Sunday, October 23, 2005

I have been thinking about all that needs to be done to create a peaceful and stable Iraq. It is not enough that most Sunni's refuse to support the terrorists - they must consider them criminals and respect the government enough to report their presence and support their arrest. Their are many bars to such trust. If it is realy true that the Badr organization has nothing to do with the murders of former Baath party members, this must be demonstrated. If it is false, they must be prosecuted.

I don't know if the Iraqi government really has this power, or if even the attempt would mean a war with militias more powerful than they are. But the task of nation building is daunting indeed.

I'm pretty much convinced that the Bush administration, which constantly talks of progress while ignoring the alleged murders by the Badr Brigades, trying neither to prove nor disprove them, is not up to this challenge. Sometimes I wonder if liberal Democrats are up to it either.

In the United States, liberal Democrats certainly know what it's like to try and form a broad based government alongside large religious groups which neither trust nor respect them. Many of the same people who indignantly reject Bush's request that they take Harriet Miers literally 'on faith' seem to feel anyone who is worried by W.'s claim that his foreign policy is dictated by God must be anti-Evangelical. This partisan division might be difficult for some to handle, but if we really have the right stuff to earn the trust of both sides in Iraq and help them to trust each other, healing this division should be no problem for us - right?

Even if I personally am not up to it, at least I've found a lot of interesting stuff trying to learn about it. Both of these approaches to the problem of school bullying seem to have worked better than what I did when I was in grade school.

Last year our oldest son, Nathan, a freshman tackle on his Christian school's football team, reluctantly told me after a long ride home from an away game that the trip had been awful because of a blasphemous upper class player who had terrorized and stolen from freshmen teammates the entire trip home.

I knew Nathan had himself been picked on by this boy for much of the football season, so I was interested to learn how he had responded. "What did you do while he was doing those things?" I asked.

"I pretended to sleep," he said.

I was disappointed by Nathan's response and told him so.

I told him first that I believed he had failed as a man of God by ignoring hours of bullying and blasphemy. We had spoken to the coach about the problem earlier in the season and nothing had come of it. Nate and I knew that no adult was going to stop the upperclassman. We also knew that Nathan was easily big enough, even as a fourteen-year-old freshman, to stop the older boy physically. (Nate was nearly six feet tall and bench-pressing 250 pounds as a freshman)

I told him it was his job to protect younger and smaller boys from bullying, that he was big enough he would never need to fight just for himself but if he saw smaller boys being mistreated, he should insert himself physically and serve as their protector. I further told him to defend the name of God when it was blasphemed by boys at this Christian school, if necessary, by using his body to pressure the blasphemer into silence.

In essence, I told him to protect those who could not defend themselves--the same thing we've always expected him to do for his younger brothers and sisters--and to stand for Christ against the tide of blasphemers.

Because Nathan is so big and so strong, I urged him not to defend himself. "If they pick on you, they're just trying to show off," I said, "so ignore them. But God has given you responsibility with your size and strength: you're to stick up for those who are mistreated. You're to prevent supposedly Christian young men at a school named for Christ from blaspheming the name of God."

Some months later Nate was in the weight room when this bully began physically mistreating another freshman. Nate told the boy to stop. When he didn't, Nate went to him, lifted him against the wall and told him with trembling voice not to hurt freshmen again. The bully mocked Nate, but from that point on he left freshmen alone. No violence, no blows, but a righteous use of strength to intervene against wickedness, I was happy for his courage.

Of course it could have happened rather differently. David's co-blogger suggested another approach.

I was about to tell Joseph to go punch the ringleader's lights out when it occurred to me that in a little while we were having an elders meeting in our home and this was a good group of men to get counsel from (smile)...

So when the elders arrived, I asked them to listen to Joseph's story and give him counsel.

When Joseph finished telling his story, there were a few noncommittal responses, then Wayne Huck spoke up and asked Joseph, "Have you prayed about it?"

I hope you won't judge me harshly as a father, but Joseph answered, "No."

Wayne, also a Presbyterian pastor's son, then told his own story. He had been similarly tormented both in school and on the way home, and he didn't know what to do. Then he took it to the Lord in prayer and Jesus heard and answered his prayer, and the tormenting stopped that very day. Finishing his story, Wayne gently suggested to Joseph that he pray about the situation, asking God to handle it for him.

We stopped for prayer and each of the men present prayed for Joseph, that the Lord would handle the situation for him and that he would honor the Lord in whatever he did. Joseph joined in the prayer and the tormenting stopped--just like that.

I can't remember the exact circumstances, except that God strengthened Joseph's and Wayne's and all the elders' and my faith by answering our prayers. And that's another tactic wholly compatible with David's teaching. Prayer and punching a bully and blasphemer's lights out are wholly compatible. But as always, we start with prayer.

The really interesting part is many of the most profoundly religious Evangelicals don't consider themselves part of the conservative movement - I'm still formulating that post in my mind though.

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