I was in Baghdad in March 2003, where I lived as a Christian and as a peacemaker during the "shock-and-awe" bombing. I spent time with families, volunteered in hospitals and learned to sing "Amazing Grace" in Arabic.
There is one image of the time in Baghdad that will never leave me. As the bombs fell from the sky and smoke filled the air, one of the doctors in the hospital held a little girl whose body was riddled with missile fragments. He threw his hands in the air and said, "This violence is for a world that has lost its imagination." Then he looked square into my eyes, with tears pouring from his, and said, "Has your country lost its imagination?"
That doctor's words haunt me.
Those words have inspired something that I hope will be wonderfully redemptive.
I am teaming up with Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, and an all-star cast to create a little event to provoke the imagination on the eve of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. We've been calling it "Jesus, Bombs, and Ice Cream."
It will be a night of reconciliation and of grace.
A victim of 9/11 will share about why she has insisted that more violence will not cure the epidemic of hatred in the world.
A veteran from Iraq will speak about the collision he felt as a Christian trying to follow the nonviolent-enemy-love of Jesus on the cross while carrying a gun.
A welder will tie an AK-47 in a knot, while a muralist paints something beautiful on stage.
We're going to do a Skype call with Afghan youth working for peace, and hear their dreams for a world free of war and bombs and other ugly things.
I don't want to give the whole thing away, but I will say we've got the world's best juggler, Josh Horton, doing an original anti-violence routine. And we've got some of the finest musicians I know rocking out some old freedom songs.
Ben and I are sort of like the ringmasters of the circus. He'll do this spectacular demonstration with Oreos, with each one representing $10 billion of federal spending so we can see how the money stacks up with all these budget talks. I'll share about Jesus, and that grace that dulls even the sharpest sword.
We hope you can make it.
Oh, and word on the street is: ice cream will be served.
But even if you can't make it to Philly on Sept. 10 for our little party, find some way to do something that doesn't compute with the patterns of violence. Find a way to interrupt injustice and to build the kind of world we are proud to pass on to our kids -- a world with fewer bombs and more ice cream.
I hope to go back to Iraq in a year or two, find that doctor again and tell him: "We have not lost our imagination."
WATCH Ben Cohen's invitation: