SANA’A, YEMEN – Jean and I are packing to return to Hamilton to deliver our first child. And at the top of my to-do-in-Hamilton list, besides “get diapers for the bambino,” is watch a big, fat movie. There’s a single theatre here in Sana’a, a town of one million, but considering it’s infested with rats or something similarly revolting, I’ve avoided it.
For my re-entry to Canada’s cinematic world, I’m eyeing Gods and Generals. At almost four hours long, this American Civil War epic seems enough to fix even my impregnated need. Curiously, this show, which explores themes of war and Christianity, is produced by media mogul Ted Turner.
You’ll remember Turner once said Christianity was “for losers,” blaming his divorce from Jane Fonda, his third wife, on her newfound Christian faith. By some miracle, Turner has now reportedly soaked $80 million into Gods and Generals, a movie that sees the Civil War largely through the eyes of pious Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson.
Most reviewers seem rather unimpressed, which can be a good sign. More so, this movie is particularly timely because it asks a question that has deeply permeated the Iraq disaster.
If He cares, where does God sit in times of war? Like in America’s Civil War and the Super Bowl and the odd Leafs-Canadiens game, all sides in the Iraq war claim the Almighty is squarely in their corner.
But can God be with Pope John Paul II and antiwar protesters, and with U.S. President George W. Bush, and with Saddam all at once? He may be divine, but even God can’t be for and against the same thing simultaneously. Can He?
Which brings us to Easter, this season of reflection and renewal, and a recent conversation I had with a journalist friend I’ve grown to admire here in Yemen. We were talking about Islam and Christianity and their commonalities.
Eventually we arrived at the cross, the rugged, bloody one that Christians believe Jesus died on.
“Well, there may be slight differences,” my friend said, noting Muslims believe Christ was a prophet who was never crucified.
“It’s no slight difference,” I responded. “For Christians, the cross is everything. It’s the foundation of the house. Take it away and everything falls.”
The New Testament, of course, is filled with what Christ’s cross and resurrection mean for humanity, both in this world and beyond.
“It’s important,” I said to my friend, “because if Jesus is alive, just like you or I are sitting here, then his spirit is actually living in me.”
So, no, all world views are not the same. Easter tells us this. So does our common sense. We simply cannot hold differing ideas that are mutually exclusive. Christianity is not Islam is not Scientology is not some wacky Shirley MacLaine New Age psychosis.
So then, whose side is God taking in the Iraq war? He’s on the side of the soldier, regardless of uniform, who lays down his life sacrificially.
He’s on the side of the child, regardless of nationality, searching for his family in the rubble that was once home. He’s with the grief-stricken, the lonely, the desperate and the broken- hearted.
This God, who knows suffering so well, is also with those like the disgraced criminal dying on a cross beside Christ, who asked Jesus to simply remember him when entering his kingdom. Yes, Easter’s God, it seems, is rather passionately on the side of these socalled “losers.”
And what might this mean for Iraq?
Turn to Abraham Lincoln, who found his own faith when asking whose side providence took when 600,000 Americans lost their lives in that brutal Civil War. “It’s quite possible,” Lincoln said “that God’s purpose is something different from either party.”
Imagine that. God has his own ideas. Like when you think you need to look for Him, and He finds you.