Monday, May 28, 2007

Bacevich: A Memorial Day Message

I Lost My Son to a War I Oppose. We Were Both Doing Our Duty.

By Andrew J. Bacevich
Sunday, May 27, 2007

Parents who lose children, whether through accident or illness, inevitably wonder what they could have done to prevent their loss. When my son was killed in Iraq earlier this month at age 27, I found myself pondering my responsibility for his death.

Among the hundreds of messages that my wife and I have received, two bore directly on this question. Both held me personally culpable, insisting that my public opposition to the war had provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Each said that my son's death came as a direct result of my antiwar writings.

This may seem a vile accusation to lay against a grieving father. But in fact, it has become a staple of American political discourse, repeated endlessly by those keen to allow President Bush a free hand in waging his war. By encouraging "the terrorists," opponents of the Iraq conflict increase the risk to U.S. troops. Although the First Amendment protects antiwar critics from being tried for treason, it provides no protection for the hardly less serious charge of failing to support the troops -- today's civic equivalent of dereliction of duty.

What exactly is a father's duty when his son is sent into harm's way?

Among the many ways to answer that question, mine was this one: As my son was doing his utmost to be a good soldier, I strove to be a good citizen.

As a citizen, I have tried since Sept. 11, 2001, to promote a critical understanding of U.S. foreign policy. I know that even now, people of good will find much to admire in Bush's response to that awful day. They applaud his doctrine of preventive war. They endorse his crusade to spread democracy across the Muslim world and to eliminate tyranny from the face of the Earth. They insist not only that his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was correct but that the war there can still be won. Some -- the members of the "the-surge-is-already-working" school of thought -- even profess to see victory just over the horizon.

I believe that such notions are dead wrong and doomed to fail. In books, articles and op-ed pieces, in talks to audiences large and small, I have said as much. "The long war is an unwinnable one," I wrote in this section of The Washington Post in August 2005. "The United States needs to liquidate its presence in Iraq, placing the onus on Iraqis to decide their fate and creating the space for other regional powers to assist in brokering a political settlement. We've done all that we can do."

Not for a second did I expect my own efforts to make a difference. But I did nurse the hope that my voice might combine with those of others -- teachers, writers, activists and ordinary folks -- to educate the public about the folly of the course on which the nation has embarked. I hoped that those efforts might produce a political climate conducive to change. I genuinely believed that if the people spoke, our leaders in Washington would listen and respond.

This, I can now see, was an illusion.

The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as "the will of the people."

To be fair, responsibility for the war's continuation now rests no less with the Democrats who control Congress than with the president and his party. After my son's death, my state's senators, Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, telephoned to express their condolences. Stephen F. Lynch, our congressman, attended my son's wake. Kerry was present for the funeral Mass. My family and I greatly appreciated such gestures. But when I suggested to each of them the necessity of ending the war, I got the brushoff. More accurately, after ever so briefly pretending to listen, each treated me to a convoluted explanation that said in essence: Don't blame me.

To whom do Kennedy, Kerry and Lynch listen? We know the answer: to the same people who have the ear of George W. Bush and Karl Rove -- namely, wealthy individuals and institutions.

Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought.

Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check. It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.

Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over U.S. policy to well-hewn channels. It preserves intact the cliches of 1933-45 about isolationism, appeasement and the nation's call to "global leadership." It inhibits any serious accounting of exactly how much our misadventure in Iraq is costing. It ignores completely the question of who actually pays. It negates democracy, rendering free speech little more than a means of recording dissent.

This is not some great conspiracy. It's the way our system works.

In joining the Army, my son was following in his father's footsteps: Before he was born, I had served in Vietnam. As military officers, we shared an ironic kinship of sorts, each of us demonstrating a peculiar knack for picking the wrong war at the wrong time. Yet he was the better soldier -- brave and steadfast and irrepressible.

I know that my son did his best to serve our country. Through my own opposition to a profoundly misguided war, I thought I was doing the same. In fact, while he was giving his all, I was doing nothing. In this way, I failed him.

Andrew J. Bacevich teaches history and international relations at Boston University. His son died May 13 after a suicide bomb explosion in Salah al-Din province.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Alberts: Christian Imperialism

Christian Zealotry and the Occupation of Iraq:
Faith-Based Imperialism


The very nature of Christianity is imperialistic. A resurrected Christ reportedly told his disciples, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore," he ordered them, "and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey [italics added] everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus' assumed resurrection is believed to be proof of his own unique divinity as the only Son of God and savior of the world. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life," he is recorded as asserting. "No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) It is about authority and obedience far more than about individuality and equality. Thus Christianity is embraced by most adherents as "the highest revelation of God."

