The military machine is ravaging Fallujah in yet another “final clamp down” in neighborhoods not unlike our own. I worry about the people there who are like my mother, bedridden and on oxygen – she could never simply “leave the city,” as Allawi and his U.S. masters callously commanded women and children to do if they wanted to survive. I worry about the poor kids whose parents have no money and no car. I worry about the scared boys and girls in uniform who won’t be breathing next weekend, all so that Bush can “win” by showing that he can control Fallujah. It hurts to know what’s happening to human beings a world away, yet be unable to stop what Christians once consider the worst kind of sin:
“The media representation of this war will be from a distance: shots of the city skyline illuminated by the flashes of bomb blasts, the dull crump of explosions. What will be left to our imagination is the terror of children crouching behind mud walls; the agony of those crushed under falling masonry; the frantic efforts to save lives in makeshift operating theatres with no electricity and few supplies….
“The reality is that a city can never be adequately described as a ‘militants’ stronghold.’ It’s a label designed to stiffen the heart of a soldier, but it is blinding us, the democracies that have inflicted this war, to the consequences of our actions. Fallujah is still home to thousands of civilians. The numbers who have fled the prospective assault vary, but there could be 100,000 or more still in their homes. Typically, as in any war, those who don’t get out of the way are a mixture of the most vulnerable – the elderly, the poor, the sick; the unlucky, who left it too late to get away….”
– “Screams Will Not Be Heard,” The Guardian, Nov. 8, 2004
Few people in America, like those in this Southern, conservative-Christian, military area, have any idea that kids and old folks in Iraq are being killed, or that families are being split apart because of our “pro-life,” “pro-family” president’s zeal to control Iraq. Or, if they do, they’ll simply repeat, “I’d rather we take the killing over there, than risk it happening here.” So much for loving thy neighbor or praying for enemies – this kind of Christianity is all about self-preservation and the ends justifying the means. I always tell newcomers that if they want to know the culture they should read the signs – the signs on cars, that is. That’s where one can quickly learn what pro-war Christianity is all about.
There are a zillion or so “W” and “Bush/Cheney” stickers along every roadway and in every parking lot. These adorn windows and bumpers and trunks, serenely nestled next to flags, Marine decals, “Power of Pride” bumper stickers and yellow ribbons that say, “Support Our Troops.” Pickup trucks have entire rear windows blanketed with large American flags, in the center of which are superimposed large, peeved-looking eagles glaring suspiciously out at the world.
Also on these bumpers are Christian Broadcasting Network stickers warning against gay marriage, affixed next to or beneath “In Case of Rapture This Car Will Be Unmanned” and “One Nation Under God!” Not to be outdone by all the U.S. flags, large Confederate flag stickers explain, “It’s a White Thang.” All of these, in an entertaining array of combinations, keep company with personalized license plates that preach, “Chrst 4You” or “Im 4Givn” or “Repnt Now.”
My, what a brave new Christianity we have here in Bush’s America!
Letting It All Hang Out
Since the election, I’ve noticed a new sense of liberation in churchgoing Bush supporters. Some of these changes I noticed right after Mr. Bush’s triumphal announcement that he has “a mandate” to do as he pleases. As in the Ghostbusters scene where all the demons are unleashed the moment the controls were released, when one evil is loosed the others are never far behind.
With their man securely positioned in the White House, pro-war folks are feeling freer to let it all hang out. They are “emboldened,” ready to put an end to any tedious sensitivities about offending liberals or blacks or Arabs or women or environmentalists or vegetarians or whomever. This is the new conservative era, I’m told: No more need to bother with sounding tolerant or “fair and balanced.” No more beating around the bush, as is clear from these statements I’ve heard in recent days:
“Yes, we’re fighting a holy war – by God we’ve got to, and we’re the only nation on earth that’s the Light of the World, and that’s got the power to win. In Islam, they teach their kids to hate….”
“Well yes, I voted for Bush because my pastor told me to – why not? If we don’t vote our values, we’re not being Christian. And Bush is against gay marriage….”
“Let’s face it, crime is caused by the blacks, and they’re overrunning us. The way they multiply, pretty soon they’ll be in the majority. And that’s not even counting the Hispanics….”
“Civilian casualties? Listen, we’re liberating those people from a cruel dictator….”
“God approves of war, it’s all through the Old Testament. As for Jesus, he’s the Son of God, and he died for our sins, but his teachings were spiritual, they weren’t meant for governments. Anyway, we shouldn’t expect to have peace in this life….”
I guess we’ve got that one covered: No peace on earth, good will to men in this life, not in the next four years anyway. What many of us have been wondering is, how did Christianity get so perverted, so tainted with white-supremacist thinking, so liberal in its attitudes toward violence, so mired in paranoia, hostility, nationalism, and aggression? Who will speak out against this perversion of our faith?
Taking A Stand Against the Theology of War
“The Marines that have been killed over the last five months have been killed by a faceless enemy. The enemy there has a face, and it’s called Satan, and it lives in Fallujah.”
“The fight against Jewish world Bolshevization requires a clear attitude toward Soviet Russia. You cannot drive out the Devil with Beelzebub.”
“With satanic joy in his face, the black-haired Jewish youth lurks in wait for the unsuspecting girl whom he defiles with his blood, thus stealing her from her people.”– Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (chap. 2, vol. 2; chap. 11)
It’s so much easier to get kids to kill other kids when you tell them they’re fighting “a faceless enemy” who’s “called Satan” and “lives in Fallujah.” Moral values are hard for Christians to give up, unless one first tinkers with the tenets of their religion. And the first thing that has to be gotten rid of, or at least neutralized, is Jesus.
And so it is that Christ-free Christianity has slithered into our churches, and is aiding and abetting this terrorizing war on terror. When Christians get sucked into the “spiritual consumer” view of Jesus as (1) sweet but impractical, and (2) primarily useful as their ticket to heaven, Christianity becomes exceedingly dangerous to other people, to the earth, and – in the long run – to ourselves.
Without Jesus as its anchor, Christianity loses its moral center. Moral relativism, wherein it’s not okay to kill Americans but it’s perfectly okay to kill “those people,” is the result. Christians must resist this downward spiral – the process that evangelical preachers call “backsliding.”
Distinguished Christian scholars across the U.S. have come together to sign an important new document titled, “Confessing Christ in a World of Violence.” This statement takes a stand against the “theology of war” that has infected Christianity. It should be read aloud in every church in the nation – including and especially those in which congregations were told to vote for George Bush and to support his wars. If pastors refuse to allow this statement to be read and discussed, we ought to ask: Why not? What are they afraid of? Why is it okay to revel in the passion of Christ’s death, but not in the passions of his life?
While many, many people, Christians included, agonize over the daily loss of lives, others have been seduced into going along with the bloodshed and the undercurrent of racism (sometimes conscious, sometimes not) that makes savage attacks such as the one now underway in Fallujah possible. (In all honesty, would Americans tolerate the bombing of blondes?)
For pro-war diehards, a renewed sense of vindication and power is letting loose a lot of scary things that had, prior to the election, been held in check. Now more than ever, people of conscience need to stand up for the “Christ” in “Christianity,” refuting the lie that when it comes to war, terrorism and other man-made evils, his teachings are irrelevant. As the Confession affirms, “a time comes when silence is betrayal.”