The Execution of a ‘Peace Activist’

Baltimore Sun Cal Thomas March 15, 2006

ARLINGTON, VA. — The death of “peace activist” Tom Fox, and the threatened execution of the three others held with him in Iraq, is doubly tragic.

It is tragic whenever an innocent person is murdered. It is also tragic because the likelihood that the presence of Mr. Fox and his colleagues would change the attitude or behavior of their captors was zero to none.

That the “peace activists” believed their brand of Christianity would trump the fanatical Muslims who regarded them as infidels and worthy of death meant that Mr. Fox and the others would either be used for propaganda purposes by the enemies of freedom or made to
sacrifice their lives like animals on an ancient altar in the furtherance of the fanatics’ dream of a theocratic state. In this instance, they were used for both.

The motive of the activists was exposed in a statement from Christian Peacemaker Teams, under whose auspices Mr. Fox and the others traveled to Iraq. Spokeswoman Jessica Phillips said, “We believe that the root cause of the abduction of our colleagues is the U.S.- and British-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.”

Strange thing about these peace movements: They rarely mobilize to oppose the killing, torture and imprisonment practiced by dictators.

It is only when their own country attempts to end the oppression that the activists become active against America, not the initiators of evil. Peace, like happiness, is a byproduct, not a goal that can be unilaterally attained. Peace happens when evil is vanquished.

The theology of Christian Peacemaker Teams is as wrong as its politics. The statement about Mr. Fox’s death claimed that Mr. Fox had a “firm opposition to all oppression and the recognition of God in everyone.”

Perhaps if Christian Peacemaker Teams had gone to Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime, or to China while Mao Tse-tung was slaughtering millions, or to Moscow while Josef Stalin practiced genocide on his people, or to any number of other capitals of carnage, they might be taken more seriously, though under those regimes they might have disappeared much quicker. Was God “in” these mass murderers, or was it Lucifer?

A far more credible and compelling insight about peace activism and its consequences comes from Charles M. Brown, who was 19 when he fought in Operation Desert Storm, a conflict that repelled Mr. Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

When Mr. Brown returned home, he worked in homeless shelters operated by liberal Catholic Worker activists and gravitated toward their position against U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq for failing to comply with its promises to cease hostilities.

Mr. Brown says he traveled to Iraq in 1998 in order to see the effects of sanctions. He says he made two speaking tours of college campuses to denounce sanctions. When he tried to return to Iraq with a Chicago group called Voices in the Wilderness, Mr. Brown says he
was told by Iraqi government officials he could not speak about Mr. Hussein’s “horrendous human rights record,” his “involvement with weapons of mass destruction” or “the dictatorial nature of the regime. We were allowed to speak only of one thing: the deprivations
suffered by ordinary Iraqis under the sanctions regime.”

Mr. Brown says he realized this was pure Baath Party propaganda: “As I came to see this as a complicity and collaboration with one of the most abusive dictatorships in the world, I tried to get the rest of my group to acknowledge that our close relationship with the regime
damaged our credibility. I failed to persuade them, so I quit.”

His Confessions of an Anti-Sanctions Activist, published in the summer 2003 issue of Middle East Quarterly, is sober reading for people who believe that the United States is the problem and that evil people will be nice to us if we are nice to them.

It is too bad that Mr. Fox and his three colleagues did not have an epiphany similar to that of Charles Brown.

Peace “activism” may make its practitioners feel good or validate their belief that they are doing the will of God, but evil cannot be accommodated. Evil must be defeated if peace on Earth is to exist.

That Mr. Fox and his colleagues could not, or would not, see this is
most tragic of all.

(C) 2006 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

Comments

  1. It is unfortunate that Mr. Thomas believes that Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) are naive about evil. They have no illusion about the threats to their life that their peacemaking activities bring with them. They may believe that the US should not be in Iraq but they are also aware of the evil of other forms fanatacism (They just include American patriotism as one such fanatcism), but believe that non-violent means are the better way to deal with these than violent, even if it means giving up their life.

    Why Mr. Thomas cannot see in this willingness to loose one’s life the following of the way of the Cross is deeply puzzling and troubling. I suppose he believes the only way to follow the way of the Cross is draped in the Stars and Stripes? The brand of Christianity that does that seems to me to be idalotrous. Christians should owe no ultimate loyalty to any world system or government, Christ is our only Lord.

    I did not know Tom Fox but I do know personaly some of those who work with CPT. Their impetus in their peacemaking work is following Christ into dangerous and violent places in the world to witness to the Prince of Peace, and hopefully in small ways help lessen the violence. To do this they are willing to risk their lives for others and for Christ.

    Lastly, CPT is not just another peacenik group, the founders come from Menonite and Brethren church’s whose peace positions come not fromsome secularist abstraction, but from a concrete desire to live out the radical nature of the Gospel. Jesus did after all say on the sermon on the mount “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

  2. Larry K., American Constitution worthy of the loyalty of Christians

    Mr. K., may I take a moment and remind you that our American constitution was the first instance in which both free speech and religious liberty was given explicit protection and meaningfull protection.

