Who is that marvellous actress who plays the silly mother in the classic BBC version (1995) of Pride and Prejudice? You remember her. As she is desperately trying to marry off her five daughters to make her old age secure, she alternately admires and despises all the eligible young men who come around. She admires them in proportion as they appear successful, and she despises them when they refuse to fit her expectations for her daughters. (If it has been a while since you saw this beautifully crafted story, reflect back on those hilarious scenes. If you have not yet had the pleasure of seeing it, you owe it to yourself to see the entire 6-episode series as soon as you can.)
Her particular favorite is the young officer, Wickham. She falls in love with his smooth speech, but especially with his vivid red dress uniform; and even when he proves to be a moral degenerate and seduces her daughter, she is willing to forgive him everything, and thinks it fully appropriate that other, more honorable men should have to step in and pay off his prodigal (and prodigious) debts.
What an apt representative she is of the American "conservative" evangelical church -- shallow, silly, ignorant, self-absorbed, and unteachable. Surrounded by a family who love her and care for her, she insists on falling for appearances and swoons over the military.
The "culture-warrior" set that runs the evangelical church/media doesn't like to talk about "blowback" -- the idea that America is being resisted and even attacked by people who have themselves been victimized by an American foreign policy that is as greedy, self-serving, violent, interfering, and condescending as the British Empire that preceded it.
So, since they don't want to talk about it, let's forget about past American foreign policy and past blowback. Let us forget that America entered into a "war of liberation" in Iraq and didn't know the difference between a Sunni and a Shia -- and doesn't know or care to this day. Let's forget about the past. (Should be easy -- anything over ten years ago is ancient history.)
Instead, I propose that we have a talk about how the American military, with the full support of the American church, has been blowing it forward on lots of pretty helpless people; is doing so now; and has plans to do so for the foreseeable future. In any country where we introduce coercive force (military or clandestine), this particularly affects the local Christians, who in most places are politically weak and in some places are already politically suspect.
We could talk about the prospects for the Christians in Korea, or in Iran, if we wanted to borrow trouble. But let's not borrow trouble. Let us restrict ourselves to current events.
I am thinking specifically about the Christians in Iraq. The Assyrian church has existed since the time of the Apostles in the first century. It has a two-thousand year history that includes: welcoming and protecting Christian refugees from the persecutions of the Roman emperors; surviving the onslaughts of Islam; spreading the gospel to India, Mongolia, and China; sending representatives to the Council of Nicea and later councils where the canon of Holy Scripture was recognized; and much, much else.
What American evangelical Christians, whether pastors or laymen, either know or care about the Assyrian church? Did you read about them in history? Did your pastor seriously and respectfully study their history and doctrines in seminary? Have you had any meaningful fellowship with them in your strategy conferences on "world missions"?
Do you understand what a disaster has been created in Iraq for both Christian and non-Christian citizens? Do you understand that this disaster will be repeated and multiplied for every country where we send armed agents of the military-industrial complex?
When your children are seduced by Mr. Wickham, will you laugh and forgive him, because he looks so handsome in a uniform -- so military -- so virile? How long do you want your children put at risk, how many of them do you want to die for Mr. Wickham's sins? How many of my children?
Whatever may have happened on 9/11, blowback or otherwise, I implore you to think about next time. The American church's cavalier attitude has been blowing it forward, sowing the wind for these many years. President Bush would never have invaded Iraq if he hadn't been sure of the enthusiastic support of his "conservative, Christian" base. President Obama would have long since stopped the war in Iraq and Afghanistan if Christians had outspokenly urged him to do so with the same seriousness they use in ridiculing him.
Very few people are thinking about the real human beings, and the real body of Christ, in the places that we are strafing and bombing. They are images on a screen, sound bites, part of the scripted narrative of our official history; nothing more.
Because you and I do not know, does the Lord of All Worlds not know? Because you and I do not care -- because we have written these people off as collateral damage -- does the Lord of the Church not care? Does the Lord the Holy Spirit take His cues from our whims, our media, even our seminaries?
I pray for the safety of the American troops. I equally pray for the safety of the people they have been sent to kill; peace for those they have been sent to frighten; and true liberty for those they have been sent to subdue. The only way I know for both prayers to be answered is for the war to be stopped.
I do seriously pray and hope that the reaping of the whirlwind will be restrained. Telling more of the truth, I believe, is one way to move in the right direction.
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(If anyone is interested, I have a theory why we don't know or care about the Assyrian Church. It is just a theory. My theory is that it is because the Assyrian Church has no direct connection with British/Protestantism, which pretty much defines the American evangelical church and any little historical sense it may have.)
Comments pro and con always welcome.