27 May 2013

Patriotism is Harlotry

Part 2

Written by one who used to be fervent and violent patriot. But Christ delivered me...

Social consensus cannot grant moral legitimacy to military members or their actions. As Christians if we accept this argument then we are guilty of embracing another law-source. Our ethic at that point is derived from another authority, one that sets up a moral code contrary to the Kingdom of God.

This is a form of apostasy often called idolatry and in particular a form of spiritual harlotry. The world tempts us and entices away from the Kingdom of Truth. Rather than be a faithful bride we turn and find fulfillment elsewhere. Satan offers us the kingdoms of the world and great power. He can even hide it behind false Scriptural exegesis. But unlike Christ all too many who claim to be his followers are quick to take it. When they do so, they embrace a multitude of theological errors and a new moral code that teaches allegiance to power.

And they're quite proud of it. In fact many will be celebrating it during the next several weeks as our society navigates what I call the Patriotic Liturgical Season. From Memorial Day to Flag Day to the celebration of rebellion on July 4...American Churches will set up the banners of Babylon and sing hymns to the Beast they've confused with Zion. Many recognize America is quickly turning into Sodom-Babylon, if they would read Romans 1 they would find out why this is happening.

Their so-called Christian country has precious few Christians in it and the Church has sold itself to do wickedness. The state of things at present is simply Divine Judgment. You can't worship power, violence and money and expect to be left morally intact and escape decadence. This nation is receiving its just desserts. The apostasy in the Church, the fact that is subscribes to this idolatry, yea even promotes it, is God sent delusion.

Violence and death are celebrated in a way not seen since the hysteria of 1914. The events of 2001 have seriously altered the social consciousness and for many it's not enough. In fact they're upset that more aren't actively participating. I still hear supposed Christians calling for the reintroduction of Conscription. A local Church (a Brethren congregation ironically!) recently gave a big send-off dinner to the young men and women who are about to graduate High School and have already enlisted in the military. What an honourable thing they're doing. So much so that the task of the Church is to celebrate this? The words Church and honour have lost all meaning. Today I criticized Memorial Day on a Christian news site and got 1 Corinthians 13 thrown at me. Wow! Memorializing murder is love and rejecting violence is a lack of it. Wow.

The Church of Jesus Christ is celebrating men and women taking up weapons, bringing violence to people in other lands, destabilizing their societies, overthrowing their governments and raining death from the air, land and sea. And somehow it's for God and country?

Constantine and Charlemagne would be proud and Satan is surely laughing with delight.

Love of nation, patriotism...what are these things but the lust of the flesh, the eyes and the pride of life? What is it but pride to say my people, my skin colour, my language, my symbols, my institutional violence (government) are better than someone else's? So much so that I have a right to tell them what to do and when they fail to obey...their refusal becomes a moral evil that morally sanctions my use of violence against them?

That's what Babel was all about. They sought the Divine presence, The God sanctioned dwelling place would be atop their symbol of power and pride. They wanted to make a name for themselves and wanted God's approval. Not the God of Scripture. They weren't interested in Him. They wanted a God in their own image, one who would ratify their supremacy. There have been many Babels through the ages and not a few of them are crowned with a cross.

God Bless America? I don't think so.

Let's not be naive. I don't for a second believe we will have peace in this world. In fact at present I see storm clouds on the horizon both at home and abroad. I've read too much history to not see trouble brewing and events eerily repeating themselves. By no means is it 1861 or 1914...but we're getting there. These issues are not going to go away. There are others beginning to see this too. If the Church continues on its present path there will be great evil committed in the name of Christ.

I've had many Christians say that my position is...'to hell with the world, we'll just ignore it.' I've actually heard that more than once. No that's not what I'm saying. The question is what do we do? How do we respond to life in a fallen world? Do we build a fortress and start working to conquer the rest of it? Do we return evil for evil? Do we embrace power and violence, doing evil that good may come of it?

I would argue we bring the Gospel of Grace and speak truth to power, expose darkness and lies. If we're faithful to the spiritual Kingdom that means we don't particularly favour one nation over another and we never sanction any nation, people or tongue just because we happen to think they're somewhat better. How are they better? In whose eyes are they superior?

Is someone less lost because they're American? Are they less lost because they wear an American uniform?

Is someone less of a murderer because they're straight? Does killing in war become immoral because a homosexual did it instead of some whoremongering drunk straight guy? I realize not every American soldier fits that description but I assure a good number do.

Christians were so upset about homosexuals in the military. Why? Because to them the military represents something honourable and moral. The murderous reprobate and Christian hero Jerry Boykin certainly thinks so. This whole episode was yet another distraction. By politicizing the gospel, homosexuality became a political issue. The church completely threw away its ability to speak truth.

Where's that in the Bible? Where can I find Christian soldiery? Where do I find military honour?

