Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday's on Faith and Politics: Lives Matter.

This is the fourth installment in this series on faith and politics. You can read the previous installments here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 5

I realize that the title of this post might have misled some of you into thinking this post was about abortion. That one still may come, but this isn't it. The debate this week is supposed to focus on US national security and foreign policy, so I thought it might be a good idea to tackle that in this week's post. Fair warning, I'm pretty passionate about this topic, and I'm not going to beat around the bush: this post is going to be a little different than the others.

Me in Iskanderiyah, Iraq circa 2004

Lives. Matter.

All of them.

The fact that I was lucky enough to be born here in the United States does not make my life more valuable than someone born elsewhere. Nothing about the United States makes protecting innocent life at home worth shedding innocent blood abroad. When we deny this fact, we are denying the very essence of personhood that the Imageo Dei, the image of God, imparts to each and every one of us.

If I had to pick one policy arena that I thought best exemplified how Constantinian Christianity has served to silence the prophetic voice of the Bride, it is this one.

If there ever were a place where the idols of Nationalism, Patriotism, and Exceptionalism have supplanted the person of Christ on the altar of our hearts, it is here. 

If there ever were a time when Christianity had so fundamentally lost her way that her politics wholly replaced her faith, it is now.

There is very little in US foreign and national security policy that reflects the self-sacrificing, other-exalting cruciform way of Christ. Unsatisfied with the Lamb of God and Prince of Peace, we've placed our faith in that earthly surrogate whose name is "conquering king."

We have traded the truth of God for a lie, that our lives matter more than those in other countries, of other races, of different faiths, cultures, and tongues are somehow less human than we are. In our dehumanization of the Other, the lie is made complete, and the Gospel of radical, enemy-loving grace is lost to the false gospel of fear and vengeance.

Drone your enemies. Bomb those who persecute you.

The Nation is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?

Blessed are the warfighters, for they will be called heroes.

Hundreds of thousands have died at the hands of the United States in the last decade. I was so invested in the lie, that I enthusiastically volunteered to participate. But when you've heard the screams of a little girl caught in the middle of an artillery barrage, or smelled the burnt flesh of a little boy whose house was bombed for belonging to a "combatant," or when you've watched the remnants of what moments before was a man's body attempt to crawl away from the aftermath of a drone strike, you start to understand that, perhaps, things aren't as they seem.

If there is one area where our faith should absolutely influence our politics, it is this one, yet this is the area where we seem to work hardest to suppress and ignore the implications and obligations of our faith.

Lives matter.

All of them.

Including those of the soldiers you so willingly send in your stead.


  1. Luke, thank you so much for your open heart on this one. I've sat down and read it a couple times over.

    My husband was in the military but he was safely ensconced in a steel tube, deep under the surface of the water.

    I have definitely felt a shift from my allegiance being to a country my allegiance being to the Kindgdom. And that is where it all gets messy, doesn't it?

    I can't remember if it was Sarah Bessey or Megan Tietz who blogged about "uneasy pacifism." Maybe that's where I fall these days.

    I just don't know, and I'm so glad you wrote this out. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Brenna. (By the way, that was Sarah Bessy who wrote that post, and I remember it well.) I think all pacifists are, or at least should be, uneasy. Peace is waged like war, so when peacemakers become comfortable, they cede ground to the constant press of violence. It is a struggle.

      The irony is that peacemaking is rarely peaceful.

  2. You're right on. If word of this post gets out I think you'll have some pretty harsh critics. This is one of biggest blind spots as Christians and one of the ways that Christianity is in most opposition to rest of the world. People who bend over backwards to support the pro-life agenda are sometimes the same ones who are most in favor of agendas that end life once it's out of the womb. A Biblicly pro-life position is one that sees life precious in and outside of the womb.
    I could talk about this for hours.
    Thanks for writing this. You've done well!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Shane. I know other folks are passionate about this as well, but it certainly feels like we're in the minority sometimes!

      However, as far as "word of this post get[ing] out," I don't think there's anything to worry about there. :)

  3. Thank you so much for having the courage to say these prophetic words. I am a believer from a country in the Middle East but have lived in the US for quite some time now. I heartily concur with everything you beautifully said here. I have been quite passionate and vocal about this around my circles but the positive responses are very very few. Sadly my being from there is usually confused with my not being able to see things objectively (whatever that means). Some people think that I don't like America because of my views on this issue but it can't be further from the truth. Again, these mean a lot coming from someone like you.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I'm glad that my words resonated with you. Yes, it can certainly feel like we are in the minority (though I think there are many who feel this way but choose not to speak out), but peacemaking is hard, long, and often painful work.

      Ironically, I often get challenged on my own objectivity because of my own experiences (which strikes me as equally silly), but I find that those objections often arise simply as a defense mechanism from those whose worldview is being challenged. This is hard stuff we're dealing with, and it requires a seemingly infinite amount of grace.

      Stay strong. :)

  4. Hard, hard stuff is right. Thanks for your post Luke. I tentatively agree...tentatively because not having pat answers to a lot of questions (is there such a thing as just war?) makes me uncomfortable. But I'm slowly getting used to this, as I move away from easier black-and-white morality and politics.

    I have found, like you, that a more global perspective is often construed as "anti-American". Which is fine, because if being an American necessitates ignoring world-wide needs, then I don't want any part of it.

    1. Oh, you said the magic words (just war)!! It will perhaps be unsurprising that my answer would be "no", but that is another discussion for another day. :)

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I'm glad you found something you could connect to.

  5. Appreciate your words here, not to mention the well crafted way you write. While I believe that patriotism does not equal faith and never should be confused with it, I struggle about the whole war thing. I do believe human life is precious; I've spent countless hours working and volunteering with people whom many consider not of value. Yet through the years I've seen from the micro level to the macro level that strength can be good in that it allows you to achieve what you need to. Be it strength in my job so that people will do what I ask and the mission can be accomplished, or with my teen sons so they don't walk all over me, or even at a maco level as a nation. I have concerns that if we, as a nation, do not show ourselves strong that we will be harmed via terrorist acts and economic situations. Also, I don't have it all figured out by any means, but I see God talk about sending his people to war and about being the prince of peace in the Bible. It's just not cut and dried for me and I don't have it all figured out. One of the things I adore about life is that we can always think and ask questions and change in our thoughts, grow.


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