Turning water into wine, wars into crusades

A few nights ago I was mocking an AT&T commercial that claims the internet is making us all smarter. To be fair, the ad does depict a bunch of young kids whose newfound ability to spell is off the charts, and while the internet may have helped a small number of our brain cells flicker to life, few if any of those brain cells are going to help us become spelling bee champions — a quick look at Twitter’s Trending Topics should prove my point. That said, a jaunt around the world wide web has once again added to the ever-growing file of miscellaneous facts that I hope to one day utilize on Jeopardy. Until yesterday, I had no idea that “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 or that “In God We Trust” became the national motto in 1956 — both most likely as a reaction to our new enemies at the time, the Godless Communists.

For these new facts, I have James Carroll and his blog post “The Pentagon Prayer Fight” to thank. Unfortunately the joy of learning new things is soured somewhat by the nature of this recently acquired knowledge and the thoughts it has prompted.

I had hoped after the election of Barack Obama (or perhaps more accurately, the exit of George W. Bush), America would move away from the claims and assumptions that we are a Christian Nation and return to a more religiously neutral stance — no more crusade rhetoric, no more “mixing proselytizing with the chain-of-command and the culture of warriors,” as Carroll puts it. The rise of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party demonstrates that there are many Americans who are nostalgic for the days of the born-again George W. Bush and rallying cries like “the Axis of Evil.”

Even as someone strongly opposed to armed conflict, I will accept that war may be unavoidable at times, that it may be the lesser of two evils that a Commander in Chief has to choose from, but I will not accept that it is supported or justified by faith. The fact that, as Carroll points out in his article, there were Biblical verses adorning the covers of war briefings, that military commanders use “Jesus as morale-booster-in-chief,” and “the Pentagon [attaches] Christian references to the War on Terror” is unacceptable, especially in a multi-faith society like the United States. War needs to be seen for what it is: a horrible, bloody, and frightening enterprise — it is only when we see war as it truly is that the decision to go to war takes on its full weight and responsibility. To try and paint war as something God or Jesus or any other religious figure supports is completely irresponsible, not to mention sickeningly ironic when battling religious extremists ourselves. From the bumper stickers I’ve seen, I was lead to believe “God is Love,” not War, and according to the Christian monotheistic view those Greek and Roman savages who believed in a God of War (among others) were lowly heathens who had failed to see the light.

To pray for the safety of soldiers and/or for the civilians caught in the crossfire is one thing, but to believe the God that listens to these prayers is supporting one side over another… that’s something very different. I’ve been told by friends and family that the Christian God loves all of His creations, especially humankind. Some may not yet have seen the light or been saved, but because there is still the chance of salvation we are all loved equally by God, misguided sinners and saints alike. If this is the case, how can America even hint that its military actions are ordained by God? How can we condemn others for killing in the name of their God if we do the same thing, when the language we use subtly alters our wars into near-crusades?

The separation of Church and State is in our Bill of Rights and laid our even more clearly in the Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11: “…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” I am not trying to attack faith, but ask that war be treated as it truly is and not seen through the lens of a distorted religious morality. The decision to go to war and our actions during war should be based on the terrible weight of lost lives — of civilians and American, foreign, and enemy soldiers — not a sense of righteousness derived from faith, particularly a faith that not even all Americans share.

One Response to “Turning water into wine, wars into crusades”
  1. b.crusherman says:

    I was pretty much with you until you stated ” The separation of Church and State is in our Bill of Rights and laid out even more clearly in the Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11: “…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” The First Amendment to Constitution states ” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It is very clear that the founders did not want a government established religion or a religion established government as was the case in Europe. However, this governments laws were most certianly based on natural law (law of nature and of nature’s God …. DOI 1776) and the fact that Jewish/Christian Law and morals are very intertwined in ours laws then and today. Religion should not be governent but should run a parallel course towards common goals… a moral compasse?? I think it was Jefferson who spoke of a “wall of seperation”, but again has this be pulled out of context somehow? He did not want the influence on government liken to Europe (Catholicism) and maybe now the Middle East (Islam/Judaism). Many a life has been lost in the name of religion, but whos fault is that?

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