Sunday, April 13, 2008

UNDER THE INFLUENCE: The narcotic of war and why so many Christians are addicted to it

One of the most annoying things about email and the Internet is the apparently endless stream of obnoxious, unsolicited socio-political commentary that finds its way into my mailbox every day. From friends, no less. But from a psychological point of view, however, few things reveal so much about a person’s leanings as the email they forward to me.

One such vein of thought is the Christian stance on the war in Iraq, and why it varies so wildly from Christian to Christian. Almost daily, I receive emails from Christian friends—some born-again, some merely cultural, but all professing to believe—who are adamantly supportive of the war in Iraq, and still see it as the major front in the war on terror. Never mind that violence and retribution are strongly rebuked by the Christ they claim to believe in. This attitude is reflected in the patriotic (but often militant and jingoistic) emails that circulate endlessly, speaking of God and country, sacrifice and honor. War is painted in a dangerously noble and romantic light, and some of these emails compare the deaths of our soldiers to the substitutionary death of Christ. We're always good, and the enemy is always evil, and God is on our side. Problem is, no matter where I look in the email, once God is mentioned, He just seems to disappear from view and the rest of the email worships the idols of nationalism and military might. God, it appears, was simply used as a prop to support their ideology, and His call to follow Him is ignored.

Compounding this problem is that so few of these emails have their facts straight. The basis for my friends' strong beliefs about the Iraq war rely—quite unfortunately—on the marketing and sales pitches that come from the current administration, those sound bytes and blurbs about noble sacrifice for a greater cause, about good (us)-versus-bad (them), and how we must stop the terrorists at any cost.

That would all be fine if it were true. But it’s not. In fact, most of it is a terrible lie. Terrorism is an ideology carried out by small cells of extremists from all over the globe, not the act of a sitting government using its standing army. The war on terrorism is best fought through covert international police actions. Iraq wasn't behind 9/11... that's a fact. All the terrorist attacks in the past twenty years have been carried out by non-Iraqis. In fact, not a single terrorist from the 9/11 attack was Iraqi. Fifteen of them, however, were from Saudi Arabia, a country we call our friend. Why didn’t we invade Saudi Arabia? The remainder were from other countries with which we have strong diplomatic ties: United Arab Emirates (2), Lebanon (1) and Egypt (1). Again, why didn't we invade those countries? We weren't attacked by the state-supported army of any country. Why did we use ours to invade a country that wasn't even involved?

The press also fell victim to this deceit by accepting the military's offer to travel "embedded" with combat units in Iraq. Once the media said "Yes," truthful reporting of the facts became a casualty of war. If a reporter covered anything that cast a negative light on the invasion, they were pulled from their embedded position. As a reporter, you either toed the party line, or you lost your ticket to the big dance. In the competitive world of broadcast journalism, you dare not lose your ticket to the big dance, or it could mean the end of your job.

Attacking Iraq to stop terrorism was an absurd proposition from the start. Justifying the invasion of Iraq as a means to confront terrorism was akin to burning down a barn to kill a few mice—there was nothing logical about it. The excuse for invading was built on lies, all well documented by now, but we charged in anyway. After no weapons of mass destruction were found, the administration changed it’s tune: Saddam was a brutal dictator who needed to go. The focus changed to “regime change,” a political marketing term if there ever was one.

If that was the case, then why did we prop him up during the 1980s, giving him money and weapons? He was a brutal dictator then as well. The US (and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, then a special envoy under the elder Bush, seen shaking hands here with Saddam in 1984) knew then that he was killing his own people, and yet we turned a blind eye. But our hypocrisy didn’t stop there. Just listen to our current vice president, Dick Cheney, speak about Iraq in 1994 and what a disaster it would be to invade...prophetic words, proudly ignored just nine years later. It’s true: in time of war, the first casualty is the truth. Hubris is king, and a selectively blind one at that.

The sad fact is this: Iraq was invaded for purely political and financial reasons, to advance the causes of the neo-conservative movement. As Alan Greenspan, the highly-respected former Chairman of the Federal Reserve noted in his autobiography: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

In the final analysis, the citizenry was sold an idea that was false, and most bought into it, including many Christians. Our dedicated soldiers, trusting the motives of politicians, are being misused, their lives put needlessly at risk. Over 4,000 have becomes victims of the violence. Over one hundred thousand Iraqi citizens have died violent deaths because of the madness set off by our invasion. We have essentially helped focus the hatred of the Arab Muslim world against us, and it’s only a matter of time before the extremists among them attempt something big again. Trillions of dollars have been spent fighting a conventional war against an ideology, and now, when directly pressed for an answer about what constitutes “success” in Iraq, our generals have no answer.

In the end, all Christians who support the war must ask themselves these simple questions: Who would Jesus bomb? Who would Jesus invade? Who would Jesus torture? Even more pressing, what dictator would Jesus have propped up, fully aware that he was killing his own people? And which government would Jesus have supported, knowing that it was selling a false idea to the masses to advance the political ideology of the few?

God came to earth incarnate in Christ. In the person of Jesus, God said, “Here’s how the world would operate if everyone was to do it My way. Listen carefully to me. Then watch me and remember. Then go transform the world in My name by acting like Me.”

If we claim to be Christians, then we claim to be followers of Christ. But as the apostle John tells us, if we say we’re followers of Christ, but don’t walk as He walked, then we’re liars and the truth is not in us. That’s the harsh litmus test of a true Christian, and the test we most often fail.

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