Archive for theology
"Were it not for the support offered by several tens of millions of evangelicals, militarism in this deeply and genuinely religious country becomes inconceivable." ~ Andrew Bacevich (Colonel, U.S. Army, Ret.).
This is one of the most sobering statements in Dr. Bacevich’s important book The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Oxford, 2005). Whether you agree or disagree with evangelical support for militarism, the fact remains that the largest group of Americans that the government can count on to support the institution of the military, the empire of troops and bases that encircles the globe, large defense budgets, overseas military interventions, the perpetual war on terror, and now torture is evangelical Christians – and the more conservative the more bloodthirsty.
If there is any group that should oppose these things, it is conservative Christians who profess to be in subjection to the Bible. There is something gravely wrong with evangelical Christianity when socialists like Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky get it right and conservative Christians get it wrong.
Christian warmongers are looking in the Bible, but they are looking in the wrong place. Everything in the Bible is written for us, but not to us. Although there are some exceptions, most Christian warmongers are Janus Christians.
Janus was the two-headed Roman god of gates and doors. With faces that looked in two different directions, he could see forward and backward at the same time. Because he was considered the god of beginnings, our first month, January, was named after him.
So, what do many evangelicals have in common with the Roman god Janus?
Tags: Bible, christian libertarianism, ethics, peace, theology, war, war on terror
I am not positive at all toward Jim Wallis’s left-leaning positions on government intervention in the economy and social issues. Nonetheless, he is completely correct in his criticism of John McCain and Vietnam/Iraq:
Let me state some clear convictions from many of us in faith community. The war in Vietnam was morally wrong. The war in Iraq was morally wrong. And John McCain has been morally wrong on both of them. Christian judgments of war should always run a narrow spectrum — from the peacemaking ethic of Jesus which rejects war to the just war theology of Augustine and Aquinas. But even in the just war tradition, conflicts have to pass a number of moral tests and be the option of “last resort.” The burden of proof is always on those who support war to justify the taking of life.
Well said, Mr. Wallis. However, I find it odd that while Wallis has repeatedly gone out of his way to criticize wars initiated by Republicans, he has been nearly silent on the five or six lower-profile wars his friend and confidante President Barack Obama has initiated.
Wallis is walking a very fine line at the edges of political power, and I would encourage anyone who reads Sojourners to consider what a principled stance against state-sponsored violence really entails.
Tags: ethics, iraq, Jim Wallis, John McCain, militarism, Sojourners, theology, Vietnam, war
Christian philosopher Alvin C. Plantinga has won the prestigious Rescher Prize for contributions to systematic philosophy. David Theroux of the Independent Institute has a detailed account of Plantinga and the award here.
Tags: Alvin Platinga, Christianity, Independent Institute, philosophy, theology
Murray Rothbard wrote the following article for Liberty Magazine in 1990. It provides an interesting summary and perspective on the implications of millennialism upon the political landscape. Though this comes from a non-Christian author, I think it is instructive and insightful.
Christianity has played a central role in Western civilization and contributed an important influence on the development of classical-liberal thought. Not surprisingly, Christian beliefs about the "end times" are very important for us right now.
Christian Reconstructionism is one of the fastest growing and most influential currents in American religious and political life. Though the fascinating discussions by Jeffrey Tucker and Gary North (in the July and September issues of Liberty) have called libertarian attention to, and helped explain, this movement, to clarify Christian Reconstructionism fully we have to understand the role and problem of millennialism in Christian thought.
The problem centers around on the discipline of eschatology, or the Last Days, and on the question, How is the world destined to come to an end? The view that nearly all Christians accept is that at a certain time in the future Jesus will return to earth in a Second Advent, and preside over the Last Judgment, at which all those then alive and all the bodily resurrected dead will be assigned to their final places — and human history, and the world as we know it, will have come to an end.
