In Resident Aliens, Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas unveiled their transformational picture of church as a group of people who realise something is wrong. At the end of chapter two they write something that probably has fresh relevance as Libya’s civil war has now secured outside investment:

Sometime ago, when the United States bombed military and civilian targets in Libya, a debate raged concerning the morality of that act. One of us witnessed an informal gathering of students who argued the morality of the bombing of Libya. Some though it was immoral, others thought it was moral. At one point in the argument one of the students turned and said, “Well preacher, what do you think?”

I said that, as a Christian, I could never support bombing, particularly bombing of civilians as an ethical act.

“That’s just what we expected you to say,” said another. “That’s typical of you Christians. Always on the high moral ground, aren’t you? You get so upset when a terrorist guns down a little girl in an airport, but when President Reagan tries to set things right, you get indignant when a few Libyans get hurt.”

The assumption seems to be that there are only two political opinions: Either conservative support of the administration, or liberal condemnation of the administration followed by efforts to let the U.N. handle it.

“You know, you have a point,” I said. “What would be a Christian response to this?” Then I answered, right off the top of my head, “A Christian response might be that tomorrow morning The United Methodist Church announces that it is sending a thousand missionaries to Libya. We have discovered it is fertile field for the gospel. We know how to send missionaries. He is at least a traditional Christian response.”

“You can’t do that,” said my adversary.

“Why?” I asked. “You tell me why.”

“Because it’s illegal to travel in Libya. President Reagan will not give you a visa to go there.”

“No! That’s not right,” I said. “I’ll admit that we can’t go to Libya, but not because of President Reagan. We can’t go there because we no longer have a church that produces people who can do something this bold. But we once did.”

Your Correspondent, With just the slightest bit of finesse he might have made a little less mess

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