In the words of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church: "We believe the Christian Church is the community of all true believers under the Lordship of Christ. . . . the redemptive fellowship in which the Word of God is preached by men divinely called . . . {It} exists for the . . . edification of believers and the redemption of the world" [italics added]. ("Article V ­ The Church," pages 67, 68) Jesus' death on the cross is also central to many Christians imperialistic claim of possessing the global religious truth for all human beings. A favorite authoritative verse is John 3: 16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." [italics added] As the passion of the Christ-makers dictates: Jesus died on the cross "for the sins of the whole world," and whoever believes in his sacrificial act of atonement, as the only pure Son of God, will not perish but inherit eternal life. Thus may an otherwise theologically damned hell-bent humanity escape the eternal punishment of an otherwise loving god.

"The sins of the whole world?" It all started innocently enough, if one believes in the literal truth of the Bible. "In the beginning God created" Adam and Eve and a womb-like Garden of Eden for them. Unfortunately, they committed the "first" or "original" sin: they disobeyed their god by eating from "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil;" and their "eyes [were] opened" and they became "wise . . . like God, knowing good and evil," which evidently was taboo. So an obedience-demanding, apparently jealous god banished them from the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3) Thus much of hierarchical and "bibliarchical" Christianity would have us believe that Adam and Eve actually existed, or represent mythical truth, and that their disobedience marks or symbolizes "the fall" of the human race: i.e. all human beings thereafter inherited Adam and Eve's disobedient, sinful nature. The only saving grace for all people is prayed often in many Christian churches: "Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of they tender mercy didst give thine only Son

Jesus Christ to suffer death on the cross for our redemption, who made there, by the offering of himself, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world." [italics added] ("The Great Thanksgiving," Holy Communion ritual, The United Methodist Hymnal, 1989, p.28)

"Original sin" of a real or mythical Adam and Eve? Or taking a bite to see the light, and cutting the "umbiblical" cord of patriarchy and moral obliviousness? Disobedience? Or individuation? Religion as power over people? Or as empowerment of people? Mindless? Or mindful of right and wrong?

On any given Sunday in almost any given Christian church one may hear professions of an ingrained imperialistic faith. It may be heard in a call to worship: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, . . . full of grace and truth. . . . No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known [italics added] (John 1).

On any given Sunday, faith-based imperial- ism may take wings in an opening hymn: "From all that dwell below the skies, let the Creator's praise arise; let the Redeemer's name be sung, through every land by every tongue." (Words: Isaac Watts; Music: John Hatton, The United Methodist Hymnal, p. 101)

A similar affirmation of an imperialistic faith, often said in unison in Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches, is the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son our lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; . . . rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and he will come to judge the living and the dead" [italics added]. ("Apostles' Creed," Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

Faith-based imperialism may be reflected in the Scripture lesson read at a given Sunday service: "Therefore God has exalted him and bestowed on him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." [italics added] (Philippians 2:9-11) Then may follow "the Word of God . . . preached by men divinely called" to lead "the community of all true believers." Here again the emphasis is far more on believing than on being. Far more on submission and domination than on liberation and equality.

Faith-based imperialism is oblivious to its own self-contradictions. On any given Sunday one may hear the following prayer "For Peace": "Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace [italics added] as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and forever, Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, The Episcopal Church, 1979 p. 815) Here is unawareness of the "banners" under which people of other faiths may "glory."

At any given Sunday service, the closing hymn may sound an imperialistic note: "We've a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right, a story of truth and mercy, a story of peace and light . . . For the darkness shall turn to the dawning, and the dawning to noon-day bright; and Christ's great kingdom shall come on earth, the kingdom of love and light." (Words and Music by Ernest Nichol, 1896, The United Methodist Hymnal, p. 569) And following the hymn, this benediction may be said: "Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time now and forever. Amen" [italics added] (Jude 1: 24, 25)

Faith-based imperialism is especially seen in claims regarding which Christians represent "the one true church." Catholicism teaches it alone possesses "the keys to the Kingdom," since disciple Simon Peter, who became the first apostle, is recorded as recognizing Jesus' unique divinity: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," and Jesus rewarded him with, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven . . ." [italics added] (Matthew 16: 16-19)

Citing the above Scripture as its authority, the Catechism of the Catholic Church stakes Catholicism's claim as the one true church: "This is the sole [italics added] Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic." (811, p. 232). The Catechism continues, "The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it. . . . This Church . . . subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in commune with him." (816, p. 234) The Catechism then reinforces its imperialistic authority: "The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains: 'For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained.'" [italics added] (Ibid) The Catholic Church's bottom line: "God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men." (848, p.244) Faith-based imperialism, in Germany, in other European countries, and in America, made it easier for Hitler's fascist Nazi ideology to murder some six million Jews in the 1930's and 1940's.

