Nothing really boils my blood more than a defense of the Iraq War and the American heroes, like the American Sniper, who the Christian Right seems to idolize for carrying out their President’s war crimes. I know that sounds dramatic but it was exactly this conflict and its American Evangelical canonization that almost got me to walk away from Jesus altogether. Since you can read more about my story with peace and how it saved my faith here, I won’t be redundant with the details. But suffice it to say, the Iraq War and I have a troubled history. The so-called War on Terror is my generation’s Vietnam. Clinton, Bush, and Obama are my generation’s Kennedy, LBJ, and Nixon. It is frustrating for me to see how the United States, and the pundits that get paid to do its talking, can justify and honor the war that hurt and killed so many, and served precisely no purpose. (Edit: Other than wealth and domination, and furthering the American Empire which is run by the one percent.)
I remember the big critique my liberal friends made in college about the Iraq War surrounded the U.S.’s alliance with Saddam Hussein when he was fighting the U.S’s true enemy at the time: Iran. This photo of Rummy and Saddam shaking hands preserved the moment that exposed that the U.S.’s war machine will find any reason to protect its interest, whether it means installing a brutal dictator, or brutally removing him. I am saddened that the Iraq War ever happened. It is a dark mark in a history filled with them, and I, for one, think the damage that it did is overwhelming.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumself, and Paul Wolfowitz, the post-9/11 leaders that brought us the PATRIOT Act, in the name of “God and Country,” damaged the former while never honoring the latter.
The Iraq War furthered the impression that the U.S. was a “Messianic Nation,” the savior of the world. Reagan’s American exceptionalism codified our civil religion, and Bush’s quagmire war further cemented it.
The U.S.’s national identity is tied to a faith of its own. Examples of such are in its language that says the President’s power comes from God, our America is God’s chosen nation, phrases like “In God We Trust,” “God Bless America,” “One Nation Under God.” It isn’t Judeo-Christian values that the nation was founded on (try American Indian genocide and African slavery), but rather the U.S. created its own religious philosophy to win the hearts of its people, just like Constantine. The myth that surrounds the U.S. is made using divine language. Just like the Romans thought their emperors were “Sons of God,” so does the U.S. Here’s one excerpt from the actor president.
“You can call it mysticism if you want to, but I have always believed that there was some divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage.”
Reagan and others who have used the phrase in the past, borrowed it from Jesus, actually. Jesus uses the term “city on a hill” when he was first giving the Sermon on the Mount, his big speech in Matthew that retaught us all how to live our lives. Reagan uses it for idolatry and to elevate the U.S.’s heads of state to “Sons of God.” Jesus is the true Son of God and bowing to anyone but him is nothing short of blasphemy.
William Cavanaugh in his book Migrations of the Holy makes the argument that the idea of American exceptionalism, and its civil religion, makes America God itself, or at least, makes America into God’s new chosen land. That mentality is damaging to our souls and our mission.
Rod posted this video that has me amped up to declare the truth about Jesus.
I have a hard time defending Michael Moore, and I’m not really here to do that, but I will defend Jesus. When Todd Starnes (who I didn’t even know existed until this video), starts quoting Jesus, in Matthew 25, to justify killing someone, I can’t take it. Michael Moore tweets a question about whether Jesus would shoot his enemy. Starnes retorts by telling him that he would congratulate the snipers doing their job.
The entire point of the passage that Starnes is quoting is that Jesus is in the least of these! In the United States, the least of these are the people that the American snipers are killing! I wrote on Rod’s wall, “Jesus saves. The fact that some pundit can use his name to justify the oil war and live to tell about it is a testament to Christ’s nonviolence.”
I have to speak out about the truth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, because corporately-purchased talking heads will drone on and on about why they would have killed Iraqis and meanwhile, many millennials I know think the Church and Christianity is a joke (and the research proves it). Starnes tattoos that reputation.
If you don’t think dudes like Starnes and the generation’s abandonment of faith are connected, I don’t know why. I would not want to worship a God who killed his enemies, especially if those enemies were invented out of thin air to excuse a war fueled by oil interests, and maybe George Bush’s daddy issue. My word of prophecy: stop using Jesus to justify your violent nation-state and its atrocities. Let him transform who you are and what you do.
My rage about the Iraq War and its defense surrounds my rocky road to faith. But it also has to do with the hindrance that the Iraq War is to people following Jesus. The American defense of it is a stumbling block to thousands, millions even, of other people who are looking for hope. We have that hope in Jesus, but the fog of war, its ritualistic worship, and its proselytizers can blur it. The antidote is to proclaim the prophetic name of Jesus.
If you want an opportunity to do that, or to hear how we in Circle of Hope have, go to the “Iraq Aftermath” on Feb. 7 at Frankford & Norris (2007 Frankford Ave.) at 7 p.m. where Gwen White, Joshua Grace, Shane Claiborne, and Scott Kreuger will be sharing their experiences in Iraq from the last two decades.