Welcome home, Jim Loney

Welcome home, Jim Loney

Today, two Canadians held hostage in Iraq came home. James Loney was kidnapped in November along with three others from a Christian humanitarian organization, in Iraq as peace activists. I remember when they were first abducted, because there was a long piece on the radio about James Loney. An ardant and activist Christian, he objected to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The hostages were meant to be killed on numerous occaisions if the Americans wouldn’t release Iraqi prisoners; time and time again they were not killed. Family and friends of James Loney expressed their certainty that he would convince his captors that he was on their side. If anyone could do it, they said, James could. They talked about what he was like, what pushed him to put his life on the line and travel to Iraq. They spoke about him as a friend, as a sibling. How kind he was, how gentle and intelligent and thoughtful. He appeared to be the personification of goodness. And here he was, off in Iraq, a critic of the American invasion and a defender of Iraqis, all because of his faith.

I was struck at the time at this show of Christian morality; it’s not one that we see very often in the news these days. It wasn’t about Christians turning up their noses at gays or demanding that schools teach intelligent design or abstinence. It was about peace. About, presumably, defending the defenseless. About laying down arms. About avoiding war at all costs. On Thursday, the member of provincial parliament for his riding said:

James Loney and others put their values of peace and goodwill ahead of their personal safety, and we commend them for their perseverance under such extreme circumstances. We thank those in foreign affairs who worked so hard for their release [via]

It was a military intervention that brought him home today; James Loney was quoted months earlier saying that if he were abducted in Iraq, he would not want the military involved. That was how deeply he objected to the military presence there.

While lately I’ve been left with a bad taste in my mouth because of the antics of some other self-described Christians, I found myself gaining more and more respect for this James Loney fellow. He had a sincere belief in what Jesus meant to tell his followers; he listened to the pledge of the peace-loving (blessed are the peacemakers, after all), and took it to a dangerous and impressive extreme. He risked his life to follow his beliefs. What also struck me at the time was that he’s Canadian. We don’t hear very much about activist Christians in Canada, barring the few who protested the government’s recent decision to legalize gay marriage. I couldn’t quite hear about James Loney without hearing those other Christian voices echoed around his. I felt a kind of dissonance. I went to Divinty school, I know lots of Christians that I respect beyond all things, but I’m not used to hearing about Christians doing such good things on the radio these days. I’ve grown so cynical.

“For 118 days, I disappeared into a black hole and somehow by God’s grace, I was spit out again,” Loney told reporters shortly after his arrival on Sunday afternoon. [via]

Today he came home, after months with his own death hanging over his head. It’s a miracle that he’s here. The American in his group didn’t make it.

I listened to the coverage more carefully because I remember how I felt hearing about his abduction. Today, they spoke about the joy of the members of his church felt that he was coming home. A church in his hometown held a mass of thanksgiving, even before he had flown back into the province. [via]. He has become a sort of idealized Christian figure, the sort of Christian others should emulate and praise.

The part of the story that’s new to me about James Loney is that he’s gay.

“It’s great to be alive!” Loney said.

Flanked by his teary brothers, partner, and sister-in-law, a thin-looking Loney said he was still having difficulty believing he was free after almost four months as a hostage, and just three days after his rescue.

“During my captivity, I sometimes entertained myself by imagining this day,” Loney told a crush of reporters and photographers at Pearson International Airport. “Sometimes, I despaired of ever seeing it; always I ached for it.”

One of the things he most wanted to do was “wash a sinkful of dirty dishes.”

While he said he wanted to tell the story of his captivity and rescue, he first wants to slip into “an abyss of love” and get reacquainted with his partner, Dan Hunt, his family and community. [via]

What does it say about the Canadian Christian community that their latest hero, the man so good his practically shined over the radio, is a gay man? Not a gay man struggling to be straight, either; an open, out gay man in a long-term relationship? What does it say about the Canadian press that this fact has passed by virtually unmentioned? I discovered it by noticing that the radio report talked about the other hostages returning to their wives, and Loney returning to his “partner”. Later in the report they mentioned his “partner, Dan”. So they didn’t ignore it, unlike the web version of the story, which simply says that he was met at the airport by “family and friends”. Had he been straight, they would have noted a wife or a girlfriend, surely. But even so, other reports do mention it, and don’t remark on it beyond that. I haven’t heard a thing from the Christian community about this, though perhaps it’s not in the best of taste to decry the gall of a homosexual to run around the world representing their values when he is being held hostage and threatened with death. But even so; the churches are celebrating his return like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

It’s certainly interesting to watch, even though I can’t draw any conclusions about it. At this point all I can say is: welcome home, Jim.

