More Evangelical War Whooping
By now I have no doubt deeply offended (and possibly driven away) a number of my regular visitors through my previous rant in which I referred to the Evangelical Christian Right as “inbred morons.” I admit that this remark may have been a bit over the top, and for that I apologize. However, I continue to stand by the sentiments motivating that remark, particularly in light of an email I received today from a member of my church small group. I’m really beginning to wonder how much longer I can stand to remain a part of this congregation if the bulk of what I receive from them consists of political propaganda rather than prayer requests or outreach messages. For the benefit of my visitors, here is the email in its entirety:
What the liberal news press does not bother reporting...
Don't know whether you heard about this but Denzel Washington and his family visited the troups [sic] at Brook Army Medical Center, in San Antonio, Texas (BAMC) the other day. This is where soldiers that have been evacuated from Germany come to be hospitalized in the States, especially burn victims. They have buildings there called Fisher Houses. The Fisher House is a hotel where soldiers' families can stay, for little or no charge, while their soldier is staying in the hospital. BAMC has quite a few of these houses on base but as you can imagine, they are almost completely filled most of the time.
While Denzel Washington was visiting BAMC, they gave him a tour of one of the Fisher Houses. He asked how much one of them would cost to build. He took his checkbook out and wrote a check for the full amount right there on the spot. The soldiers overseas were amazed to hear this story and want to get the word out to the American public, because it warmed their hearts to hear it.
The question I have is why does [sic] Alec Baldwin, Modonna [sic], Sean Penn and other Hollywood types make front page news with their anti-everything America crap and this doesn't even make page 3 in the Metro section of any newspaper except the base newspaper in San Antonio.
So let me see if I understand this line of “reasoning”: A celebrity takes a tour of a military hospital facility and is touched, as anyone with a shred of human decency would be, by the plight of the wounded soldiers and their families. Touched so deeply, in fact, that he does what many wealthy people of philanthropic bent do who are touched by human need and contributes to the alleviation of their suffering, providing funds to house their families so that they can be near their recovering loved ones. The fact that he did so, if I follow the writer’s “reasoning,” proves conclusively that said celebrity supports the war and deserves lavish praise from the “liberal” media. (The same media that has swallowed, hook, line, and sinker, every ounce of propaganda spewed forth by the Bush White House as gospel, without any substantive questioning. That’s some definition of “liberal!” It’s also interesting to note that the Washington Times, that darling of the neoconservative Right, has printed not one single word in the last seven days of the event described in this email. What’s wrong with that picture?). This made me take notice of two things.
First, the writer seems to imply that Mr. Washington’s private and voluntary contribution to the well being and healing of wounded American soldiers is an obligation. After all, the neoconservative mind reasons, these wounded men and women have shed blood for the empire that allows (yes, this is often the word the pseudo-patriots use) Hollywood leeches like Washington the liberty of earning a fabulously remunerative living, so the least he can do is open up his checkbook and pony up for the poor defenders of his freedom.
The question the writer should be asking is why Mr. Washington or any other American citizen, who had no voice whatsoever in the decision to go to war, should be expected to pay out of pocket for something that is very clearly the State’s responsibility. After all, Mr. Washington did not send these men and women off to Iraq or Afghanistan to fight a needless, immoral, criminal war started by lying, self-serving political opportunists. Why, the writer should be asking, do the politicians whose actions caused these hapless men and women to be maimed in a land thousands of miles from home where they had no business being in the first place not feel obligated to fund additional Fisher Houses, preferably out of their own personal pockets bulging with money stolen from taxpayers? Why is this being left up to the private sector to fund? After all, the private sector did not start this war, and is thus not responsible for its results, the maimed and dead soldiers and the devastation of two sovereign nations on the other side of the globe who posed no threat to the United States.
