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I will admit that I was a bit naive when I entered Moody Bible Institute. Matriculating into the International Ministries department I was fascinated by both Hudson Taylor and Albert Schwietzer. I wasn’t sure what or where I was going overseas, but I was convinced that they needed something that I had. They needed Jesus!
Now, I considered myself a good literalist. I had not yet descended the staircase to secular humanism. What would push my descent from the holiness church of my youth was the first Gulf War. On campus there was a giddy excitement when our conflict began. People sat around glued to the television hanging and cheering every type of excursion that arose. For myself, I couldn’t be quite so happy. I was a literalist after all. I took certain passages quite strictly, and in my youthful readings of scripture I was left with a position of war that was quite pacifist. Blessed are the peacemakers was clearly not cluster bombing Baghdad. So, I was surprised that others could so easily advocate unlimited war by the United States and still claim to be a scriptural literalists. Yet, that was where I found myself, in the midst of a school that unambiguously supported war.
When the war begain our chapel services and classrooms became decidedly pro-war. Other students talked in ernest about victory and prayer meetings were set up to pray ferverantly for our troops and a swift victory. On that first night I felt sadness and fear. In front of the only television allowed in the dorms we huddled to watch what coverage the networks were allowed to show. People were cheering like it was a college football game.
A few weeks into the war, I noticed one of my dorm mates doors was filled with headlines from the war and military paraphenalia. Everytime I passed it gave me a strange lonely feeling. When he engaged me in a heated conversation about the war I admitted that to hime that I was against any military action. The fear and rage that I felt in that moment was truly terrifying.
I let the genie out of the bottle. Up until that point I only encountered people on campus questioning my salvation because of questions against dispensationalism, but I had never felt the full force of unbridled anger. Congenial debates were replaced with red-faced yelling. When some classmates found out, it seemed that they treated me differently. I was told that if I didn’t support the war I should move to another country. In their anger and unquestioning support, I felt changed. It was like I had lost something. I had begun to lose trust in the religion of my youth, a trust that it had the faith that I needed to find real answers for my life. It was another step on my staircase to a inclusive and mercy filled faith.
Now I’m so grateful for experiences like that. They helped me to think of the places that I merely accepted the interpretations of faith surrounding me and that were deeply a part of me. Yet, I am even more grateful that it pushed me away from a type of faith that I believe was abusive and diminishing of humanity. Without experiences like the first Gulf War, I would have never been given God’s strength to leave.
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