Wednesday, October 14, 2009

McLaren's Letter to Obama

Read Brian McLaren's open letter to Barack Obama. It's nice to see a critical letter written in a positive and hopeful spirit. It's such a refreshing thing after all the other criticisms I've heard which are usually fearful, paranoid, and bigoted as well as extremely negative. McLaren suggests that it would be better to use the money we'd normally be spending on bombs and bullets in Afghanistan and redirect those funds towards building schools and hospitals, doing real good as a way of saying "which way is better, the way of Al Queda or the way of peace?" making the decision much clearer than the current decision, between "two groups of leaders [Al Queda and the United States] who both depend on violence to achieve their aims." This is much closer to the way of Jesus than war--offering a true alternative rather than taking "an eye for an eye." Here's my favorite paragraph from McLaren's letter:
With this kind of approach, the people of Afghanistan (and Pakistan) would have two clear choices. Al Queda and other extremists offer violence and unrest. But the international community would be offering support for order, rebuilding, collaboration, justice, and peace. This choice is a much clearer and better one than the choice between two groups of leaders who both depend on violence to achieve their aims.
Now the real question is, can we do this? Can we really find an alternative to war even in Afghanistan? Yes, we can!... even if it means some other plan besides what McLaren suggests.

4 comments:

Danny said...

I don't think the options are quite a clear-cut as McLaren makes them out to be. I too like his tone, but there seems to be a lack in his political understanding and the nature of Al Queda.

I would say that both groups are using a calculated measure of violence and peace to bring about their version of community in their particular areas. The reason Al Queda has stayed so powerful in such a region is their ability to help their communities get things such as food and water. I am not saying that Al Queda is necessarily a good or bad entity, just saying that to think of them as only violent is entirely insincere and a straw man.

Most tribal organizations like Al Queda depend largely on the support of the people and they gain that support by helping sustain community in these war-torn areas.

I don't know enough about the entire situation, but I can tell you that it is not as simple as McLaren makes it out to be.

WES ELLIS said...

Danny,
What would you say the proper action should be? War certainly can't be the answer. I think to offer an alternative to Al Queda, as Brian suggests, would be a good thing even if they're not as bad as we usually think they are. Otherwise perhaps we should do nothing.
-Wes

Danny said...

Hi Wes,
Just as there is often no perfect answer in theology, there is often no perfect answer in political thought.

You are correct in saying war certainly cannot be the answer, but what about the schools? Who is going to run them? If we let the Afghani's run it, we must be free to let them keep women out of schools (which would probably be their preference). If we want to run the schools, they will think of it as nothing more than western propaganda, and the schools will fail.

Whatever we do has to have the support of the people - a people who are very different from us.

Using words like "alternative" also seems to paint the world of Afghanistan into two camps unnecessarily. There is not an "us" and "them" mentality. There is not Al Qaeda and the United States.

These are just a few of my thoughts on the issue of Afghanistan.

Also, it would probably be more apt to speak of the Taliban rather than Al Qaeda. The Taliban seems to be people in control of Afghanistan.

WES ELLIS said...

Danny,
yes, I see that it's complicated... but what do we do? To me we either have to do nothing at all or we have to try to do good. I'll let the experts figure out the details.
-Wes