Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Christian Libertarian's Take on Military Spending

Posted by: Noël Jones

As I am disgusted with the polarized two-party "dialogue" in our nation's media, I have been putting some time into trying to understand various political philosophies outside the paradigm of my upbringing. I will be reporting back on my impressions as I go along, as I want us all to be clear on the differences between these groups and their aims, rather than just thinking we already know, and dismissing the views of others summarily that don't match our own sense of identity. Why? Because we'll have much richer discussions on this blog than those going on in our polarized national media (and Congress).

Here are some interesting distinctions I would like to point out between the Tea Party and libertarians: the Tea Party is proudly religious (mostly Christian) and while they are in favor of cutting taxes and government waste, they are not in favor of cutting military spending. To even suggest it, is considered unpatriotic and entirely suspicious. The Libertarian Party, on the other hand, was started by atheists in the 70s who were adamantly non-agressive, against all foreign wars, occupations and any tax extraction supporting such. However, libertarians nowadays feel that their party has been co-opted, and many have left the party because of its gradual support of foreign wars and occupations. Also, since the 70s, libertarians decided along the way that a person's right to liberty also meant the liberty to believe in God (but not to dictate the moral behavior of others), so there developed a contingent of Christian libertarians among them.

From Wikipedia:
Christian libertarianism describes the synthesis of Christian beliefs with libertarian political philosophy. It is also a political philosophy in itself that has its roots in libertarianism and it is a political ideology to the extent that Christian libertarians promote their cause to others and join together as a movement.[citation needed] In general, Christian libertarians believe that Christians should not use government as a tool to control others' moral behavior or to initiate the use of force against others. They further believe these principles are supported by Christ's teaching and by the Bible.

Below is an essay by Ken Sturzenacker, former Chair of Pennsylvania's Libertarian Party. He eventually left the party as he felt that it was straying from true libertarian philosophy, and now calls himself, "a 'libertarian'--small L":

How should Christians react to these American wars?

Christians face two issues that deserve thoughtful, prayerful responses from their clergy: How can they support the actions of the American government, and the deliberate taking over time of countless multitudes of souls who do not have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

All who profess a salvation relationship with Jesus Christ – not just clergy who occupy pulpits during services – need to face these crucial issues.

Christians who believe the Scriptures literally accept and understand that salvation requires repentance for our sins, confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and forgiveness by God. No other process assures entrance into Heaven.

We recognize Christ’s promise of salvation in John 3:16 through John 3:18a. It would be fair to say that too many times, we overlook the fact that Christ expressed the consequence of a failure to believe in John 3:18b: “but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in God’s one and only Son.” (NIV) See also Romans 10:8-10.

For believers, the certain alternative to Heaven is eternal damnation.

Wars mean the deaths of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of non-combatants – innocent bystanders: women, children and yes, adult men too old to be in the military. These dead are so common that our government routinely diminishes their importance by calling them ‘collateral damage.’  

Since 1990, the American government has used its power to sanction the deaths and used its military to kill thousands of foreigners: a few combatants and multitudes of civilians alike. For 20 years, day after day, our government has destroyed souls and sent them to eternal damnation.

How should Christians as individuals and their church leaders react to these American wars?

Some might claim that what America has been doing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, among other countries, is justified because America was attacked. That claim deserves close examination.

Some will suggest that Romans 13, “submit to the governing authorities” is the answer. If it were the final answer, however, Christians should not ‘waste’ time, for example, in attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade, because to do so would mean challenging, rather than submitting to, the governing authorities. Or, should we tell persecuted Christians around the world to abandon their beliefs and their teaching to submit instead to the wishes of the governing authorities? To ask the question is to answer it: Of course not.

Scripture is clear that when our choice is between doing the will of God and obeying civil authorities, we are to do the will of God. Two examples each from the Old Testament and two from New Testament make that point, and reinforce it.

They are Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego (Da 3:1-30) and Daniel (Da 6:1-24) in the Old Testament. As the apostle Luke writes in Acts 4:18-19: “Then they (the priests) called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.’” In another situation, “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’”  (Acts 5:29, NIV)  All obeyed even as they faced death for their obedience.   

This is what God commands in Romans 12:14: “Call down blessings on your persecutors – blessings, not curses.” (New English Bible) The NIV says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

Both versions are clear in Romans 12:17-21. The NIV translates the apostle Paul this way: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Christ said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” and “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Mt 5: 9, 7 (NIV)

Then, is ours a ‘just war’ within the Augustine-Aquinas meaning of the term? Historian-philosopher Murray Rothbard concisely summarized their position. “A just war exists when a people tries to ward off the threat of coercive domination by another people, or to overthrow an already-existing domination. A war is unjust, on the other hand, when a people try to impose domination on another people, or try to retain an already existing coercive rule over them.” 

No stretch of the imagination allows for a belief that the 9/11 attacks equal ‘the threat of coercive domination by another people.’  First, the 19 actual hijackers died in their attacks. Second, they had neither the ability nor the equipment to fly planes, launch missiles, or sail ships to transport armies from their own countries, period, much less possess an army, air force or navy in sufficient numbers to impose ‘coercive domination’ on the United States. Third, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens; none was either Iraqi or Afghani. In short, America has no legitimate feud with either of the nations it has invaded since September 11, 2001.

America’s nine-plus years of war in Afghanistan and almost eight years of war in Iraq are clearly “unjust, when a people try to impose domination on another people.”

Our government’s domination of those two nations is so complete that as we ‘helped’ both nations write new constitutions, it oversaw and approved of the inclusion of Islamic Sharia law into both of them. In other words, under our watchful eye, the government aided and abetted the legal institutionalization of the very religious fanaticism president George W. Bush and most evangelical Christians claim we are trying to defeat.