0 thoughts on “Welcome home, Jim Loney

  1. “For 118 days, I disappeared into a black hole and somehow by God’s grace, I was spit out again…”

    Is it cynical of me to wonder if Loney credits Tom Fox’s death to God’s grace as well? Yeah, I guess it is… 🙁

    Rochelle says: I wouldn’t presume to interpret his faith, but I presume it would go something along the lines of God’s will and so forth. But who knows. I’m sure we’ll hear more about it in the days to come.

  2. Looks like they kept it a secret for a reason

    Rochelle: Ahhhh well yes, that makes some sense, I suppose, if Iraqis are likely to cause injury to gay men. However, it doesn’t really explain the hesitance of the press in the last few days. And all the friends and pastors obviously knew about it, so my original point (that Christians here in Canada are more than happy to admire and praise an openly gay man) still stands.

    It still seems a bit off to me that CBC radio mentioned his family and his partner at the press conference, but the web version of the story did not.

    Thanks for the heads up.

  3. I’m a friend of Jim, and Jim’s friends have, for the most part, agreed not to do any media representation on his behalf or about him right now.

    But I have to go on record thanking you for your blog posting!

    I’m a queer Christian too, and I often face comments ranging from the uniformed to the ridiculous and the downright vicious questioning how one can be both “ardently” Christian and also gay.

    While he was in Iraq, we all worked hard to keep Jim’s relationship with his long term life partner Dan out of the media here. In this wired world, someone from AlJazeera could have picked up any media reference to him being gay SO easily and printed it, almost guaranteeing his death . . . and possibly the death of the others by virtue of association with him, even though the others on the Christian Peacemakers team Jim was leading were all heterosexual.

    Anyhow….thanks again for your comments.

    Rochelle: Hey there, Anon…thanks for your comment, and I’m really glad that Jim’s okay. And I’m happy to talk about wonderful gay Christians at any time, particularly when they’re as fantastic as your friend appears to be. Give him my best.

  4. As a devout and utterly orthodox Christian who also am a gay man, I am exceedingly proud of James Loney. I am not a “gay activist” and I do not make efforts to justify my sexuality; I just am gay, and though I wish that this were not so, I do not intend to hide either my Christian (a mix of and Lutheran and increasingly Eastern Orthodox) convictions, my sexuality (which I do not promote), and my passionate zeal for both the persecuted, minority Christians of the Middle East and Central Asia, those of the indigenous and traditional Orthodox, Uniate, Nestorian (and other “Oriental” non-Orthodox), Lutheran, and Presbyterian communities there, not of the encroaching pro-Zionist sects of Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, and other such riff-raff who cast shame on the real, Amillennial Christians of this part of world by causing Muslims and Zoroastrians to confuse them with Judaising, pro-Zionist sectarian pseudo-Christian thinking). Any sectaries or other Christians who dismiss James Loney because he is gay and/or because he is Canadian are real “losers”; they should support the work of the Christian peacemakers teams, whether the members thereof are straight or gay, Canadian, British, gringo (U.S.), Aussies, or whatever other nationality. I am proud, indeed, of James Loney!

    Rochelle: I hope that, through your faith, you will come to realize that there is nothing wrong with being gay, nothing anti-Christian about it, and it’s nothing you should wish away. All the best.

  5. All I have to say is that Loney, his partner and family were very cheeky in keeping his sexuality hidden. I feel betrayed, as this vital information was necessary if he is a true christian.

    Rochelle: That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life. You are not owed ANY information about James Loney, mr. anonymous “upset”. You wanted them to risk his life so you would know that he’s a gay man? It was “cheeky” to protect him from his captors? It was “cheeky” to try and save him?

    You feel “betrayed” because you spent time praying for the life of a gay man, is that it? You wouldn’t normally do that? You would rather see them all die? His family didn’t give you all the details so you couldn’t properly scorn him while his life was in danger? So that you couldn’t consider his homosexuality and hope that he wouldn’t come back alive? Is that what that book of yours teaches you? Is that what your God died to protect, your right to be a hateful bigot?

    James Loney IS a true Christian; you are clearly not.

  6. I didn’t say that I was not happy for his return. I am happy he returned safely along with the people who rescued him, as well as the other hostages. I am very grateful for that.

    However, my God didn’t teach me to lie / cheeky but rather to be honest. Being honest is being truthful. Knowing that I am a christian I prefer to let the world know the true me and give them the choice to decide what they want to do. Moreover, mainstream christianity – such as anglicans from what I have heard, already accept gays – so why hide it?

    Hiding that information could possibly risk the lives of other christians in or going to these countries. – You ever thought of that?

    Anyhow, I am very happy for his return. I just want to make that very clear.

