Generous Orthodoxy  

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Where are the civilians?

In this morning's Congressional hearings, Robert Gates, nominee for Secretary of Defense, responded to Senator Kennedy's line of inquiry about American deaths in Iraq with a personal testimony about the casualties from the Texas A & M student body. Twelve young people from his university were killed during his tenure there and you got the feeling that he really did care about them and their grieving families. He stated, and it sounded genuine, that he had enjoyed the presidency of Texas A & M more than any other job he'd had, and that he would be leaving with regret.

So far so good. But what is missing in these discussions, and numerous others like them, is the vast number of civilian deaths in Iraq. No one is counting these numbers, it seems, but we know it is many, many times more than that of the almost-3000 American dead.

If we are a "Christian nation," as many would still like to think we are, then we should be deeply, passionately concerned about civilian deaths and severely wounded people in Iraq. I have been collecting photographs from the New York Times of children weeping and mourning their dead parents. Every time Dick and I see photos of a sobbing Iraqi boy (and there are numbers of such pictures), we think of our own 10-year-old grandson and what that would be like for him.

This is a very serious matter for us as Christians. I continue to notice, as I travel and visit various churches here in the Northeast as well as the Carolinas and other places that I been recently, that the pattern continues: there are always prayers for our troops, but rarely prayers for the Iraqi civilians, and even more rarely prayers for our enemies. Moreover, what prayers for civilians there are (not many) are usually perfunctory. It seems to me that it is incumbent upon us who preach, teach, lead and bear witness in the churches to do something to remedy this situation. How much effort does it take to write a heartfelt sentence about Iraqi civilians to be included in the prayers?