Sanctions against Saddam Hussein in the 1990s

After the U.N. imposed sanctions on Saddam Hussein following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, they were enforced inhumanely by the U.S. State Department, which denied even medical supplies, food and other humanitarian aid to Iraq. Then, during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the U.S. military deliberately destroyed most of the Baghdad region’s power systems, water systems, and sewage treatment facilities to support the sanctions.

As a result, among those who died from malnutrition, dysentery and other conditions long before our 2003 invasion were an estimated 500,000+ children ages five and younger.

Military actions destroyed homes and entire neighborhoods, leaving hundreds of people without food and little more than the clothing on their backs. More than two million (2,000,000) Iraqis are refugees, among them some 200,000 Christians.

What our government did fails to live up to the command of Mosaic law.

“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. (Deuteronomy 24:19-21, NIV)

We cannot dismiss this law lightly; disobedience will not escape God’s judgment.

“’A curse upon him who withholds justice from the alien, the orphan, and the widow’: the people shall all say, ‘Amen.’” (Deuteronomy 27:19, New English Bible)

Iraqis understood the impact of the sanctions all too well; their impact was kept secret from the American people. Today, CIA-sponsored death squads operate in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, assassinating suspects without benefit of even the pretense of a show trial.

“’A curse upon him who strikes another man in secret’: the people shall all say, ‘Amen.’” (De 27:24, NEB)

During a ’60 Minutes’ broadcast on Mother’s Day 1996 – of all Sundays – former secretary of state Madeleine Albright told Lesley Stahl that the deaths of those 500,000 children “were worth it.” Most Christians – along with most other Americans – raised not a voice in dismay.

Are we so foolish that we can dare ignore that these human beings are also creatures of God?
Luke 10:25-37: Are we acting as the priests and Levites did, or good Samaritans? If the former,
can Christians have the ‘eternal life’ of v. 25?

Christian leaders have turned their backs as our government destroys far more lives and sends more souls to Hell forever than al Qaeda and the Taliban together have killed people in America. To this day, pastors and elders go weeks and months, without one mention in prayer from their pulpits for those in the nations – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen – who are innocent victims of our treachery, bombings, assassinations, sanctions and other cruelties.

How can this be pleasing to God? How can our behavior be in accord with His command to be peacemakers and to love our enemies?

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14, KJV) “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (NIV) See also Matthew 5:38-48, both NIV and Scofield Reference Bibles.

The U.S. does itself no favors

To a very large extent, the United States has brought its problems in the Middle East (and much of the rest of the world) on itself through our own government’s actions.

The truth is, on a day to day basis, very few people in Iraq or Afghanistan ever gave the U.S. government and the American people a moment’s thought; that is, until just before we started dropping bombs, then arrived with guns blazing at virtually everything and any one who moved.

Long before February 1993, when a truck bomb exploded in the parking garage of the World Trade Center’s North Tower, Osama bin Laden had warned the U.S. that it had violated sacred Islamic soil during the 1991 Persian Gulf War by stationing troops in Saudi Arabia near the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. We ignored the warning; U.S. troops are still on Saudi soil.

Quickly, in a repeat of a disgusting pattern spanning decades, another U.S. ally – Osama bin Laden – became an enemy virtually overnight.

“Our freedoms” had nothing to do with it; unless you consider America’s arrogant willingness to meddle, invade and destroy a ‘freedom’ worth celebrating, a freedom to kill, overthrow, maim, or starve those who resist bowing to our will.

How can Christians allow our government to put American troops in harm’s way for a lie, knowing to an absolute certainty that some of those who die in hostile areas are themselves unsaved; that their ‘reward’ for their so-called ‘last full measure of devotion’ is eternity in the fires of Hell?

God’s example vs. America’s practice

God was willing to spare all the people of Sodom and Gomorrah if He found just ten righteous individuals among them. The United States is willing to kill tens of thousands and made millions homeless refugees in Iraq and Afghanistan to find two bad people – former allies Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. 

(To date, the futile search for bin Laden in Afghanistan has lasted more than nine years, cost more than 1,400 American lives and the American people $380 billion, not including military pay, all borrowed from our futures. The cost of our ongoing forcible occupation of Iraq is more than 4,435 American lives, 32,975 wounded and $775 billion.) 

We’re all familiar with the intense, often emotional, controversy over the plan to build an Islamic mosque – a place of worship – a few blocks from the supposedly sacred ground of ‘Ground Zero’ in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in southern Manhattan. Now imagine Arab disgust and anger as the U.S. built sprawling military bases near the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina to support our aggressive war on Iraq, one of Saudi Arabia’s neighbors.

A succession of U.S. presidents and diplomats, using the force of the U.S. military, has meddled for more than half a century across more than 2,000 miles of North Africa and the Middle East from the eastern tip of the Mediterranean to India. Our legacy of coups, assassinations and military invasions came back to haunt us on 9/11. The attacks were what the CIA and military analysts define as ‘blowback’ – retribution for our actions that were deeply offensive to Arabs in more than half a dozen nations.

The sins of the American government in foreign policy

The New Testament identifies more than 20 vices that are characteristic of actions or attitudes that are displeasing to God, and totally at odds with His will. At least eight – anger, arrogance, greed, hatred, lying, murder, selfish ambition and stealing – accurately characterize the most recent 20 years of U.S. foreign policy.

Among all the other sources available for years – presidential statements, TV documentaries, newspaper reports, books, congressional testimony, etc – the website recently has confirmed, with thousands of American government documents, most of the worst that some people here and abroad have suspected about their government’s actions and motives.

Perhaps the most preposterous lie is George W. Bush’s specious claim that ‘they hate us for our freedoms.’ In truth, they are much more likely to hate us because we keep interfering with their freedoms, and frequently slaughter so many of their people in the process.