    Rochelle: Please. Show me where anyone lied about James Loney. Did they ever say he was straight? I failed to see that. They were entirely honest. You, however, are the dishonest one: you’re telling me that your name is “upset”? Is that the “real you”?

    Don’t throw stones, my friend. Your bigotry is still showing.

    They opted not to mention James Loney’s sexual orientation because it would put his life in danger. Why do you imagine it was being hidden from, as you say, mainsteam christians? Why does it matter to you if it’s not a big deal? Do you know which hand he writes with? Do you know what his favourite food is? Do you know what his ethnic background is? They didn’t reveal any of these items either. Does that lack of information also make you feel betrayed?

    I fail to see how not mentioning his sexual orientation could possibly put any other Christian in danger. I know you’re looking for some reason to justify your homophobia, but there’s no justification for it. Ever.

  7. Rochelle, have it your way.

    I am not here to argue about this, because my morals of christainity differs from yours and I rather not continue this debate.

    Note: I respect everything you have said and I can only hope that you will also respect what I have said.

    Rochelle: If you aren’t here to argue about it, I’m not sure what you’re doing here, frankly. And no, I don’t respect blatant homophobia. I respect Christians who really pay attention to the words of Jesus. Best of luck to you.

  8. Rochelle, I’ve been searching the web to see if there has been a Christian response to James Loney’s return and so far have been met with disappointment. Thank you for your thought-provoking debates and for challenging homophobia.
    The real me… Michele

    Rochelle: Cheers! 🙂

  9. Rochelle’s editorial note: I am getting SO VERY TIRED of so-called Christians netting my blog post in their searches for condemnation of James Loney. Who and what I am is pretty clear from my blog. I was considering just leaving the internet uncluttered by these voices, but that doesn’t allow me to vent my frustrations against them. FYI anti-gay Christians: I’m not ever going to cut you a break, sorry. If you insist on commenting, I will indeed respond snarkily.

    As a Christian, I am also searching the website for views on this. Both from the believer’s point of view and non-believers. On the whole, believers don’t seem to wade deeply with current events, especially ones with a stigma attached. Re your blog entry: I find James’ sexual orientation to be in direct contrast to the biblical view of 1 man, 1 woman, married for life. Nothing can be “read into” God’s discord with homosexuality. This point is not relevant to the blog, however, a point that is, is it makes me wonder why he can be so publicly committed and outward about making peace yet so privately hiding another conviction. The irony is quite apparent. Like all Canadians, I’m also glad James is safe.

    Rochelle: Elisa, I really can’t accept your biblical cherry-picking, sorry. “1 man, 1 woman”, unless you’re a biblical patriarch, or unless you’re a follower of Jesus and it was generally recommended that you not marry at all. As for God’s discord with homosexuality, I recommend you read your red lettered words of Jesus again and note that he never said one word about homosexuals. He did, however, have a lot to say about people praying in public, condemning the so-called sins of others, and the practice of charging interest. I hope you’re leaving comments on the blogs of the pro-prayer in schools crowd, the blindly righteous, and anyone working in a bank. I’m waiting for the day that modern Christians wake up to the fact that their most burning issues are the ones they’re creating in their own heads, not ones dictated by any set of ancient documents. Get back to me when you can prove to me that a ban on homosexual love and devotion makes up the text of one of the ten commandments.

    You want to talk about irony? The fact that you’re searching the internet while people are starving is ironic, since Jesus said give away all your stuff and follow me. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, does that ring a bell? What’s ironic is that you’re so sure in your Christian righteousness that you’re missing the whole bloody point of your religion. The point is love. Not hatred, not accusations, not righteousness. Yeah, it will be ironic for you when Jesus comes back to earth as a gay, black, homeless man with AIDS. Because you would have scorned him already three times today.

  10. I have enjoyed reading these comments although I find the comments by “upset” a little strange. My own response to upset wouldn’t have been as bang-on as your Rochelle. Well done.

