Monday, 23 June 2008

Gehenna to Guantanamo

I am going to go pretty close to the bone on this one but when this thought came together for me I found it to disturbing to leave alone.

In Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and countless other rendition centres the US government is making a mockery of the idea of human value, never mind dignity and rights. Grievously this is implicitly supported by many western nations including our own (did you hear Brown mention Guantanamo as he and Bush pressed flesh the other week?).

This is a US Government popularised, propped up and populated by many on the religious right, by many ‘Bible believing Christians’. I find myself once again aghast at religious history here. The ‘Crusades’ were justified by our religion, the ‘Conquistadors’, some of the Holocaust, the Apartheid system and now this cruel and inhumane war crime (if we employ the rhetoric of ‘war on terror’ to justify it then why do those ‘enemy combatants’ not fall under the Geneva convention?)

Ok enough politics you might say but let me lay something on you that I am deeply troubled by and its not a republican/democrat thing or even a 'Christians should be in the political sphere' thing. In fact – this is something that I would rather Christians kept out of the political sphere.

Let me lay this on you and see if it might disturb you to. I think certain popular but problematic views/motifs that have dominated particular strands of Christian thinking might be contributing to this darkly absurd situation where the land of the free becomes the land of the torturer. In the domination of a pretty crude ‘penal substitution’ view of what the cross is all about and in the very literal interpretation of the supposed fate of those who are not Christians we have a ready made recipe (available widely on the internet!) for our own theological shoe bomb terrorism.

A key test of any ‘spirit’, hermeneutic or theology is not just its biblical consistency or historic place but also and especially its impact on the ‘hearts and minds’ and behaviour/practice of those who follow it. Does it make Gods love more complete in them, do they end up more christlike? What is its legacy in the world God loves?

Now I am not really a big believer in slippery slopes where one thing inevitably leads to another and I am not saying this is what is happening – but it’s still disturbing logic worth outing and speaking some truth to just in case.

So –

If ‘they’ are evil enemies of God = 'Freedom' = America
Especially if they are Muslim - the officially endorsed ‘enemies’ of America/God (now Communism has gone, even though these new enemies were armed and enlisted in America’s ranks in this previous battle)
They are deserving of ‘judgement’
They are hell bound anyway
An angry God will torture them forever in Hell
So as Gods agents on earth - why not start all that now if it can save a few white saints in the process.
If they are already condemned by God why do they even need a trial (Fair trial and due process that us white saints would demand)
If God is for us and on our side, if we are to be his representatives on earth why not make like he does and create a hell - in Cuba,
Why not send people there indeterminably to suffer for their sins
Hey we are doing him a favour, we are being like him – hell maybe we are him…..

Now I don’t envy anyone with the power to have a finger hovering on the button or the ability and awful opportunity to act beyond the law. I don’t know the ‘right’ way forward when terrorism threatens the people who elected me to protect them and their innocent children but I to must struggle with these simple words:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matt 5:45


mark said...

Great post, Schof and clearly from the heart.

I wholeheardedly agree!! We could add - the support of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, the support of capital punishment and the right to bear arms. They are all examples of a conviction that good can come from violence. In the Christian evangelical world that dominates America, the idea that God can and does use violence - even against his own son - for good, certainly supports the idea that violence can be used today for good.

I think I am struck by how widespread the idea is that violence leads to good. Its in the Daily Mail, the a-religious right in the UK. It doesn't actually seem to need religion to support it. But, what it needs is religion to oppose it. The church's support is only shocking because it is precisely the place where opposition should be heard.

But, getting down to the nitty gritty, whose fault is it? Is it the fault of those Christians who too quickly withdraw from the debate in the churches? Is it the fault of those Christians who do not speak up?

I guess it has reminded me that part of our calling as Christians is not simply to 'help the poor', but to speak up against oppression, injustice and violence, both within the church and outside.

mark said...

I meant to say - thanks for having the bravery to write this post.

mark said...

I also meant to say that we'll touch (ever so lightly) on some of this stuff tomorrow night - interesting!

DS said...

Here is v interesting article from Ekklesia on an interview with some of the potential breakaway Anglicans. Maybe just read the full transcript at the bottom. I noticed 2 things in addition to the obvious -

The church is (just?) there to 'proclaim'

Jenson says 'any violence against any person, is in Christian terms wrong'....hmmm

DS said...

doh - so here's the link

DS said...

Religious, security, and military leaders call for Presidential ban on torture -