An Ungodly American Empire?

Leaders of the Religious Left meet to condemn the U.S. as a source of violence and oppression in the world.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is preparing for the next round of its seemingly endless “Decade to Overcome Violence,” which is mostly about opposing America and the West.   Stopping Islamist “violence” does not typically rank high on its agenda.  This May it will convene a culminating  “International Ecumenical Peace Convocation” in Jamaica.  The “Decade” began in 2001 along with the United Nations’ “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World.”

Over the last 10 years, the WCC has dispatched “living letters” i.e. Religious Left delegations that visited a host of countries, including the U.S. in 2007. The U.S. “letter” mainly visited with gun control groups, anti-Iraq War protesters, and agitated voices disgruntled over New Orleans slow recovery from Katrina.  It’s not clear how anger over a hurricane’s wreckage, and the often botched federal effort to rebuild, qualifies as “violence.”  But the WCC’s “Decade” is mostly about just being angry with the “empire,” i.e. the U.S.

Lest there be much doubt, one “preparatory event” for the upcoming Jamaica culmination was a “Peace Among the Peoples” convocation last Summer at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Indiana.  Sponsors included, besides the WCC, the U.S. National Council of Churches, the Mennonite Central Committee, the United Church of Christ, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, which likely provided funding.  Its official purpose was to “facilitate a truly ecumenical conversation that will encourage greater understanding among Christians on the morality of war.”

This “peace” jamboree, for which audio just became available, attracted a cavalcade of Religious Left and pacifist thinkers who quickly reached hearty agreement that most “violence” originated with the omniscient American “empire.”  Featured speakers included Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University (America’s “best” theologian, according to Time magazine 10 years ago), emergent church guru Brian McLaren, Evangelical Left theorist Glenn Stassen of Fuller Seminary, and noted radical feminist theologian Rita Nakashima Brock.

Hauerwas is infamously anti-American and insists that all “violence” is wrong for Christians, even though nearly all churches for 2000 years have affirmed the apostolic teaching that the state is divinely ordained to wield the sword against evil.  “The fact that Just War people get to call we pacifists unrealistic is just bull----.  I mean, let them pay up,” he disclaimed, with typical color, according to a report by my assistant Eric LeMasters.  Like most modern pacifist absolutists, Hauerwas insists that no real situation could ever fully comply with Christian Just War standards, which raises the question why the Church ever bothered developing the standards at all.   And like most pacifist ideologues of the Religious and Evangelical Left, Hauerwas discerns that the U.S. is intrinsically and irredeemably violent.

Citing Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech, which paid homage to the “honored dead,” Hauerwas only found further evidence that America is blood drenched.  “The Gettysburg Address is an address that asks us to continue to murder other people in the future,” he complained. “All in the name of the sacrifices that were made. All in the name of preserving a realism that we think America represents in the world for the betterment of human civilization.” America’s grizzly and “sacrificial” meta-narrative has compelled Americans continuously to sacrifice their children “on the national altar” in a quest for unreachable validation, Hauewas surmised.  “How do you get a people who are taught that they are free to follow their own interests to sacrifice themselves and their children in war?” he asked disapprovingly.  “War is a counter-church,” Hauerwas argued. “War is the most determinative moral experience many people have. That is why [true] Christian realism requires the disavowal of war.”

Brian McLaren enthusiastically agreed with Hauerwas that America is imprisoned by its supposed meta-narrative of “domination.”  Americans bewitched by their own global power are tragically convinced that “peace and security come from being in control,” he discerned.   Beholden to their “empire,” Americans foolishly believe:  “If we can be in charge, if we can have dominance, we can be safe,” McLaren regretted.  He especially faulted conservative evangelicals for sustaining this national security obsession.  If only evangelicals would all join the Religious Left and endorse unilateral disarmament, McLaren presumably wishes.

Joining McLaren and Hauerwas in opposition to the American “empire” was Canadian immigration activist Mary Jo Leddy.  “This is a dangerous time,” she warned ominously. “Because as empires feel they are losing power they become ever more violent, ever more controlling, ever more desperate to hold on to that position of being in the center of the world.” Of course, this dire description describes the U.S. perfectly.  But lest there be any doubt, Leddy specified that America under George W. Bush exploited 9-11 to launch an endless “War on Terror.”

“This war against terrorism is not only destroying the lives of innocent people,” Leddy bewailed. “It is impoverishing the people. It is legitimizing and minimizing the violence that runs through gender and racial politics. And it is destroying us spiritually.” Fighting communism resulted in less democracy, she claimed.  And now “We are running roughshod over the innocent. In fighting terrorism, we have tortured people.”  What does Leddy offer to replace the dreaded American “empire”?  She recommended the “way of the termite,” which involves “determined acts of peace that strike at the foundation of empire.”

Becoming little “termites” to eat away and ultimately to destroy the “empire” does not sound like a very uplifting, constructive Christian vision. Typically Christians identify with redeeming the world, not corroding it.  But Leddy’s language was suitably revealing.  The WCC and its Religious Left affiliates once touted Third World Marxist revolution as the divine plan.  Absent Marxism, they are left with only grim opposition to the U.S. and the global stability that its benign power offers.  But the “way of the termite” sounds more nihilistic than Christian, doesn’t it?