Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"I shouted out, 'Who Killed the Kennedys?'

"When after all/it was you and me."--Sympathy for the Devil, Mick Jagger

Pastor Dan has this quote up from the Rude Pundit:

Last night, on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann was right: we are led by moral cowards. But, to take it further, more evil has been committed by fearful people than by brave ones. Ask the Bosnians.

We have to accept that, whatever their intentions, whatever reasons they might have had for their actions, the ones that they give mighty speeches about before handpicked crowds and the ones that they only whisper in private to their reflections in the mirror, we are now being led by people who are doing evil. This doesn't mean that others around the world are not doing evil. Just because al-Qaeda members commit evil deeds doesn't mean that Donald Rumsfeld does not. A man who murdered someone in a drive-by shooting is not excused because he is put into a jail cell next to a serial killer.

If we dare accept to our horror and infinite shame that we have allowed ourselves to be represented by people who do evil, even in the name of good, then we can either be complicit - we can go about our daily lives while the stench of the concentration camp pollutes the air of the town - or we can reject evil.
Which prompted me to make this reply:

The Niebuhrian/Reformed Christian in me wants to raise a raspberry here.

NOW we are lead by people doing evil? And this is different from before just exactly HOW, pray tell?

Need I start with Columbus and come forward just in American history? Need I catalog the imperialist wars of the 19th century? No, just read Howells and Twain. It's not that I disagree, you understand, but part of me wants to say: when, O Rude One, did you wake up? And do you imagine your strong words are finally the ones we need to arouse us from our stupor and walk out of the darkness cast by Cheney and the neo-cons into the light being shone by....

....well, by whom, exactly?

Yes, the actions of our leadership are reprehensible, inexcusable, all but unforgivable (is there anything a Christian cannot forgive? Hmmmmm.....) But this is news? This is unique, rare, unknown before in our 200+ years as a nation? No. It isn't.

And expecting this language to finally be the "wake up call," the "silver bullet," the Perry Mason moment when the guilty party breaks down and unequivocally confesses to the murder (which is evil, too, let us not forget. Or are we going to establish a sliding scale of evil, where some is worse than others? How Would Jesus Judge?)...well, it just doesn't happen in real life.

I agree. Our leaders are evil. In fact, in my theology, that's a given. What do we do about it, is the question. Labelling them doesn't galvanize me. Heaping more critiques on them, doesn't galvanize me. Berating them, doesn't convince me we've never been here before, and with the right laws we'll never be here again. These are the conditions that prevail. If we're going to invoke the theological language of evil, then let's recognize this is not the kingdom of heaven. And labelling leadership as evil, as if that were unusual, new, or different, doesn't bring the kingdom any closer.

Perhaps we need to start with something closer to home; something less abstract than "them," and more concrete, like: 'us.' Otherwise, we might as well declare a “war on terror.”

To which I would add, to explain the title here: this is the power game of the world. "Evil" is a very seductive term, one we have largely banished from our vocabulary, so much so that people like Juan Cole can seriously call it "theological" language. It is too powerful. Now, when we drag it out, we feel like it's the H-bomb of terms, the war-ender, the peace-bringer, because it will at last solve all conflicts. Convince the unsure that our opponents are "evil," and we win, hands down.

But that's precisely how Bush has sold his "War on Terror."

Pleased to meet you; hope you guess my name.

That may be the world's game. It's not the game of Christianity. Are we called as Christians to oppose evil? Absolutely. How we do that, is the question. And we don't do it by slapping on labels, or looking for the ultimate negative, the magic word that will motivate people to do as we want done. That isn't, to put it plainly, the way your love your enemies.

C'mon baby; tell me what's my name.

I am reminded, again, of the desert father who heard the monks complaining of the sin of another monk. And surely sin is evil. But he left the group, and returned with a large sack on his back, a small one hung before his eyes; and explained the large sack was his sins, the small one the sins of his brother monk. Ashamed, they all went away to repent, and pray.

Evil must be opposed. But how do Christians draw the line between what is evil, and what is not? How do we draw that line at all, without becoming judges? And then it's a problem of judge not, lest ye be judged.

C'mon honey! Tell me, what's my name.

I know Pastor Dan doesn't mean it the way I'm taking it. But we don't want to go there. We simply, really, don't.

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