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February 24, 2005

Comments

Edward, do you really want to go here?
Like it or not, this sort of stuff, however "scary" it seems to you (and, me too, FWIW) is precisely the sort of "patriotic"/militaristic pitch that resonates to the max with a large percentage of "Heartland" America: the mixture of nationalism, kick-ass militarism and religion that is a hallmark of most right-wing/authoritarian philosphies and regimes the world over.
Whatever you might think of it (and believe me, my views on this are probably quite close to yours) - critiquing it runs a big risk of looking, well, anti-American. Regardless of the pure simple-mindedness of reflexively associating a nation's military service with Holy Good and Righteousness, it is a reflex that all too many people have and will react to. IOW, what's your point?

I'll probably get into all sorts of trouble for this remark, but I'd argue that it would be anti-American to not argue against nationalism, militarism, and even patriotism if one sees them as wrong or being used in ways that are wrong or harmful to the US or world. Which is more central to the US: the flag or the Constitution, that is, the symbol of the country or the legal document that makes the country a place worth fighting for?

I think the point is to shine light on the shadows where dark things thrive.

A typical Democratic/liberal, but very mistaken, response would be to agitate against the legality or propriety of such absurd demonstrations in American churches. But that's just a symptom, and fighting the symptom will engender a lot of ill will for no gain. The problem is not that it's happening. The problem is that enough people in the congregation want it to happen that it happens. It's the responsibility of the people in that congregation to decide whether that's what they want their church to look like. . a fusion of religion and hypermilitaristic statism.

If enough of them do, then that's what their church should look like, and the best response is to make it well known to everyone else in the country. Maybe they'll be shamed. If enough of them don't, maybe they'll stand up and say it.

Deutchland, my Deutchland.... I mean America, America God shed His Grace on Thee.... I mean....

Hey did everybody hear that Dave Neiwert won over at Wampum for best blog series of the year? I voted for Katherine of course, but it was a tough decision. Anyway, although it is about an f-word I won't use on many blogs, Orcinus is over to the left in hilzoy's links. Highly recommended, especially to those who might confuse the varying types of political extremism.

This was intended to be dead on-topic.

Regardless of the pure simple-mindedness of reflexively associating a nation's military service with Holy Good and Righteousness, it is a reflex that all too many people have and will react to. IOW, what's your point?

My point is Christ would not approve. Period.

The Christians I respect the most (my father included) tell me time and again that Jesus asked us to rise above our basest instincts. Look at how he lived his life. What about it would even begin to suggest he'd be less than furious about this display in his "Father's house"?

It's blasphemy. That's my point.

For me, the recruitment literature and a Confederate-dressed soldier crossed the line of good taste and propriety, otherwise I don't see the big deal. This was an annual event by a church men's group with an "honoring the military" theme. When a soldier is invited to talk to a group of Christians in a church about his experiences and his faith while serving his country, you might expect to see a mix of military nd religious themes. I find it not a little warped that Kos would interpret an "honoring the military" banquet to be some sort of military recruitment meeting. But then again, I find "screw 'em" Kos to be a bit warped about certain things. If the men's group had a banquet next month with an "honoring the teachers" theme, why would that be any more or less inappropriate?

I see nothing wrong or ominous with a church mission "to worship God, globally lead people to faith in Christ, and grow together to be like Him." That is what Christians are called to do, sans sword of course.

For those of us that live in the South, this kind of thing hardly merits notice. Non-issue. Next topic.

"... sans sword of course."

Which is the point, no?

For those of us that live in the South, this kind of thing hardly merits notice.

Even covering the cross with a flag and playing images of a crucified Christ as back drop to a parade of costumes? Isn't it supposed to be God, Country, etc. in that order?

None of this is seen as tasteless or inappropriate?

Bird Dog: I see nothing wrong or ominous with a church mission "to worship God, globally lead people to faith in Christ, and grow together to be like Him."

No, I wouldn't expect that you would.

Tasteless and inappropriate, yes. Scary, no.

I presume you have heard of "Piss Christ"? Tasteless and inappropriate, yes. Scary, no.

sans sword of course.

Indeed

I presume you have heard of "Piss Christ"?

Total non sequitor. One is critiquing religion, the other is supposedly celebrating it.

Total non sequitor. One is critiquing religion, the other is supposedly celebrating it.

The parallel is in the overreaction of those who don't like the expressed point of view. You called it scary. I'm willing to go with you on tasteless and inappropriate but not scary.

Last time I heard, nobody was standing next to Piss Christ trying to convince gallery attendees that pissing on the cross was their christian duty. That's why Piss Christ is not scary. Because it exists only to offend.*

Religion is sui generis, because the duty people feel to their god is so absolute and so deep, that to explicitly connect a worldly duty** to join the military with a religious (Christian) duty is the deepest manipulation I can imagine. Yes, religious authority, speaking from the altar, and directing the congregation to the recruiting table is scary. It is, in fact, the primary recruiting technique of those scary terrorists we are fighting. Unless you are willing to accept the mantle of holy war, the cross v. the crescent, this should at the very least rub you the wrong way. Draping the flag over the cross and handing out the papmphlets - it's like biting tinfoil. It's just not right.

Maybe this is just another one of those "real america" things that I just "don't get." Well, thank god. Oh, sorry, I mean Thank G-d.


