Thursday, February 12, 2015

Transforming Terrorism into Testimony

I have long been an admirer of E. Stanley Jones, the longtime Methodist Missionary to India and lifelong friend of Mahatma Gandhi. I first encountered Jones in 1944, when a sixteen-year-old. I had ridden the bus from South Haven, MI to Anderson, IN to attend the combined June 1944 International Youth Convention-Camp Meeting of the Church of God. That was a huge venture for both the church, working with a war-time economy, and a boy who grew up under very narrow constraints. 

It was also the beginning of a literary journey on which I discovered daily devotionals like The Way. On that road I encountered volumes such as The Christ of the Indian Road, The Christ of the Round Table, Christ at Every Road, and others including his classic Conversion. The quintessential for me was Jones 1968 spiritual auto-biography that he entitled A Song of Ascents.In it, he recorded his song of life as a Christian.

I did not obtain this last volume until I met Clarence Hutchins, a fellow Kairos visitor at the #2 Carson City, MI prison facility where we were doing an in-house retreat with a group of inmates. Clarence was a retired Methodist minister, a member of the Asbury family, and a delightful friend. When Clarence learned of my taste for Jones, he provided me a copy dated October 11, 1996, for which I am forever indebted. Take the following passage for example (180-181).

Jones writes,
               “The cross was sin, and he [Jesus] turned it into the healing of sin; the cross was hate, and he turned it into a revelation of love; the cross was man at his worst, and Jesus turned it into God at his redemptive best.
               The answer, then is, ‘Don’t bear trouble, use it. I remember when that answer dawned on me through a verse: ‘You will be dragged before kings and governors for the sake of my name. That will turn out an opportunity for you to bear witness’ (Luke 21;13-14 Moffatt). I inwardly gasped as I saw it: Don’t bear the injustice of being dragged before ruling powers—use it, turn it into a testimony. Take whatever happens—justice and injustice, pleasure and pain, compliment and criticism—take it up into the purpose of your life and make something out of it. Turn it into a testimony… ”

Shortly, Jones adds this example from Paul.
               “Take Paul. The authorities, religious and political, put him behind prison bars for years, cut him off from his beloved preaching. Did Paul eat his heart in frustration? No, he wrote those deathless Epistles which have guided and blessed the world. Had he not been shut up he would have preached, but his preaching would have been lost, for there were no stenographers and no recording machines. And besides, the spoken word would have been comparatively shallow. Now shut up in prison he had time to think  and to pour his very lifeblood into those letters. His imprisonment meant loosing the gospel on the world. In a specific instance, this principle of using what happens is vividly illustrated in the peerless love poem of the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians.”

Jones follows this insight by relating a personal experience with his friend Gandhi:
               “In a specific instance, this principle of using what happens is vividly illustrated in the peerless love poem of the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians. I once read it to Mahatma Gandhi in Moffatt’s translation. When I finished he could only say: ‘How beautiful, how beautiful.” And there were tears in his eyes. Where did that chapter come from? He had given his very life to those Corinthians and yet they turned on him in criticism: ‘His bodily presence is weak, his speech is contemptible and he is not a real  apostle.’ Did Paul bear that? No, he used it. He dipped his pen in the blood of his broken heart and wrote of love—love for the people who were criticizing him and even rejecting him.”

We face terrorist enemies today who thrive on publicity, public relations, and  the strong public reaction they can create in the media and in public affairs. They know they cannot defeat America militarily, and I don’t even worry about that detail. What I find difficult to understand is how so many Christians so readily acquiesce to the pressures of our military dominated culture. Ask anyone today about the doctrine of non-violence and they refer immediately to Martin Luther King and his learning of non-violence from Mahatma Gandhi. They show no understanding at all that Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement came right out of the pages of the New Testament proclaimed at Daddy King's Baptist Church, or that Gandhi's Freedom Movement in India was ignited by the teachings of Jesus as read by a Hindu who well-understood the teachings but never discovered the Teacher behind the principles.

From Warner’s World at ... 
Am I a mere dreamer to wonder if Christians can transform terrorism into testimony by loosing the Person behind the principles of non-violent peace-making … ? 

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