Thu, 10 Aug 2006

Snap Out of It!

Hearty, sincere thanks to whichever intelligence and law enforcement people saved the lives of hundreds (thousands?) of air travelers by busting the latest Islamist plot today.

Thanks also to the Anchoress for talking more sensibly than many whose sites I've visited since the story broke:

How about for the day, and for the immediate days before us, some of us drop the agendas, drop the cynicism, drop the paranoid theories, drop the conspiracy theories, drop the profound generalizations, drop the hate and drop the idea that what we are dealing with is easy, simple or uncomplicated, or that its solution may be found in the promotion or demotion of a man in Washington or a man in Britain (If only they would listen to you!)

And how about we Christians stay focused on the shepherd who is the solution we have to offer the world? Remember him?

17:21 (file under /topics/wot)

Thu, 29 Jul 2004


Sgt. Stryker has a fertile screed, with very thoughtful comments, on how the War on Terror has turned into a conventional political horse race, with consequences that will be measured in fatalities more than votes. Excerpt:

Do you want to know why I'm an independent? It's because you conservatives and liberals are a stupid and silly people. You bicker and posture as if we have all the time in the world to defeat international terrorism. You say we're at war and things need to be done right now when it's politically convenient for you to do so, but you carry-on as if we're still at peace. We have Americans dying overseas while they're obstensibly trying to protect you, but all you can do is paint them as either untouchable heroes or pathetic victims. You can't seriously debate the course of this war because for you, this isn't a war against international terrorism, this is a war about personalities, specifically one personality: George W. Bush. For you, this isn't a real war with real consequences, this is just another phoney war of opinion. You aren't conservatives and liberals, you're Phobos and Deimos: Fear and Panic.

But "God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but a spirit of power and love and self-control" (2 Tim. 1:7).

That should make a difference. That does make a difference. If the world isn't seeing it in us, then we aren't being faithful. We aren't being true independents. We aren't representing a Christ who freed his followers from fear and panic. "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship" (Rom. 8:15).

More details to come, in that sermon I promised you.

Hat tip: Donald Sensing, whose post and comments are also worth reading.

12:31 (file under /topics/wot)

Thu, 10 Jun 2004

American Theology

A friend sent me a link to an article by Jim Wallis in Sojourners about the political theology of George W. Bush. Since I already replied to it, why not convert it into a blog entry?

This is the heart of Wallis' argument:

In our own American history, religion has been lifted up for public life in two very different ways. One invokes the name of God and faith in order to hold us accountable to God's intentions – to call us to justice, compassion, humility, repentance, and reconciliation. Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin King perhaps best exemplify that way. Lincoln regularly used the language of scripture, but in a way that called both sides in the Civil War to contrition and repentance. Jefferson said famously, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."
The other way invokes God's blessing on our activities, agendas, and purposes. Many presidents and political leaders have used the language of religion like this, and George W. Bush is falling prey to that same temptation.

I agree with the heart of Wallis' argument, but he gives up all the ground he has gained by the way he develops it. Wallis is right about the basic dichotomy there. However, Lincoln obviously falls into the second camp as well as the first. He and his fellow civil warriors used religious language even more ambitiously than Bush. Exhibit A is The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which takes over apocalyptic language for the Union cause in simply staggering ways. Many of the Founding Fathers did the same, in ways that strike my evangelical students today as blasphemous. A New Republic article in 1998 reported that James Madison called America's founding documents "political scriptures," and John Quincy Adams borrowed the language of Deuteronomy 6:7-9 to urge his countrymen to

teach the [Constitution's] principles, teach them to your children, speak of them when sitting in your home, speak of them when walking by the way, when lying down and when rising up, write them upon the doorplate of your home and upon your gates

I'm listening for humility, but I'm not hearing it.

Wallis' singling out of George W. Bush is historically naive and simplistic – which is what I have learned to expect from the left nowadays, even the Christian left.

I believe Bush probably thinks 9/11 presses the issue of policing the world in a way that forces America to fulfill God's intentions that rulers wield the sword for justice. That makes his vision Lincolnesque. It is possible for someone who confuses the Kingdom of God and the United States of America to frame the Iraq War in terms of justice [to UN resolutions and to the Kurds and others who have suffered from Baathism], compassion [to the dead and suffering of Iraq and to the victims of Iraqi-sponsored terrorism, for instance the Palestinian terrorism overtly paid for by Saddam], humility [accepting a leadership role in the War on Terror that Al-Qaeda and its partners forced on the U.S.], repentance [for poor leadership in the Middle East, past support and complicity with Saddam, and failure to follow through in 1991], and even reconciliation [in rebuilding the country politically and economically]. Note well: I am not saying that these are the best ways to frame them. Nevertheless, advocates of the war and of an assertive leadership of the War on Terror have been framing these arguments in these ways, just as Wallis has been framing leftish policies in the same terms. Just as Lincoln framed the Machiavellian actions he took in the Civil War.

If Wallis can't see this, it is because he only hangs out with fellow left-wingers who have lost their perspective on Bush at least as badly as right-wingers lost their perspective on Clinton. Bush's political theology is just the latest in a long American tradition that is as liberal as it is conservative.

Moreover, adding a dose of Niebuhrian humility/contrition/defeatism doesn't turn American policies into divine intentions. Sure Lincoln felt terrible. Does Wallis really think Bush, or any president for that matter, doesn't regret the suffering involved in accomplishing his objectives?

It's too bad Wallis surrendered to the Manichaean temptations of anti-Bushism, because at the heart he is dead right: the choice before disciples of Jesus Christ is God's intentions or America's. Military victory never substitutes for cross-bearing. What Wallis needs is a firmer appreciation of the fact that neither the left nor the right – and neither America nor Europe – is free from deep self-deception regarding whose intentions are whose.

17:41 (file under /topics/wot)
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