Tomorrow, somewhere in Iraq, Tom Fox is scheduled to die.
Fox, a student at City High during the 1960s, was one of four members of the Christian Peacemaker Team abducted two days after Thanksgiving by the Swords of Righteousness. The group has set December 10 as their execution day unless the US releases Iraqi detainees.
Fox based his decision to wage peace in Iraq after one of his life’s heroes, Gandhi, and his life’s savior, Christ.
“Why are we here?” Fox wrote, the day before his abduction, regarding the peacemaking mission (http://tnimc.org/ “If I understand the message of God, his response to that question is that we are to take part in the creation of the Peaceable Realm of God. Again, if I understand the message of God, how we take part in the creation of this realm is to love God with all our heart, our mind and our strength and to love our neighbors and enemies as we love God and ourselves.’’
Fox, apparently, read the passages from the New Testament about loving your enemies. He not only read them, he swallowed them. Digested them. Wrestled and prayed and sweat blood over them. And in the end, apparently, Love won. And Fox, after years of preparation, sanctification and illumination, packed a bag and sailed to Iraq.
And now, he is, possibly, a single sunset away from his death.
How, fellow Americans, are we to respond to Fox and such radical beliefs?
Begin with Rush Limbaugh, the talk show radio host. On a recent show http://mediamatters.org/items/200511300010 Limbaugh expressed a near-delight in the idea of Fox’s death. “I’m telling you folks, there’s a part of me that likes this.
“I like any time a bunch of leftist feel-good hand-wringers are shown reality."
Limbaugh’s honesty is startling. It is also nauseating.
And, unfortunately, it is subconsciously shared by many Americans.
The story of Tom Fox is more than the story of one pacifist abducted in Iraq. It is the story of the power of violence and the power of nonviolence. It is a story of stereotypes, and how we view those who wage peace, instead of war. It is a story of heroes. It is a story that forces you to decide where you stand, what you believe, about the human heart.
And the person you see in the mirror.
In the beginning, Fox based his actions on the words of Christ, whose words are clear: above all things, choose love.
Is this easy? Not at all. In fact, most peacemakers would claim that it is the hardest work they will ever do. I would wager my life’s savings that Fox, were he blessed with such a chance, would offer handshake or hug to Limbaugh, despite the talk show host’s bubbly chuckle over the idea of Fox’s beheading.
Yet, truth be told, most of us would rather slug Limbaugh (or anyone who would wish our death) than embrace him. How difficult it would be to do such a thing! Is this why, then, the idea of peace is so often cast aside? Forgotten? Ridiculed?
If you wish to take a nibble of the power, and the cost, that nonviolence brings, try this exercise. Find the person who you dislike most, the one who raises the hackles on your neck, the one who has hurt or belittled you _ and forgive them. Love them. Offer them kindness.
Look at them as Christ would.
If our exercise works (and it may take years to perform), three things will happen: your enemy will seem more like your friend. You will tremble with admiration and humility over Tom Fox. And the foolishness of Limbaugh’s words will move you to tears.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was beaten, robbed, stabbed, bombed, imprisoned and eventually murdered. He once said, “Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.’’
Gandhi was beaten, robbed, imprisoned, punished, insulted, slapped, struck, lied to and eventually murdered. He once said, “Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.’’
Christ was beaten, robbed, forgotten, betrayed, struck, stabbed, mocked, scorned, insulted and eventually murdered. He once said, with his executioners at his feet, “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.’’
And despite these, our cloud of witnesses, the idea of nonviolence continues to be ridiculed in this country. We see the peacemakers and pacifists as cartoon characters _ naked pot-smokers from Woodstock. Spineless liberals. Starry-eyed idealists who, many believe, “need to be taught a lesson.’’
My God, forgive us. We _ who preach a false gospel that condones violence, who bow down to our $400 billion military budget, who mock kindness as weakness, who cheer for a president when he declares war from inside our national cathedral _ know not what we do.
Do you realize the fire and backbone that exists in a man that can turn the other cheek to his enemy? My God, we need a nation of such men!
Do we, in our daily lives, have an ounce of the courage, a taste of the faith, a single heartbeat of the love that allows King, Gandhi, Fox and Christ to do what they did? If we could only touch the hem of their garments!
A belief in nonviolence is a belief in the kingdom of God. It is a belief in the eventual and against the immediate _ that aiming a gun or raising a knife or dropping a bomb will not change one hair on your enemy’s head other than to make him hate you more _ that only the force of Love will move mountains. Yes, we may be robbed, beaten, stabbed, insulted and murdered along the way. But in the end, Love will have the final word. And pain and violence do not.
And that is why nonviolence is scorned and mocked and laughed at _ just like its believers. Because it takes every ounce of soul force within a man. It calls him to look in the mirror and confess his cowardice, his fear, his hatred. It calls him to step off the edge of a cliff _ and choose Love instead of violence (insults, gossip, anger, weapons, warfare). And only the courageous among us can do such things.
If Tom Fox dies tomorrow, I pray that Rush Limbaugh realizes that he just lost a friend. And a hero.
(David Cook is a former journalist for the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. He currently teaches American history at Girls Preparatory School and can be reached at email@example.com)
* * *
Rush Limbaugh: what a hack. I read the entire story about Limbaugh's comments linked from Mr. Cook's editorial to try and gain some perspective; to be sure Mr. Cook's representation wasn't taken out of context. Being acutely aware of the utter lack of objectivity when it comes to conservative versus liberal, I was hoping that no American, regardless of their political philosophy, would actually take joy in another American's potential execution.
Well, read it for yourself. In fact, you can listen to the whole clip. Disgusting; absolutely disgusting. How out of touch do you have to be with any sign of human sensitivity to make the comments that Limbaugh made. When did it become unpatriotic to try and reach out to a part of the world that seems to need it right now? It seems to me that that was what Mr. Fox and his group were attempting to do.
I am a Christian and see Jesus as the powerful representative of the downtrodden and the hopeless - those who have nothing else to lose and put their faith in a message that inspires love and hope. The holy spirit starts in your heart and grows outward. It is not the other way around. Christianity is the ultimate grassroots movement. If Jesus had come in wielding M-16s with his disciples cruising in on stealth bombers, I seriously doubt that Christianity would even exist.
It's hard to believe that Limbaugh, after 15 years, still has a following at all. Who in their right mind would fill up their own consciousness with anyone's self righteous tripe day after day for 15 years? Same goes for Al Franken. Lock Franken, Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly in the same room and let them bore each other to death.
Great observations, Mr. Cook, and I pray that Mr. Fox will not meet the fate that looks inevitable at this point.