In 1953, at the behest of the British government, which wanted to protect its oil interests (Does the name British Petroleum mean anything to you?), the American CIA staged a coup in Iran that killed the duly elected president, Mohammed Mosaddeq, and replaced him with the Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, best known as the Shah of Iran. Propped up with American money and military arms, he quickly became as brutal a dictator as the region had ever known. Twenty-six years later, a student uprising overthrew the Shah, took the employees in the American embassy in Tehran hostage, and held them prisoner for the final 444 days of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, including all of 1980.

By then, Iran and Iraq were at war in hostilities that would continue into 1988. With Iran as America’s ‘new’ enemy, the U.S. provided military intelligence, arms and other weapons to Iraq to prevent Iran from winning. During the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the U.S. “provided the government of Iraq with ‘dual use’ licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-system programs.”(a) This included anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Niles fever germs, botulism, salmonella, and E. coli.

At the same time, the U.S. was providing military arms, ‘technical assistance’ and training to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan during the Afghans’ struggle against the Soviets, who had invaded in 1979.   

But as soon as Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and jeopardized ‘our’ supply of oil, Iraq moved to the top of America’s list of enemies. It was then that U.S. forces invaded, driving Iraqi troops from Kuwait in a matter of days – demonstrating within their own region that they were absolutely no threat to Americans on our own turf.

The U.N. imposed sanctions, and sent weapons inspection teams into Iraq in the 1990s seeking WMDs. The U.S. was confident Iraq had at one time had some of them. After all, our government had the delivery receipts!

The sanctions were supposed to weaken Hussein, and force him to surrender. They failed. Hussein used the sanctions as propaganda to tell his people that the U.S. was responsible for all of Iraq’s problems – including his inability to rebuild power, water and sewage treatment systems in Baghdad, and the starvation and disease laying waste to hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Do you believe that those who survive in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen now view the American government more favorably than they did before we attempted to force them toward democracy at the point of our guns? Or is it likely that we have created more enemies – more people who would like to see us dead – across the Middle East than we had before 1990?

Most Christians have been accessories for decades to the routine, ongoing sins of the American government in most of the nine ways taught in the Catholic moral code: by counsel, by command, by consent, by concealment, by defense of evil done, by partaking, by provocation, by praise and by silence.

The way most Christians have excused and even embraced coups, invasions, bombings and ‘collateral damage’ – the slaughter of innocents – you might mistake them for Christian virtues.

Although most Americans have not directly killed or murdered someone, Jesus considers support of anyone, including a government – which is just people we elect, after all – which does so to be hypocritical, even hundreds of years after the fact.

Jesus rebuked Jewish religious leaders as worshippers of State-sponsored murder in very strong terms: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:29-33, NIV)
God is eternal; His judgment will span all of human history. The Second Commandment speaks in terms of “punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5, 6, NIV)

The Sixth Commandment (Ex 20:13, NIV) is direct, and clear: “Thou shall not murder.” So is the text in the New English Bible: “Thou shall not commit murder.” See also Deuteronomy 5:17. The Hebrew for this verb usually refers to a deliberate and premeditated act. Exodus 21:12: “Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death,” and verse 21:14: “…if a man schemes and kills a man deliberately, take him away from my altar and put him to death.”

The armed forces of the United States all offer combat pay and bonuses in varying amounts: it
encourages its volunteers to sign up for extended enlistments and certain kinds of training, most of which is designed primarily to make military personnel more efficient killers.

“’A curse upon him who takes reward to kill a man with whom he has no feud’: the people shall all say, ‘Amen.’” (Deuteronomy 27:25, New English Bible)

You have heard the question, “What would Jesus do?” The answer is in what Jesus did. Did he at any time during his time on earth espouse violence, war, torture, killing, rape, destruction and the like? Obviously not. Jesus was a man of peace. Even as he was being arrested, Jesus warned against the use of force. “’Put your sword back in its place,’” Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’” (Matthew 26:52) That rebuke of Peter carries far wider meaning and application today than for any incident Peter might have provoked then.

Are Christians deceived by America’s arrogance?

Christians are not to be accessories to the sins of others. The rest of the world may claim it has no guilt for electing, funding, supporting, respecting, even cheering candidates, elected officials, and the military as they go around the world to kill and destroy, but the followers of Christ can not!

As it is, Christians give consent, conceal wrongdoing, praise and defend the evil done; they even provoke more war, because they remain silent about the sins of their government.

Far too many Christians and their pastors have chosen to worship the State. They accept as gospel the Bush I–Clinton–Bush II–Obama lies as excuses for war during the past 20 years – in Iraq and Kuwait, Serbia and Yugoslavia, the Sudan, Afghanistan, a growing war on Pakistan, missile attacks on Somalia and Yemen, CIA-supported assassination squads, and the threat of war with Iran.

American Christians know, in theory at least, that Americans are not God’s chosen people. All too many, however, have yielded to the temptation of those proclaiming an ‘American exceptionalism’ in which ‘might makes right.’  

“Power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is particularly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God’s favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations – to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image. Power confuses itself with virtue and tends also to take itself for omnipotence. Once imbued with the idea of a mission, a great nation easily assumes that it has the means as well as the duty to do God’s work.” (The Arrogance of Power, 1966, Sen. J. William Fulbright, D-Arkansas)

Rather than ‘exceptional,’ the United States today is a crumbling Empire, incrementally defaulting on its debts (which exceed the value of our annual output) and its unfunded liabilities (promises made for future payments for which no money was set aside), by routinely debasing the value of our currency, impoverishing seniors on fixed incomes and savers alike.

The federal government now borrows 40% of what it spends each year, further enslaving our children and their children for generations to come with indebtedness and the cost of interest that are likely to exceed their incomes.

Our foreign policy is one largely of treachery and deceit; plus an arrogant willingness to disregard our own fundamental laws, the Constitution, various treaties and the Geneva Convention in our attempts to have our way with the nations of the world.

The federal government today confiscates private wealth through taxation, makes promises it cannot fulfill, runs huge deficits year after year, debases the value the dollar, and inflicts death on strangers. These activities are the essence and bulk of all government activity.

