Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Great Divide, Part III - " biblical reasons..."

In this final installment of my critique of James Carroll's article in the Boston Globe, I hope to further illuminate the inherent bias and misunderstanding of the general press. I single out this article, not because Carroll is singularly anti-Christian, but rather because he is not unique in his outlook and take and editorials like this are standard fare in almost every major newpaper and every major mainstream media outlet in the country and even around the world.

I've spoken about Carroll's base dishonesty of purpose, sacrificed for style points. I've spoken about what I believe to be a defensible understanding of scripture and the passages that he had trouble with. I've tried to take issue with his over-simplification of the passages leading to a jump to conclusions that aren't necessarily alarming and troubling to many of his readers, and certainly not to Christians in general.

Now I wish to speak to the end of his article where he describes the sinister nature of the crime committed by these devout Christian generals in their audacity to put Scripture references on photographs of troops and use them as cover sheets for top secret intel briefings to a devout Christian President.

To get started, let me reference part of his article;

Those downplaying the significance of Draper's revelations suggest the
wily Rumsfeld was just indulging the born-again commander-in-chief. Others
merely blame the Bible-thumping Air Force general who prepared the briefing
documents for the secretary of defense. (Once, that general would have been my
father, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. A convinced Catholic,
yet he would be appalled and alarmed by this business.)
No matter what the
down-players say, Draper's revelation is only the latest of many that show a US
military unduly influenced by an extreme kind of Christian
Why should that appall and alarm? Let me suggest a biblical
seven reasons:

First of all, I am guilty of the first two instances. I am downplaying the significance of these briefings because of the indulging of a Christian President and blaming the "Bible-thumping Air Force general". I think both cases are fine.

We live in a country where freedom to express your religious views are protected by the 1st Amendment to our Constitution. This was a briefing read by only a very few people at the highest levels of government. It really is no one's business if these men use their faiths to inform their decision making process. We can criticize their results and their performance but not their right to come to their own conclusions by their own means and methods.

Which leads me to my second problem with this passage of Carroll's work; Carroll's attitude about this is knocking on the door of infringing upon Article VI of the Constitution which forbids a religious test for office. James Carroll, you have no right to preclude Christian men from performing their duties within the paradigm that they have and looking through the prism that colors the world they view. How dare you, sir.

Carroll worries about and undue influence of our military from an "...extreme kind of Christian Evangelism". What is extreme about it? That they believe the Bible is true? That they take Scripture seriously? That they seek solace and wisdom in the Good Book when tough decisions need be made? Actually, what he is alluding to is that he believes these guys are radicals that are justifying the war based upon religious grounds. Carroll's fear is that we have hateful Christian zealots trying to lead a charge against the infidel. He is equating these pictures with Bible passages on them, with the sort of holy war that our enemy has thrust upon us. He is equating Christians with terrorists.

There. I said it. At his base root, Carroll believes that Christian Evangelicals are no different from Muslim terrorists. They are ignorant, stupid, zealots, trying to force their sick version of salvation and religion upon the remaining world. And he thinks they are evil.

Let's tackle his seven reasons to prove my point:

Single-minded religious zealotry bedevils critical thinking, and not
just about religion. Military and political thinking suffers when the
righteousness of born-again faith leads to self-righteousness. Critical thinking
includes a self-criticism of which the "saved" know little.

On the surface, I agree with his initial assertion here, I just don't think the evidence that he produced suggests a "single-minded religious zealotry". Most Christians I know pass around Scripture passages as inspiration or to comment on a current event or issue. Remember, Carroll only used three examples. One would assume that he used the most aggregious examples to make his point.

The first passage, "Here I am, Lord. Send me", suggests a humble obedience to an unpleasant task. Carroll suggests that the general thinks God was talking to him. The second "Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and your plans will succeed", from Proverbs 16:3, suggests to a Christian to remember and act in a righteous way so that you will find success and act according to God's will. The third, "Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter", is from Isaiah 26:2 and is a prayer of success as much as it is a prayer of hope that we are, in fact, on the side of God in our endeavor. Carroll summarizes his interpretation of these passages as

"Sent by God. Protected by God. Sure to succeed. The righteous nation.
A war defined not merely as just, but as holy."

