Tom Fox (1951-2006)
By now readers are probably aware that Christian activist Tom Fox's body was found, shot and showing signs of torture, in a Baghdad suburb. Tom's group, Christian Peacemaker Teams, was abducted several months ago by an insurgent group and held hostage in exchange for the release of Iraqi prisoners held by coalition forces. Tom was the only American in the group. He leaves behind two children. A video aired recently on al-Jezeera showed the other hostages still alive.
In a world where "moral clarity" amounts to giving rein to the animal instincts of predation and revenge, it may not count for much that a few people were willing to fight hate with love and violence with peace. To be honest, I can imagine situations where I'd pick up a gun. In any case I don't want to cheapen their their actions by wrapping myself in their bravery. But Tom and his comrades only put their own lives on the line, not those of others, and did so for a radical faith that most of us pay only lip service to. And for that attention must be paid.
From Tom's last message before he was abducted:
It seems as if the first step down the road to violence is taken when I dehumanize a person. That violence might stay within my thoughts or find its way into the outer world and become expressed verbally, psychologically, structurally or physically. As soon as I rob a fellow human being of his or her humanity by sticking a dehumanizing label on them, I begin the process that can have, as an end result, torture, injury and death.
"Why are we here?" We are here to root out all aspects of dehumanization that exist within us. We are here to stand with those being dehumanized by oppressors and stand firm against that dehumanization. We are here to stop people, including ourselves, from dehumanizing any of God's children, no matter how much they dehumanize their own souls.
I cannot possibly imagine, in that Dostoevskyan ordeal, what Tom Fox's last thoughts were, but I'd like to think he held fast to what his Savior told his disciples:
And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.
And when ye come into an house, salute it.
And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
May Tom Fox's martyrdom not be in vain.