Wednesday, May 8, 2013

War and the Church

  It is my opinion that the blind loyalty shown by the evangelical church to the GOP and its policies (which  were then extended by  the current  white House occupant) is one of the most disastrous sentiments to take hold of the hearts of otherwise sane people. I am reminded of ‘battered wife syndrome’ in which  a woman who could do better justifies and rationalizes her black eyes and  bruises and makes her way back  the abuser who will continue on in his crimes, only now with her  consent.  I understand the proclivity in human nature to lump themselves in with this group or that group, and then turn a blind eye towards the excesses and abuses of ‘our’ group, but when people who claim to love truth, and people who claim to love life and peace cheer on the invasion and occupation of foreign lands, it is a bit puzzling.  When people who ought to know better swallow the  state propaganda and  fervently convince themselves that the enemy is who the state says the enemy is, despite the state’s track record of lies, deception and self-serving propaganda, I wonder if we have taken full leave of any discernment we might have once  possessed.
  War is broken bones and twisted bodies and destruction. It is a mangling of all that is decent in man. Even when justified, as in a defensive war, it is a horrible expression of all the dark passions of the human heart. It is rivers of blood and abuse.   Even after its cessation, its evils continue to linger on in the shattered lives of the survivors. For those to claim to be children of light to buy into this and support it with their voices, and with their pulpits, is, at best a betrayal of their calling.  I am not a pacifist, far from it, but I cannot reconcile the lies of the state with the truths I am supposed to proclaim.  I cannot be a mouthpiece for the warfare state.
  But then again, hasn’t it always been this way?  Haven’t states always done this?   One of the ways to knit the hearts of a people to yourself is through your propaganda, and when the propaganda is spewed by someone they trust, someone they have confidence in,  then half of your battle is won. The natural defenses people erect in their minds against a President or a Congress is neatly circumvented when the same-half-hearted logic is employed by their pastor.
  Let me give you an example. In the 1860’s, Mr. Lincoln conducted an invasion of the Confederacy that cost over 600,000 lives by the time it was over.  To convince people of the necessity of their children being fed into the gaping maw of death, Mr. Lincoln needed pastors who would twist scripture and toe the party line. He needed northern preachers who would lay aside their eternal calling to drone on and on about the sanctity of the Union and its preservation at all costs.  Reading through  the sermons preached at that time in  Union-sympathetic churches, I am  struck with the similarities  to the military worship that occurs in modern evangelical circles.  All  one would need to do is  devolve the grammar and sentence structure bit, and   replace the term ‘the South’ with  ‘Afghanistan’ or ‘Iran’ and what you have is the modern evangelicals position on perpetual warfare.
  A sermon preached in Boston on Thanksgiving Day 1863 serves as our first example. Entitled “The War and the Millennium”, it attempts to establish a rather odd series of parallels between the Lincoln-led Union and the  coming kingdom of Jesus Christ.  Laying that blasphemy aside, the  sermon begins with the  questions 'Can the bloody feet of battle  be shod with the  preparation of the gospel of peace?'
  It then answers itself in the affirmative, making the  feeble case that  mankind is being made better by the slaughter of his fellow man at the behest of  a Washington tyrant, a sentiment akin to 'making the world safe for democracy'. Going on for quite some time, it eventually  makes the following amazing statement: "Three hundred thousand men hastened to cast themselves into the Gulf, that union and Democracy might be preserved."   Well, technically they were drafted, but why quibble over details?
  The real gem  shows up here: "The Union must be preserved, not alone because it was essential to our own welfare, but because  through its preservation would the  divine  doctrine of popular government  live among men. If America is lost, the world is  lost." Does that sound familiar to anyone else?
 "But our passion for our country is also and chiefly a passion for liberty.  We fight for empire, for empire means democracy.  We shall  wage this war fifty years if need be, because everybody, with more or less clearness sees that it's success is  essential to the preservation of those ideas"  I had no idea John McCain was channeling this gentleman.
  Lincoln  embraced fully this  fifth column of propagandists. Matthew Brady the photographer responsible for the most compelling photographs of the  war,  reportedly said "Without the evolution of the churches' opinions, . . . it is unlikely that the president could have proceeded as he did."
  At a  service in New York in 1863, Rev. Marvin Richardson Vincent used his precious  time in the Presbyterian pulpit to crank out the following piece of sermonistic prose: "The evils we combat, have been growing for eighty years, and are not going to disappear at out word. They will die hard, and it is well; for God is testing our worthiness to enjoy the boon of liberty, by asking how much we love it, how hard we are willing to fight for it, how much we are willing to sacrifice for it: and if we shall do this work like men, if we shall fall in with God's manifest design to purge our national anthem, singing with ever bolder emphasis, until the palmetto groves, and the still lagoons, and the snowy fields of cotton, now no longer King, shall be stirred with the voice of thanksgiving."   I submit to  you that the true evils of the day were the abandonment of the founding  principles that allowed Mr. Lincoln to get away with this, along with the  compliance of consent of  preachers who  should have known better. He went on to conclude :Methinks it might reach them as they lie in their cold beds at Antietam, and Chancellorville [sic], at Donelson and Vicksburgh, at Fredericksburgh, and Chattanooga, and Bull Run, and stir their silent dust with a throb of thanksgiving—of thanksgiving, not that peace has been restored; not that husbands and sons, and fathers, shall go forth to battle no more; not that trade is revived and commerce safe; but that God has led the nation through the vale of tears, through the terrible baptism of blood and fire, to a nobler and purer national life."
  I would hope that the insanity of those statements ring true to anyone who is aware of what a very different place  America was after 1865.  Yet the same thing is happening now as  our liberties are stripped, and our treasure stolen and  the blood of  our children  spilled for no discernible benefit.  Citizenry  fed a  steady diet of 'We support our president, no matter what, he's one of us ' (an actual statement I heard  during the Bush administration) will turn a blind eye to the charred remains of fellow human beings after a drone attack while patting themselves on the back about how they 'support the troops'. It is  high time that we re-establish our discernment as a people and  realize who the enemy just might be, and  experience a  real separation of church and state propaganda.
Post a Comment