    America is something more than the current President or the even the current society. America is, at its essence, the Constitution: the dedication to the rule of law, the dedication to protecting intellectual and religious freedom, the dedication to equality before the law.

    Sure, the path has not been smooth and some policies adopted by various American administrations deserve to be criticized, but, you have gone overboard and rejected the very real genius and worth of America, its constitution.

    The constitution is the intellectual high point of Western civilization and it is worthy of defense by Christians and others.

    Mr. Thomas’ death is truly tragic and wasteful. Given that he died in this effort, it is an uncomfortable task to criticize his politics but his form of “peace” was to act as if the source of violence in this world is America, which is factually untrue. America has been under attack from Islamists since 1979 and we let it go until 9/11 made it impossible to ignore.

    Before you trot out the idea that Saddam has nothing to do with Al Quaeda I would refer you to the documents being translated as I type. Formerly secret documents held by the Baathist regime are being translated and made public now. They document by the hundreds of thousands of pages that Saddam was directly supporting terrorism all over the world.

  3. Note 1. I don’t want to disparage Mr. Fox’s committment to peace which by all accounts is heartfelt and genuine. I don’t understand however, why he thought his presence in Iraq contributed to peace apart from the explanation you provided: all combatants in a conflict share equal culpability for it. This then, brings me back to my complaint about peace activists like Mr. Fox: the only moral rationale they employ is moral equivalency.

    Further, I don’t agree that Christians should not have loyalty to a country. I don’t conflate loyalty with obedience as you do; they are different virtues. Obedience is required to the two great commandments: love God and neighbor, but I don’t see where this negates loyalty to one’s country, especially when that country has enshrined in its charter and laws the moral values that draw from the tradition that gave us the commandments.

    You dismiss this idea with a severe contempt when you write:

    I suppose he believes the only way to follow the way of the Cross is draped in the Stars and Stripes? The brand of Christianity that does that seems to me to be idalotrous.

    The only possibility you allow here is that anyone who defends loyalty to one’s country, as I do, is idolatrous.

    This isn’t true of course. Loyalty to one’s country also means challenging it when necessary, and American history, as imperfect and morally wanting it is in places, has on numerous occassions heard that challenge and responded well. Take anti-slavery, the establishment of child labor laws, the Civil Rights movement, etc. for example.

    Where is the value in Mr. Fox’s sacrifice? What was accomplished by it? How does it witness to the Prince of Peace? I don’t see it.

  4. Bill Congdon says:

    There is a danger here that Mr. Fox (may he find eternal rest with the Lord) will be seen as a Christian martyr by the impetuous and ill-informed. His story is a tragic one, and he did not deserve to die. But in putting himself (whether through arrogance or stupidity is really a moot point) in the path of those who were unquestionably going to kill him, and moreover for an explicitly stated political cause (opposition to “the U.S.- and British-led invasion and occupation of Iraq”), he disqualified himself from Christian martyrdom. Let there be no mistake about this.

    In the early Church, those who actively sought martyrdom were not acclaimed as saints after their deaths. They witnessed not to Christ’s power over death, but to their egotistical desire to seize, through their own efforts, the sanctity which can be given only by God. Ancient and modern seekers after the martyr’s crown may become ideological or popular martyrs, but never Christian martyrs.

    A Christian’s witness unto death can be founded on faith only in the Gospel, not in a political or social ideology. Such a Christian, like any other, submits to the will of God, lives out faithful witness to the good news of Christ in daily life, and accepts death for the Lord’s sake if and only if it overtakes him during the course of that witness. He does not court death, but empties himself to the point of death, for the sake of his Lord and in the way that his Lord did before him. He dies not in the vain assurance that he is “making a statement,” but in the humble hope that God will look kindly on his sacrifice and raise him up just as He raised up His own Son.

    Christ did not actively engineer his own death, although he knew very well that the living out of his witness to the Father would end at Calvary. Moreover, his was a unique mission, to break the power of death definitively, as sinful man could never do. He could not have accomplished this without wholly submitting to the will of the Father to save the entirety of mankind. Had he allowed himself to be motivated by any of the ideologies of the day — hatred of the occupying Romans, for example — his death would have been limited by that ideology and thereby robbed of its salvific meaning. Likewise, if Christ had actively sought death, he would have subordinated himself not to the will of the Father but to his own will, and died to no salvific effect at all.

    So the Christian martyr, like his Lord, can never die for a worldly cause, but only for the gospel, and cannot seek out death (passively or actively) but only accept it at the last. The Christian martyr cannot die for his own truth but only for that of God. Mr. Fox died for a specifically articulated political principle; moreover, he courted his own death. His story is not one of a Christian martyr, but merely a sad cautionary example.