Moonbats for Jesus

The so-called war on terror has provoked a lot of discussion on patriotism. Last fall, when Joan and I walked in the anti-war march in Orlando, we encountered a group called “Gathering of Eagles.” These self-styled super patriots make it a point to attend such marches and to harass the marchers. They call us “moonbats”—liberals! [How did the word liberal get such a bad reputation? Etymologically, liberal comes from the root “to set free.” Did not Jesus say that he came to liberate the oppressed? Knew it all along. He must have been a liberal!] Fortunately, there was a mounted patrol from the Orlando police department which separated us from these folks; however, that did not prevent them from yelling and shouting obscenities and other epithets at us. Two that I can print on this blog were “traitor” and “infidel.”
We often get the same reaction from others. Us moonbats do “not support the troops” which is an euphemism for “we do not support Bush’s war for oil, water and hegemony in the Middle East.” Thus, we are deemed unpatriotic, un-American [Remember McCarthy’s Committee on Un-American Activities?]
Let’s set the record straight. Peace is patriotic. Patriotism is love for one’s country; however, it does not mean blind support for all the programs of the government in power. In order to be patriotic, Christian citizens must be well informed and must not blindly support whatever the government throws at us.
For the first three hundred years of the Jesus Movement, Christians were in the minority and were actively persecuted by the empire. Why? Because they did not accept all the values eschewed by the empire. For most of the first millennium, Christians understood that Christians could not shed blood. When Christians did shed blood heavy and lengthy penances ensued. Christians were for the most part countercultural during those years.
A great shift occurred toward the end of the first millennium. Ambrose and Augustine framed the just war theory to deal with the fact that the barbarians were at the empire gates and the empire had to be defended. A Christian could not serve in the army prior to 313. One hundred years later you had to be a Christian to serve in the army. With the crusades, which were called by popes and preached by saints such as Bernard and Catherine of Sienna, Christians were no longer prohibited from shedding blood; they were encourages to kill Muslims, Jews and heretics in the name of Christ. Saving aboriginal peoples justified slavery and colonization.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and we see a avowedly Christian culture which seems to accept war as the ordinary, normal way for resolving disputes over power and possessions. Unlike the early church, Christians who stand over against empire and try to live Gospel nonviolence find themselves in a minority—a unpatriotic minority at that.
Some few Catholic theologians have tried to justify the current war in Iraq on grounds of the just war theory. This goes to demonstrate how much we are a part of the comfort culture of our consumerist society. You can never justify a preemptive, preventive war. We think they are going to harm us so we go ahead and take them out. Not so. This is an unjust and immoral war. Recall Pope John Paul II burying his hands in his face when we unleashed the offensive on Iraq. He had repeatedly implored President Bush not to start to invasion but to no avail. “War is a defeat for mankind.” We must live Gospel nonviolence and call for peaceful resolution of conflicts.
Living Gospel nonviolence with informed consciences means that we will at times have to give the appearance of being unpatriotic. What follows was inspired by something I saw in a wonderful new book (Jesus for President):
If speaking out against the unjust, immoral war in Iraq is un-American, then I am un-American.
If speaking out against the torture of captured soldiers and detainees is un-American, then I am un-American.
If denouncing the Pax Americana strategy to dominate the world and all its resources is un-American, then I am un-American.
If speaking out against the diminution of our civil liberties because we are in a war on terror is un-American, then I am un-American.
If speaking out against tax cuts for the wealthiest among us while 28 million children live in low-income homes is un-American, then I am un-American.
If speaking out against poverty where 36 million adults lack decent work for decent wages, food, clothing, shelter, medical care and education in the wealthiest nation ever to exist is un-American, then I am un-American.
If speaking out for peaceful and just solutions to problems is American, then I am American.
If working for a sustainable world where the needs of all are met is American, then I am American.
If speaking out for a just and equitable distribution of the world’s resources is American, than I am American.
If developing strategies to preserve our ecosphere is American, then I am American.
If loving my enemies and forgiving them is American, then I am American.
You see, it’s easy to put a flag in your lapel or on your mail box or car. It is much more difficult to live Gospel values when they are challenged as un-American, unpatriotic.
As Christians, our first allegiance is always to Jesus and his Gospel nonviolence. Love your enemies. Forgive those who persecute you. Give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Welcome the stranger, the alien, the immigrant. Visit the sick and imprisoned. These are the values that determine allegiance in Jesus’ kin-dom. Let’s be “moonbats” for Jesus!

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