Christians believe that Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” and that a central message of Christmas is “on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14). In fact, belief in “Peace” permeates the Christian’s New Testament: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9); “For the Kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14: 17, 19); “It is to peace that God has called you” (I Corinthians 7:15b); “For God is a God not of disorder but of peace” (I Corinthians 14:33); “Live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (II Corinthians 13:11); “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruit, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (James 3:17); “As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace[italics added].” (Ephesians 6:15)
Iraqi television reporter and journalist Muntader al-Zaidi was ready with the shoes on his feet at a Baghdad news conference: he “proclaim[ed] the gospel of peace” by throwing them at President Bush. He was painfully aware of Bush’s hypocrisy. The “I pray for peace” president hell bent for a falsely based, unjust, illegal, pre-emptive war of choice. As “commander in chief” responsible for the deaths of over one million Iraqi civilians, over four million Iraqi refugees, and for the devastation of the country’s life-sustaining infrastructure. A “war president” who lauds how his administration’s criminal “Operation Iraqi Freedom” has brought “democracy” to Iraq. Yet his “unannounced” visits to Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, including his latest legacy-refurbishing trip, reveal his own keen awareness that he would not be able to duck far more lethal weapons than “size 10 shoes” if he showed his face in public.
Journalist al-Zaidi had the courage to throw the truth at President Bush. First he threw the one shoe with the words, “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!” Then he hurled his other shoe while speaking more truth: “This is for the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.” (The New York Times, Dec. 15, 2008). Finally a reporter who dared to speak truth to a murderous tyrant who repeatedly mouths “God” and “freedom” and “democracy.”
Journalist Muntader al-Zaidi leads us to the “sole” of Christmas. Christmas is about throwing truth at falsehood and hyprocrisy in the name of peace and love and justice. That is what Jesus was about. He was much more than a sweet, little, innocent, non-threatening baby in a manger calling for a seasonal adoration. His birth is not a once-a-year sentimental flight into fantasy (however precious fantasy is) but the thrusting into our society’s midst every human being’s right to his and her and their place, identity, belief, fulfillment. His mission was to liberate his Jewish people from Roman occupation, which is why he was crucified. His calling was “to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4: 18b), not use their oppression as a pretext for coveting their oil and empire-building and self-aggrandizement.
It is time for political and religious leaders and journalists to follow in Muntader al-Zaidi’s footsteps and throw the book of justice at President Bush and torture-authorizing Vice President Cheney. “Peace on earth” depends on justice and justice depends on love and love does whatever justice and peace take. “As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.”
Journalist Muntader al-Zaidi is Christmas’s peace person of the year. He is to be modeled not mocked. He is to be praised not prosecuted.
Rev. WILLIAM E. ALBERTS, Ph.D. is a hospital chaplain, and a diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Both a Unitarian Universalist and a United Methodist minister, he has written research reports, essays and articles on racism, war, politics and religion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.