by Laurence M. Vance
by Laurence M. Vance
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thy own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye (Matthew 7:3—5).
Opponents of Bush and his war in Iraq are a diverse lot. Christian apologists for the state, its president, its military, and its wars have tried to capitalize on this diversity by using the old "guilt by association" argument. Cindy Sheehan appeared with Jesse Jackson at an anti-war protest; most of the congressmen who speak out against the war are Democrats; the Hollywood actors who oppose the war are political leftists; therefore, if you oppose Bush and his war then you are a liberal, a peacenik, or an anti-war weenie.
They are beam Christians.
The fact that Jesse Jackson, Democratic congressmen, and Hollywood actors are right for once in their life (and in some cases perhaps the only time in their life) is immaterial. Many of us have opposed this unnecessary, senseless, and immoral war from the beginning because we saw it not only as a grave injustice and a monstrous evil, but as benefiting only the state in its quest for more power and its defense contractors in their lust for more of the taxpayers' money. If all the liberal activists in the country suddenly announced that they too were opposed to the war then what difference would it make? Those of us who have opposed this war from the beginning (and will oppose the next one with Iran) do so because we are standing for what is right — life, liberty, peace, nonintervention, limited government, and allowing the taxpayers to better spend the $7.4 million per hour that the war is costing — and are not concerned with whoever else happens to be standing with us. We are standing with or without their support. We don't wet our finger and hold it up to check how the political winds are blowing before we take a position.
Christian warmongers are beam Christians. They would rather be associated with Bush and the war than with people whom they and others have deemed undesirable. In actuality, however, they are choosing to be associated with a war criminal and murder than with the truth just because some people who are usually wrong happen to be right on this particular issue.
Beam Christians are generally savvy e-mail users. Some have even convinced themselves (and others gullible enough to believe them) that they are champion e-mail debaters when in reality they are guilty of sowing "discord among brethren" (Proverbs 6:19). Here are a couple of e-mails that, even though they may not have been created by Christians, have nevertheless made the rounds in Christian circles.
Exhibit A is a multiple-choice history test that has not only circulated via e-mail, but also appears in an interactive version online. These are the questions:
- In 1968 Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by:
- In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by:
- In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:
- During the 1980's a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:
- In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:
- In 1985 the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked and a 70 year old American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard in his wheelchair by:
- In 1985 TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens, and a US Navy diver trying to rescue passengers was murdered by:
- In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by:
- In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed the first time by:
- In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by:
- On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked; two were used as missiles to take out the World Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one crashed into the US Pentagon and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by:
- In 2002 the United States fought a war in Afghanistan against:
- In 2002 reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by:
The answer to every question is "d. Muslim male extremist between the ages of 17 and 40."
Now, I am not disputing the accuracy of these historical events, and, as a Bible-believing Christian, I am certainly not excusing the murderous actions of "Muslim male extremists," or defending in any way the Muslim religion — something that President Bush has done. What I do have a problem with is Christians using this to justify Bush and his war. These questions are usually followed by the statement that "Our country and our troops need our support." The idea being that the bombing, maiming, and killing that our troops are doing in Iraq is okay since, after all, they are just "Muslim male extremists" who are being bombed, maimed, and killed. This is a non sequitur of the worst sort. It is pure sophistry. We are supposed to believe that "Muslim male extremists" did all these things because they were "Muslim male extremists." The United States was just minding its own business in 155 regions of the world until "Muslim male extremists" attacked us for no other reason than that they were "Muslim male extremists."
Here is a little history test of my own. Which country overthrew the democratically elected leader of Iran in 1953 and installed a puppet dictator? Why, the United States did. No wonder Iranians took over the U.S. embassy in 1979 after they ousted the shah that we forced them to live under for twenty-five years!
