Sunday, June 29, 2008

real faith (real, real faith)

60 Minutes tells the story of the vicar of Baghdad, sent to minister to the Anglican community in Baghdad nine years ago (when Saddam Hussein statues still figured in official Iraqi decorating policy). The interview makes clear that Christianity was a religio licita under Saddam, and according to this criterion at least the current situation in Iraq is bleak indeed.

I recommend this piece with both a heavy heart and with some reluctance. I can't say the reporting was in any way impressive; Scott Pelley's ability to avoid the really interesting questions is certainly legendary and may in fact be unrivaled. But the man at the heart of the story is, perhaps, the most credible professional Christian I have seen on tv ever. The Reverend Canon Andrew White has done what most Christians (myself included) can only dream of — he's earned the right to be heard. When (apparently) all the other Christian men have fled Baghdad (and I type this last phrase without any sense of condescension or condemnation), White remains to minister to (one of?) the last underground Christian congregations in that war-torn city, leading our beleaguered sisters and brothers in worship, feeding the poor, and encouraging the faith of those who claim Doubting [!] Thomas as their spiritual ancestor.

The question Pelley didn't ask — the question I wanted to yell at the tele — was, Why, Reverend Canon White, do you stay in Baghdad to minister in what may be the most dangerous place on earth for confessing Christians?

I admit I have suspicions of an answer. But these are suspicions of my answers, and to be perfectly honest, I haven't earned the right to be asked that question. I want to know why Andrew White stays in Baghdad. And even if he answers exactly how I would have expected, the answer itself would have been legitimated for being his answer and not mine.

I would give my right ring finger to serve Holy Communion to a single woman or child of Reverend Canon White's congregation. But even then I wouldn't deserve such an honor. These are modern-day heroes of the faith. I am privileged to be called their brother in the Lord. This week, as I grade a half-dozen undergraduate assignments and continuing researching for a book idea I'm working on, I pray that my work for the kingdom might be the dimmest and distantest star shining in the same sky illumined by the blazing sun of the faith of Baghdad.

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