* which it does. I personally think Piss Christ is a childish, stupid, empty piece of "encounter art" that demonstrates the artistic depth of a two-year-old s***ting on the rug in front of company.
**no matter how noble you may think it is, joining the military is a secular decision.

Yes, religious authority, speaking from the altar, and directing the congregation to the recruiting table is scary.

Excellent way to put it, st. So excellent in fact, I won't even defend Serranos (who is somewhat overrated IMO...and whose work is totally off topic).

I presume you have heard of "Piss Christ"? Tasteless and inappropriate, yes. Scary, no.

If Andres Serrano led a devoted congregation of millions and asked that they kill in the name of his beliefs, you would fear him.

And it's going to get worse...way worse.

"I'm willing to go with you on tasteless and inappropriate but not scary."

The comingling of religion, statism, and militancy has a history of being scary. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Some fun readings on similar subjects:

The Christian Right and the Fascist Aesthetic

Smart Bombs, Serial Killing & the Rapture: The Vanishing Bodies of Imperial Apocalypticism

Prophecy, Politics & the Popular: The Left Behind Series & Fundamentalism's New World Order

No, I wouldn't expect that you would.

Then perhaps you can tell me why the church's mission statement is wrong and ominous, Jes.

Indeed

Edward, are you suggesting that Struecker is a religious crusader bent on using his military arsenal to convert non-Americans to Christianity? You're not making sense with this conflation you're making.

I see nothing wrong or ominous with a church mission "to worship God, globally lead people to faith in Christ, and grow together to be like Him."

Nor do I, BD, except that in this case, the church leadership seems to have taken it for granted that God and Christ are serving members of the US Armed Forces, and that running what looks like a recruitment rally in a house of worship is just fine with the Big Guy Upstairs.
So I guess all that "Prince of Peace" stuff is just so much moonbattery, huh?


Haven't followed the links, but I have lived in some of the redder parts of California. In a number of those places, the local church was the only building large enough to accomodate a crowd.

Perhaps the commingling of church and state was incidental.

Bird Dog,

What I mean exactly is that Christ went way out of his way to preach a message of peace. It was in no way a message congruous with military themes or imagery. Anyone mixing his message with one of war is committing blasphemy. Full stop.

It's like what we're always discussing about the perversion of the true message of Islam. The true message of Christianity is PEACE.

The Pope totally gets this (although clearly he's clueless when it comes to other, ahem, issues of the day), but many Protestant leaders don't seem to.

Suggesting, even as casually as the placement of clip art on a church program, that Christ in any way would approve of war is unforgiveable. He wouldn't. He promoted peace. You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.

Notyou:

Apparently NOT: the pamphlet Edward linked to makes it clear that this "event" was planned by "ministry" of the church, that church functionaries were part of the ceremonies, and that it was held in the church as a sanctioned event (and that the attendees were all, or mostly, church members). Nothing "incidental" here.

I'm perfectly willing to agree with your interpretation of Christ's message. These people apparently do not. The fact that it is blasphemy according to our understanding isn't really relavent to the idea that they should or should not promote the armed services in their congregation.

"You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war."

Don't agree with that famous quote at all. Often the best way to prevent war is to prepare for it enough to scare off your potential attacker.

Sebastian: Often the best way to prevent war is to prepare for it enough to scare off your potential attacker.

Gosh. Why didn't Saddam Hussein think of that?

I think there are just wars, but I don't like this at all and I think it is gross distortion of Christ's teachings. But I have gone from a bad Christian to a non-Christian, and find so many of the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists* repellent, and they find so many of my beliefs repellent, that I don't really think I could say anything useful on this score. I'll just quote James Madison again on separation of church and state. Madison believed in it as firmly as Jefferson, but in his case it was as much to protect religion from being corrupted by the state, as to protect the state from undue religious influence. This is from the famous "Memorial and Remonstrance" against establishing a religion in the state of Virginia:

Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.

Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence. Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits.

Because experience witnesseth that eccelsiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive State in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall. On which Side ought their testimony to have greatest weight, when for or when against their interest?"



*I don't actually know the correct term. Evangelicals? The Christian right? Whatever you prefer, except I categorically refuse to say "fundagelical".

The fact that it is blasphemy according to our understanding isn't really relavent to the idea that they should or should not promote the armed services in their congregation.

I'm lost in the flotsam now. Are you suggesting I should accept that they don't see Christ's message as one of Peace? How am I supposed to relate to them, then? We're not worshipping the same God at all if the central messages are that different. They might as well be worshipping Mars.

except I categorically refuse to say "fundagelical".

Ahhh, you're breaking TS Elliot's heart. ;-)

"Standin' on the verge of gettin' it on, of gettin' it on..."

Oh, wait, that's "funkadelical," not "fundagelical." My mistake.

I'm lost in the flotsam now. Are you suggesting I should accept that they don't see Christ's message as one of Peace? How am I supposed to relate to them, then? We're not worshipping the same God at all if the central messages are that different. They might as well be worshipping Mars.

Great point here, I always thought of them as Pharisees, but thinking of them as pagans makes them easier to bear.

They might as well be worshipping Mars.

I suppose that's pretty much what they're doing.