If Catholics find their imperialistic authority in their Church, evangelical and other Christians find it in their Bible. Many evangelical Christian websites declare that salvation is not through any "church but through Jesus Christ alone." Christian Resources Net, for example, states Catholicism's position: "The Second Vatican Council Decree on Ecumenism explains: 'For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. Vertification: pg. 215, #816" But Catholicism is wrong because, "When checking God's Word on this subject, two critical facts leap out: 1. The Bible never remotely indicates that one must go through a church to obtain salvation. 2. Literally hundreds of Scriptures proclaim that salvation is a free gift from God, readily available to anyone, but only through Jesus Christ" [italics added). Christian Resources Net then proceeds to list at least 20 Scriptures, including, "Neither is there salvation in any other (except Jesus): for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4: 10,12" ("Catholic Beliefs vs. the Beliefs of God")

The historic pervasiveness of faith-based imperialism is seen in United Methodism's invitation to church membership: "The Church is of God, and will be preserved to the end of time, for the conduct of worship and the due administration of God's Word and Sacraments, the maintenance of Christian fellowship and discipline, the edification of believers and the conversion of the world. All of every age and station, stand in need of the means of grace which it alone supplies." [italics added] (The United Methodist Book of Worship, 1992, page 106) These words are in keeping with the mission of The United Methodist Church, which "affirms that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and Lord of all." And, "as we make disciples, we respect persons of all religious faiths and we defend religious freedom for all persons. . . . We embrace Jesus' mandates to love God and to love our neighbor and to make disciples of all peoples." [italics added] (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2004, pp.87,88)

United Methodists, and other evangelical Christians, appear to want their "cake of superiority" and eat at the table of equality, too. How can one "respect persons of all religious faiths" and "love our neighbor" if the intent is to convert and "make disciples" of them? Such "respect" and "love" for "persons of all faiths" appear to be code words needed to rationalize the very opposite. Such evangelism reveals a subtle, inherent disrespect for "persons of all [other] religious faiths." It represents another example of the obliviousness of an imperialistic faith to its own self-contradiction.

Evangelical Christianity is imperialistic. It presupposes that one's religious belief is better than another's. That one's faith is superior and another's inferior. That one's religion is true and another's false. Here there is not respect but religiously code-worded disrespect and inequality, with ingrained paternalism and arrogance that assume, "My faith is best for you." Here another's reality is unconsciously interpreted rather than consciously experienced. Here there is the negating of another's identity and inherent worth and right to believe as he or she chooses and to be who she or he is.

Faith-based imperial- ism en- courages obliv- iousness to the rights and well-being of people of other religions. It is believed to restrict an evangelical Christian's capacity to identify with and perceive the reality of people of differing beliefs. It discourages walking in the shoes of different believers or non-believers. It violates the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31) It sets limits on empathy for and caring about what happens to persons beyond one's own "true believers." Where there is caring, it is often with proselytizing strings attached. It encourages an ethnocentric, "our kind" only interpretation of Jesus' commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39) Faith-based imperialism puts people of other faiths out of mind and out of sight, which obliviousness is subtle and pervasive and has deadly consequences.

Here there are prayers by ministers and priests at various public gatherings that often end with, "In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ"-as if only Christians were in attendance. Here there is an unsigned note placed on the altar of the interfaith chapel in a big metropolitan hospital: "A chapel without a cross? Is this what has happened to Christianity in our country? Sad" (underlined three times). Here there is President Bush's United Methodist minister, Rev. Kirbyson Caldwell, ending his Benediction at Bush's January 2001 Inauguration with, "We respectfully submit this humble prayer in the name that's above all other names [italics added], Jesus, the Christ. Let all who agree say amen." Here there is evangelical Christian-professing Bush himself justifying a criminal war against Iraq with, "Freedom is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to every man and woman in the world." ("Acceptance Speech to Republican Convention Delegates," The New York Times, Sept. 3, 2004) A "gift" wrapped in "shock and awe" bombs and brutal occupation. And here Bush's faith-based initiatives also serve to numb Christian consciences and buy support for a criminal war.

Christians, whose faith-based imperialism prevents them from being aware of the Jews and Muslims in their midst, are far more likely to be oblivious to the Jews and Muslims being oppressed around them-or beyond them by their government in their name. Thus can an unchallenged self-professing evangelical Christian President Bush say at a news conference, "I pray daily. I pray for guidance and wisdom and strength. . . . I pray for peace. I pray for peace." (The New York Times, Mar. 7, 2003) And two weeks later unleash 21,000 pound "shock and awe" bombs on the people of Iraq-a war of choice planned by his administration long before the horrific 9/11/2001 attack against America which then served as a pretext for his criminal war.

The faith-based imperialism of many Christians apparently prevents them from perceiving the fear-mongering lies on which this "Jesus changed my heart"-president based his administration's unnecessary war. Belief in a superior faith and country may be preventing them from imagining and feeling the overwhelming death and destruction this falsely-based war is causing.

The facts should be shockingly clear by now. Saddam Hussein did not possess imminent "mushroom-cloud"-threatening weapons of mass destruction nor ties to the terrible 9/11/2001 attack against America. The person practicing a "game of deception" regarding weapons of mass destruction was not Hussein, as President Bush repeatedly charged, but Bush himself. War crimes against humanity, disguised as "Operation Iraqi Freedom," are being committed: hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children dead; the country's life-sustaining infrastructure devastated; some four million civilians forced to become refugees inside and outside their country; a deadly massive civil war raging, triggered by the US-led invasion and occupation; and thus far over 3400 American soldiers killed and tens of thousands wounded in body and mind, along with the terrible waste of our nation's resources.