Presidents and the Pentagon almost routinely support and then turn against and even overthrow leaders in other nations as it suits our volatile diplomatic and military moods.(b) When they cannot bribe them, they threaten them: “You are either with us or against us.” In the process, the government takes our money – it has none of its own, remember – and gives it to individuals whose behavior we would not want to witness – or want our children to see – in our own neighborhoods.

Sadly, most Christians have supported presidents, Congress and the Pentagon for years without taking any of the time we should have to examine where the evil truly originates in these conflicts.

The proper role for Christians

In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul stresses that for believers, our battles are to be fought with the ‘full armor of God,’ the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and prayer, so that we can take our stand against ‘the devil’s schemes.’ (The KJV includes as part of the armor of God, ‘feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.’)  

Paul draws the contrast in v. 12, ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood….’
‘For our fight is not against any physical enemy,’ J.B. Phillips NT in Modern English.
‘For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood – contending only with physical opponents,’ The Amplified New Testament.

’We are to be ‘strong in the Lord and in his mighty power’ (v. 10), not battle tanks, Humvees, helicopter gunships or Predator drones. (See also the footnotes in the NIV Study Bible and the Life Application NIV Study Bible.) 

In the meantime, He has given us clear instructions:   
1 – We are not to murder. Yes, that includes people halfway around the world.
2 – We are to live at peace with all men. That command is so strong that we are to pray for God’s blessings upon those who persecute us.
3 – Rather than seek revenge, we are to let God judge and punish others for their unholy actions.

Moses, the prophets, the apostles and Christ himself delivered these instructions to individuals and groups of people alike repeatedly in Old and New Testament times alike. Just as they applied to the people and leaders then, they apply to the group of people we elect who are the leaders of the federal government today.

If Christians elect people who give their explicit or complicit support for actions which clearly conflict with God’s Holy Word, should not those same Christians demand change by those elected, or elect someone else?

Are we to believe that God wants Christians to watch silently while the federal government endangers tens of thousands of young American lives as it ravages other nations in its search for a relative handful of murderers and conspirators?    

Unfortunately, Christians have been complicit in at least a couple of million deaths in the federal government’s illegal wars. The U.S. government fails to meet the definition of ‘just war.’ The military’s all too frequent conduct – from torture to murder to lies, denials and cover-ups far up the chain of command – also fails the equally important definition of ‘just conduct within war’.

Why aren’t Christians outraged by this barbaric behavior?  What price will we Christians pay for that on Judgment Day?

Should not we Christians, of all people, be the first to oppose war?

If we did, committed prayer and public opposition to these illegal wars might well move the Lord to convince American leaders to end the wars and withdraw all our troops quickly, perhaps within a matter of months.

The Prince of Peace, it seems to me, requires nothing less of us.


(a) Source: the 1992 U.S. Senate committee report on U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual-Use Exports to Iraq.

(b) To name a few: Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, 1950; Mohammed Mosaddeq, Iran, 1953; Fidel Castro, Cuba, 1959; Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam, 1963; Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Shah of Iran), Iran, 1979; Ferdinand Marcos, Philippines, 1984; Manuel Noriega, Panama, 1989; Saddam Hussein, Iraq, 1990; Osama bin Laden, in Saudi Arabia, 1990; Hosni Mubarak, Egypt, 2011. 


noel jones said...

This, to me, is the key contradiction:

"How can they [Christians] support the actions of the American government, and the deliberate taking over time of countless multitudes of souls who do not have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?"

I, as I said, am not religious. Even so, one of my pet peeves is when people don't follow their own rules--especially when they enjoying preaching them to others so much.

If Christians are supposed to be about spreading peace and the Word of Jesus Christ (who preached tolerance and peace) so that people who have never been introduced to Christianity can have a chance of going to Heaven, rather than burning in Hell for eternity (which is a pretty big deal), then how is it that they can rationalize killing civilians as the collateral damage of air strikes and ground fire and sending women and children and elderly men who are not involved in the fighting straight to Hell to burn in torment for eternity?

It seems to me, that by their own rules, ALL Christians should be in favor of non-aggression and ending military spending on foreign wars and occupations...we would save hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars annually. Our troops could all come home and guard our borders, airports and ports against terrorism and drug lords, and be on hand for natural disasters.

After all, if Christians really want to spread the Word of God effectively and reduce the hatred of Americans that inspires terrorism, bombing people in other countries is beyond counterproductive--the threat of terrorism only increases with rage and grief, Christianity becomes the target of blame, and the American taxpayer pays billions to become Enemy #1 when we could be spending far far less, keeping more of our tax money in our own pockets, with our troops at home defending us from terrorism, rather than overseas, inspiring more of it.

David Caines said...

You miss the base conception of Christianity...proselytizing. It is the duty above and beyond any other of every Christian to bring the word of Jebus to anyone and everyone, and this has been the source of pretty much every war and empire since the birth of their Christ.
And I'm not saying this to be mean, it's just the core concept. It supersedes all others such as the ten commandments, etc...
While most who follow the faith are good kind and decent people at it's heart the aim of the Christian religion is to abolish all other faiths and bring the world under the laws of god and anything goes.
In Europe and most of the middle east, our current wars are being openly referred to as the American "Crusades" and there is no doubt that this is nothing but a war of faith and "conversion by the sword". This is also the common understanding among even the less than extreme right.
Personally I think it was a Stratagem of The GOP under Bush to create our current economic fits, the last two decades of their actions...but I could be wrong.
Anyone know how much we've paid for these wars to date? I know it's well into the trillions but an exact figure is almost impossible to find.

tachitup said...