I hope that I can convey the difference in mindset, but I probably cannot. A Christian, believing in Christ and Hopeful for salvation, is obedient to God. Every task put before them from authority is considered as ordered by God unless directly in opposition to God (Romans 13:1 "Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God, and those which exist are established by God."). Our troops were not sent by God. They were sent by a government that derives its authority from God, and unless acts in direct opposition to God, must be obeyed by good Christians. The same is true now that a different set of political stripes are in office. "Here I am, Lord. Send me!" Indicates a willingness to serve and be obedient, especially in the light of an unpleasant and/or difficult task.

Committing all that you do to the Lord, is standard fare for Christians and this does ensure protection from a spiritual sense. This does not mean that you will survive. It does not mean that your temporal task will succeed. It means that committing to the Lord in submission to His will ensures that you will succeed in whatever role you are to play in God's master plan and it ensures your salvation in the next life. A soldier that does what is pleasing in God's sight, and is killed in action or by a roadside bomb, has "succeeded" in the most important task of his life -obedience to God unto death. This is not the triumphal horns blasting that Carroll thinks it is.

The last one is the closest to what Carroll wants. It is an implicit request for the walls in the city of the unrighteous to come down or the gates to be opened for the righteous nation to enter and take control. As an American, with our troops committed to war in a foreign land, far away, what exactly is wrong with a prayer that we are successful? I am dumbfounded at what the beef is on this one. Why wouldn't you pray for success? Does Carroll think that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was righteous? I for one feel on pretty solid ground when I say that between the two nations competing on that day, the US was the righteous nation and Hussein's Iraq was not. Secondly, I view the use in this context as a supplication, not a chest-thumping declaration in any case.

I just don't see the self-righteousness that Carroll decries here. I just don't. Someone help me out and let me know how I am wrong.

Carroll's last line "Critical thinking includes a self-criticism of which the "saved" know little". is a throw away line to his secular base. This is a line taken as Gospel by the seculars, but a slap in the face to the "saved". It also happens to be one of the most ignorant comments one could possibly make about the "saved". If anyone on this planet is self-critical, humble, and introspective, it is the "saved". I thought for a moment that perhaps Carroll was suggesting by his quotation marks around the word "saved", that maybe these Bush people and generals were false Christians and that they were betraying their principles. But what Carroll really means here is that ALL Christians are hypocrites and incapable of critical thinking. They are ALL self-righteous and extremists.

According to Carroll, if you believe in the Word of God as the Truth, you have no place in government, no place in our military, and no place anywhere near the "war room".

"Military proselytizers use Jesus to build up "unit cohesion" by
eradicating doubt about the mission, the command, and the self. But doubt - the
capacity for second thought - is a military leader's best friend. Commanders,
especially, need the skill of skepticism - the opposite of true

Here Carroll creates a hobgoblin of the "military proselytizer" with no reference and no evidence. This is simply a hypothetical bogeyman, but he speaks as if this were an actual position or established phenomena.

Secondly, the notion that any unit commander uses Jesus to build up "unit cohesion" by eradicating doubt about the mission is moon-bat fantasy, derived from a fevered brain. Soldiers build unit cohesion by training together, fighting together, and sometimes, bleeding together. Doubt about a mission is not eradicated. Soldiers are trained to be obedient. Also, what is funny about this, is that our current military has more decision-making power in the hands of the every day soldier than ever before. Our military is more "democratic" than any other in modern history certainly.

Thirdly, what an insane point! Why on earth would you want soldiers doubting the mission, the command, or themselves, just before they go into combat? He goes on to suggest that this quality is a military leader's best friend! They used to call it incompetence or cowardice. But in post-modern thought, being afraid to do your duty and follow orders is considered a virtue! Unbelievable. This is so insane as to defy further comment...but I must.

Fourthly, the last statement that somehow Commanders, especially, need the "skill" of skepticism? I am sure this passes for wisdom in the newsroom, but this sounds like the extrusion forthcoming from the south end of a northbound steer to me. The "skill" of skepticism? Really? Our military will thrive on all of our battlefield commanders exercising their "skill" of skepticism? They have a name for this too. INSUBORDINATION.

Look there is a time for commanders to register their complaints and comments with their superiors. This is during the planning stages. At any point "unit cohesion" becomes an issue, the situation has probably gone kinetic and the only thing Carroll's 'doubt' and 'skepticism' will do is guarantee additional income for the guys that make body bags. This is further reason why people like Carroll and anyone that thinks like him should be kept as far as possible from the military. If only for his own safety. I cannot believe...I mean I really cannot comprehend how this man can write an article where he critiques the men in charge of the military and actually commit this sophmoric, juvenile dribble to print. People like this will only get good men and women killed.