Off-topic, but since it was brought up, I once read an elegant, if a bit tortured, defense of "Piss Christ" as interpretable as a comment the ongoing participation of unfaithful Christians (and, specifically, lapsed or apostate Catholics) in the debasement of the body of Christ. It was real po-mo, ignore-the-artist's-intent kind of stuff, but interesting nonetheless. Wish I could find it, I'd link it.

Jes,

Gosh. Why didn't Saddam Hussein think of that?

...or Kuwait?

"Are you suggesting I should accept that they don't see Christ's message as one of Peace? How am I supposed to relate to them, then? We're not worshipping the same God at all if the central messages are that different. They might as well be worshipping Mars."

Historically it might be more accurate to suggest that they are worshiping Mithras.

Maybe you aren't worshipping the same God at all. Is that so troubling?

Historically it might be more accurate to suggest that they are worshiping Mithras.

;-)

except that it looks like they're hellbent on wrecking havoc in Mithras' home turf.

Maybe you aren't worshipping the same God at all. Is that so troubling?

Only in a larger social context, when the rhetoric is boiled down, and it can be asserted that I'm not a good Christian because I don't support the war. Then it's infuriating.

If Andres Serrano led a devoted congregation of millions and asked that they kill in the name of his beliefs, you would fear him.

Wow. Millions? Think of the cost of the building alone...never mind the property taxes.

"Only in a larger social context, when the rhetoric is boiled down, and it can be asserted that I'm not a good Christian because I don't support the war. Then it's infuriating."

Heh, Edward I think quite a few Christians might suggest neither of us are good Christians for reasons having nothing to do with the war. :) [or should that be :( ? It is sad, but I meant the quip to be light hearted]

Hey did everybody hear that Dave Neiwert won over at Wampum for best blog series of the year? I voted for Katherine of course, but it was a tough decision.

Tough decision? Katherine did great research on a real important story; Neiwert conjures fascist demons out of his rear end.

I thought it was sad that Katherine didn't win. I thought it was almost as sad that Neiwert did. He is an excellent conspiracy theorist--he can turn the actions of elected Democrats in the South into evidence of a Republican plot to institute fascism. Well I guess they didn't say "non-fiction" blog series.

Thank you for this, Edward. Liberalism's roots are in Christianity, and it is vital that liberals stand against its debasement by the ultraright. If the Democratic party were as comfortable talking about the Christian roots of their beliefs as the Republicans are for theirs, they (the Democrats) would be a lot better off.

The true message of Christianity is PEACE.

Hm... given the multiple indirect sources for Christ's words and the fact that "Christianity" has come to encompass so much more than the gospels, I don't think it's possible to speak of the "true" message of Christianity.

Anyway, one thing that can be said confidently is that Jesus was speaking to us as individuals, not as a society. He really had nothing to say on how governments should behave (not surprising, given the socio-political context of his times). And though of course he told us to turn the other cheek, that's for when someone slaps us ourselves -- he doesn't say what we should do if someone is slapping someone else's cheek, or pulling a knife on them or something. In deciding WWJD in relation to protecting innocent third parties, we don't have much to go on.

Wow. Millions? Think of the cost of the building alone...never mind the property taxes.

Churches pay property taxes now?

Oh, crud. Well, I was trying to conjure up a vision of a church whose membership is in the millions, and failed miserably.

I think these guys are very scarey. I have been trying to define why and I think its because I am not a Christian. The site of armed men, claiming to be the best of America, and announcing their intention to to bring the world to their god certainly has an implied "Convert or die" message. .

Tough decision? Katherine did great research on a real important story; Neiwert conjures fascist demons out of his rear end.
and
I thought it was almost as sad that Neiwert did. He is an excellent conspiracy theorist--he can turn the actions of elected Democrats in the South into evidence of a Republican plot to institute fascism. Well I guess they didn't say "non-fiction" blog series.

I'm waiting for Slarti to tell you guys to go over the Neiwert's blog the way anyone complaining about Jane Galt was supposed to go over to her place.

Phil,

I'd the impression I'd read something like that too, so I googled a bit and found an article by one moderate/liberal Christian Joshua Anderson, published online by the Rutherford Institute. Maybe it's tortured, maybe not. Mormon theology goes in a very different direction, so it's hard for me to judge. Excerpt:

. And if Piss Christ jolts us out of our comfortable and vague sense of the Crucifixion, if it thrusts us face-to-face with the scandal and humiliation of the Incarnation, if it awes us again with the reckless and horrific beauty of the god who allowed us to pound nails through his bone and flesh, its profanity (inherent in the Incarnation itself) is forgivable and the art is, in the truest sense, “edifying.”

And about the topic (sorry!) of this thread, I'm sad and a little appalled, but it's hard to figure out where to direct or work up outrage. Like some of the commenters here, my first reaction is that in many places, the church is the local gathering center, more socially relevant (and comfortable) than the civic institutions. What makes me saddest, I guess, is that the evening was billed as a father-son event, as though the only way to be a good son was to join the military. The whole thing was manipulative, of course, but that angle seems particularly unpleasant--but not in any way actionable.

Sorry, the link to the Rutherford article didn't go through. Here's the url, the inelegant way:
http://www.rutherford.org/oldspeak/blog/
articles/religion/oldspeak-christ2.asp"

So I guess all that "Prince of Peace" stuff is just so much moonbattery, huh?