David, you seem to have a skewed view of Christianity. Had you argued that the wars are for oil, I might have cut you some slack; but CRUSADES? There is no basis for that in the real world. On what planet were you when you came up with that?
You have changed in the past few weeks. You used to make some sense, but I fear now for your sanity.
Please know that you do not speak for me or others who are center-right.
Now, on to Noel - I'm all for the Christian thing of giving your cloak if someone needs your shirt more than you, all for turning the other cheek. But, when you kill ~3000 on our soil; somehow, drastic action seems justified. Problem here is how do we get out?
Pray for David.

David Caines said...

Clearly some folks have been praying for me, and you're right, I have changed...or more honestly have stopped following the battles and started to follow the history and strategy. I have also feared for my sanity's more a matter of knowing too much than too little. I also BTW don't believe the crusades non-sense, but there can be little argument that many do. I think it is one of the many smoke screens thrown up to support an immensely unpopular war. That has without doubt crippled the country economically.
Also, I do know a number of veterans of this war that have mentioned the crusade or at least christian vs Muslim idea to me, I think few truly understand the degree to which religion particularly Christianity in it's more militant forms pervades our Army. Granted many of our soldiers also wonder at the sheer waste and stupidity of this war, but as soldiers their say in the matter is limited. I think it also needs to be understood that the duty of our political parties is not to the American people, but to their members which is perhaps why nearly all of our founding fathers denounced the practice.
For myself and to keep this short-ish. I have been forced to decide that action outside of the local area just perpetuates a failed system which I can no longer in good faith support and that is the two party system , not America. Now that I have found my own way back to center I will be looking to work from a more ground up basis as top down clearly is in utter ruins, and neither party really holds any moral compass.
To our Christians whom I may have offended, I like the big J, and try to live by many of his precepts, have done Christ mind meditations, have worked with several inter faith councils and would be willing to do so again. I'll also admit that I do have a skewed view of Christianity as I've only really had reason to be around the most militant of them. In my personal life I have no issue with most Christians and few of any faith, truth be told. I don't go in for ZOG, or any of the other major religious bogeymen.
This has brought out a crisis of conscience for me, thankfully I am on the other side of it.
As to the future, we'll see but I think it is fairly clear that above a local level we really have come to have very little say in the running of this nation.

David Caines said...

While some will have a bit of fun with me over this , my points of contention here differ little from the comments of Ron Pual regarding the Mosque issue in NYC less than a year ago.
< iframe title="YouTube video player" width="480" height="390" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>< /iframe >

Just to make a point that I haven't pulled this out of my hiney. Many on the national stage have discussed the issue.

David Caines said...

Since this is the first real chance we've had to do so, I'd love to get a discussion going here of religion, faith, common threads and major differences, possibly dogma vs practice. I have some issue with Christianity , very little with Christians and none whatsoever with Yahshoua (Beloved Son / Healer of Yahweh from the Greek era Aramaic Hebrew)- Jesus if you prefer. I'm fairly well versed in all of the major religions, and as Buddhism and Euro-neo-paganism are the two fastest growing religions in America as the numbers stand of today, some discussion of them or local practices may have some value here ?
AS well, I'd love to know if we have a Unitarian church around ? I tend to get on best with them and have spoken at a few over the years.

noel jones said...

David--I know there is a Unitarian Church in Bethlehem. If you google it it's easy to find--you should check it out.

As for your point about proselytizing, it is more to both my point and the point of the author of the essay--if the main aim of Christianity is supposed to be to spread the Word of God and save people before they die, then how can people call themselves Christians if they are supporting the bombing of the very people they are supposed to be proselytizing? That's what I mean when I say there's a duality and denial going on with many in the Christian Right who are hawkish about our wars--you can't have it both ways. Either you (general you) believe in what Jesus preached: love, faith, peace, etc., and saving the souls who have not had a chance to learn about Jesus before they die, or you're not a Christian--you're just calling yourself one.

We have killed WAY more than 3,000 people in our "retaliation" for 911 and our supposed hunt for Osama Bin Laden--many of them innocent civilians. It is no wonder that we now have so many more terrorists that hate America.

We need to get out of these wars, cut off all the contractors making billions of our tax dollars, and bring our troops home to defend against terrorism here, where we live. And put our American ingenuity to work to develop alternative fuels so that we don't feel the need to make up excuses to go kill people in countries where we need their oil.

tachitup said...

Oh dear, Noël just took a step to the left. Retaliation? An eye for an eye? I think not. Had we done what Clinton did and just lobbed a couple cruise missiles at empty training camps, Al Qaida would have acted again and again. They already did. What we did was a pre-emptive intervention. Yes, looking back, Iraq was a mistake.(Let's not go into the bi-partisan backing). Afghanistan would still support terrorism today if no western prescence.
As to the evil contractors making gazillions, that's just inefficiency of the federal government, discussed as a separate topic on this site. The feds have grown to a ridiculous size over past decades.....please stop me here!
As for the discussion on religion and its place in global activities and politics......I'm out. I'm much too shallow for that heavy a discussion.
I'll pipe in again when I can talk boobies and dog parks.

David Caines said...

For better or worse the machine ate my larger response, possibly even for the best.
Conservative death tolls posit the number since the start of the war at 600,000 or so in Iraq and another fifty thousand or so in Afghanistan. Though the numbers are opaque and unsupported and give little account to civilian deaths .
The high end puts the number closer to five million with a little support and its most likely propaganda.
Perhaps the number with the most support comes in from the Iraq theater , putting combined deaths civilian and military at just over 1.2 million mostly civilian, but that is only up to 2009.
In simple truth we will probably never have an honest figure as no one truly cares enough to record one.
I will get back to the larger discussion once I give some thought to the significance of my last reply getting eaten by my nasty ole computer.
Some where in the middle of those numbers lies a truth, but the truth is probably lost to the ages.
We've actually out done the Israeli chant of ten eyes for an eye, coming by any number closer to 10,000 for one. I'm sickly impressed.

David Caines said...

