Sunday, September 23, 2007

Since when did Jesus.......

Since when did Jesus become pro-war and pro-American, and an Evangelical Christian (and by extension dismissive of all of the other non-Evangelical peoples of the world)?

If you cite Jesus' teachings on peace (which are multiple in the New Testament), and turning the other cheek, resisting violence, you usually now get a couple of likely responses.

One is that you are somehow espousing "liberal" Christian values (not REAL American Christian values).

Another is that that may have been OK for "the old times" (i.e. first century Palestine) where times weren't as difficult - you know that 9/11 changed "everything".

Still another is that these are "sentimental" thoughts, and are not based in any kind of "reality".

Another along similar lines is that those are only meant as SUGGESTIONS to try to strive for, but being imperfect, sinful people, we are not able to attain that level. So, then we have to try to come up with a workable solution for war (thus coming up with the Just War Theory).

The US war in Iraq, in the opinion of a lot of Christians (including me) does not at all meet even one criteria for the Just War Theory (a. the damage inflicted by the aggressor to the nation or community of nations would be lasting, serious and certain; b. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical and ineffective; c. all serious conditions for success must be present; d. the use of arms must not involve more serious evils and disorders than those to be eliminated - this is an excerpt from Life in Christ, A Catechism for Adult Catholics by Father Gerard Weber and James Killgallon).

And, to apply it to the situation in Iran (and the talk that is happening of an imminent attack), I think is just as problematic.

You get a good idea of Jesus teaching in Luke chapter 9 (51-56 - if it sounds far fetched, and you don't believe it, look it up for yourself) where his disciples James and John are essentially asking Jesus if they can fire bomb a dissident village (sounds familiar doesn't it? You are either with us or against us, we need to use pre-emptive war to do it to them before they can do it to us, etc).

Jesus tells them "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is NOT COME TO DESTROY MEN'S LIVES (emphasis mine), but to save them."

Then, they went to another village. His disciples throughout his life and ministry always bought into the idea of a Messiah of raw power and strength, and they were waiting for Jesus to manifest those characteristics. Further, they wanted him to overthrow the occupying force at that time in their lives (the Romans).

Jesus did not "effect regime change" of the Romans then. Why? Instead, he submitted himself to them, "let" them prosecute him and kill him (all the while saying that if he wanted to, he could have destroyed them).

A lot of folks say, well, this is like World War II in the late 1930's. Saddam, Iran's President, Syria's President, Osama are like Hitler, and need to be stopped so "it" doesn't happen again. The truth of the matter is that all of those guys are like giggling school girls compared to Hitler.

And, for the foreseeable future, they will remain as such.

That is not to say that there are not times when it IS appropriate to protect ourselves. But it seems that in all of these recent wars we have ONLY considered OUR safety, and not the safety or concerns of the rest of the world. That is a result of arrogance and hubris (and an unreasonable amount of fear stoked by a opportunity seeking Administration, and a compliant media (both the main stream media and alternative conservative media - i.e. Fox, Rush, Glenn Beck, Coulter, etc, or what should be referred to as "The Axis of Evil"), and the idea that Americans are somehow "special" (and that specialness means that God loves us more) and every one else is not somehow "special".

If you are a Christian, you either believe God is in charge (and not needing any "help" from us), or you don't (and believe that God needs the "help" from us in the way of military intervention).

May not change any staunch minds, but it is at least something to consider.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Iraq thoughts

A week ago, I watched Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich being interviewed on 60 minutes.

I believe that all the Marines except him have had the charges dropped in the killings in Haditha.

I believe that eventually, the same will happen for him. All the pro-war folks who say these guys are "innocent" will gloat and say that democracy has triumphed, and will demand apologies for the trial proceedings these Marines had to go through, and the defamation of their character.