Otherworldly religion defining the afterlife as ultimate can undervalue
the present life. Religion that looks forward to apocalypse, God's kingdom
established by cosmic violence, can help ignite such violence. Armageddon, no
mere metaphor now, is the nuclear arsenal.

I thought the last point got me riled up, but this one is so tragically ignorant of what the Gospel says and means that I have been stewing in it for weeks and cannot come up with a proper response. The response that comes to mind is to start from the beginning and first principles, like a child with this guy and walk him through the meaning of Jesus and the Gospel. No one, even remotely familiar with the Salvation and Grace of Jesus Christ could put such a thought to paper.

So my thoughts drift back to the title of this post; The Great Divide. The gap in understanding is so vast as to be a complete barrier in communication. That someone could come up with this statement is evidence of a great failing of the Christian community and the holy catholic church (note, I refer, to the whole of Christendom here, not the Roman Catholic Church - the Bride of Christ, as it were).

Life here on earth is precious because of the possibility of an afterlife, not lessened by it. Every child, every person is hand-knit by a loving, and almighty God. If life on earth were so precious to secular types, why don't they protect babies from abortion? Why do Christians so adamantly defend the unborn if life is cheapened by their belief in an afterlife.

Secondly, God's kingdom of heaven was established in the heart of every believing Christian. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" Matthew 4:17. There is no evidence, certainly not from the examples that Carroll cites that the generals in question were trying to ignite Armageddon. Yet, when there is someone in the world that actually says that they want to do this, i.e. Ahmedenijad, people like Carroll, brush it off as mere rhetoric.

It makes me wonder what is so threatening about Christianity that people like Carroll must manufacture hobgoblins and find a devil in every detail and every reference to it? It is because it is true. Christ died for our sins and wants to be reconciled with every one of us. Our independence is on the line if we believe. Our pride. Our ego. You see, the self-righteous, are not the Christians, by and large, it is the secularists.

Religious fundamentalism affirms ideas apart from the context that produced
them, reading the Bible literally or dogma ahistorically. Such a mindset can
sponsor military fundamentalism, denying the context from which threats arise -
refusing to ask, for example, what prompts so many insurgents to become willing
suicides? Missing this, we keep producing more.

Huh? This is "college bull session" material as Colin Powell said once about Bill Clinton's NSC meetings. Fundamentalism affirms ideas apart from the context that produced those ideas? You mean like Grace and Redemption? Love, Hope, Charity, Peace?

Wisdom is timeless Mr. Carroll. You seem to be mistaking our Bible for the Koran. If you read our Bible carefully and believe what it says literally, you get a nation that goes into other nations and builds schools and hospitals for the native population after removing dictators that have brutalized the population for decades. If you read the Koran carefully and study it and believe what it says literally, you get 19 middle class, well-educated men with bright futures hijacking four planes full of fuel and people and driving them into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

These people want our country destroyed and it doesn't matter who is in the White House or what our foreign policy is. They are going to keep attacking us until we are destroyed or we destroy them. Our only real option, from a strictly secular point of view, is to kill them as they come, and keep killing them until they reconsider their options. Evil must be confronted and defeated, Mr. Carroll. Every time. There really is no other way. This is not religious zealotry. This is basic self-preservation 101. To miss this belies a deep-seated hatred for your own country and birthplace, and engenders disrespect and disgust from me. As a Christian I am commanded to love you and forgive you and pray for you. So I shall.

What is it about your belief system that when evil people to evil things, there is always something or someone to blame, anyone to blame, except for the evil person doing the evil thing? We don't create terrorists.

Our generals submitted to God in obedience, carried out an ugly, deadly, and very difficult task, prayed for submission to God in everything they did in the hopes of pleasing God even thought they go to their death, and they prayed for success and victory. We are the good guys. Bad guys will always hate us. Perhaps you are a little too "skilled" in your skepticism and doubt and forgot which side you are on?

A military that sees itself as divinely commissioned can all too readily act
like God in battle - using mortal force from afar, without personal involvement.
An Olympian aloofness makes America's new drone weapon the perfect slayer of

Again, wrong on every front. The military doesn't see itself as divinely commissioned. I defy Carroll to establish this. It is certainly not the case in the examples he gave. Even if the case he made suggested such a thing of these generals, it is not true of the commanders downstream from them. This is a preposterous stance and he must provide a much better arguement. This sound like paranoid blubbering to me.

