What worries American Christians and what should worry them

Rather than taking BuzzFeed quizzes about finding out which Mad Men character I am (it’s always Pete Campbell, by the way), I’ve been off of social media for a few weeks now. My Internet browsing has changed, and so has my phone use. I’ve gotten reconnected to the news circuit and it is just as troubling as anything I found on my Twitter feed.

The stories that disturb me the most usually have to do with what influential Christians in the nation are worrying about and what they should be worrying about. It reminds me of when Jesus tells the Pharisees this:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. – Matthew 23:23-24

Some of the most vocal Christians in the U.S. are the owners of Hobby Lobby. I don’t think we have any in Philly, but the craft store chain has earned the Green family $5 billion. They recently made headlines when they filed a lawsuit against Obamacare since at a minimum it requires companies to provide insurance that would cover contraception that the Greens think are sinful. I think their opposition is logical, if not political too. The Greens might do better to relate to their employees and explain their ideals to them, as opposed to just imposing them.

The latest thing the Greens have done is write a Bible curriculum for public schools, open a museum in Washington, D.C all about the Bible. It’ll cost $800 million. This is amazing to me!

Politico quotes Steve Green, the President of Hobby Lobby:

“Our goal … [is to] reintroduce this book to the nation,” Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, said last spring before the National Bible Association. “This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught. We need to know it. And if we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary.”

The goal of the museum? “To inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible.”

To be honest, I kind of like the idea. Though I think the Bible generally is historically accurate, my main concern with the Bible is the spiritual direction is offers. I don’t want to get into a debate about inerrancy or infallibility (mainly because many of you had to Google those two terms to even know what I was talking about). I don’t really like to anthropomorphize the text, nor do I like to treat it like it’s a diety. But moreover, whatever my daughter learns at school or a museum, I’m going to want to reteach her anyway. It just seems weird to think that parents would just let an institution influence their children; moreover, it seems weirder that the Greens wouldn’t ask the same questions.

Nevertheless, the national media seems to be exploiting the stories about the Greens. Ultimately I think the media and the Greens are straining out gnats. And of course, the part of the scriptures that they don’t take seriously is the obvious New Testament commitment to peace.

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.—Matthew 26:52

My eyes opened last week when I started thinking about the War in Iraq being re-opened. I was concerned again that the U.S. military industrial complex was about to start a war to protect its interests.

The Civil War in Iraq, fueled by the turmoil in Syria, and a lack of good leadership by Iraqi’s Shiite prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, isn’t a surprise to anyone who understands the centuries old conflict between the two Muslim sects. Of course, many knew that sectarian violence would erupt in Iraq, but not the Iraq War’s architechts. Wolfowitz and Kristol both mocked the idea.  Although I’m generally suspicious of Tom Friedman’s Middle East analysis, he’s right when he says: “Maliki had a choice — to rule in a sectarian way or in an inclusive way — and he chose sectarianism.”

Friedman’s Sunday column is all about exonerating the current administration’s brain-dead foreign policy. Nicholas Kristof repeats the same premise in his column: “The debacle in Iraq isn’t President Obama’s fault. It’s not the Republicans’ fault. Both bear some responsibility, but, overwhelmingly, it’s the fault of the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.”

Kristof blames both Bush and Obama for the catastrophe in Iraq, while Friedman blames the antiquity of the Muslim conflict:

Sunnis and Shiites don’t need guns from us. They need the truth. It is the early 21st century, and too many of them are still fighting over who is the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad from the 7th century. It has to stop — for them, and for their kids, to have any future.

Nevertheless, the President is committed to doing something in Iraq. Why? Is it just a human rights issue? So often, that’s the rhetoric from the pols. Some might even say it’s a way to right the wrongs that the U.S. has committed in Iraq. Not surprisingly, the same war hawks who are always spoiling for a fight and who started the quagmire war are ready to do it again.

The real answer? I’ll quote my old Middle East History professor, Dr. Peter Gran, when he wrote to me and said, “I always took Friedman to be unreliable. This time he may have been drinking with some oil man back from Kurdistan where we are procuring oil.”

Well, there you go, Friedman praises Kurdistan as a great success of the Arab Spring, meanwhile, according to Forbes, “Exxon, Chevron, Total and many others have invested billions there to explore and drill virgin fields in concessions doled out by the Kurdish Regional Government.”

OH! That’s why you care, Obama. The U.S. has powerful oil interests investing billions in a war-torn region whose instability threatens those corporation’s profits. Is it time to install another strongman in Iraq that protects U.S. oil interest until he gets testy enough that we rinse and repeat, meanwhile dishing out contracts to Halliburton? Maliki wasn’t that strongman, it seems like he played into sectarian violence again, but when it serves the U.S.’s interests, the call for inclusion and dictatorship are synonymous. The Middle East will be a vacuum for progress and populism so long as the world is addicted to oil, the wealth of the elite in the Middle East coupled with the wealth of oil people all over the world is the greatest thing threatening Middle Eastern peace.

Lord, save us. Help us not to swallow this camel, in favor of straining out a gnat again. I hope we can really fight for things that matters: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

4 Replies to “What worries American Christians and what should worry them

  1. You’re talking about Christian opposition to the expansion of the abortion industry in the US, right? If you are, then I have to disagree- the abortion industry is not a nit or a gnat, either that we should ignore to get to bigger issues. If you don’t like the Greens’ approach, and I’m not so sure I would imitate their methods, either, then listen to Mother Theresa (who knows about mercy), Oscar Romero (who knows about violence), Alveda King (who knows about racial injustice), and Norma McKorvey (aka Jane Roe, who knows about unhelpful legislation). They say it’s a big deal; that it’s a camel, too.

    1. The gnat is the Bible museum and curriculum for me. Their opposition to Obamacare is more about why they are famous. With that stand, both opposition to Obamacare and their commitment to Bible literacy aren’t bad things. Jesus says that they should practice the former without neglecting the latter. Christians who are “pro-life” need to also include peace in their view.

      1. I agree. Christians who are “pro-life” need to also include peace in their view. But then isn’t the obverse also true?

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