My disagreement with him really struck a chord. I think he wanted to hand me the booklet, tell me what a hero his son was and have me just gush with thanks and awe.
Of course suggesting the Iraq War was built on lies was a direct assault on his narrative and largely his means of sustaining his well-being, of dealing with the tragic death of his son. His understanding was holding him together. It is no easy thing for a parent to admit their child died for nothing...or even worse engaged in something that was wrong.
He said he didn't mean to get into a political discussion. When his son first died he told me he had punched a guy for saying things like I was saying. Of course I'm thinking...hey, I was just sitting here minding my own business. You came up to me. Sorry I don't worship the same gods you do.
We didn't agree on Afghanistan either. Let's just say it didn't surprise me that he was unable to separate the Taliban (a Pashtun movement) with Al-Qaeda (a mostly Arab, pan-Salafi movement) that was sheltering there. And there was no way I was going to be able to talk to him about American policy with regard to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and how this all tied in with the great geo-political game involving Iran, Russia, China, India, and Central Asia.
He was adamant Obama was out to destroy America. He's a socialist he kept insisting. He couldn't define Socialism for me beyond the state takes everyone's money and spreads it around.
I pointed out that I remembered well when Clinton was elected in 1992 that the same things were being said. It was the end of America and a time of coming doom. He said he didn't like Clinton but he couldn't remember people saying things like that.
It was so prevalent especially after Ruby Ridge and Waco that Timothy McVeigh and (perhaps others?) got worked up enough to attack the Federal building in Oklahoma City in April of1995. This Tea Party supporter couldn’t seem to remember the polarization in 1993-94 which led to Contract for America, the Republican wave election and the rise of Newt Gingrich? The 90’s plodded on and Clinton turned out to be…just like every other president. The wars did not stop, the policies did not change.
Why is it our culture seems to dull the memories of its citizens? I am constantly shocked by what people cannot remember. I guess memory is selective...the important things are remembered, and for most people that has more to do with music groups, sports teams, television programmes, and other elements of pop culture.
At this point I'm just kind of reeling. Where do I go with this guy? There's this huge brick wall. Theologically we both claim to be Christians but I'm not sure we even worship the same God.
So many of these folks believe in Libertarian Free Will. They literally believe that God's plan can be thwarted...most of the events shaping the universe are in our hands. This contributes to the desperation they feel when they sense things aren’t going their way. They pay lip service to God’s Sovereignty, but it really plays no part in their daily lives.
Christianity is about saying the right mantra followed by keeping a list of rules and regulations...and all this is confused with concepts of Christendom, nation, culture war, and sometimes real war.
I was talking with someone just the other night and Alaska came up. I mentioned that I had lived there for a time. He was all excited asking about Alaska's gun laws. He really wants to live someplace where you can openly carry a firearm. That's real important to him, he assured me. By the way, this was right after a Church meeting. Here we are Christians 'fellowshipping' after hearing a sermon on the Incarnation...and what's important? Talking guns? I'm not opposed to guns. I own a few of them but I don't understand this attitude...this is something real important to us as Christians? Why do you want to walk around with a gun? Are you John Wayne? Are you going to mow people down when they look at you wrong? I just don't understand it. Actually I do...but the answer, the heart motivations behind this attitude is disturbing.
I brought up the problem with what he (the father who lost his son in Iraq) was doing. I held up the flag-draped gospel tract and pointed out that it was hard for me to talk to him because the Church has confused nationalism and being American with Christianity. It seemed he didn’t understand what I was getting at.
He assured me we don't have to agree on everything. All he cared about was...if I died tonight, did I know where I would go? For those familiar with this line, you're probably laughing. I wanted to pull my hair out...what do we have here? Cheap grace, a cheap gospel, and Empire. Welcome to American Christianity.
By this time my family had come out of the fabric store and was kind of standing off to the side. They had been there for a few minutes and we both sensed it was time to start wrapping up the conversation.
He urged me once again to read Bush's Decision Points; it would clear things up for me. Bush was a real hero to him. What deception! Bush is responsible for the death of his son...and he reveres the man! I'm pretty familiar with the lead up to the Iraq War and since then have spent quite a bit of time reading and watching documentaries about it. The verdict is universal...it was a disaster. Does anyone really believe that Bush was still toying with whether or not to invade in February 2003? It was obvious America was going to invade back in the summer of 2002. People on the inside knew it even earlier; some testified it was being pushed in the White House within days of 11 September 2001. The events of the latter part of 2002 were nothing more than a drama being played out for the world audience.
So as we moved toward the edge of the bench preparing to stand up, he asked a final question.
"What do you think is the greatest threat to America today?"
"It's complicated," I replied. To be honest, I wanted to blurt an answer but I also wanted to just end it.
"I think it's Islamic Fundamentalism," he said with complete confidence. "They're our greatest threat from within and without."
"I don't agree," I replied. "I think much of it is of our own making."
"Well we'll just have to disagree on that one too," he said. He smiled at my family and kind of said hello to them, shook my hand and walked off.
What's the greatest threat to the civil society of the United States?
People like him.
What's the greatest threat to the Church of Jesus Christ in the United States?
I will attempt to explain.