Are We Called to Love Al-Qaeda?

I’ve recently been reading Ronald Rolheiser’s book The Holy Longing, which includes a chapter on justice and peacemaking. Rolheiser notes that so often those who fight for justice, as righteous as their cause may be, often use tactics and language that are not all that different from those they oppose. As a result, they are ineffective. What will win the heart of the world, Rolheiser says, is a heart of love:

“A prophet … must make a vow of love not of alienation. The great modern-day prophets of social justice (persons such as Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Gustavo Gutierrez, William Stringfellow, Oscar Romero, Jim Wallis, and Richard Rohr) would all agree with that. Love, not anger, is the basis for nonviolence and nonviolence is the only possible basis for a new world order of justice and peace … Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example of the nonviolent peacemaker. He never mimics the violence and injustice that he is trying to change.”

As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think about America’s war against terrorism. We have been served evil, and we seek to combat it. We feel this is a cause of justice, not to mention security. And yet in fighting evil, we are bringing war. We bring anger and retribution against those who have brought us harm. We seek their ill. We even seek their destruction.

Is this how Christ would have us live? Christ, the one who asks us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek, who says that vengeance is the Lord God’s alone? Christ, the one who was unjustly beaten and ultimately killed by those who hated Him and who chose to remain silent and to bear the anger with an ever-increasing love for His mission and those He came to save (which included those who raised Him onto the cross)?

Furthermore, are such tactics of war even effective? If we bring violence against violence, what really changes? Perhaps some people die, but the ideologies they espouse go on living. They take up residence in others who then carry on the mission to bring harm. The only thing that can dispel evil is love.

And so I confess that I wince when I ask this question, but: Are we, as Christians, called to love Al-Qaeda? Is love what would really end this war?