Yeah, sure ;). I'm failing to see how honoring fellow believers who have chosen to risk their lives by defending the freedoms of their countrymen is an un-Christian act. While Christ is indeed the Prince of Peace, the Bible also lays out the foundations for engaging in just war. I don't believe the two concepts are contradictory or cross each other out.

Are you suggesting I should accept that they don't see Christ's message as one of Peace?

One of Christ's central messages is one of peace, but he was no pacifist, Edward. Also, everyone one of us falls well short of the standards He set out for us. A group of believers honoring another group of believers who chose to face the risk of making the ultimate sacrifice is neither dishonorable nor blasphemous.

From an article called "Divided by a Common Faith"
Excerpts:

Evangelicals in the United States are increasingly estranged from their counterparts everywhere else. by Tom Sine

Few Americans seem to realize that the church in other industrialized countries is not nearly as divided over this issue. In fact, most evangelical leaders in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand-in contrast to their American cousins-were opposed to the war. What accounts for this surprising difference between many American evangelical believers and their global siblings?

In fact, Tom Frame-the Anglican Bishop to the Australian Defense Force-was the only Anglican bishop in Australia to support the war. Recently even he changed his viewpoint, as he explained June 18 in the Melbourne, Australia newspaper The Age.

"As the only Anglican bishop to have publicly endorsed the Australian government's case for war," Frame wrote, "I now concede that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. It did not pose a threat to either its nearer neighbours or the United States and its allies.... Looking back on the events of the past 18 months I continue to seek God's forgiveness for my complicity in creating a world in which this sort of action was ever considered by anyone to be necessary."

I have not found anything comparable to the Religious Right anywhere else on the planet. It is an American anomaly. This partially explains the growing divide in political opinion between American evangelicals and their cousins in the Commonwealth.

American evangelicals tend to subscribe to a revisionist understanding of the U.S. founding story that encourages them to view the United States as God's unique redemptive agent in the world. Not surprisingly, this view of messianic nationalism makes it very easy for many American evangelicals to support the neoconservative doctrine endorsing the pre-emptive and redemptive use of violence to make the world a better place. Very few evangelicals around the world support either this view of American exceptionalism or this imperial use of pre-emptive violence to "improve" life on this planet.

Sociologist Donald Kraybill of Messiah College offers an important word for American evangelicals who have allowed right-wing fears and nationalistic dreams-rather than teachings of a biblical faith-to shape their Christian worldview. He wrote, "When public piety is surging, Christians must be careful to distinguish between the god of American civil religion and the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. The God of...Jesus sends the rain on the just and the unjust. This God urges us to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us.... For this God there is no east or west, no political borders, no pet nations."

The whole article is at:
http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/13604.htm

This is all very nice, but Jesus did say he came not to bring peace, but a sword. Now, that saying may have been fabricated by later writers after his death, but it's clear that Christianity has always been closer to the sword than the plowshare. Militarism, nationalism, imperialism, racism, slavery and Christianity have walked hand in hand for nearly 2000 years. The Christians who oppose that stuff have always been a small minority.

"Militarism, nationalism, imperialism, racism, slavery and Christianity have walked hand in hand for nearly 2000 years."

Mostly human nature, I certainly do not entirely blame Christianity, in theorey or in interpretation, for this history. That would be like blaming a particularly strict interpretation of Islam for the actions of terrorists.

On the other hand, it is certainly hard to make a case that Christianity has ameliorated our baser drives, and I can think of religions or religious with a better record.

This is all very nice, but Jesus did say he came not to bring peace, but a sword.

Read that verse in context and you will find that it does not mean what you seem to think it means.

Charles: One of Christ's central messages is one of peace, but he was no pacifist

Hmm, I also wonder how you can say this so confidently. What passages do you have in mind?

Okay, since I happen to have my handy-dandy cross-indexed Bible nearby, I'd like to take up the not-peace-but-a-sword quote. It occurs in exactly one of the Gospels. In other words, it's not as theologically important as, say, the Sermon on the Mount is for the enduring message of Christianity or the legislative structure of Paul was for the early Christian population.

And then (and here's my Protestant bias), let's take a look at where it does show up.

Matthew 10:33-37 (KJT):

33. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
34. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35. for I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
37. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

No real advice for national security there. The not-peace-but-a-sword line is a metaphor: following Christ will involve breaking old habits and family bonds. This makes total sense within the context of the story: Christ is giving his apostles a pep-talk before sending them out as missionaries. They're about to be cut off from their homes and families--hence the sword imagery.

Obviously, the violent messiah does exist, both in the Jewish texts and in the book of Revelation. It isn't really present in the books more closely tied to Jesus as an historical figure. The imagery was out there in his time--and of course it was some of the most powerful stuff in the canon--but in most of the reported teaching of Christ, he turns it into metaphor or denies it altogether. (As reported by the gospels, of course.)

Okay, I'll stop. I know that undertaking a theological discussion on a blog is probably a silly endeavor.

I recommend the Unbound Bible, because you can get multilingual versions side by side.

Matthew 5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

Obviously not by these clowns. I guess the moment in mass after the Lord's Prayer, they must greet each other with "War be with you."