David was honourable because he slayed the enemies of Israel. The enemies of Israel today are the enemies of the Church. In Ephesians 2 we read the Church inherits the covenants of promise and is now the Commonwealth of Israel. In Galatians 6 the Gentile Galatians are referred to as members of the Israel of God. Acts 2 teaches the promises made to the fathers apply to the Church. Galatians 3 declares that those who believe in Christ are the sons of Abraham, not ethnic Jews, but real Jews. Romans 9 teaches us that not all who are of Israel (Jews) are really 'of' Israel...the people of God. Jesus declared in Matthew 21-22 that the Kingdom was taken from the Jews and given to another nation...one built on the stone, the rock of Christ.

The analogy to David today is within the context of the Church. Those in the Church who combat the enemies of the Church are fighting Israel's wars.

Neither America nor any empire can claim to be the Church. Those who think so have embraced a heresy every bit as malevolent and destructive as that of Mormonism or any other cult.

It is a rival religion that creates its own morality, its own worship and it has its own redemptive history, martyrology, and eschatology. It has a different messiah and a different hope. Jefferson, Washington, Gettysburg, the Battle of the Bulge all become tied in with Christian values and iconography. Hiroshima and Dresden have to be vindicated or else the narrative fails. The conquests of the Philippines and the Native American extermination have to be justified. The crimes of the CIA, FBI and countless government officials, the murderous activities of the military they all must be either whitewashed, or explained away.

Can you even imagine a 2nd century congregation having all their children put on a special patriotic programme celebrating and praising Rome? A local congregation had an event like that a night or two ago.

Can you imagine Christian congregations taking up collections for the Roman troops conquering Dacia or Scotland? And yet RC Sproul's congregation is taking up a special collection for 'the troops'.

No soldier today can hide behind the supposed morality of a uniform. As Christians our moral calculus and perspective has to be completely different if we're going to be Biblical in our worldview.

Al Qaeda has killed altogether what...less than 10,000 people? I'm not making light of that. I wish merely to make a point.

How many were killed as a result of George Bush's direct action? His indirect action?

Maybe we could argue Al Qaeda made the war in Iraq a bit worse and helped to foment sectarian conflict which led to many more deaths. But if we're going to impugn indirect consequence on them...why is Bush exempted? He invaded the country. Iraq has certainly had its share of troubles which often enough also involved Americans, but certainly in the early 2000's there wasn't any fighting there. Saddam was awful but most Iraqis admit life even under Saddam was better before the Americans came.

The American invasion created instability. War always breeds more war. If Al Qaeda made it worse, then the United States helped create the conditions. If Al Qaeda is culpable for deaths in Iraq then the United States cannot escape the same charge.  

If terrorism, fear-mongering, assassination, and sabotage are immoral tactics, then the United States is just as guilty.

If having terroristic acts perpetrated against you grants a moral license to attack those who instigated it...then Al Qaeda attacking American targets cannot be declared invalid. Would it be if they wore a uniform? Is that the criterion?

If terror and retributive war are invalid in any situation, then yes Al Qaeda are evil murderers...but so are the Americans and certainly the leaders who gave the orders.

Due to direct and indirect consequence something close to a million people have died since George Bush went on the attack after 11 September 2001. Obama has continued and expanded this dark legacy.

"Well, they attacked first," is the quick response.

By what criteria? Because it can be argued the United States has been meddling in their countries and engaging in terror, assassination and sabotage for decades. This can be extended to the West in general for more than two hundred years. American policy alone since World War II has led to the direct and/or indirect deaths of...millions. And that's no exaggeration. From the Muslim world's perspective America's activities in their lands has constituted one long September 11 with many more dead.

In the end, Bush has been responsible for far more deaths than Bin Laden. It's not an either/or equation. It's not the Bush is bad therefore Bin Laden is good.

Christians should recognize both men as power-mad murderers.

"Well, we've done some bad things, but we're not as bad as Stalin, Hitler or Mao."

Wow, that's something to be really proud of. Okay the United States is just not at the top of the list. How noble. Is that the calculus we use? On that basis you could say that Saddam Hussein was good. He certainly wasn't a Pol Pot or a Mao.

I'm not saying this to lessen or magnify the evil of anyone. I'm simply trying to make the case that from a Christian standpoint Bush and Bin Laden are (more or less) morally equivalent.

It's funny even reading Christian movie reviews I'm struck by the fact that if a movie is violent and contains a great deal of foul language it will be rated 'offensive' even if they more or less liked the movie and its message.

But in the case of 'Zero Dark Thirty'...though violent and riddled with swearing and containing scenes of torture and great violence...it's considered morally sound.

Why? Because it's for God and country right? [1]

In the Muslim world even those who reject both the political and theological vision of Al Qaeda did not support Bush or view him as somehow morally superior. Bin Laden's death was nothing to celebrate or denounce. Were Bush to be taken out in a similar style raid by the operatives of another nation or entity their feelings would be the same. Some would celebrate to be sure, but for many these men have lived, died and will die by the sword....or at least deserve it to be so. Perhaps to them the real moral outrage is that soon George HW Bush will die in his bed and more likely than not other murderers like Carter, Clinton, W. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Kissinger, Petraeus, Powell, Blair and Obama will die the same way.

Bin Laden certainly deserved to be punished and to answer for his crimes. But Bush at the very least deserves a trip to The Hague and to face the scrutiny of the International Criminal Court.

