Friday, August 22, 2014

Thoughts on The Foleys' Response to the Beheading of their Son by ISIS


I listened to an exclusive interview this morning of the parents of James Foley, who was executed by beheading by ISIS. I was frankly moved.

It appears to me that they stand as a real alternative way of being in the world, a way of being that Jesus called his followers to embody, just as he embodied it. In a world where power is demonstrated mostly by who has the most weapons and technologies,* the Foleys' response thus far stirs my imagination for what it might take from us for God's new creation to be realized.

The Incarnation – the life and death of Jesus – demonstrates that God’s purposes are accomplished through weakness, not through the power structures of the world. Christ opposed and conquered the powers of the world through weakness. The Apostle Paul got that right when he wrote: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15, NIV)

In my opinion, the Foleys are doing just that themselves.

Power is being manifest in their response thus far, a Christ-like power that must not be sold too short. The Foley's haven't used “power” language, but the language of assurance that there is more to their son’s life than anything ISIS could take away; that there is more to his death than simply responding with violent retribution – even the kind of divine retribution that could have easily come out of their mouths that would call down the reign of God’s terror upon ISIS.

The Foley's have used “compassionate” language – though not so much as to say they have forgiven the ISIS members who are responsible (which is not a criticism on my part). They have up til now used language that exposes their grief. They have spoken about the ways the Church has ministered to them through prayer and Pope Francis' call. They have offer in their grief the language of assurance that even in the midst of such an experience, their son’s death is not the end of God’s loving Spirit at work in the world.

It’s this “way of being Christ” – itself a deeply moving act of faith in my opinion – that will ultimately conquer, just as Jesus’s weakness and death on the cross was the victory over the powers and principalities present in his day.

*Don't misread me please. I am grateful for the fact that I live in a country where I enjoy relative safety because of these very weapons and technology. And on an individual level, I would do what's necessary to protect the weak from the terror of the strong, including using my own "weapons".