But the Neo-Christian believes Christ's meekness and long-suffering were wimpy. What all Christians need is a Pagan ethos! The fruit of the spirits are to French.

Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos by Robert D. Kaplan

What passages do you have in mind?

Jesus running the moneychangers out of the temple was not a peaceful act. Someone else brought up a reference to Christ saying that he comes bearing a sword. I believe He was talking on a spiritual plane, not a physical one.

Jesus didn't kill the money-changers! Nor did he torture them! Nor did he perform "shock-and-awe" on their asses, although some say he could have!

Jesus was chasing the moneychangers out of the temple for using the temple to sell thier wares, in exactly the same way this church was used to sell war. The irony is delicious, but not filling. :(

liberal japonicus, thanks! That is a totally awesome resource. There goes my free time for the next few days.

Charles, what NeoDude said but with less snark. The definition of pacifism I had in mind was "Opposition to war or violence as a means of resolving disputes." Certainly Jesus was not Buddha, but AFAIK he nowhere advocates or justifies physical violence against any person.

On the moneychangers story, we have three versions:

Matt. 12-14 (KJT):

12. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
13. And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
14. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

Mark 15-17:

15. And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;
16. And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
17. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.

John (warning, non-synoptic gospel!) 1:13-17:

13. And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
14. And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15. And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
16. And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
17. And his disciples remembered that it was written, the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

Bird, it's a weird story. It's one of the few instances where Christ enforces a literalist reading of Jewish law on the books at the time. Most Biblical scholars agree that John was the latest of the Gospels: the story seems to have gotten more violent the further away from Christ's life.

In any event, the story again has more to do with internal purification than with conquest or expansion. (As this story has been a favorite with anti-capitalist writers, it surprises me that you'd bring it up). And, amazingly, it pertains to the topic of the thread: non-sacred uses of church space.

And ditto Ken B: LJ's Bible Unbound is a cool, cool site.

I'm waiting for Slarti to tell you guys to go over the Neiwert's blog the way anyone complaining about Jane Galt was supposed to go over to her place.

Whatever...I don't make it a point to chase down every bit of social injustice, here. If you're looking for complete consistency and vigilance, you're going to have to find someone who's unemployed. But please feel free to pay Orcinus a visit and let him know you think he's a fine conspiracy theorist.

If you think comments such as this one:

It is not yet a dictatorship

merit any attention at all, please let Dave know. I don't really have any negative thoughts to express to Dave, because I don't ever think of him. It's nothing personal; I just don't care for that sort of speculation.

Several of my ancestors were persecuted for their version of Christian religion.

Think Huguenots, and Roger Williams little band.

Did they fight for their religion? Probably somewhere along the way.

So these Baptist folks believe that it is sometimes important to fight for their beliefs, and it can be argued that fighting Communism and Fascism was to many people the same as fighting for one's own religion. And maybe they feel that they must be willing to fight against a worldwide Wahhabist/Salafist movement that sees the destruction of the infidels as an ultimate goal.

Now I was raised as a Southern Baptist, and while I do not share many of their views, I am not particularly frightened by them. I think it might be just a cultural thing. I have actually been to a 4th of July service honoring all the of the servicemen in the church. There may have been American flags and bunting, which didn't intimidate me. There was a slide show of men in women from the congregation and past members of the congregation (generally in uniform). The choir sang patriotic hymns and songs (think Battle Hymn of the Republic, America the Beautiful.)

The sermon was pretty short. I did have a problem with some point where the preacher made the claim that the US was founded as a Christian nation. I pointed this out to my sisters later, that there quite a few Unitarians and Quakers and so forth back then (not exactly evangelicals), and that this was around the time of the Romantic era, when people understood many concepts from Greek and Roman pagan religion. (By the way, I think that the study of Greek Mythology is an excellent way for children to develop a way to think crically about religion.)

I have been much more offended by things I have heard in the Unitarian church where my wife and kids are and have been active. For instance, Rev. R Davidson Loehr, UU of Austin, TX has this thing about giving anti-American sermons on Veterans Day.


From Veterans Day 2003 comenting on Afghanistan and Iraq:

These are the battles our soldiers are being used to fight. They are battles for a concept of empire so similar to the vision of Hitler's Nazi party of sixty years ago that it's hard to consider the similarities accidental. This is the ideology our soldiers are carrying into battle with them as they fight, kill and die not for freedom or the American way, but for greed, arrogance, and a murderous lust for power that seems terrifyingly insane.

From 2004, the title Living Under Fascism about says it all:

You may wonder why anyone would try to use the word "fascism" in a serious discussion of where America is today. It sounds like cheap name-calling, or melodramatic allusion to a slew of old war movies. But I am serious. I don't mean it as name-calling at all. I mean to persuade you that the style of governing into which America has slid is most accurately described as fascism, and that the necessary implications of this fact are rightly regarded as terrifying

From the 2002 sermon Oil, Arrogance and War

And that is why our World Trade Center and Pentagon buildings were attacked on September 11, 2001. It was not an attack on "America" any more than the bombing in 1920 was. It was an attack by angry and murderous people against symbolic buildings in a country whose military they perceive to be employed in the service of its economic ambitions, and whose economic arrogance and greed are grinding billions of humans into the ground.

