Friday, February 25, 2005

Just in case you needed something over which to weep and gnash your teeth...

I ran across this web posting almost by accident. Check it out: it is an Iraqi Christian blog, but reproduces photos of a military rally held at a Baptist church in Kentucky.

I think it is especially shocking given how much we purport to scrupulously maintain separation of church and state, and decry the eliding of faith and politics that we claim to see in Islam. Ironically, to the degree that I understand Islam -- and I don't claim it is much -- they actually have rationales internal to their tradition which would underwrite Islamic government. In fact, it is the outside imposition of Western-style "secular" governments which dissolved the Islamic Empire (at least in the Islamic memory and imagination), and have brought about the sorts of problems and disparities that we find causing so much trouble today.

I'm not entirely sure that the Christian tradition underwrites the sort of "separation" (and I really must use quotation marks here) of church and state that we claim to have here in America. But I am much more certain that the "secular" state values it, and is more than happy to transgress that line when it is convenient, and insist on respecting it when that is convenient.

There was a time when Christians were prohibited from serving in the military...now we are thought of as prime targets for recruitment. Since when did blind obedience to the State, blood-thirstiness, and willingness to kill others when so instructed, become Christian virtues? Even for those Christians not inclined to pacifism, who would countenance fighting a defense war, or a conflict which satisfied the criteria of "just war" -- how can we so eagerly embrace a war which seems motivated by opportunistic expansion of empire? Can war for the protection -- or expansion -- of consumer markets be far behind?

John Howard Yoder used to hang a poster on his door where he taught which read "a modest proposal: that all the Christians of the world refuse to kill other Christians." Some students would come up to him with righteous anger, claiming that this was typical, disgusting Christian self-regard. His response would be "Hey, it's a start." If American Christians and Iraqi Christians (or Christians anywhere) would start by refusing to kill each other, we would have to find other means of operating in the world.

Stanley Hauerwas, in an essay compiled in one of his books, made the (typically controversial) claim that homosexuals (as a class of people) are more virtuous than Christians (as a class of people). His basis for this claim was the fact that the military was dubious about whether gays could serve effectively, but did not seem to doubt that Christians could kill people and break things when so ordered.

I know this post has rambled around more than most, but the photos and church bulletin made me want to gag and cry at the same time. Even for those Christians not inclined to pacifism -- and I suppose I am in a minority here -- it seems that this kind of uncritical mixing of overt military promotion and Christian fellowship ought to raise some very serious questions about what difference it makes to follow Jesus as Lord.

God have mercy on us all.

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Blogger Caleb said...

Well, I didn't really need more to weep and gnash about, but I clicked the link anyway. Painful.

There is a telling line in the bulletin: "Porter Memorial Baptist Church wishes to say 'Thank you!!!!!' for making our nation free to worship God."

The line caught my eye because it's the closest I think the bulletin comes to wrestling with why all of this hoopla is okay. Now, there are many problems one could point out with this rationale (high on the list might be, how does the war in Iraq have anything to do with the freedom of religion?), but the most painful thing about it is the idea that as Christians, we need a nation to keep us free to worship God -- that our freedom to worship the God who is free depends on our physical safety. That idea, I think, is the seed for many poisonous hybrids of Christianity and patriotism. (That was dramatic, but I'm weeping and gnashing here.)

Saturday, February 26, 2005 2:49:00 AM  

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