  11. Thank you for this wonderful, uplifting article. I am filled with gratitude for what all these men gave and what is given by those whose names I don’t know. I attribute Tom Fox’s love, courage, faith and peace to God and am deeply inspired by the depths of his love. I give thanks to God for what is God’s – courage, love, peace, perseverence and humbleness. I give thanks to God for the safe return of James, Harmeet, Norman, Jill Caroll and others. I grieve for the loss of those who crossed over while giving thanks for the presence of courage, love, understanding and caring within them. I wanted to respond to the first post in here, but I learn so much from Jim Loney about trying our best to walk the path of Jesus and forgiving ourselves and others for the complexities and paradoxes of our human institutions and human selves. I don’t think Jim wants people defending him so I hesitate to do so. I learn instead from him not rushing to defend himself against misunderstanding in main stream media that walking the path of Jesus means humbleness and accepting that some people might misunderstand us, that’s it’s not about ego or being free from the pain of being misunderstood, but about doing the best we can as the flawed and limited humans we are to let Jesus work through our hands. I learn from Jim to be gentle with myself for my own humanness and limitations. I reflect often on what he says about Jesus, that “Jesus asks us to accept suffering before we inflict hurt.” I wonder if this is in part why Jim prefers to continue on with his life work rather than try to defend his name or purposes against accusations in The National Post or elsewhere. I love what Jim wrote about having failed. I don’t think he failed at all, but was in awe of his humbleness. I am in awe of the Spirit of Christ moving in the world, in all of us over the earth. I give thanks for the Spirit of Christ and for the courage of Tom Fox and all people who find the grace and strength to do what they believe to be right with a bigger picture in mind than ego. I feel such immense peace when I hear Jim Loney’s voice. Welcome home Jim and thank you for Christ’s love that flows through you.

    Rochelle: Thank you for sharing these thoughts with me. I too am humbled by Jim Loney. Good for him for ignoring accusations; he’s a great man and I’m glad we have him to look up to.

  12. What I learn from Jim and many others is that the love of Jesus is perfect love that we humans aspire to. We don’t have to pretend to be perfect or argue about our actions or choices. We don’t have to convince others that our hearts are in the right place. The love of Jesus and the love God is perfect love, but we humans can only do our best with our human limitations. We don’t have to pretend to be perfect or try so hard to be understood in order to know that God’s love is perfect. When Jim wrote that he failed and that he will fail again, he gave all of us permission to admit our human failings and limitations while still believing absolutely in grace, kindness, the path of Jesus and the love of God. God didn’t fail, but we will and we can accept our imperfect selves in an imperfect world. I felt immense peace and freedom in Jim’s piece “From the Tomb” because he gave me permission to praise God and to give unto God what is God’s without needing to take on defending our flawed human organizations. What I learn from Jim’s approach to the media attention is that we are not called to defend our actions to other humans, but rather we are called to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6). I look at Jim’s accepting his own imperfection or failure, in his words, as an act of peace. Rather than escalate or participate in an argument about his actions, he let it go and accepted failure in order to keep the focus on loving God. I was so moved by his article “From the Tomb” because it helped me find freedom and peace with our imperfect human organizations. Jim taught me by example, not only in doing what he believed to be right in going to Iraq but also in his statements and article since returning home, that being a Christian does not mean having to defend our flawed selves or social justice organizations, but rather to keep the emphasis on loving, serving and celebrating God. We are not perfect but the love and teachings of Christ and God are. We continue to find healing and renewal in the teachings of God and the love of Jesus. We continue to give our best and as Jim says, we will fail again. In believing that he failed or in handling complexity in this way, Jim Loney showed me how to put the emphasis and credit where it belongs with God, how to diffuse conflict by not escalating it and how to side step unnecessary argument about self or ego in order to give our energy into the real issues of working to end war, poverty and oppression, as the flawed humans we are seeking the love and example of Jesus.

  13. Hi.
    Quick FYI update on Jim Loney and his partner Dan Hunt:
    Next Tuesday at a banquet being held during Toronto’s Gay Pride Week, Jim and Dan are being honoured with Pride Toronto’s “FEARLESS” Award. Just thought that you might be interested in knowing this!
    – Toronto Catholic Worker Community Member

  14. In Tom Fox’s blog he spoke of bringing about the peaceable realm of God. There is a beautiful reflection on his feelings around the murder of an aid worker, Margaret. Tom describes how aid workers and all people of all faiths in all parts of the world letting light flow through them are like candles in the shadows, how sometimes a candle might burn out from overwork or be snuffed out by being killed, but how other candles come in to take its place until light is shining in the shadows. What I got from his words is a sense that light, love, peace, strength, courage and grace are from God, but killing or the energy that leads to it is from a sense of separation from God.


  15. I can’t remember exactly where I read these words by Tom, but in one reflection he says that “If I am called on to make the ultimate sacrifice, I trust that God will give me the grace to do so.” The first response from Greg asks a really good question about God’s will and grace. The way I see it and the way Tom might have seen it is that the grace and light of God are what move us to be non violent, courageous and give our lives or risk our lives in altruism, but deaths from human made disasters or war are the result of a falling away from God. I believe that Tom’s trust in God gave him the courage and grace to give his life to help bring about peace by being an example of calm, kind, mature, non violence. The killing is not from God, but giving our lives to God is all a part of the light. Being willing to take Jesus at his word is trusting God. I don’t think that God wants people to kill one another, but God does invite us to put our lives at risk at times to live an example of pure, forgiving, kind, non violence without ego.

    Fight or Flight is another good blog entry by Tom Fox


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