Spinmasters have played bad word games here, by identifying "America" as the victim of the 9-11 attacks. No: the victims were the roughly three thousand innocent citizens who happened to work in highly symbolic buildings. "America's" role was as the country whose long-term economic and military arrogance brought the murderous actions of the terrorists - crimes for which those responsible should be brought to international justice.

...

Still, Pearl Harbor wasn't really the right historical precedent for 9-11 and its aftermath. That precedent, as many have noted, was the Reichstag fire of 1933. Please understand that I will not compare our President with Hitler. I think the comparisons are inaccurate, off-base and vulgar. But I will compare, as others have, the tactics both administrations used to transform a terrorist attack into a means of taking authoritarian control of their citizens.

And then he goes into a lengthy comparison of Bush to Hitler.

Now I didn't hear these sermons personally. But I have heard similar sermons from other UU ministers who were also friends and supporters of Ramsey Clark and ANSWER.

For those who don't know, Ramsey Clark supported both Kims of N Korea, Khomeini, PolPot, defended terrorist of the PLO, Saddam Hussein, defended the a 7th Day Adventist preacher who in Rwanda helped orgainize the murders of thousands, and on and on.

And you know what, the educated UU members were just as ignorant about ANSWER, etc as the Baptists were about, well
America being a Christian country.

And dont get me start about divestment from Israel, which I think should be subtitled "We don't hate all Jews, just about 1/3 of them who think they can have their own country".

---

ObWi, provactive as usual.

Sorry Slarti if I led you to think that I expect total vigilance, I'm just hoping for even-handedness. You've made it clear that people should take up points where they appear. Bizarrely enough, there is not one word that Neiwert wrote here, just a reference by Bob McManus, yet we have Jonas suggest
Neiwert conjures fascist demons out of his rear end.

and Seb chiming in with wholehearted agreement. Just pointing out that comity begins at home...

It's blasphemy. That's my point.

Well Edward, I come from a religious background where "Touchdown Jesus" or ending the "Hail Mary" (before a sports contest) with "Queen of Victory Pray for Us" is a part of the religious culture. I don't believe Mary or Jesus were football or baseball fans notwithstanding I don't believe TJ or "Queen of Victory" is blasphemous. How about all those latin players pointing to the heavens (well God) after each home run.

Comparing a sporting event to an action that produces killing, cheating, rape, theft, murder, destroying families, destroying houses, disease, a violation of every Chrsitian ethical standard, is sick.

And no, claiming to perform those acts in the name of democracy, justice, freedom, civilization, pride, honor and etc., sounds like blasphemy.

War is hell...and to many of the faithful are in a hurry to get there.

Two thoughts. First, on Neiwert. I think that because he's spent so much time covering Nazis that he begins to see Nazis in places where they aren't. "To a hammer, everything looks like a nail" and all that.

As for the question of war in Christianity, well, pacificism has always been a minority opinion in the Christian faith, since in the New Testament, when John the Baptist preaches to soldiers, he doesn't tell them to give up soldiering. Rather, he tells them not to plunder, be content with their pay, etc. Likewise, in Matthew Chapter 8 and Luke Chapter 7 we have the story of the Centurion who comes to Christ when his servant is ill. Christ admires the faith of the centurion, telling the people that he has not seen such faith among the people of Israel. He does *not* tell him to give up soldiering.

Likewise, when Peter baptizes Cornelius the Centurion, he does not tell him to give up soldiering.

You *can* get pacifism out of Christianity, but it's tough, since you basically have to take a pacifistic interpretation of the sermon on the Mount and hold it up against the entire rest of the Old and New Testament.

It is precisely the avoidance of a conspiratorial framework that makes Neiwert's work so useful. He describes the "mobilizing passions", moods, attitudes that allow fascism as a mass movement to gain momentum and become political action.

"Mobilizing passions" that are strikingly similar to the subjects of Edward's post. Mere coincidence? Or an early symptom and warning?

Coincidence, I am sure. And the Wampum awards seemed flooded by the large crowds at DKos and Atrios, which isn't unfair at all, but should be taken into account in judging Neiwert's merit. Just read Part 2 of the series and see if anything looks.....familiar.

Christian ethics, you mean as it pertains to a "just war".

Edward, please don't ever visit the U.S. Air Force Academy as the Cadet Chapel is the dominant structure.

Christian ethics do not allow for many Machevalian geo-strategic conserns...I'm sure the Augustinians and Thomist in the Roman Catholic church and churches throughout the world, did their homework, and saw this as a self-rightious land grab.

Most Christian churchs from all spectrums around the world saw the invasion of Iraq and the deployment of killing, cheating, rape, theft, murder, destroying families, destroying houses, and disease for our cause unnecesary.

Andrew,
In Matthew, 7:10, we do find "Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel," but before it is a synoptic reference to the centurian's power of authority over his servants--indicating that Jesus's reference measured his followers' obediance against the centurians. Perhaps an ironic statement?

Then in Matthew 7:11-12, the continuation of the story, we find:

11. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of Heaven.
12. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Interestingly, the "Young's Literal Translation" source from LJ's link translates "kingdom" as "reign."

