Sunday, September 12, 2010

Liberal Pacifism is Not Biblical; It is Embarasingly Shallow

William Willimon, in a Christianity Today interview, discusses the question of whether or not the US should stay militarily involved in Afghanistan.

"After an acrimonious debate about the Iraq war at the United Methodist Church's annual conference a couple of years ago, I declared a series of "Bishop's Conversations about War" all over Alabama.

I'll never do that again. I opened each discussion by saying, "We are going to talk about this war as Christians." I soon learned that it is virtually impossible for us to talk about war using any specifically biblical or Christian referent.

Most people were in favor of the war. We are a democracy; we are powerful; we have a responsibility to spread freedom and democracy around the world; when our government calls, we have a patriotic duty to offer our children. Missing was any reference to Scripture, church teaching, or any other specifically Christian criterion.

. . .

As a Christian, I'm forced to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and that all presumptive lordlets are not. So when our President declares that we have a responsibility to fight, to destroy, to force democracy and our brand of freedom anywhere, I wish I had the guts to ask, "Who is this 'we' of whom you speak? We are Christians; Jesus gives us some odd definitions of 'we.'"

I'm not sure that Christians in America could do much to stop these Bush-Obama Near Eastern wars without end. But could we have at least contributed to the national debate by offering an occasional, "But Jesus says that …"?

In our attempts to be good, responsible members of a democracy, we have given away the store. While we say Jesus Christ is Lord, we let Caesar call the shots."

Now, where to start. CT asked a perfectly coherent, though difficult, question regarding American foreign policy which can be discussed ethically. Willimon ducked that discussion and, like a fundamentalist who waves his proof text in your face insisting that it says so right here, he assumes (not argues) that Jesus would tell his followers to tell the US government to withdraw immediately from Afghanistan and that the US should never have invaded in the first place.

So let's try to imagine Willimon's Jesus saying what Willimon thinks he would say. Here is how I think it would go:

War is bad; killing people is bad and you ought not to do it. You should join a liberal peace and justice group right away to lobby the US government to withdraw from Afghanistan and stop fighting the terrorists in the mountains of Pakistan as well.

If you would just read the Four Gospels and look at how I never stopped talking about the oppressive power of Rome and the need to lobby Caesar to stop the war in Persia, the war in Gaul and the endless, expensive and totally unnecessary border skirmishes with the so-called "barbarians," you would have to re-order your priorities. I told you the barbarians were just people with a culture different from your own whom you should respect instead of demonizing as the "other."

As you know, I was against this war from the beginning. Overthrowing the Taliban was a huge mistake. Sure they blew up Buddhist statues, practiced female genital mutilation and trained terrorists to fly planes into buildings but who are you to act like your culture is superior? Every time you overthrow an oppressive, violent, tyrannical government you just stir up the Muslim street and create a recruiting bonanza for radical Islam.

All that stuff I ordered you to do like preaching the gospel, baptizing and teaching them to obey can wait. This is more important. You aren't going to bring peace to the world by evangelism and catechism, you need a PR strategy, a manifesto and computerized voter lists. Above all, you must remember to demonize Bush; the polls say there is still value in it. Have some famous sports figure record a robo call. Organize a march on the White House; that is where all the power is.

I'll be waiting to hear how it goes because I really want peace and you know that politics is the only way, the only truth and the only way of life. And you can't do politics up here where I am.


Liberal pacifism is the attempt to impose the Christian life upon secular nation states as if would be appropriate for such states to act like Christian pacifists and renounce their obligation to defend the nation by force, which is why God ordains human government during the period of human history in which the effects of the Fall have yet to be reversed by the Second Coming of Christ. (Rom. 13:1-7) Liberal pacifism is part of liberal Protestantism and it is a heresy.

1 comment:

austin.s.martin said...

I'm a bit behind on the posts, so I must apologize to not getting to this earlier. Wouldn't you agree that a better way to "win" the war would be to stir up grassroots movements (education e.g. "Three Cups of Tea") or through humanitarian aid to the Pakistani flood (here's a thought provoking article about the latter:
Do you believe state funded war to be a better solution that those (or any other more peaceful) alternatives? Do you have any suggestions for a better way to handle the war?
Is this line of thinking Liberal Pacifism/Protestantism?