Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Current Iraq War and the Episcopal Church

Have we no shame as a people? (nota bene: the "soldier" on the right is pointing to a char-broiled corpse, barely discernible as human in the photo; on the left, the celebration concerns part of a corpse, claimed to belong to a car-bomber)

Rev. Mark Harris recently complained that the churches were not doing enough to mark the passing of the 2000th death of a US soldier in Iraq; and of course he is right to ask "Where is the reflection? Where is the action?" Frankly, from where I stand within the well-fed and affluent environs of bourgeois America, the Iraq War is something of a mere abstraction, out there. Have we, at least in practice, traded the Kingdom of God for the Kingdom of Caesar, the Kingdom of the Devil?

What does YHWH have in store for us as a people? Is there anyone out there who thinks that Jesus would approve of the current Iraq War? Even that it fits, say, Aquinas' criteria for being a just war? I'm sure some such creatures are out there. But seriously, ask yourself exactly what about it makes unjust...e.g. Is it our rather ironic use of chemical weapons, i.e. the atrocious white phosphorus (from the Times Independent)? Is it the malicious use of outright lies by our elected leadership in manipulating the American people into support of the war? Well, I fear not much was really needed to manipulate the American people; they went along, by and large, rather willingly. And I have a feeling, as the Iraq War proves to be more and more an immoral gamble undertaken with idiotic levity, an everlasting monument to our viciousness and stupidity as a people, the American people would rather find a scapegoat than repent. Once again we see how our celebrated religiousity has failed; we as a people proclaim ourselves to be religious believers, and very many claim to be Christian, but in truth we have a rather tired lust for power more reminiscent of the Aeneid than the Sermon on the Mount. We are a nation of rather ill-tempered and thoroughly immoral pagans in desperate need of Christ.

It is hard for me to picture universalism as true; I sympathize with Lewis in The Great Divorce. Hell is just as real--and gratuitous--as this war. When you contemplate the words of Amos, how can you fail to be filled with fear?

(Ch. 2, NRSV)
14Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain their strength, nor shall the mighty save their lives; 15those who handle the bow shall not stand, and those who are swift of foot shall not save themselves, nor shall those who ride horses save their lives; 16and those who are stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, says the LORD.

(Ch. 5)
21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.

(Ch. 6)
O you that put far away the evil day, and bring near a reign of violence? 4Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; 5who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; 6who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!

When we hear of an Episcopal priest coming under fire from the IRS for speaking the justice of God against this war, we should recognize how important it is to support him. And not only that: to hold up his conduct, his open opposition in the name of God, as an example to other preachers of the Word who might have been curiously silent about the atrocities for which their congregations may be responsible. Is it not a culpable negligence on a preacher's part to risk harm to the souls of his or her congregation by keeping silence here? We need to reflect, to speak against injustice, to protest. That is just the beginning of what we should be doing as Christians to bring this abomination to an end.

For we as a people are truly Sodom on the plain--and not because we are painfully recognizing that homosexuals may indeed love sacramentally, thereby bringing our minds after millennia into line with the mind of Christ--but because we are beyond inhospitible to the weak and vulnerable in our midst.

The risks around this on the traditional theology coming to us through the Fathers and the Doctors are absolutely incredible. It is not as if God saves us because His happiness requires it--quite to the contrary. Transcendence should terrify--not even Christ, fully divine, presumed to hurl himself off the roof, expecting to be causght by angels. Will we presume where Christ did not dare?


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