So far, so good. A troublesome problem, however, comes in various passages in the Bible, in the Book of Daniel, and especially in the final book of Revelation, in which mention is made of a millennium, of a thousand-year reign of Christ on earth — the Kingdom of God on earth (KGE) — before the final Day of Judgment. Who is to establish that kingdom, and what is it supposed to look like?
Tags: Christian Right, fundamentalism, history, millennialism, millennium, Murray Rothbard, politics, premillennialism, theology
If you have never read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, and close friend to J.R.R. Tolkien), then you are missing out. In the book, the arch-demon Screwtape corresponds with his nephew Wormwood, who had recently been appointed his “temptership” on Earth. Lewis, in the voice of Screwtape, writes about the intricacies of sin and temptation, and it is an amazingly insightful work.
After publishing The Screwtape Letters, Lewis wrote an additional piece called “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” in which Screwtape is giving a lecture before the Tempters’ Training College. (It is often included in current editions of the original book.) A most interesting element of the essay is the indictment of “democracy” itself, or perhaps “the diabolical democratic spirit.” Having been reminded of this essay recently, I felt it would be fun and enlightening to share it with you. I’ve highlighted some significant parts throughout the essay. Enjoy!
(The scene is in Hell at the annual dinner of the Tempters’ Training College for young devils. The principal, Dr. Slubgob, has just proposed the health of the guests. Screwtape, a very experienced devil, who is the guest of honour, rises to reply:)
It is customary on these occasions for the speaker to address himself chiefly to those among you who have just graduated and who will very soon be posted to official Tempterships on Earth. It is a custom I willingly obey. I well remember with what trepidation I awaited my own first appointment. I hope, and believe, that each one of you has the same uneasiness tonight. Your career is before you. Hell expects and demands that it should be — as mine was — one of unbroken success. If it is not, you know what awaits you.
I have no wish to reduce the wholesome and realistic element of terror, the unremitting anxiety, which must act as the lash and spur to your endeavours. How often you will envy the humans their faculty of sleep! Yet at the same time I would wish to put before you a moderately encouraging view of the strategical situation as a whole.
Your dreaded Principal has included in a speech full of points something like an apology for the banquet which he has set before us. Well, gentledevils, no one blames him. But it would be in vain to deny that the human souls on whose anguish we have been feasting tonight were of pretty poor quality. Not all the most skillful cookery of our tormentors could make them better than insipid.
Oh, to get one’s teeth again into a Farinata, a Henry VIII, or even a Hitler! There was real crackling there; something to crunch; a rage, an egotism, a cruelty only just less robust than our own. It put up a delicious resistance to being devoured. It warmed your inwards when you’d got it down.
Instead of this, what have we had tonight? There was a municipal authority with Graft sauce. But personally I could not detect in him the flavour of a really passionate and brutal avarice such as delighted one in the great tycoons of the last century. Was he not unmistakably a Little Man — a creature of the petty rake-off pocketed with a petty joke in private and denied with the stalest platitudes in his public utterances — a grubby little nonentity who had drifted into corruption, only just realizing that he was corrupt, and chiefly because everyone else did it? Then there was the lukewarm Casserole of Adulterers. Could you find in it any trace of a fully inflamed, defiant, rebellious, insatiable lust? I couldn’t. They all tasted to me like undersexed morons who had blundered or trickled into the wrong beds in automatic response to sexy advertisements, or to make themselves feel modern and emancipated, or to reassure themselves about their virility or their “normalcy,” or even because they had nothing else to do. Frankly, to me who have tasted Messalina and Cassanova, they were nauseating. The Trade Unionist stuffed with sedition was perhaps a shade better. He had done some real harm. He had, not quite unknowingly, worked for bloodshed, famine, and the extinction of liberty. Yes, in a way. But what a way! He thought of those ultimate objectives so little. Toeing the party line, self-importance, and above all mere routine, were what really dominated his life.
Tags: C.S. Lewis, culture, democracy, education, freedom, government, individualism, society, theology