of prayer, the Spirit intercedes for us in the proclamation of the Good News esp during times of war. Thank God the Spirit is at work in our times and life, or we would be in such greater peril.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Indeed. No government should operate outside the boundaries of morality. And morality being defined by historic norms. I agree we do not have the right to break the Geneva Convention and also agree that when we do we have little voice when others do. My point rests in the reality of war and its effects. I am not arguing for the “justness” of this war nor the exoneration of Rumsfeld. No one can deny the ill effects of war and were we to sit back and not address the needs of those on all sides then what Good News could we hope to offer?

  5. says:

    At least some of us are outraged by our soldiers behavior. The outcry in the Islamic world over Berg’s beheading is deafening by it’s silence.
    This gives me hope that our society (In America)as a whole is not sinking to the level of “eye for an eye”. Though one could say that was the whole premise for invading in the first place. (As it turns out)

  6. says:


    Very readable; good thoughts.

    I hear from our overseas people that such camps are not few; that we get good hard intelligence from humiliation rather than torture of the body in the Arab mindset. Once one of them has been led around naked on a leash, he is very docile, but a woman must be involved.

    The whole thing is sickening. Not more so because Americans are involved but not less. We have handed over prisoners to governments friendly to us but not overly concerned about human rights for years. Now we are doing less outsourcing. The error here was having one of our black-ops posted to a regular army detention center. Our other error was forgetting who we are in the world.

    Francis Schaeffer, for all his errors, prophesied a day when fear would prompt us to forego many protective civil rights. I do not think he meant this would start with someone’s elses rights and then extend here but that may be the slippery slope on which we now beg traction.


  7. says:

    I’m not sure what to think about the whole mess over there in Iraq. I think we have to do a little wearing of the other’s shoes (sandals?). Maybe we were outraged at the public beheading of Berg. We would have surely been equally disturbed if it were our people (even/especially our troops – whom that side would deem insurgents – or at least interlopers) that were being paraded around naked and forced into sexual acts. Their claim that they were simply prosecuting a war would not hold much water with us. I think that’s why our explanations are pretty leaky in other parts of the world.

    At the same time, I know that the prevailing pictures and storylines we are getting do less than cover the broad spectrum of the actions taking place there. We won’t be hearing/seeing many “good news” stories. I’m also afraid that our ability to tell THE good news story in those parts of the world has been seriously harmed.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Dallas Willard describes the dehumanizing of anger and the even worse destruction of the person via contempt. We have mobilized our anger and demonstrated our contempt. Now we are battling – “less than real people” and so in some ways it justifies. The Sermon on the Mount runs counter. Those in the Kingdom look for ways to better, aid and improve even enemies and so demonstrate the validity of human life and its worth. What we do as Christians when it comes to war rhetoric goes along way to our understanding of what it means to be in the Kingdom of the Heavens living as apprentices to Jesus.

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