[1] Actually I found the movie interesting. The director hid her moral cards somewhat and left it up to the viewer. Some will find it movingly patriotic. Some will find it offensive to their patriotic sensibilities. I found it to convey an interesting story but ultimately a moral bankruptcy best demonstrated by the main character, the CIA analyst whose whole purpose in life was to find a man in order to kill him. And yet as the movie makes clear, at least to me, those who hunted him have no moral uprightness, no compass, and no ethical integrity. They are what they hunt. The movie "The Kingdom" though somewhat more lame conveyed a similar message at times. It portrays a fight to the death, enemies that can't be reconciled because they both see the conflict in moral terms and yet both are morally blinded.


Cal said...

I'd even phrase it rather than the Church replacing Israel, rather Israel had always been about its Messiah. Jesus was an Israel of one, he succeeded in the wilderness. Now Israel is opened up to Jew and Gentile, true Israelites, children of Abraham, being defined by union with Christ.

And on that note, therefore we see the full scope of the OT promises. Just to make explicit what you intend: we therefore are waging war by prayer and love. In the OT, the focus of the wars of Israel were not battle but faith, judgment and the Lord. Jericho fell because of the Angel of the Lord. The Canaanites were destroyed utterly because they were enthralled to their gods. Now, we wage those same wars by doing good to our enemies, overcoming dark powers and dominions by the same way Christ did: suffering and dying on a cross. Systemic injustice, demonic power forms, they are overcome not by violent revolution but by peace and mercy. Wow, that's not something I've fully grasped yet. But the cross of Christ is the deathknell for every Babylon.

We're lonely people who refuse the temptation of the sword. It seems so easy. Forget sexual lust, or even greed, violence is the great liar that has hoodwinked so many. They think they're doing God's will, but in fact doing the very opposite.

Good book out called "Blood Guilt". It's a collection of essays spanning from 2001 to 2011 all on the topic of war, terrorism and the christian response. Very good stuff. Maybe one day I'll write a book as well. One that no one will read!

Anyway, your comment on Zero Dark Thirty is something I resonate on a whole host of movies. I remember my reaction to the last of the new Batman trilogy. Many other reviews tried so hard to make all sort of Christ connections. I agreed to the extent that Batman was a messiah, but he failed. I don't think many were terribly depressed with the end of the film: it was an endless cycle. Someone always had to wear the mask, violence would never save Gotham. The religion of the Batman was one of scapegoats: their blood would never clean the people of Gotham.


Protoprotestant said...

Yes we do engage in warfare. People have missed the point that when we worship...we're proclaiming the victory of Christ. It's an act of war.

The sword is the easy way.

I was giving an example to my son the other day and trying to explain to him how it would go in public school when he refused to say the pledge of allegiance or something. I explained how after school kids would probably come up and push him and say something like, 'My Dad says you're a traitor.'

At that point every ounce of fleshly energy wants to strike back and vindicate yourself. Yet, you have to look at the person with pity and compassion. The guy is lost and going to hell. He's in the grip of sin and idolatry. And if it wasn't for the grace of God, you'd be in the same place.

Humbly explain the truth and walk away. If they jeer and mock well, so what? That's nothing compared to what Christ endured not just from others but even in his humility by taking on the form of sinful flesh.

God will deal with those men and you hope kindly. For we deserve far worse.

Now that goes against everything we're naturally inclined to and is the complete opposite of what our culture teaches us. The Church is 100% with the world on this point. This ethic doesn't work with nations...therefore can we set aside our Christianity and embrace violent pride or do we have to avoid power altogether?

The Church has embraced geopolitical violence (nationalism)and now read the ethic back into the Christian life.

How many Christian websites and Facebook pages are just loaded with garbage about guns and shooting bad guys?

Patriotism has taught them the 2nd Amendment is Divine Canon.

Blood Guilt sounds interesting. I haven't seen any of the Batman movies.

Cal said...

Cheek turning is something from beyond, it goes against both natural instincts: fight or flight.

I get looks from time to time when I talk about my, in Jacques Ellul's words, "hopeful pessimism". I can work for the good of the city/country and not be a Transformationalist/culture-warrior. I can realize that Babylon will always be Babylon and not be a piestistic retreatist.

Can a Christian work for a government? Sure, but I doubt he'll get far if he's being faithful. I guess that should be the main point of discipleship: not rules but teaching faithfulness.

Blood Guilt is not overly complex or sophisticated, but its a good primer for these issues. Good chapters on many things.

I'd recommend the Batman movies. I'm not terribly excited about superhero movies in general, but Christopher Nolan does a good job at bringing deeper issues to light. Every exchange with The Joker in the 2nd movie is excellent. The question of morality and their grounding constantly comes up: what is good/evil? what is law/chaos? The 3rd movie has a lot more messianic themes. His other movies raise good thoughts too. Inception is excellent on perception and reality, Memento great on memory and identity.


Eliyahu BenYsrael said...

Well said altogether. The church in this nation, and in the nations before it's creation has been engaged in this and it's destroyed credibility for a good reason. Nationalism/patriotism is the love of the world and ends up bearing worldly fruit.