30 April 2008

Rev. Wright: A Challenge for Christians

As news broadcasts edited down Senator Obama's remarks from yesterday damning Rev. Wright, one comment they emphasized was Obama's objection to Wright's equation of American wartime tactics with terrorism. Since Obama aspires to be Commander-in-Chief, and has indicated an interest in future humanitarian interventions, his attitude shouldn't surprise us. Patriotic Obama now contrasts himself with "anti-American" Wright. But is that the real difference between them?

Isn't it possible that Wright's opinion represents the more authentically Christian attitude toward warfare? From the perspective of Jesus, is there a moral distinction to be drawn between the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the attacks of 11 September 2001 that damns only the latter while justifying the former? Some of you may want to talk about the Christian "just war" tradition, but how much of that doctrine can be traced back to Jesus himself? Is there anything in the Gospels in which Jesus justifies war? Do you want to say, "Render unto Caesar?" Before you do, consider that Jesus wouldn't even let his disciples fight to defend him from the minions of the Sanhedrin. What makes you think he would encourage people to fight for any other cause, or that giving your life to the state is equivalent to paying taxes? Even after Jesus left the scene, where do you find Christian self-defense forces in the Acts of the Apostles? I don't recall any.

Let's face it: any notion of war being a proper activity for Christians probably dates back no further than the co-option of the faith by the emperor Constantine. That gave religious leaders a stake in the state and a reason to send the faithful to fight for it. Roman Catholics may remain convinced by all the "just war" commentary that followed from this change, but neither Jeremiah Wright nor Barack Obama nor Hilary Clinton nor John McCain nor George W. Bush is a Catholic. Wright's position seems clear (though I wonder whether he'd accept that a slave had no right to kill his master), but all the others also proclaim themselves Christians. How do they rationalize their commitments to present or future wars. How do the rest of you Christians do so? It's one thing for Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris to cry havoc against the Muslims; they're atheists. It's a similar thing for Zionists to join the charge; for good or ill, they have a warlike tradition to guide them. But Christians are not supposed to fight; you're supposed to turn the other cheek or accept passive, pacific martyrdom. Some of you have probably been tempted to think that Rev. Wright is not a good or a true Christian because he supposedly hates certain people and has spoken apparent untruths. But on the question of war, it strikes this objective observer that he's a better Christian than most of his fellow citizens. I welcome any attempt to prove me wrong.

1 comment:

crhymethinc said...

Nice one!