Not to hammer this nail too hard, but I used the term "Death toll" for a reason, these figures do not include the injured ours or theirs, which even by the most conservative numbers triple the number of deaths.
I'll admit, one thing that has long galled me is the American stanza of "How did the German people let Hitler do that?" , clearly all rhetoric aside, we have the answer and it is the face in the mirror.
Well, that's grim enough for one night.
I'll try to get back to the actual religious discussion in the morning.
Might as well hit the nail one more time for the ADD among us...
This is what we have bankrupted ourselves to achieve. This is not the fault of the solider whom we sent and whom we pay through our taxes, it is the fault of our leadership which in a democracy is ourselves.
On that cheery note,

David Caines said...

All rhetoric aside, I think it bears noting that America at least in the mind of it's creators, was created as a white Christian nation. The Demagogues of the extreme right are not wrong in this. And to this day at least under color of law it remains one. Both Whites and Christianity still hold majority figures in this nation.
Through our own actions however that has changed and is changing and even though I am not a Christian, I for one am not always sure that it is for the best.
We have I think come to a cross roads both ethnically and spiritually as a nation. A place where our majority is to small to wield actual control, and our minorities so distanced from the majority view that no true consensus or if you prefer "Meeting of the minds" can be achieved. We have no it or not invalidated the social contract that is the basis of democratic government, where no "Meeting of the minds exists" a contract become invalid on its face.
It is I think through this means that we have lost control of the government above local level.
Don't worry, I'm not an extremist, and I am definitely not a terrorist, domestic or other wise. But I think it bears noting that at least while we go through these national ethnic and spiritual changes there will be "No hand on the wheel." No single presiding shared culture large enough to drive the car that is our nation above the local level. It is not shocking that special interest groups rule us at present as they and they alone can harness enough of the combined will to put large enough numbers of votes on the board to make national changes.
I do however think it is time to look at our common threads of religion, culture, shared responsibilities and perhaps redress the failed concept of a shared citizenry.
Such things however can only happen one human being to another, one town or block at a time.
Barring some ability to put the nation above all other outside influences such as ethnicity, personal culture, etc... This is the way our government will continue to be. That's on us and no one else can or will do it for us.
I will point out here, that the extreme White Christian religions , and even just the extreme non ethnic Christian religions that for decades ruled here are not going to go away with out a fight. That is in no small part what is fueling issues such as this.
The questions that face us in the future our mostly ones of shared responsibility, and if we cannot meet them, then we are most likely going continue to slide.
I like Ken's argument BTW, I'd love to get an answer from either the Christian leadership or the followers whom in the light of such travesties as these can continue to support our current right wing blitz krieg.
I need coffee.

noel jones said...

David--I highly recommend composing your statements in Word, and then pasting them into comments, so you don't risk losing them after you've put so much energy into them.

Tachitup--you said:

"What we did was a pre-emptive intervention. Yes, looking back, Iraq was a mistake."

How is it that as a nation we feel entitled to called bombing hundreds of thousands of innocent people an 'oops'--as if we don't owe it any more concern than that.

And how is my putting "retaliation" in quotes a "step to the left"? We are in agreement--the word is in quotes because i think the idea of claiming that our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were in retaliation for 911 is absurd. Yes, it is what our government told us, but that has all since been proven false, so anyone still believing that is simply exercising denial and wishful thinking. Two of my biggest pet-peeves.
Another pet-peeve is hypocrisy, and anyone claiming to be a Christian while being in favor of invading more countries and bombing the hell out of them (as we are considering doing in Libya now) is a hypocrite. Now--I want to make one thing clear--I am not talking about Christians among our troops. Our troops signed up trusting their government to be the good guys and only order them to do good things. My brother is a devout Christian and in the Army and spends all day eavesdropping on extremists, so he is very convinced that he is involved in a holy war, and is equally convinced that there are plenty of people who would like to inflict more terrorism on America. I am talking about government and civilian Christians who support a policy of invasion and attack that kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people as "collateral damage", rather than letting people like my brother defend us from terrorism HERE--as opposed to inspiring more of it OVER THERE.

Christian civilians, if they are following their own rules, should be unified across party lines to oppose the war, otherwise, they are hypocrites.

Again, I am not religious as all, but if you're going to talk the talk, then walk the walk.

David Caines said...

about how it now is, folks like myself and other fought and won that particular battle. And so, I may yet be talking to the recruiter, National Guard (I'm really in no shape to go RA) about taking a pastorship and maybe putting the old BDu's back on.
Army chaplain has a ring to it, now if I could just trust them not to ship me overseas . Well, we'll cross that hump when I get to it, but I am going to research the option. Tell your brother "HUAH" and good luck and godspeed.
As to the rest, I'm going to pass on the greater discussion for tonight.
I think I enlisted as a gnostic's close enough for government work.
I am not a religious man by and large, but I do like many hold a deep and abiding faith that has seen me through any number of hells. I can find common ground with men and women of faith despite deity differences. It is what we do in the name of some of those faiths that makes me question.

David Caines said...

well, at least the machine only ate part of it this time.
I started with saying that listing being of my faith was not an option when I served. I served anyway, seemed the thing to do at the time.
as to the rest, I need to think of kinder things this evening.
Ohh.. btw If that Ken fellow wants to do a national day of prayer to end the war I'll bend a knee with him and see who else I can bring on board. Whether or not it get's any thing done, who knows?
But it's a start.
Reading this made me think of those changes, and I am looking into the possibility of re-uping as a pastor. I need to research it first, but pastors of my faith are now accepted. Be damned fine thing wouldn't it...e

David Caines said...