That doesn't change the fact that 24 people are dead, some of them women and children. If that does not disturb you fellow American ("pro-life" Christian?), then I really have to wonder about you. These were people with hopes, dreams, ideas. These were people who loved, and people loved them. Everyone associated with them (family members, friends, business associates) are now MORE likely to become a part of the resistance toward the occupation of their country by foreign invaders.

Of course most Americans don't think of Iraqi's like that because to most Americans, they are the "enemy" (and most Americans don't want to think in terms of non-Americans as having the same hopes dreams and family lives as themselves)

The first five people killed were in a car. They were dragged out of the car, and according to Wuterich, they wouldn't do what they were supposed to do (i.e. docilely submit to the occupying force). He said, they (the Iraqi's) know what the deal is, and they weren't doing it. Eventually, supposedly they were fleeing, so they were killed. In the end, according to reports, they were just a bunch of guys in a car.

Can we see how ironic this is? We are supposedly there to be "spreading Democracy", and we are dragging people out of cars and shooting them.

Then, the patrol began taking rifle fire. Without seeing any indication of where the rifle fire was coming from, they set upon a row of houses, because, according to Wuterich that was the only possible place the fire could be coming from. This is where the bulk of the killings occurred. According to Wuterich's OWN WORDS on 60 minutes (not some liberal anti-war zealot, or some liberal news commentator), they opened the door and tossed grenades in to the room, NOT KNOWING WHO OR WHAT was in there.

I don't necessarily believe that the Marines killed these people in a pre-meditated manner and ruthlessly in "cold blood". To contemplate that they did that is a horrible thing. It tears at my soul to believe it would be possible (although I admit that it MIGHT be). These are guys who up till a few years ago had no more important things to worry about than drinking beer on a Friday night, playing football, and trying to hit on the honeys.

Being at the pointy end of the empire, facing down a hostile population, chafing under a foreign occupation, these things are going to continue to happen. I can't even imagine the fear, and the wondering of if you are going to survive from one day to the next, and survive long enough to get home to see your loved ones - this is why I find it hard to condemn them.

I recently completed reading Dr. William Polk's fabulous book Understanding Iraq (

In the book, he asks the question that with all of these things happening, including Abu Grahib, do Iraqi's see a QUALITATIVE difference in their lives under Saddam, and their lives under an occupying force saying they are here to spread democracy?

Certainly, infrastructure wise (i.e. electricity, sewage, clean water), they are not even back to pre-war levels after almost 5 years of war - and oh, by the way, WE are the ones who laid waste to their infrastructure.

Can Americans not see how ironic it is that we are supposedly spreading Democracy while doing the kinds of things we are doing in Iraq?

The "surge" was supposed to quell violence long enough for political reconciliation to take place. The jury is way out if the violence has been reduced. Clearly though, political reconciliation is NOT happening. The Iraqi's view their government as a joke - a US puppet. This is why they cannot get any unity or any reconciliation, especially from minority Sunni's.

Until the high level political stuff clicks, unfortunately despite some heroic work by our long suffering troops, not many of their efforts will amount to much. The two things are totally disconnected - the US presence on the ground, and the high level political happenings. Are their efforts making the lives in certain pockets of the country of Iraq better? There is no question that is probably true.

Does it matter in the grand scheme of things? Probably not.

I was pretty angry watching the 60 minutes piece. I had a hard time feeling much anger towards Sgt Wuterich though.

The people who should be on trial for recklessly plunging the US into an unwinnable war - the President and the Vice President (both of whom avoided active military service during their generation's war in Vietnam - Cheney saying that he had "other priorities" - we should NEVER forget that the persons sending our young men and women into harms way didn't think enough of their country to do the same) are sitting safely in their residences Washington DC.

And, the general consensus is that despite all of the bad news coming out of Iraq at how badly the war is going, and how it is reducing our military (and our nation's financial health) by the day, a lot of people feel that they are getting ready to engage ANOTHER country in a military action - Iran. How long can these "cowboys" be allowed to get away with this stuff?

There is no one who has the courage to stop them.