There are many, far too many times, when our nation collectively forgets that the invasion of Iraq was both immoral and illegal, fabricated around lies, deceptions, and distortions, and supported by an undercurrent of militaristic Christianity.
We forget that this administration cooked the intelligence books and willfully deceived the American people. We forget that this administration opened the door to both the torture of prisoners and the shrinking of civil rights of citizens. We forget that this administration has illegally, and blatantly, undertaken extensive spying and harassment of American citizens.
We forget that our official national security policy now affirms that free markets, free trade, and free enterprise are the standard for justice in the world. Indeed, one of the first actions of our Iraqi occupation was to impose an entirely new economy on those we conquered: to slash taxes, curtail the right of unions to organize and strike, remove restrictions on foreign corporate ownership, gut the public sector, and privatize state industries. It is a policy of despair intended to create the fear and anxiety necessary for economic slavery. We forget that Iraq is the economic model that this administration would like to impose on the world and, yes, on our own nation. We forget that this administration believes that the purpose of government is to protect the assets of capital. We forget that military spending consumes 40 percent of every tax dollar. And lest we further forget, with the rise of profit-centered paramilitary organizations such as Blackwater, our military apparatus increasingly operates outside of citizen authority.
To make matters even grimmer, one will search in vain for a coherent moral counterweight to this administration’s seizure of power and sabotage of the Constitution. Despite the Democrats’ rhetoric of withdrawal, there are no plans to dismantle our permanent bases in Iraq, cut the military budget, or reduce the hundreds of global military bases we have worldwide. There are no plans to return our economy to one that serves the commonwealth, that values labor over capital, sustainability over profit, and the rights of neighborhoods over corporations.
In this context of creeping despair, what can the citizenry really do to effect a genuine change in American global economic-military policy? Or are we simply fated to continually expand our global empire until, like Rome, our Republic collapses into military dictatorship?
Since I am a pastor, these questions take on an additional urgency. To its credit, most of the global Church judged the invasion of Iraq immoral and unjust. Despite this counsel, congregations continued to support the war and bless the troops even in their (theologically speaking) sinful occupation and theft of another’s land and way of life. And today, although public opinion has shifted, congregations continue to lapse into a spiritual capitulation that all we can do is pray for a generic peace. They offer no liturgies of repentance or lamentation. They offer no spiritual disciplines of penance, either for the soldiers who fight or for the citizenry who fund this unleashing of the demonic.
All of us, both within the Church and outside of it, are facing a world-changing, critical, urgent moral decision. We are at a historical crossroads where we must choose between evolution or empire. As a society we must morally and spiritually evolve so as to be capable of choosing the path that leads to cooperation, compassion, care of the earth, sustainability, and an ability to seek justice through reconciliation. Otherwise, we are scripted to continue down into the spiraling sewer of empire with its competitive anxiety, its increasing toleration of genocide, ecocide, and enslavement of the world’s poor, and the relentless pursuit of economic decadence for a few facilitated by absolute military brutality over the many.
What is needed from the Church is a more faithful spiritual revival: a returning to our roots as an anti-imperial movement equipped with a vastly different worldview. A spiritual revival is a hope-filled optimism about a future worth living. But revival also implies a turning away (i.e., repentance) from a path discerned as leading to certain destruction and despair. A more faithful spiritual revival will summon us as a nation to massively reduce our dependency on our military and the imperial ambitions that it serves. It is within this context that the Church has the moral responsibility, on behalf of all creation, to wrestle deeply with the theological question, “How do we pray for the defeat of our nation so that this war may end and a time of national revival may begin?” The question, and the prayer, must lead to action, courageous decision, and a living example of what a world not dependent on military consumerism looks like. To this question, and this prayer, the Church will stand or fall, evolve or wither, serve the purposes of God or enslave itself to the demands of the demonic. And, I submit, as the Church goes, so goes the nation.
By RICH LANG, Contributing Writer
Rich Lang is Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Ballard and the host of a progressive Christian radio show, Living Faith Now (www.livingfaithnow.org). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.