You know, I'm beginning to see that my hints around my own faith are looking a bit cloak and dagger, So I might as well just be out with it.
I am a pagan of the Wican Variety. And rarely go out of my way to admit that as we still suffer a fair amount of persecution in America. And while the Army has accepted Wicca as a faith, it's looking as though they aren't really looking for our clergy as yet, so we'll see.
Some bassics-
We have a very simple set of guidelines summed up neatly in the three words "Do no harm", though internal debates of whether or not this "Reede" should be taken as a law go on and on.
Few of us believe in an everlasting hell, though we do believe in judgment at death, we believe for the most part that a man / woman is judged by their actions in this life and that we earn what we earn so to speak, and that misdeeds are punished in this life, not the next. We believe that this is the game, not some pre-game test to get into heaven. We believe in personal responsibility and most of us despite tv BS to the contrary learn more right than left. Many of us join the military or other public service fields as that belief in personal responsibility leads us to try to do as much "Good" in this life as we can.
Most but by no means all, believe in the 2cnd amendment, most believe in the absolute right of self defense, and few of us go out of our way to blame god or some outside agency for our own failings. Those who take the faith seriously are by and large just,decent and kind people... though we do tend to not be doormat's. We also tend to investigate the more extreme religions as most of them want us dead, possibly over that whole "Suffer no witch to live" command from the old testament which by the way is a gross mistranslation, but groups that rule through hate need someone, anyone to hate, though preferable no one to mean or able to defend themselves in any way. We tend to be well read, we tend to be women , though that has changed over the years.
I have been a follower of my faith for 28 years, which might explain some of the choices I've made in life, I've been ordained for over twenty of those years.
If there is an interest in the subject, I am able and well prepared to answer any questions. I'm just a little ill at ease with doing so openly as I've lived pretty much the whole of my life in the "Broom Closet" as we jokingly refer to life in America.

noel jones said...

David, I am familiar with the Wiccan faith but I would have to disagree about most of them leaning right. That has not been my experience. The Wiccans that I have known over the years were socially liberal and averse politics in general, favoring something more akin to Anarchy--a concept which is almost as misunderstood as the Wiccan faith.

I thought this excerpt from Wikipedia was interesting:

"There are other Wiccans who are atheists or agnostics, not believing in any actual deity, but instead viewing the gods as psychological archtypes of the human mind which can be evoked and interacted with."

I'd have to say that the Wiccans I've known pretty much fall into this category, although they really enjoy the rituals, which they consider a far more meaningful alternative to rituals of other faiths.

As for religion in the military--I have a strong aversion to the idea, as many articles have been written on the coersion that occurs in basic training and afterward when new troops are pressured in attending chapel or risking not getting promoted as fast, not getting the same perks as others--generally that there lives will be made easier by their superiors if they convert and made harder if they don't. I will surf around for one of these articles and see if I can post a link...if anyone else finds one first, please post it in a comment.

David Caines said...

That's why I put gnostic -( i told them I was wican and they said...well we can't write that down pick another one),- it got me out of chapel, and allowed me to not catch too much hell for it. I got to clean the barracks instead. But as Gnostic's and wicans seek a personal connection with deity,well close enough for govt work, still I guess you could cal it a punishment, personally I was just happy for the alone time. I prayed, cleaned, worked forms (Karate Gung- fu) and had some time to contemplate which is not really something you get in basic or AIT.
As to wican proclivities, open wicans tend to be of a bit more Anarchistic bent, throwing caution to the wind and sadly usually regretting it. And it should I guess be noted that there are at least a few dozen distinct wiccan flavors at this point. I don't personally accept the satanists, agnostics, or atheists, as wican, but wicca is a religion as wiccan is an umbrella term. Much like Catholicism is a religion where Christianity is an umbrella term. Don't get me wrong I talk to and sometimes pray with the more airy-fairy types, but they sort of get on your nerves after a while. It gets to be hard to have a conversation with someone who holds no real belief in much of anything. Leaves on the wind may be pretty, but they're a bit hard to talk to.
Most who stay in the faith pick a lane at some point and then learning and actual growth begins. The zeal of the newly converted and all of that.
I said we tend to lean more right than left, but those words don't really fit, and few of us find life that black and white in the first place. We like any faith have our own internal debates and personal differences, but those who take it to heart tend towards personal responsibility, which is seen to be more right wing for some reason .
As to religion in the military, I don't think we'll ever part the two. A handful of us can and will kill for the nation, a smaller handful can realize that hatred and such just cloud the issue and can go about the work from a logical standpoint. Most need to hate, and that hate needs to be organized in some way. And many feel a need to have a common thread outside of just the uniform or the flag. I actually kind of get that.... it just wasn't my cup of tea.

tachitup said...

(How is it that as a nation we feel entitled to called bombing hundreds of thousands of innocent people an 'oops'--as if we don't owe it any more concern than that)...
Bombing hundreds of thousands of innocents? Oh, OK, I thought we were talking about Iraq and Afghanistan; it appears that we are talking about Dresden and Hiroshima.

(Now--I want to make one thing clear--I am not talking about Christians among our troops)....
And why are Christian soldiers exempt? If you are a devout Christian, why would you support any activity that harms others, and possibly many innocents?
Now, don't get all pissy; I'm not attacking your brother. However, I am questioning your view of how one must act to be a "Christian." Personally, I am a pedophile , rapist, serial-killer but I am trying to follow the teachings of Christ. I'm not perfect, but I am trying to follow his teachings; therefore, I am a Christian. Sometimes I do Christian things. It's just that these voices sometimes lead me astray. Maybe I'll run in 2012 to be your congressman.

(defend us from terrorism HERE--as opposed to inspiring more of it OVER THERE.)....
And how did that work for us as of September 10th, 2001? Just fine.

Ok, you're forgiven for saying retaliation, if you'll forgive me for missing that it was in quotes.

And, oh my, this thread has taken a strange turn. Discussions of this sort ought only be done with a pint in hand.

David Caines said...

(defend us from terrorism HERE--as opposed to inspiring more of it OVER THERE.)....
And how did that work for us as of September 10th, 2001? Just fine.-

Pretty poorly, but that is best blamed on the utterly eviscerating our intelligence corps after the fall of the soviet union to save a few bucks. I think most agree that some added border security and a more informed populace could in the future defend us against such actions in the future at a fraction of the cost of these wars, and again to put the numbers in perspective , the 600,000 dead plus 45,000 dead in Afghanistan are from the DOD. And as such the most conservative but also the "Official " ones. You can google it.