The faith-based imperialism of Christians is assumed to well serve the Bush administration. A Christian evangelical-professing President Bush can attend an Easter service, where he again "prayed for peace at an Army post that has sent thousands of soldiers to Iraq." ("Prayer for Peace," The Boston Globe, Apr. 9, 2007) A public Easter "prayer for peace" for the ears of his god or for the eyes of Christians? The contradiction between his "prayer for peace" and his insistence that Congress continue to fund his war, with no timetable for withdrawal of troops attached, appears to still fall on many imperialistically conditioned minds and hearts.

The obliviousness of faith-based imperialism to its own self-contradiction was on display in President and Mrs. Bush's visit to Virginia Tech, after the shocking killing of thirty-one students and a professor by another student who then killed himself. A tragic heart-rending massacre in Virginia, leading to memorial scrvices throughout America. People readily identified with the victims and wept with their families, as did Bush and his wife, who hugged and shed tears with families and students. And Bush was quoted as saying, "Those whose lives were taken did nothing to deserve their fate. . . . They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now they're gone," he continued, "and they leave behind grieving families, and grieving classmates, and a grieving nation." ("Bush offers condolences at Virginia Tech,", Apr. 17, 2007) Reported also was "first lady Laura Bush [who] said she met with two families that had lost their only child." She was then quoted, " ' The idea of that for any parent [italics added] is so devastating that it's hard for us to imagine what they are going through,' she told CBS News." (Ibid)

It is evidently "hard" for many Christians with an imperialistic mind-set to "imagine . . . any parent" in Iraq, never mind "what they are going through" in our name.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi mothers and fathers and sons and daughters "leaving behind grieving families, and grieving classmates, and a grieving nation."-because of Bush himself and his neo-conservative advisors. All one had to do was read the headlines before and after the horrible killings at Virginia Tech: "Dozens killed in violence across Iraq" ( The Boston Globe, April 11, 2007); "85 people found dead across Iraq," (The Boston Globe, Apr. 18, 2007); "Bombs Rip Through Baghdad in Wave of Attacks, Killing 171," (The New York Times, Apr. 19, 2007); "Suicide car bomb kills 9 US soldiers," (The Boston Globe, Apr. 24, 2007); "Dozens killed in bomb attack in Shiite Shrine," (The New York Times, Apr. 29, 2007). Tragically, faith-based imperialism fails to make the connection between Blacksburg and Baghdad. "Those who lives were taken, did nothing to deserve their fate." "The idea of that for any parent is so devastating that it's hard for us to imagine."

The failure of faith-based imperialism to recognize its own self-contradiction is especially seen in another response of President Bush to the horrible killings at Virginia Tech. When asked what lesson might be drawn from it, he responded, " 'Make sure when you see somebody, know somebody exhibiting abnormal behavior,' do something about it." ("Bush seeks war support in small Ohio town," Los Angeles Times, Apr. 19, 2007).

When you see somebody . . . exhibiting abnormal behavior?" The person "exhibiting" the most dangerous "abnormal behavior" is President Bush himself:

Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of mass deaths and destruction. Facing the evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof-and the smoking gun that would come in the form of a 'mushroom cloud.' ("President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat," Cincinnati Ohio, The White House, Oct. 7, 2002);

I pray daily, I pray for wisdom and guidance and strength. . . . I pray for peace. I pray for peace. (The New York Times, Mar. 7, 2003);

Tomorrow is a moment of truth [italics added] for the world. ("President Bush: March 'Moment of Truth' for World in Iraq," The White House, Mar. 17, 2003);

I pray for peace. I pray for peace.

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. . . . Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision, and speed, and boldness the world has never seen before. . . . You have shown the world the skill and the might of the American Armed Forces. This nation thanks all of the members of our coalition who joined in a noble cause. ("Test of Bush Speech: President declares end to major combat in Iraq," CBS NEWS, May 1, 2003) "Mission accomplished."

I pray daily . . . for wisdom and guidance and strength. . . . I pray for peace.

There are some that feel like if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely. They don't understand what they are talking about if that is the case. Let me finish. There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on.' ("Bush warns militants who attack U.S. troops in Iraq," by Sean Loughlin, politics, July 3, 2003)

I pray daily. . . . I pray for peace. I pray for peace.

I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind. . . . I see dangers that exist and its important for us to deal with them. ("Bush sets case as 'war president,'" BBC NEWS, Feb. 8, 2004)

I pray for peace. I pray for peace.

Islamic fascists. Evil doers. All they can think about is evil. Flat evil. Killers. Murderers of women and children. Terrorists. Lenin and Hitler [types]. [A never-ending] global war on terrorism. They want to create a unified totalitarian Islamic state and destroy the free world. A struggle for civilization. The war on terror . . . is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st Century and the calling of our generation.

I pray for peace. I pray for peace.

