Thursday, March 23, 2006

Is gratitude contrary to 'Christian Peacemaking'? Please explain why...

A hot story today, at least in the blogosphere hothouse, is the reaction of Christian Peacemaker Teams to the happy news that three of its associates were freed from captivity in Iraq.

As most of the world knows, this rescue was accomplished by coalition forces. But in its release, expressing happiness (which all share) about the three workers' release, CPT didn't find time to say two words to the rescuers: "Thank you."

Here's my letter to CPT today:

Christian Peacemaker Teams
Box 6508Chicago, IL 60680-6508

Dear Madam or Sir*:

When I read in news reports that in your press release, you failed to mention those who had risked their lives to rescue your coworkers, I figured that had to be wrong.
Then I went to your website, and read your statement, on your own website.

Not one word, in your public statement, of gratitude, or even acknowledgement, of those who acted to save your friends’ lives.

I notice you did find time and space to criticize the multi-national forces. Twice.

This leaves me amazed. You profess to be Christian. But the Christianity I practice and profess includes gratitude as a fundamental virtue.

I am trying to explain, to myself, why you would behave this way. If it is merely an omission, it is a very telling one. If it was deliberate, please explain to me how you can justify that.


Father Martin Fox

In a hand-written P.S., I told CPT I'd post this letter--and any reply--on this site. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, you can go to CPT's site and read its release for yourself. If you find any words of gratitude, expressed to the rescuers, let me know.

*I did try to find a contact name on the website; I was unsuccessful.


Jackie said...


Couldn't agree more!! After reading their release and scanning through their website - not only do they lack gratitude but they certainly make it seem that the only 'real Christians' are the ones that agree with them on war - pacifism is the only acceptable, non-sinful answer. This certainly goes against at least 1700 years of history - if not more.
What about the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines that risked their lives looking for them and going into get them (so what if no one was there this time)? What didn't they do while spending their time and resources looking for these 4? For a mission that has no hope of success (just what impact did they have this time or any of the other times they have done whatever they do?)- is the risk reasonable or is it suicide? (Which last I read was a sin objectively.)
Finally, while I am all for nonviolent means when they seem like they will work - clearly this was tried for many years and it didn't work. So - we should just walk away. Doesn't sound very Christian to me. Oh and I don't seem to remember much from this group protesting all of the terror of Saddam or the Taliban when they were in power.

So - to sum it all up - lack of gratitude, lack of humility, lack of common sense, lack of any historical knowledge, and a whole bunch of pride, arrogance, and ignorance.

Father Martin Fox said...


Thanks for your comments.

Just for clarity: while I don't quarrel with your many points, note that my criticism of this organization was very focused: why couldn't it manage to say "thank you" to the men and women who risked their lives to rescue their compatriots?

I fail to see how gratitude compromises CPT's witness, or mission, or whatever...

Jackie said...


I agree that had CPT said 'thank you' it would have not only been the right thing to do (particularly for a Christian organization) but wouldn't have changed their mission one bit.

I am saying, however, that not only do I disagree with their mission (not the right to be a pacifist or that it would be a wonderful thing if there were true freedom and peace so that war was never an answer - but I think that's called heaven) - but their attitude about their mission and how it is accomplished as well as their comments about those that disagree tend to go along with their lack of gratitude. Sort of a package deal.

I will accept, however, that my disagreement and therefore judgement of motives was a bit harsh. My only mitigation (though not excuse) is that I have spent a lot of time in places like this and my friends are over there now - get a bit cranky when they have to stick their heads up when they shouldn't have to.

Mark Anthony said...

Take a look at the site again. In an addendum, the organization does offer thanks to the forces that freed the hostages.

I must admit a certain sympathy with their underlying position, though. If not for the ill-conceived and suspect plans, and bungled execution, of the war and occupation, Iraq would not be host now to foreign troops, terrorists or peace activists.

Before anyone says it, sure Saddam was a horror. But what do we have now? A different set of horrors.. Innocent Iraqis are dying no matter what.

Father Martin Fox said...


Fair enough; but I note that the addendum you mention has a time-stamp of 9 pm, March 23 (today); which suggests to me they posted that after they got a lot of grief over this.

I think they could make all the points they want to; but the failure to say "thank you" . . . reflects very badly.

Linda said...

I am proud of you & thankful for concsienctious priests like you. Keep up the great work! You are an excellent, inspiring example to the young men of this world.

Chris Cree said...

It seems to me that they’ve twisted the concept of “forgive your enemies” to the point where part of it for them now includes, “resent your friends.”

Can't see where I agree with that position...

Father Martin Fox said...


Listening to NPR this morning, I noticed someone from the organization speaking about their friends being "released"--which is a curiously ambiguous term.

One might easily conclude the terrorists simply let them go.

Whereas, if one says they were...
rescued, delivered, set free, liberated -- then there is no ambiguity and the role of the icky-poo military cannot be obscured.

It does seem to me that the ambiguous terminology is preferred by this group's spokesmen. Wonder why?

Chris Cree said...


I think you are spot on. I brought up a similar point on my blog this morning:

"Now, since they received such a backlash from their fundamental misstatement and obvious total ingratitude of what was done for them, they have revised their press release to say that their guys were, get this, “freed.” It seems a weasely choice of wording to me, but I guess if they actually came out and said the truth, that their people were rescued, then they would have to re-think their fundamental beliefs about violence never being the right answer. No point in examining a core belief, is there?"

One of the things I find frustrating with folks such as these is that they seem to be quick to point out how wrong things are, but are strangely silent regarding possible alternative workable solutions...

Mark Anthony said...

Hopefully, you do not find this response discourteous.

Workable solutions? Let's see:
How about "Love your enemies,do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them." Luke 6:27-31

Of course, the one who spoke those words might have been a wooly-headed, bleeding heart with no understanding of the "real world." Or he might have been misquoted, or not really have meant it, or only intended his advice to be applicable on a personal and voluntary basis.

Or he might have been a man of his word who meant exactly what he said.

Inconvenient for a superpower? Sure? Risky? No doubt. Likely to ber taken advantage of by others. Absolutely.

But he didn't say, "If you think it seems safe, secure and to your benefit, do these things."

As Chesterton said, "It is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but that it has been found difficult and not tried."

Father Martin Fox said...

No, I don't find it discourteous.

Father Martin Fox said...


There's no easy answer to the challenge of our Lord's "turn the other cheek" emphasis, as it works itself out in individual or social action.

At some point, it calls into question having a military, or even a police force, doesn't it?

And yet we have nothing that suggests our Lord, or his immediate followers, ever took it that far.

I respect the devotion of pacifists, and I admire those who attempt to behave consistent with those principles; they show great courage and sacrifice in doing so. I disagree with them, generally, but I respect them.

In general, the best (short) answer I can give is that it is an admonition he wants us to keep uppermost in our minds; a fundamental option to be exercised as often as we dare.

It is a call to challenge ourselves to be open to a counterintuitive approach, so that we don't miss the opportunities when it will work.

To that extent, pacifists and conscientious objectors, even where I might think them mistaken, serve to remind us of the Lord's words, and to challenge us to try to apply them, more often, rather than less.

But then there is the flip side: it would be nice if pacifists more often acknowledged this conundrum; some come across as very haughty in their moral certitude.

Todd said...

"We are deeply grateful to all those who worked and prayed for our release."

That seems to say it.

If the institutional gratitude was prompted from originally being late in coming that strikes me as satisfactory. At least enough so that peacemakers generally or in particular can be free from the gotcha effect.

Agreement on the appropriateness of gratitude. Disagree that a late thank-you is anything more than an oversight quickly and humbly corrected.