I read this passage as a testament to Jesus--the Jew--being tolerant towards a Roman soldier as an honorable person. In other words, Jesus's restraint towards and openminded admiration of certain aspects of a soldier of the occupying power is one more sign of his desire to spread his message among the many nations. Jesus agreed to heal a Roman soldier's servant--this is supposed to be a sign of Jesus's pro-war tendencies?

The Luke passage is more problematic and more interesting, as Luke is generally considered to be the source closest to Jesus in chronology. Luke gives more info about the soldier. His reputation, according to Jesus's friends, is that "he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue" (luke 7:5). And, as the soldier (remember, a Roman soldier of the occupying power) is warned that Jesus is coming, he sends word that "I am not worthy that though shouldest enter under my roof" (Luke 7:6). He goes on to remind Jesus that he has authority (and, perhaps, implicitly, reports to an authority), and Jesus still heals the sick.

No, Jesus did not actually condemn the Centurion for his profession, but that would seem beside the point, I think.

(If this is getting boring for the regulars, just tell me to stop.)

Reeves,

Would they have to have given up "soldiering" to follow Him?

He seemed to show love to many types of degenerates, but didn't they have to give up things to follow him?

He blessed prostitutes, can one be a prostitute for Christ?

Would our desire for oil equal a desire for plunder?

Jackmormon,

You go girl.

Jack, yeah, the context of the passages really isn't about the military, it's about Christ's authority and relations to the gentiles. It is nonetheless telling that He (and Peter) have nothing to say against such a profession.

Neo, the thing is, only part of Christ's message is forgiveness, the other part is "repent." When Jesus told those who were going to stone a woman caught up in adultery that he who was without sin could cast the first stone, He followed up by telling her, "Go, and sin no more." And as for the issue of Mary Magdalene, the entire creation of her out of three Marys and the story that she was a reformed prostitute was more a product of Pope Gregory the Great's exegesis than the text of the Bible itself.

All of which is to say that if the NT were completely pacifist, soldiers would have an admonition to repent.

The whole identifying the U.S. with Christianity, though, that's kind of creepy.

Edward, I agree with you -- including the part where you point out that they can do it, but we can also show it to as many people as possible...shine a light on it, so to speak.

If the men's group at church wants to honor our fighting men and women - especially if they are part of the congregation -- and the sacrifices they make, that doesn't bother me. Christ told his followers to render unto Caesar, and Caesar has taken us to war. A soldier who chooses to conscientiously* follow his orders is doing no wrong, as far as I'm concerned.

What bothers me about this incident is threefold:
1. The fervor re: the military that caused the organizers to be oblivious to the wrongness of covering up the cross with symbols related to war.
2. The recruitment table. Just no. NO.

and

3. This is a larger issue that has bothered me for some time, and which I should do a post on sometime: the move of the right-wing, fundamentalist Christians to an Old Testament-driven theology. The "new covenant" that Jesus brought is hardly acknowledged, while the war, strict prohibitions, and politics of the Old Testament seem to be used as justifications for discrimination, governmental control of personal lives, and violence in the name of justice.

Tomist, you mean Aquinians, and I missed the land grab, maybe you could point it out to me.

While the Curia struggled with the Iraqi conflict geopoltically speaking, it was smart enough to leave the ethics alone. Which given the recent elections in Iraq, was very wise indeed.

As I've said before, being Roman Catholic, I leave the Christian comments to others.

*The asterisk in my post was supposed to connect to this:

*There are problems, of course, with a Christian soldier who is violent or cruel or otherwise "unChristlike" outside his orders (or even, I suppose it might occur, within them). See: Abu Ghraib.

Would you argue that Jesus believed the Romans had "just cause" to occupy Palestine?

Was Jesus an admirer of Pax Romana? I mean he was kind to some of the representitives of that Empire?

(and yes, I think the scene in The Life of Brian, where the Judean Liberation Front gave a list of all the wonderful things the Roman Empire provided was funny)

The cross was behind an American Flag. Opus on the altar of the church I go to the American Flag is prominently displayed. From time to time we even sing patriotic songs.

As for the New Testament, human "dignity" is a high priority in my religion.

Roman Catholic, eh?

John Paul II stated before the 2003 war that this war would be a defeat for humanity which could not be morally or legally justified.

In the weeks and months before the U.S. attacked Iraq, not only the Holy Father, but also one Cardinal and Archbishop after another at the Vatican spoke out against a "preemptive" or "preventive" strike. They declared that the just war theory could not justify such a war. Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran said that such a "war of aggression" is a crime against peace. Archbishop Renato Martino, who used the same words in calling the possible military intervention a "crime against peace that cries out vengeance before God," also criticized the pressure that the most powerful nations exerted on the less powerful ones on the U.N. Security Council to support the war. The Pope spoke out almost every day against war and in support of diplomatic efforts for peace. J. Francis Cardinal Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and former archbishop of Denver and the highest ranking U. S. Bishop in Rome, sharply criticized the U.S. government's push for military strikes on Iraq, saying war would be morally unjustified and a further alarming example of increased global use of violent force.

John Paul II sent his personal representative, Cardinal Pio Laghi, a friend of the Bush family, to remonstrate with the U.S. President before the war began. The message: God is not on your side if you invade Iraq.