Four years after this war began, the fight is difficult, but it can be won. . . . It will be won if we have the courage and resolve to see it through. . . . Congress can do its part by passing the war-spending bill without strings [a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq] and without delay. ("Bush Pleads for Patience in Iraq on War's Anniversary," by David Stout, The New York Times, Mar. 19, 2007)

I pray for peace. I pray for peace.

The faith-based imperialism of many Christians is believed to have enabled and accommodated the "I pray for peace" psychopathic insanity of the most dangerous man on the face of the earth. The "I pray for wisdom and guidance and strength" evangelical Christian President who uses "God" and "freedom" and bended knee to murder and maim and displace millions of children of "any parent" in Iraq, who "were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time." The pious President who brings not the biblical "oil of gladness" to Iraq but who seeks to oil America's military-industrial-complex there and to control the oil under its ground. The "war president" whose intent is not to liberate but occupy Iraq and use its land as a military base for his administration's aim to dominate "the darkest corners of our [Muslim] world . . . [with] this untamed fire of freedom." ("Transcript of President Bush's Inaugural Address," (The New York Times, Jan. 21, 2005)

Many Christians have allowed President Bush to get away with mass murder. Their faith-based imperialism is short-sighted and narrow-minded: it apparently cannot see or feel beyond its own kind-unless there are evangelistic strings attached.

Faith-based imperialism is self-deceptive because it is unreflective. An insecure person's overriding need for authority and certainty can lead him or her to give up the inalienable right to think for herself or himself. Here Adam and Eve's eating of "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" is interpreted as evil rather than as good. Their "sin" was opening their "eyes" and knowing the difference between good and evil. Here obedience is the cardinal virtue and critical thinking for oneself the cardinal sin. Here religion is about authority not authenticity. Here is where a deluded political or religious leader gets much of his and her power. Here one is told which neighbor to love and which to hate. Here the Jesus of history is kept in the shadows of a resurrected Christ. Here salvation is re-interpreted as an individual matter apart from institutionalized political and economic realities that greatly determine who, in the gospel words of Jesus, may actually "have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)

Faith-based imperialism does violence to the reality of oppressed people-Jewish and Muslim-and obscures what Jesus was really about. He was not about dying for the sins of the world so that believers everywhere could inherit eternal life, but about setting at liberty the oppressed Jews in his country from Roman occupation. (Luke 4:18) The great conspiracy of the early Christian Church was turning Jesus' model of liberation from an oppressive state into one of accommodation to the state. Why? It is safer today, as in the past, to believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world than to join in seeking, as he did, to rid the world of political, corporate and military sins that deny other people their birthright of freedom and fulfillment to be who they are. It is safer to worship a

liberator than to follow in his liberation footsteps. Tellingly, the imperialistic command of a resurrected Christ to his disciples, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," was a Christological formulation of the early Christian Church created long after Jesus and his disciples lived.

The early Christians apparently stood history on its head in order to put a resurrected Jesus on his feet-and give him legs and wings. They transported him from a political to a theological realm in order to survive, evangelize and flourish in the Roman world. (See Alberts, "Decoding the Coders of Christ," Counterpunch, June 14, 2006)

Religion is doing what the prophets worshiped not worshiping what they did. Jesus was recorded as emphasizing an often overlooked way to eternal life: by behavior, not be belief. When a lawyer tested him by asking, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered that the greatest commandments were the way: love of one's god and one's neighbor as oneself. "Do this [italics added] he said, and you will live." (Luke 10:25-28)

Jesus did not say which neighbor to love. Nor specify the neighbor's race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation. Which evidently led the lawyer to test Jesus further by asking, "And who is my neighbor?" And Jesus said any person robbed of life and in need of a Good Samaritan. And there were no proselytizing strings attached. (Ibid, 10:29-37) Jesus is quoted as saying, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." (Matthew 5:9) He warned about "hypocrites [who] love to stand and pray . . . so that they may be seen by others." (Matthew 6:5) "Hypocrites," in our day, who publicly "pray for peace" and really have the power to make peace but use it to make war. "Hypocrites" whose deception is based on their belief that Americans are in awe of authority and stupid.

The Bible says Jesus transcended faith-based imperialism with, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies . . . so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun shine on the evil and the good, and send his rain on the just and on the unjust." And his anti-imperialistic bottom line: "If you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing then others? [italics added] (Matthew 5:43-47)

Many Christians do more than love only those who love them. The Jesus of history has inspired people of faith to cross sectarian, nationalistic, and racial borders and embrace people everywhere as sisters and brothers. Such Christians believe that their god's steeple is the aspirations of all people. His alter the common ground on which everyone walks. And Jesus' cross the oppression from which any individual or group is seeking to liberate himself or herself or itself. They are "peacemakers," and oppose our country's criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq. They sing another hymn: "O young and fearless Prophet of ancient Galilee, thy life is still a summons to serve humanity; to make our thoughts and actions less prone to please the crowd, to stand with humble courage for truth with hearts uncowed." ("O Young and Fearless Prophet," words by S. Ralph Harlow; Music by John B Dykes) Hymnal of The United Methodist Church, 1989, p.444) These Christians have moved beyond faith-based imperialism to faith-based "humanity." And more movement by people of faith is especially needed now.

