Monday, December 11, 2006

A book is a book is a book, pt. 2 - Much of the moral myopia surrounding the relative merits of the Koran and the Bible emanates from the Christian Left, in that their penchant for ethical relativism blinds them to the true meanings and virtues of their own holy text. Sadly, a significant body of mainline Protestant pastors, theologians and seminary professors have seized upon a very literal (dare we say, fundamentalist) interpretation of the some of the words of Jesus given to us in the Gospels, especially His admonitions in the Beatitudes. As is often the case, the many of the arguments advanced by Christian progressives indicate a disregard of context, historical or otherwise; as these clergymen are doubtless aware, context is critical when parsing scripture for direction regarding human behavior.

Specifically, in the Beatitudes, was Jesus’ advice to his disciples pertaining to individual behavior or to the behavior of governments; was his commentary personal or national? In order to understand Jesus commentary on peacemakers, it’s important to be able to describe their activity as He understood it. By neglecting context in these matters, the Christian Left distances itself from the central tenet of scripture: namely, individual transformation through acceptance the message and the messenger. In so doing, Christian progressives transmogrify the Bible from a directive and instructive text for faithful living to a tool used in service of the liberal agenda.

These would-be Augustines have sought to make their formulation, particularly the pursuit of peace at all costs with war as a last resort, the animating principle of Christianity.† Although this strain of Christian pacifism is commonly in academic settings, theirs is not a strictly academic exercise, as these theologians are attempting to shape American foreign policy, especially as it pertains to matters pertaining to the Middle East.

Another important question is whether peacemakers should be dedicated creating an absence of war, poverty and suffering in the world. In Joseph Loconte’s opinion piece for the November 4, 2005 issue of the Wall Street Journal, he provides a glimpse of where mainline (if not entirely mainstream) Protestant theology is headed.

Nevertheless, this theology is inspiring church manifestos on both sides of the Atlantic. We hear it in the “Beatitudes of Peacemaking” from Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches. To Mr. Edgar, the “axis of evil” is composed not of rogue states or religious movements but of “the pandemic of poverty” and “the environmental degradation of planet earth.” The solution? A $50 billion peace fund to address the “root causes” of terrorism: lack of health care and education. Not a penny, however, to counter the propaganda outlets that saturate the Arab world in an ideology of violence and victimhood.

These same pacifist assumptions are repeated by the United Methodist Council of Bishops in a paper long on sloganeering and short on logic. Peace and security will arrive, the bishops write, “when all have access to and enjoy food, housing, clothing, medical care . . . and a living wage.” No mention of how a living wage might tame [Osama] bin Laden’s cult of death. Finally, there is the document from the liberal magazine Sojourners called “Confessing Christ in a World of Violence,” signed by scores of theology professors, ethicists and church leaders. It rejects the “crude distinctions” being made between Islamic radicalism and Western democracy. “The distinction between good and evil does not run between one nation and another, or one group and another,” the petition reads. “It runs straight through every human heart.”
Loconte goes on to comment that the Christian Left’s attempts to make peace the ultimate goal of Christianity fosters an environment of moral equivalence that interferes with responsible moral action, thereby hindering the pursuit of true virtue.

† In a 1983 pastoral letter entitled “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response”, the U.S. Catholic Bishops addressed the concept of just war, stipulating among other things that, “For resort to war to be justified, all peaceful alternatives must have been exhausted.” Interestingly, the Bishops did acknowledge that, “There are formidable problems in this requirement. No international organization currently in existence has exercised sufficient internationally recognized authority to be able either to mediate effectively in most cases or to prevent conflict by the intervention of United Nations or other peacekeeping forces. Furthermore, there is a tendency for nations or peoples which perceive conflict between or among other nations as advantageous to themselves to attempt to prevent a peaceful settlement rather than advance it.” Since that time, various Catholic Bishops have taken positions in opposition to America’s policy of nuclear deterrence, and in 2002 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed its opposition to the Iraq War.

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