The answer is that, like every other mess it has ever made, the State has abandoned its responsibilities, something that it consistently does whenever things go south and its power elite may be forced to put their own backsides on the line. Ask any disabled inmate of a veteran’s hospital if he or she is being taken care of by the State that sent them, often under threat of death of imprisonment (via the draft), to the slaughterhouse of war. Yes, as a libertarian I should at least theoretically applaud Mr. Washington loudly and heartily for doing of his own volition what the omnipotent State, with all of its allegedly endless resources, cannot or will not do. But the other side of the libertarian philosophical coin is that each person is responsible for his or her own actions and the consequences thereof. The State is no exception. As deplorable as it is that the State created the mess that put these soldiers in BAMC in the first place, leading many of their families to travel thousands of miles to be by their side, the State is still morally responsible for their condition and is thus morally obligated to see to their needs. If the State cannot see fit to do this, then the State clearly has no business waging imperialistic wars of conquest and aggression abroad, the aftermath and costs of which it cannot afford to cope with. It is neither Mr. Washington’s nor any other private citizen’s individual obligation to mop up the State’s messes out of their own resources. To imply otherwise is to sanction the creeping tyranny that is devouring this nation, something that neoconservatives such as the email writer clearly condone. Finally, someone needs to ask the writer if he made a contribution to the construction of a Fisher House. If he didn’t, I would have to ask: why not? If the welfare of these soldiers is a subject so near and dear to his heart, let him put his money where his mouth is and where the Bible commands.
The second thing that struck me about this email is that it demonstrates clearly the stereotypically neoconservative tactic of conflating love of war with compassion for those fighting it. This is absurd. Unless he has publicly gone on record in support of President Bush and the War in Iraq, we can make no assumptions whatsoever about Mr. Washington’s political beliefs, including his opinion on the situation in Iraq. Clearly what motivated Mr. Washington to do what he did was compassion for the suffering soldiers and the hardships their families were experiencing to remain by their side. Opening up his checkbook and making a donation to better the conditions of their care did not mean that Mr. Washington endorsed the war that caused them to require this care. Otherwise we can assume that Mr. Washington might have made out a second check to the United States Treasury, writing in the “memo” field something to the effect of “For the Purchase of Ammunition and Weapons for Our Brave Men and Women in Uniform to Continue the War on Terror and for Democracy In Iraq and Afghanistan.” To put it another way, I recently made a small contribution to the care fund for a local six-year-old girl undergoing intense physical therapy after she was struck by a car and paralyzed last year. In writing out the check I was making a statement that I wished to help her recover. I was not endorsing her parents’ obviously negligent and criminal habit of allowing their daughter to play unattended on a busy residential street, which is exactly what led to her accident. Concern for the effect and its impact on others does not equate to support for the cause.
While these are just the two most prominent questions this email prompted from me, I can think of a few others as well. For example, why on earth would an Evangelical Christian care what any Hollywood celebrity thinks, says, or does, particularly since the attitude of the American Evangelical movement as a whole, with few exceptions, has been that these celebraties are a cancer to contemporary society? What if Mr. Washington had been visiting an AIDS hospice in a “blue” state and opened his checkbook to make a donation for the construction of a facility for visiting family members of the dying hospice patients? What if his donation had been for a Ronald McDonald house for the family members of seriously or terminally ill children confined to an inner city hospital? Would either of these acts of Christian kindness and compassion for those not serving the brutal interests of the State be worthy of the fanfare the writer accorded Mr. Washington’s visit to a military hospital in President Bush’s home state? Methinks not. It simply amazes me that so many of the Evangelical Right seem to think that those suffering in service to the State have a special right to everyone’s compassion, whereas those suffering in the service of mankind of their own volition and resources (e.g., charitable aid workers, or even missionaries), or those suffering through no fault of their own, are simply on their own. While I am no theologian, I have read enough of the New Testament to be convinced that Jesus would have thought and behaved differently.
I have not yet decided whether or not to respond to the sender of this email. I have a feeling that to do so would be fundamentally useless. Until someone perfects a technique for “deprogramming” Evangelicals from their political indoctrination in the same way that captives of religious cults are brought back to their senses, any arguments would lead nowhere. While I have drawn considerable strength from this church over the course of the last year, I see ominous events in the future if this psychological co-opting by the State succeeds permanently. The bigger question that I, or any other Christian liberatarian must answer is, where can one find a congregation of believers who forsake earthly politics altogether and focus on the message of Him in whose name we gather?