Just as state and local governments are passing resolutions calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, people of faith should censure them in their own local, regional and general bodies. And The United Methodist Church should be out in front of such a movement as Bush and Cheney are Methodists. People of faith should also urge Congress to impeach them for their war crimes and to really "support the troops" by ending this criminal war now and bringing them home to their loved ones and communities. Religion is about "knowing good and evil" and being "peacemakers."

Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D. is a hospital chaplain, and a diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Both a Unitarian Universalist and a United Methodist minister, he has written research reports, essays and articles on racism, war, politics and religion. This article is being presented as an address on May 27, 2007 at The Community Church of Boston where Rev. Alberts was minister from 1978 to 1991. He can be reached at

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bandow: Who Would Jesus Kill?

Who Would Jesus Kill?

by Doug Bandow

Religion, not patriotism, truly is the last refuge of the scoundrel. While most believers want to worship God and serve their fellow human beings, a few people twist the sacred for personal and political profit. Indeed, claiming that "God is on my side" plays the ultimate trump in any dispute.

Yet ambitious fraudsters are usually found out. More dangerous are those who genuinely believe that they are commanded to do ill. When bad policy is perceived as divine dogma, innocent people inevitably suffer.

So it has been with the Iraq war. Some self-professed Christians have so fervently backed the conflict that they might as well be sporting wristbands emblazoned with the slogan, "Who Would Jesus Kill?"

Today most people of faith believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. The strongest opposition, according to a recent Gallup poll, comes from black Protestants, 78% to 18%, and Jews, 77%-21%. Catholics followed, with 53% to 46%.

But Mormons backed the war, 72% to 27%. White Protestants continued to support the conflict, 55% to 43%. Evangelicals have been among the Bush administration's most consistent backers. Although even their support for the war has dropped, last fall 58 percent of evangelicals still endorsed the invasion.

Moreover, many of the most important and visible members of the Religious Right, from the late Jerry Falwell to Pat Robertson of the 700 Club to James Dobson of Focus on the Family to Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, backed President George W. Bush's decision to go do war. The image is jarring: followers of the Prince of Peace enthusiastically advocating war, celebrating the decision to loose death and destruction upon other peoples.

The problem of war has long bedeviled Christendom. Pacifism is the most consistent Christian response. But pacifism does not prevent war or end violence. It only changes who triumphs after violence is unleashed.

In some cases, where war was begun over essentially frivolous causes between largely civilized powers with extremely limited ends, nonresistance might be the best, that is, least harmful, policy. However, in cases of aggression by evil, malignant powers, pacifism would expand the scope and magnify the consequences of evil. Unfortunately, war almost always presents Christians with difficult moral choices in complex geopolitical situations.

The ancient doctrine of "just war" should aid Christians in making such judgments. War must be a last resort; the authority waging war must be legitimate; the force employed must be proportional to the injury; non-combatants must not to be targeted; the war must be fought to redress a wrong; there must be a reasonable chance of success; the ultimate goal must be to reestablish peace. Unfortunately, however, though these principles are sound, they have been routinely used by war advocates to justify even the most dubious conflicts. Including Iraq.

Instead of critically reviewing the case for and against invading that nation, many evangelicals blithely accepted the Bush administration's war rationale. They implicitly trusted the president, their co-religionist, relying on the administration's dubious (and quickly discredited) claims.

For instance, Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson cited administration arguments in explaining that just war theory should be "stretched" to include preemption of terrorism. He added: "Of course, all of this presupposes solid intelligence and the goodwill of U.S. and Western leaders." Alas, it turns out that such intelligence was entirely lacking.

Richard Land pointed to Hussein's development "at breakneck speed of weapons of mass destruction he plans to use against America and her allies" and the "direct line from those who attacked the U.S. [on 9/11] back to the nation of Iraq." Of course, both claims were false.

Other evangelical leaders made a humanitarian case for war. James Dobson argued that "we are faced with another brutal tyrant. Saddam Hussein must be stopped. Appeasement of tyrants is never successful." Gary Bauer, Chairman of Campaign for Working Families, observed that "Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a hell hole of torture and mass murder" and that "he allowed Iraq to become a safe haven for terrorists."

Rev. Falwell entitled one article "God is Pro-War." Until Christ's return, he contended, "Christians must live as Galatians 6:2 instructs: 'Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ'." Charles Stanley, pastor of Atlanta's First Baptist Church, argued that there are "biblical grounds" for a government to go to war "to liberate others in the world who are enslaved."

Scripture does tell believers to lay down their lives for others. But it does not instruct Christians to lay down other people's lives, as in taking the nation into war. Believers get no credit from instructing other people to do the sacrificing. Moreover, the consequences of the Iraq war and occupation – horrific violence and hundreds of thousands of deaths – is anything but humanitarian.

