Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blowing It Forward

For my Christian evangelical brothers and sisters.

       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.   

*       *       *

       (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.



  1. Hello. I found your blog thru Future Quake : )

    I agree with almost every point. My only disagreement, one should READ Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice instead of watching the mini-series. It's a fun and delightful read.

    I am utterly perplexed with the evangelical church's total acceptance of the current wars (and the rabid hate & anger one can stir up just by questioning it)

    Every time my church sings the song, A New Hallelujah, I wonder and wonder and wonder how destroying cities and killing civilians is bringing

    " to the nations
    Bringing hope of the grace that has freed us
    Make Him known and make Him famous
    Sing it out sing a new Hallelujah
    let the church Arise
    Let love reach to the other side
    Alive come alive
    Let the song Arise..."

  2. Thanks, castiron, and welcome aboard. You were pretty quick. I had posted this less than a half hour earlier.

    The best term I have heard for what we are talking about is 'cognitive dissonance.' I know that we all have it, or a tolerance for it, to some degree, so we must not be overly judgmental. But the effects can be terrible, as we can see.

    Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy.

  3. Great post, Robert. A lot of American Christians say that America needs to wake up. So do many American Christians. I think that there is a certain patriotism-is-next-to-godliness attitude among many American Christians that disconcerts me greatly. We are just another country like any other country, except bigger and more influential than most. So when did we specifically become God's chosen country? The country whose every war is just, whose military and any Republicans holding office can do no wrong? Why will God, or natural causes, or other nations be kinder to us for our sins than other nations in history?
    I think that a lot of this misconception comes from the deeply ingrained notion that America began with a just war, and was a land marked out for religious freedom, hence God will bless her. But religious persecutions in America started almost instantly, particularly against Catholics. And did the Revolutionary War completely count as a "just war"? Just some questions, so we don't delude ourselves with false concepts of history, or our own place in it.
    Thanks for making us think Robert! As always.



  5. I think there is overwhelming evidence that beyond just being blowback, 9/11 was an inside job. All good propaganda has to be believable, however, and there certainly has been a great deal of resentment brought about by American actions overseas. There certainly are lots of people that hate America--and not for our freedoms. It is impossible to have an accurate understanding of a people/culture/society from thousands of miles away. The illusion that we do understand is a product of mass media propaganda. Recognizing our own ignorance is an important step to realizing that we have no right to be over there killing people.

  6. While the debate on whether 9/11 was an inside or outside job can continue, at the end of the day pl remember that most American foreign policy is based on the policy of 'What is good for American business is good for America'. Consequently the US actions have only earned it enemies around the world. Actions by its allies including Dr AQ Khan's proliferation efforts, supporting the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, the blind support for Israel's policies etc are just a few examples. Ultimately, the rest of the world is not impressed. Most of your foreign affair guys seem to have no clue about the world, except what's written by trashy writers like Tom Clancy. Noone hates you for your freedoms or your way of life; its just that you trample over the rights of others to have a modicum of a right to life.


  7. And to add to the debate, what is most sickening to foreigners (of whom I also am one), is your willingness to pass judgement, trample on us second rate beings, send your troops to bomb us back into the last century and yet claim that this is Divine Right and only the US is empowered to exercise it. Robert made an analysis about the Assyrian Church; Tariq Ali, the Foreign Affair minister in Saddam's regime was one. How about the minorities other than Christians including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc who hold onto frail hopes in these places which you have made so much more unsafe because of your so-called God given right?


  8. Thanks to all for their comments, and may they continue.

    My personal opinion is that the honest opinions of non-Americans who see the consequences of our misguided foreign policies, and are willing to say so, can do a lot of good.

    The vast majority of Americans are faithful followers of the American press when it comes to foreign policy, even when they disagree about domestic politics.

    This is a particular problem for those who think they are trying to be "well informed" by keeping up with the popular press. They honestly think they know.

    One gets the feeling that "I really am living the novel, 1984." Which, in large measure, we are.

    Thanks to all who are trying to shed light on this terrible world-wide situation.

  9. At the end of the day Robert, people who are reaching out to each other across the world, are just a cry in the wilderness. It's very easy to do rabble rousing, wherever we may live.


  10. I agree that our involvement in recent conflicts have had negative consequences. (We began upsetting the balance of power in the mideast when Carter supported a cleric over the Shah.) But your wholesale dismissal of "the conservative, evangelical chuch as silly, shallow, etc. strikes me as a rather caustic viewpoint that fails to recognize the concerned respect and love of country that motivates many of these Christians. As for the military, some thought must be given to those who are willing to lay down their lives, not for a false, vain patriotism, but for ideals such as freedom and justice. Nor do I accept that our country is just one among many. God chooses people and countries to work through. I think our role is to promote and protect the ideals identified in the Constitution -- to be a Rivendell. Our current cultural mores reflect how far we've lost our vision but there are those who still have it and are willing to sacrifice and fight to restore it.Before stray too far from the point, I want to conclude with some quotes by Tolkien on war and justice. I'm going to do it in a separate comment since I was cut off last time.

  11. Pacifism is not realistic in a fallen world.
    "War must be, while we defend oour lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend." -Faramir in The Two Towers

    The War is not over (and the One that is, or the part of it, has largely been lost). But it is of course wrong to fall into such a mood for wars are always lost, and War always goes on, and it is no good growing faint." Tolkien commenting on the end of WWII

  12. Re Sharon's comment. Ok, from your viewpoint, I am a foreigner, and also a non Christian. But I have the perspective of the outsider seeing the effects of your actions. I absolutely refuse to accept the argument that God is working his way through the United States. When I see the effects of your business interests, the suffering due to the sickening and humiliating neoliberal policies insisted upon by the Bretton Wood twins, the effects of your misadventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, the effects of all your friends including Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc in the Middle East. You can't tell me so much suffering is due to the will of God. It looks like an ill guided Crusade like those in the Middle Ages, put the infidel to the sword and the flame stuff.

    I'd just suggest another link to what a US soldier has written.


  13. America is also the biggest giver of humanitarian far.

  14. The American people can be charitable and humanitarian, and for this we can be glad.

    The American people seem to be less aware that the US Government is distinctly ANTI-humanitarian. In the twelve years that separated Iraq War I from Iraq War II, the US Gov, primarily under Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright, intentionally sanctioned Iraq (read, legally equivalent to blockade; read, legally equivalent to act of war), specifically including FORBIDDING Iraq from receiving basic MEDICINE. When confronted with the fact that this had cost Iraq the deaths of over 500,000 citizens, mostly women and small children, Mrs. Albright dismissed the subject; "We think it is worth it." She considered the case closed.

    While "America" may or may not be humanitarian, depending on how you mean it -- it is certain that major elements in the US Government are NOT.

    And the mistreatment of Iraq is not an isolated case.

    Please read "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," by John Perkins.