The young Iraqi pictured here is dead. I don’t know his name. I don’t know how old he was. I don’t know about his family, and I don’t know about his politics or his relationships.
What I do know is how and why he died.
He’s dead because he was murdered by men who believed that he was gay. In the past 3 weeks at least 14 young men suspected of being homosexual have been beaten to death with stones and bricks.
There have been more than 200 similar murders reported since 2006.
Unlike other Middle Eastern countries it is not illegal to be gay in Iraq, it just isn’t advised. Since it’s difficult to determine a person’s sexuality from their outward appearance, it also isn’t exactly safe to be an “Emo” Iraqi either.
For the uninitiated, ”Emo” is a branch of pop-punk music originating in the United States during the early part of the last decade. Fans are known for dressing to fit the “scene”: tight jeans, T-shirts with band logos and distinctly long bangs or spiky haircuts.
In recent days, Shiite militia’s have taken to the streets to stone youths who appear homosexual at worst and Emo at best.
“Iraq’s government, dominated by the Shi’ite majority that was oppressed under Saddam, may not be helping. The Interior Ministry added to the atmosphere of menace last month by releasing a statement that labeled the Emo culture “Satanism”.
What saddens me is that this emerging trend, in a newly freed Iraq, isn’t necessarily disturbing to many people who claim to follow Christ.
I recently received a chain Email that described the hanging of a Christian Pastor in Iran. The email called for international outrage in the face of Iran’s militant Shiite oppression. After a little research I found that the pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, is still alive but imprisoned. He faces hanging for his “crimes”.
I wondered if anyone I knew would have the salt to send out a chain Email bringing to light the Shiite slaughter of young homosexuals, confirmed or suspected.
I couldn’t think of anybody off the top of my head.
Not even me.
As a Christian, I used to read the words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and, believing myself to be on “God’s team”, find comfort in them:
…“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you…”
As I’ve gotten older I’ve also realized that following Jesus comes with commands that make “playing for his team” a lot more difficult than sitting around finding comfort. I don’t often find the same solace in Jesus’ sermon that I used to. Usually I find myself being disturbed and confronted:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness… It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out… I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”
In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus puts us on notice that our faith is not judged by how we treat the people who agree with us, it is measured by how we live alongside those people who don’t agree with us.
Jesus words were supremely convicting to me as I realized that I was a person that he was asking to “have the salt” to say something about the killing of young men, gay or not, in Iraq.
For this post to make any sense to you it will be helpful to understand two things:
This issue doesn’t hinge on homosexuality’s rightness or wrongness.
Because we all understand that murder is evil.
Scripture tells me that God was generous and kind to me before I ever met him.
And I’m called to live the same way.
As a human being I am guilty of the sin of rebellion against God, yet instead of capital punishment he offered me grace in the person of Jesus Christ. Since trusting him I have been taken on a journey that exposed my deep self-centeredness to the mercy of God.
This means that I desire grace and mercy for all people;
even if we do not,
and may never,
play for the “same team.”
Could the overwhelming hypocrisy of expecting the world to be outraged by the “legal” death of a Christian in Iran, while turning a blind eye to the suffering of a community just one country away, be a reason that Christians feel marginalized by contemporary American society?
2000 years ago Jesus took on human flesh and stepped out of time and space to travel to our sin sick world… and then die for our ability to be made right with God. Does fighting for the lives of endangered human beings, especially lives that we may find “distasteful”, tarnish the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
…or does it actually prove it?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” -Matthew 5:43-48