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Published Date: December 5, 2001

Published Date: December 5, 2001

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Does CBE Matter in the Face of Terrorism?

Kim Pettit is the coordinator for the Pikes Peak Chapter of CBE in Colorado Springs.

In Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), we proclaim that salvation surpasses gender, social distinctions, economic differences and nationalities. CBE hosts a Web site, sponsors conferences, and serves as a resource center on biblical equality. Each year more people discover freedom through its work.

After the September 11 tragedy, discussions about the meaning of Greek words paled in the shadow of war. The interpretation of difficult passages seems like an exercise for self-indulgent American Christians, who for so long have enjoyed unequaled peace and prosperity. Did Jesus really die on the cross to see us write lengthy treatises on a few thorny passages of Scripture?

In the face of terrorism, does CBE matter? Is it worth supporting?

As I’ve thought about these questions, I’ve discovered remarkable answers. Biblical equality speaks to the questions raised by current events in ways I never would have expected.

God loves all people

At a time when thousands of people died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, how important is it to fight for the quality of life for the living?

Biblical equality gives us a new understanding of the incredible love, mercy and freedom each person experiences in Christ. God’s unconditional love for all people reminds us how he must grieve, not only at the tragic losses of American firefighters, police and countless others, but also at the death of the most poverty-stricken Muslim child in Afghanistan.

The morning of the attacks I was at a conference with women and men from almost 20 different countries including China, Brazil, Finland, Indonesia, Kenya and Russia. As I mourned with these friends from around the world, I remembered previous tragedies reported on the news: the earthquake in India leaving thousands dead and homeless, the toll of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, the floods in Venezuela.

The contrast between my reaction to America’s terrorist attacks and resignation to the suffering around the world revealed that my heart is as polluted as the smoke that poured from the burning towers of the World Trade Center. When did I ever pray for other Christians around the world as fervently as I have prayed for the United States in this hour of need? How should I pray now?

At this time of tragedy, CBE reminds us of our need to uphold people of all nations, ethnicities, classes, ages and genders. CBE helps us love and care for our brothers and sisters with the same tenderness God has for them.

The value of women

Janet Chismar, Religion Today editor, recently wrote about the refugee crisis worsened by the events since September 11. She reports that an Afghan relief worker said, “People are living in open fields with just a blanket or piece of plastic for shelter. Grown men came to us, crying for help. I even had to watch as an old man tried to sell his young daughter to a rich trader [so] he could have food for the rest of his children.”

CBE reminds us of the worth of women and girls, traditionally undervalued in hierarchical churches. What value did this distraught father place on his daughter? And what value do we place on our own daughters?

Because some women have encountered equality in Christ through CBE, they have overcome abuse. They have healed their most intimate relationships and ministered in new ways in their churches.

Biblical equality gives our members, both women and men, biblical self-esteem as they recognize God’s love for them. This incredible love has enabled some to accept a call to share that love with others locally and around the world.

Cultural context illuminates Bible

Can you imagine sharing the love of God with the women under Taliban rule? It might be surprising to recall that Afghanistan’s culture today is closer to the one in which Jesus lived and proclaimed his message than our way of life in the United States.

Are we horrified at the public executions of women taking place in an Afghani soccer field? Then imagine the crowd of men holding stones in their hands, waiting for an adulterous woman to be brought to justice. Jesus faced just such a situation.

Are we shocked at the lack of education provided for women under the Taliban? By law, girls over 12 are not permitted to learn. Similarly, in Jesus’ culture women were not allowed to study with learned rabbis. Yet Jesus encouraged Mary to learn.

In the face of terrorism, death and suffering, CBE emphasizes an understanding of the cultural and historical background of biblical texts in order to accurately present Christ. Without a faithful exegesis of Scripture, we cannot begin to understand that itinerant preacher who declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18,19).

Because faithful interpretation of Scripture is so important, we work to discover how Jesus’ disciples preached his message or what Paul meant when he talked about veils. We ask about the meaning of Greek words or the context for Peter’s letters because this knowledge has a bearing on our understanding of Jesus and our relationship with him.

What can we do?

Millions of dollars have been raised to support the victims of the terrorist attacks, but millions more are also needed for those in other countries suffering the effects of war. Give to support humanitarian aid in the wake of tragedy, but also set money aside to further CBE’s national and international efforts.

While CBE may not meet the physical needs of those who are oppressed by terrorism, our message is vital. We offer Jesus. He is the only answer. He is the only liberator.

Continue to support local chapters and broader efforts that allow biblical equality to be disseminated far and wide. Pray. Volunteer. Share your heart with others. Live like Jesus lived, despite the culture of oppression and sin he faced each day.

Whether oppression is happening between men and women, races, social classes or nations, the devaluation of human beings is fundamentally the same. The dynamics between the oppressed and the dominated are the same. The rhetoric and justification are the same. In each case people are damaged, and Jesus is the only one who can restore the wounded to health again.

Do the persons who are transformed by CBE’s efforts matter to God? They do, and we who are egalitarians proclaim not only that Christ saves but that he values and empowers all who receive him, without regard to gender, status, or race.