After the United States began its attacks against Iraq, FOX News actually reported the immediate comments of the Holy Father, made in an address at the Vatican to members of an Italian religious television channel, Telespace: "When war, as in these days in Iraq, threatens the fate of humanity, it is ever more urgent to proclaim, with a strong and decisive voice, that only peace is the road to follow to construct a more just and united society," John Paul said. "Violence and arms can never resolve the problems of man."


link

Nope,...Thomist.

The mantra "Elections justify all. Elections justify all."

So morals and ethics are relative to political theories conserning electoral politics?

Elections justify killing, cheating, rape, theft, murder, destroying families, destroying houses, and chaos?

Was that in the letter to Corinth?

John Paul II stated before the 2003 war that this war would be a defeat for humanity

While it doesn't happen often, John Paul II was wrong. Just look at what is transpiring in the Middle East. Good thing his comment was an article of faith.

Was the establishment of an Iraqi Republic worth it, yup, it sure looks that way.

Roman Catholic, eh?


Yes, I'm a member of the Holy Roman Catholic Church with an Irish twist.

My apologies for questioning your faith, Timmy, I obviously got under your skin, given the three consecutive out of order responses. I would like to know how you justify disagreeing with the Pope on this, but as it seems too close to home, feel under no obligation to answer. Again, my apologies. I'll stay clear of this line of discussion from now on.

Andrew,
It is nonetheless telling that He (and Peter) have nothing to say against such a profession.

Are you referencing the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10)?

My bible who's who points out that Cornelius was the first gentile to embrace Christianity without first embracing the Jewish people and cause. A roman soldier being baptized to the faith of the charismatic preacher? Sounds like a major propaganda coup to me. I sure wouldn't make the moment ugly by proclaiming that no occupying soldiers had the right to join our cause. And I doubt I'd linger on the probably nasty bureaucratic results of an Imperial underling's choosing to convert to a minoritarian nativist religion, whose leader had been executed for treason and hubris.

But I also note that Peter is written as replying to Cornelius's extraordinary story of conversion thus:

Acts 10: 34. Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.
35. But in every nation he that feareth him, and wortheth righteousness, is accepted with him.

See, here's what keeps bringing me back to the Bible, years after I lost my literal faith. Peter's first line is funny. It's a subtle jab: "well, I wouldn't've expected such commendable faith from you!" But the super-cool part is that Peter goes on to take the Roman soldier at his word, despite all the reasons to suspect him.

The goal of the Gospels is to bring everyone--anyone--into the tent. Yes, this involves repentence. It's telling, though, that the conspicuous soldier mentioned so far here are Romans who convert: one presumes that their process of repentence will involve being less hostile to the local nativist movement represented by Christ.

If you've got more Biblical Christian soldiers you'd like me to parse, let me know. If you're sick of the discussion, I'll fade away.

I like the way the United States invaded Ireland and Eastern Europe to democratize them.

Jackmormon: I have been lurking in this thread, mostly because I was occupied writing my own, but I'm not bored in the least. I was Christian for ten crucial years (13-22), and one of the things I really miss is intelligent Bible-parsing. (Seriously.)

Have you read Slacktivist's Left Behind Commentary? The author is an evangelical liberal who is seriously annoyed at how his religion is being abused. He takes it in small chunks, and is now only up to p. 71 of the first book. It's only worth it if you've actually read any of the Left Behind series, but if you have, it's great. I particularly liked his scathing account of the heroes of the book picking their way through the rubble: the authors describe the wreckage of planes, etc., in a sort of detached-yet-lurid way, but the heroes don't stop to help anyone, and this fact is not remarked on at all. If I were still Christian and I read those books, I'd be writing an exhaustive angry commentary too.

Anyways, I mention it because it has an account of a scarily twisted premillenial dispensationalist rationale for thinking that the Antichrist will be a man of peace. One of those Biblical arguments that leave you thinking, they believe what???

When I wrote: "He takes it in small chunks", I meant the Left Behind books, not his religion.

"Anyways, I mention it because it has an account of a scarily twisted premillenial dispensationalist rationale for thinking that the Antichrist will be a man of peace."

It can't always be the butler.

It can't always be the butler.

It's... Beelzebutler!

"a scarily twisted premillenial dispensationalist rationale for thinking that the Antichrist will be a man of peace..."

Well, it seemed relevant to this post ...

Anyway, it's "premillennial". And it's probably "Bill ze Cat".

I was Christian for ten crucial years (13-22), and one of the things I really miss is intelligent Bible-parsing. (Seriously.)

I don't mean to interfere as a relatively completely non-Christian person, but insofar as I can tell the "Left Behind" phenomenon is the result of quick and completely superficial bible-parsing followed by a quick retreat to faith. All of my right-wing fundamentalist friends are completely dumbfounded by how many Christians are swept up by this scripturally weak notion and have no idea what to do about it.

I had a taste of why this holiday season when I was at a dinner party where there was a born-again Christian who adhered to this particular end-times view. I brought up that my friend, who is working on his masters to enter the ministry and who takes a very strict view of scripture, thought this was completely absurd. Her reply was for him to read the passages again and pray to God for wisdom. That's all she had to offer.

And that's why I'm not bullish on this dream people are peddling of conflating our (liberal) politics with our faiths. We all have enough trouble communicating with each other as it is without having things break down like that.

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