A number of religious leaders now rely on a bootstrap argument: the U.S. cannot leave because of what Iraq has become after the president followed their earlier advice to invade. That is, Washington must clean up the geopolitical mess that it created. In this view, the explosion of terrorist activity and sustained slaughter means the U.S. obviously cannot (and perhaps never can) leave. Said James Dobson of President Bush: "When it comes to the threat of terror, he gets it." Richard Land contended that evangelicals "want Iraq to become a stable democracy and they're not willing to give up yet."

But the Bible emphasizes the importance of wisdom, which naturally leads to prudence in making public policy. Indeed, James explained: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5) The exercise of this wisdom suggests that the continuing occupation of Iraq is creating more terrorism and more deaths. Godly wisdom also counsels against increasing human sacrifice on behalf of goals that appear to be growing ever more distant.

Some on the Religious Right emphasized politics over policy. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church denounced war opponents: "Why any churchman would choose to support [Saddam Hussein's regime] rather than to support our own president, I don't know." Pat Robertson, who previously had kind words for African dictators Mobutu Sese Seko and Charles Taylor, announced in late 2005 that "carping criticism" of President Bush "amounts to treason." Although scripture enjoins prayer for and obedience to the political authorities, it does not demand blind support for bad, indeed, catastrophic (and arguably immoral), policy decisions by those leaders.

Finally, a desire to spur evangelism may have animated some on the Religious Right to back the war. Roberta Combs of the Christian Coalition argued in November 2003: "In the new country, under the new democracy, why should the official religion be Muslim? I think as Iraq becomes a democracy, there are going to be a lot of churches springing up." Although a bevy of Christian ministries moved into Iraq after the U.S. invasion, the subsequent explosion of violence has ended most organized proselytizing. Moreover, as many as half of Iraq's historic Christian community has fled the country in response to rising persecution. In short, Christians are now among the biggest victims of U.S. policy.

Obviously, people of good will can differ on the justification for any war, including Iraq. Christians can legitimately, though unpersuasively, in my view, believe that this war was necessary and just. However, the pro-war claims by leading representatives of American evangelicalism are embarrassing – actually, shockingly humiliating – after four years of war. Especially since few of the religious warriors even now are willing to reflect on the wisdom of their support for a war that has failed disastrously. For the most part, big-name evangelicals continue to believe that there was nothing wrong with initiating aggressive war against Iraq. Rather, they essentially see the problem as Washington's failure to kill enough Iraqis. (Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals was one of the few to be pained by the consequences of the war. Richard Land argued that the problems in Iraq were caused by an inadequate number of troops. Several other war advocates refused to respond when I contacted them.)

The evangelical community has softened a bit in its support for the war, but it remains among the deepest reservoirs of administration support. While the war may have dampened turnout last fall, most conservative Christians stuck with the administration. Those who drifted away did so out of disgust with the Mark Foley scandal or GOP spending abuses more than because of Iraq. After the election white evangelicals were far more likely to cite values than the war as the most important election issue.

Further evidence of conservative Christian enthusiasm for the Iraq war is surprising support for Rudy Giuliani for president. More white Protestants back Giuliani than the other leading Republicans even though he is a social liberal. They point to his tough attitude towards terrorism, apparently conflating Iraq with efforts to prevent new terror attacks.

Continuing conservative Christian support for the war centers around three arguments: 1) terrorists must be defeated; 2) freedom must be guaranteed for the Iraqi people; and 3) Israel must be safeguarded. The sad irony is that the war makes all three goals harder to achieve.

Iraq has created a cause celebre that has spurred terrorist recruitment, both of Iraqis and jihadists in nations around the world, including Britain, Indonesia, and Spain, all of which have suffered devastating terrorist attacks. Iraq also has created a perfect training ground for urban terrorism; the problem is likely to worsen so long as the U.S. occupies the country.

America's presence in Iraq has not and will not create a liberal, capitalist, democratic state. The primary problem for Iraq is sectarian division, not terrorism, which is exacerbated by the U.S. occupation. Ultimately, only the Iraqis will be able to find the path to peace and unity. Washington erred in believing that it could impose a Western political order on Iraq, that the latter possessed the underlying civic culture and civil institutions necessary for a functioning liberal democracy. Unfortunately, the U.S. invasion unleashed untold death and violence rather than civic mindedness and religious tolerance. Washington must not commit the further mistake of assuming that a continuing military occupation can create the necessary culture and institutions.

As for Israel, there is no special Christian duty to what is, after all, a secular nation ruled by atheists. Modern Israel shares geography with ancient Israel, nothing more. Anyway, Israel is a regional superpower capable of deterring any of its neighbors; many proud Israelis bridle at the image of their nation as a helpless pygmy requiring Washington's protection.

Israel's primary problem is internal: how to maintain a state that is both Jewish and democratic while occupying territory containing several million Muslim Palestinians. Christian supporters of Israel face the same conundrum, since the dictates of Biblical justice apply to Palestinians no less than to Israelis. The path to peace is never going to be easy, but by stoking Islamist passions the U.S. occupation of Iraq inflames still further Arab antagonism towards Israel and increases the terrorist forces likely to turn their eventual attention to Israel. Indeed, many Israelis today fear the spread of al-Qaeda to the territories, perhaps the one Muslim area yet free of bin Laden's pestilent activities.