Exhibit B is the most ridiculous piece of pro-war propaganda I have ever seen. It too has unfortunately circulated among Christians via e-mail. It consists of a series of "Did you know" questions that supposedly demonstrate how good things are going for the Iraqi people since we invaded their country and killed tens of thousands of them. Here is a sample from the 2005 version: "Did you know there are more than 1100 building projects going on in Iraq? They include 364 schools, 67 public clinics, 15 hospitals, 83 railroad stations, 22 oil facilities, 93 water facilities and 69 electrical facilities." The rest of the questions can be seen here, with comments by someone who felt compelled to respond. There is also a 2003 version here, with a response by an Iraqi here. All of the data about how wonderful things are in Iraq is supposedly verifiable on the website of that fair and impartial organization, the U.S. Department of Defense (strange, no link is ever provided). The reason we didn't know about these wonderful things was because of the "Bush-hating media."
Of course there are building projects going on in Iraq — we destroyed the place with bombs for three years and with sanctions for thirteen years before that. How Christians can be suckered by the likes of such absurd propaganda as this is a greater mystery than who built the Pyramids. They must want to believe it.
They are beam Christians.
These beams can take many forms. For some the beam is President Bush. Because they are so blinded to Bush's pseudo-Christianity, some Christians actually believe that Bush is "God ordained" or "God's anointed" or "one of us." For others the beam is conservatism. Christians who are theologically conservative have made a terrible mistake in identifying with the conservative movement, with is propensity for nationalism and power at the expense of liberty. For some the beam is the Republican Party. They know the Democratic Party is too far to the left to even consider. But in spite of the bones it throws to the free market, the Republican Party is no better. It is the party of militarism, big government, plunder, compromises, and sellouts. For others the beam is the military. They actually think that the Department of Defense is defending our freedoms by meddling in the affairs of other countries all over the globe. The fact that the United States spends more on its military than Russia, China, Japan, Britain, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Brazil, India, Italy, South Korea, Iran, Israel, Taiwan, Canada, Spain, Australia, the Netherlands, Turkey, and Singapore put together doesn't seem to raise a red flag with these people. In some cases it is the U.S. government that is the beam which blinds these Christians. They can be spotted by the sound of their mantra: "obey the powers that be." They want so much to believe that the U.S. government is a force for good in the world instead of the force for evil that it currently is because of its military adventures and its interventionist foreign policy.
Beam Christians are shallow thinkers. They foolishly reason that because some outspoken liberals are opposed to this war then they should support it. These Christians have such a beam in their eye that it has gone into their brain and affected their thinking. It doesn't seem to have ever occurred to these people that it is the retired generals and groups like Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans against the War that oppose the war that anti-war Christians are in agreement with, not some Hollywood leftist who only opposes the war because a Republican president started it.
Some Christians are blinded by indifference. Don't ask them their view about Bush and his war — "What difference does it make?" is their only reply. Perhaps the greatest beam that blinds some Christians is pride. They will not publicly admit that they were deceived into supporting the war and were wrong about Bush, wrong about the conservative movement, wrong about the Republican Party, wrong about the military, and wrong about the government's foreign policy.
It is a terrible disgrace that, instead of the next military adventure of the U.S. government being denounced from every pulpit and pew of every church in the country, there are some beam preachers in the pulpit and some beam Christians in the pew who can be counted on to support it. Last, and certainly least, will be the bloodthirsty Christian e-mail debaters who drool piety while they recite their mantras and make apologies for the state and its wars. Although they would all claim to be Bible-believing Christians, they manifest their biblical ignorance when they imply that disrespect for the government is a grave sin. On this they are against the Founding Fathers, Christian or otherwise, and all of their Christian forefathers.
When Hermann Goering was interviewed by Gustave Gilbert in his cell at the Nuremberg jail in 1946 (published in Nuremberg Diary), he made a profound statement about war that is still relevant sixty years later. Here is the relevant part of the interview:
Gilbert: We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.
Goering: Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
Goering: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
Unfortunately, and to their shame, it works the same way with Christians as well. From the discord-sowing, self-proclaimed champion e-mail debater to the indifferent, washed-up evangelist, to the blind government-respecting employee of a Christian ministry — it works the same way every time. They are all beam Christians.
May 2, 2006
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] is a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in accounting and economics at Pensacola Junior College in Pensacola, FL. He is also the director of the Francis Wayland Institute. His new book is Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. Visit his website.
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