David Caines said...

An olive branch?-
It is clear to those who follow world events why perhaps Christianity is feeling hard pressed here in America. Native religions (paganism are flourishing in Europe both east and west) while the church loses ground and supporters by the day. It bears noting here that the "Pagan" religions were the native religions of the people of Europe prior to the invasion and conversion by the sword of the Christian Roman empire- not at all unlike the suppression of American Indian religions by those same now Christian Europeans some thousand years latter.
Europe not shockingly and in large numbers is throwing off what many feel are the shackles of Christianity force on them over a thousand years ago by an empire now long dead.
In every way shape and form, the Christian religions are losing ground the world over.
Which if it weren't for all of the end times stuff wouldn't be much of a problem. But for Even sometimes moderate Christians of belief who truly believe that their souls depend on the continuation of the mission of the Christ to be spared eternal damnation....?
I can see how they are feeling cornered, or that the "Last Days" may be upon them.
The best I can say is that pagans don't proselytize, the fact that people the world over are fleeing Christianity is no fault of ours, and those churches that have modified their stances and messages are beginning to see their numbers level out and in some cases rise.
I don't see the hub-bub myself, but I can see how this could be a war cry for the more hardcore or even moderate Christians.
Just my two cents- believe what you like and allow me to do the same and as long as you don't go breaking as you please.

noel jones said...

tachitup--you said:

"Bombing hundreds of thousands of innocents? Oh, OK, I thought we were talking about Iraq and Afghanistan; it appears that we are talking about Dresden and Hiroshima."

This is precisely the point. many Americans tend to exercise a very convenient system of denial with regard to collateral damage in our wars. War is not a scenario where "it's the thought that counts" and we are not responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians just because we were not AIMING at them--just because we didn't INTEND to kill civilians. It is not the thought that counts to those families--it's the reality that their innocent wives, mothers, sisters, children, grandmothers and grandfathers are dead at the hands of our military, and despite all the collateral damage, we are still on the attack, and killing even more innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as we speak. We cannot be surprised that growing numbers in those countries hate us and are willing to become terrorists to seek revenge. We are quite literally defeating our purpose (our declared purpose--ending terrorism. of course we're not defeating our real purpose--protecting our oil interests).

We did not have all our troops home before 911, so there is no comparison--and as we hadn't been bombed recently with so great a loss of life (which is a fraction of the number of innocents we have killed overseas since then), we were not nearly as vigilant with security as we are now.

I'll agree with you on one thing--a pint always makes these conversations better!

David Caines said...

I passed on the Dresden reference, but let's correct a bit of history. Dresden did for a little over 100k dead, countless wounded and scarred for life, more in and of itself than both h-bombs, and while we to this day have the technology to repeat the attack at will, it was considered by the Christian generals of the day to have been an attack of such indiscriminate slaughter that it was quietly agreed that such methods would never again be employed. Give me those sort of people any day, clearly we have moved beyond such moral dilemma's ....though to be fair we have used smart bombs and such to cut down on civilian casualties. Still, at a minimum of 600k and a more likely 1.2 m , I wonder if we'll have an "Islamic" SHOA, or holocaust museum in fifty years. Granted we haven't cracked the magic six million yet, but well...

noel jones said...

I do not buy the higher morality of killing innocent people in fits and spurts, as better than killing them all at once with a big bomb. It's just the way we justify the violence we are perpetrating. Again, it's not the thought that counts in war.

If 600K civilians have died as a result of our military invasion, it's no better that they've died over time than that if they had died all at once. And how we can keep justifying it by saying that 3K died in 911 is beyond me. We are, as a nation, steeped in denial, wishful thinking and rationalization of the great violence we perpetrate on a daily basis in nations we shouldn't be invading at all. And we spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars doing it, and make our nation LESS safe from terrorism, rather than more safe.

It makes no sense morally, fiscally, or strategically in terms of homeland security. It is simply making defense contractors and oil men rich, while our men and women risk death or life as amputees daily, and our nation spirals into ever-deeper debt.

I want to Americans everywhere--ESPECIALLY so-called Christians everywhere--to stand on principal, say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and vote out all politicians who are not in favor of ending these wars and developing alternative fuels. Let's bring our troops home to defend us here, and STOP WASTING BILLIONS.

Ken Sturzenacker said...

Let me add a couple of tidbits to this thread of comments: For a rolling total on the cost of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (including Pakistan), check Those numbers represent the total of direct congressional appropriations, but do *not* include the salaries of the military members stationed there.
Also, CBS News recently (3/1/11)estimated the total *annual* cost of the federal gov't's military and security spending at $1.2 Trillion.

David Caines said...

Thanks Ken, I'd actually heard higher, but it does bear noting that our yearly spending on the war could more or less balance the budget and probably allow us to be free of this "Economic Crisis" . It may also bear noting that it was the financial drain of their war in Afghanistan that was the killing economic blow to the USSR.
So, to sum up
A) we're bankrupting ourselves and using that as an excuse to hobble the unions and anyone who gets to uppity.
B) We're killing tons of folks who
C) are way more likely to engage us in war or acts of terror.
I think we all agree that this whole mess is how do we get the people we voted into office to do something about it?

David Caines said...

To give everyone an option,
There is a petition (there have been dozens-but this is the newest) to cease the hostilities.
It can be signed at-

Ken Sturzenacker said...

One way to bring some pressure to bear on the White House and members of Congress is to challenge co-workers, family, friends, and your local pastors to encourage vocal (letters to editors & federal gov't officials,
phone calls to talk shows and the offices of elected officials, for example) to speak out against the carnage & expense these wars are causing. Spread the word.