Secondly, the left constantly whines about soldiers dying on the battlefield. When the miltary finds a way to reduce the number of casualties by used drones. They complain and criticize that it is too impersonal. The truth is, that these people, Carroll included want American casualties. They cannot stand the fact that our means and methods of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan have been so successful that we have fewer casualties in theater than people living in most major cities in the United States. Statistically speaking you are more likely to get shot in Detroit than Baghdad. This pisses the left off and they decry technological advantages as somehow immoral.

The last sentence is pure propaganda for our enemies. These drones, and our military in general kills fewer civilians than any military in the history of the world. There has not been a more precise and accurate military to ever operate in the world prior to us and no one currently operating a military comes close to our record, with the possible exception of Israel. Shame on you Mr. Carroll. Look up your facts.

"A bifurcated religious imagination, dividing the world between good and
evil, can misread the real character of an "enemy" population, many of whom want
no part of war with us."

Observe the actions of our people in theater and make this suggestion again. Idiotic. Here Carroll states that religious belief is now simply "imagination". Thinking people, don't believe in God, is what he means. In addition, he is suggesting that the generals and the President that participated in this note passing misread the real character of Iraqi citizens, calling them evil and warring against them. I guess that is why we supposedly purposely targeted civilians with the drones, or at least he insinuated that in REASON #5.

Even if he is only suggesting that the potential exists in the indeterminate future if we allow this dastardly practice of passing Bible passages around continues, his comment here implicitly argues that people of faith cannot use there brains for any higher brain function and critical thinking skills.

"The Middle East is the worst place in which to set loose a military
force even partly informed by Christian Zionism, seeing the state of Israel as
God's instrument for ushering in the Messianic Age - damning Muslims, while
defending Jews for the sake of their eventual destruction."

Christian Zionism? Is it possible that Christians simply recognize the current situation in real world terms outside the prophetic implications? Passing Bible verses around does not equate to messsianic, or end of times fanaticism and even if it did, would not come with a shadow of the hateful dangerous stuff coming out of Iran and North Korea. Not in Carrolls' mind. Defending Jews for the sake of their eventual destruction is a contemptable and ignorant statement. Carroll is not just a regular guy. He is an anti-Christian zealot, himself guilty of many of these qualities that he tries to cast upon Christians.

The Pentagon is the wrong place for unbound Christian zealotry, not just
because it violates the separation of church and state (and the rights of
non-believers in the chain of command), but even more because it is inimical to
the prudent use of force. When the history of America's failures in Iraq, and
now Afghanistan, is written, expect to find that US military decision-making was
made blind by faith.

The only unbound zealotry is Carroll's anti-Christian fervor. Secondly, there is no law of "separation of church and state" to violate. Thirdly, no one in the chain of command saw these top secret papers. Only the President and his closest advisors. Christian faith, on the contrary to this guy's rant, is not inimical, if fact it is recommended as a guarrantor of the prudent use of force.

Thirdly, Carroll actually states that we have already failed in Iraq and are about to in Afghanistan, the first of which is patently untrue.

Lastly, this asinine parting shot doesn't even make sense. He has never even tried to make the case in this article that decisions these guys made were made on blind faith. This entire article dances around innuendo and scare-tactics to score points for his secular adherents and fans, but fails to establish anything based upon facts of any kind. He shows not only a complete disdain for religion and faith, but the military as well. He is so biased and so blinded by it all that he probably thinks he is being fair-minded about it all too.

A final observation that further demonstrates this guy's lack of rhetorical discipline is that these seven reasons were purported to be "biblical" reasons. There is no Scripture quoted or referenced or even discussed. I am not sure what "bible" he is referring to or what he meant by it. I think it was just a rhetorical gimmik and throw away line. Snarky. Sarcastic. Disrespectful. Disingenuous. Juvenile.

My deepest prayer is that our country finds the wisdom to send creeps like this to the back bench or even another career and get back to a truth base within which true communication can take place.

I pray for the soul of James Carroll and wish him the best of success. I forgive him. Lord, please forgive me for my anger towards him and help me understand people like this and learn to love them, actually.

In Christ's name, Amen.

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