All of these arguments, then, recommend an American withdrawal from Iraq. The administration's case for continued occupation is based on the same ideological fantasies which led to the initial invasion. The Bush administration and its neoconservative Greek chorus have been wrong about every issue – Iraq's WMD threat and terrorist ties; the reception to be accorded U.S. troops; the popularity of Iraqi exiles maneuvering for power; the number of American soldiers and amount of American money necessary for reconstruction; the willingness of other nations to aid the U.S. effort; the evolution of a tolerant and liberal Iraqi democracy; and the spread of pro-American democracies throughout the Middle East. No one should treat seriously the administration's latest promises of progress in Iraq. American evangelicals, in particular, should stop being fooled simply because the president shares their theology.

Of course, Iraq is not the only foreign policy issue for the Religious Right. Many of the movement's forays into international issues have been modest – backing legislation to pressure North Korea on human rights and combat AIDS in Africa. Evangelicals such as Richard Land also are pressing immigration reform which combines improved border control with legalization of the millions who already have entered America.

However, religious conservatives increasingly are promoting military action abroad. More than a century ago President William McKinley claimed that he prayerfully decided to seize the Philippines after ousting Spain in the Spanish-American war – an occupation resulted in hundreds of thousands of needless deaths among Filipinos who resisted U.S. imperialistic control. But later it was religious progressives who seemed most enthused about war, enthusiastically campaigning for Woodrow Wilson's supposed crusade for democracy in World War I, for instance.

Today, however, some evangelicals promote conflict all over. A number of Christians put the interests of Israel ahead of those of America. (A more benign interpretation is that they view the most extreme policies of Israel's Likud party as also benefiting the U.S., but the practical consequences are the same.) So-called Christian Zionists demand that Washington support Israel irrespective of its actions, so long as Israel is expanding at the expense of surrounding Arab populations. For instance, evangelical leaders ranging from John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, to James Dobson did more than just support Israel's invasion of Lebanon; they urged Israel to attack more broadly and fiercely.

Some evangelicals also target Iran. Dobson, trading his expertise in family psychology for opinions in foreign policy, recently compared Iran's president to Adolf Hitler. Dobson then proclaimed: "somebody ought to be standing up and saying, 'We are being threatened and we are going to meet this with force – whatever's necessary'."

Intervention in Sudan, though predominantly a left-wing cause, also has gained traction among the Religious Right. Last October a couple of dozen evangelical leaders, including such Iraq war enthusiasts as Richard Land, signed a letter supporting military action in Sudan. So does Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), the evangelical turned Catholic running for president.

A preference for hawkish intervention influences other political issues. For instance, last fall Concerned Women of America called for the confirmation of John Bolton as UN ambassador. Although well-qualified for the post, Bolton is highly controversial, a partisan lightening rod loved by the right and detested by the left. CWA cited Bolton's "background and credentials," leaving unexplained why his appointment was a religious issue.

None of these positions is ipso facto illegitimate. But Christians should be particularly humble before advocating war. War means killing, of innocent and criminal alike. It means destroying the social stability and security that creates an environment conducive for people to worship God, raise families, create communities, work productively, and achieve success – in short, to enjoy safe and satisfying lives. Wars rarely turn out as expected, and the unintended consequences, as in Iraq, often are catastrophic.

Indeed, in Iraq the U.S. has essentially killed hundreds of thousands of people in the name of humanitarianism. Christians, even more than their unbelieving neighbors, should be pained by the horror of sectarian conflict unleashed by the actions of their government with their support. Believers especially should eschew nationalistic triumphalism in pursuit of war. And when they err, like predicting health, wealth, liberty, and happiness in occupied Iraq, they should acknowledge fault – and seek forgiveness. At the very least they should exhibit humility before saddling their white horses to begin another crusade.

Thankfully, some religious activists have begun to fight for the political soul of Christian warrior wannabees. There is a small evangelical religious (and antiwar) left, represented by Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine, for instance

The website Believers Against the War warns: "many of God's people have forsaken the gospel of Christ and turned their hearts toward the corrupted teachings of men. Political allegiances have been bought in exchange for the love of sound doctrine – many are being led astray." The group advocates that believers "learn what the Bible has to say about peace," talk to their ministers, protest against the war, contact legislators and journalists, learn about the military, and pray. Believers against the War asserts simply: "The war in Iraq is ungodly, immoral, and unconstitutional – and we should pull all of our combat troops out immediately!"

Another like-minded group is Founder Timothy L. Price is no pacifist, but understandably worries that "to America's enemies, Jesus, who is the alleged focus of Christianity, becomes the advocate of the invaders as He was in the Crusades." Price appropriately asserts "the Kingdom of God as wholly separate from America or its interests."

There is no one Christian foreign policy. Christians and other people of faith can legitimately disagree about the validity of war, including Iraq, and its consequences. But by any measure Iraq today is a disaster, the product of a very un-Christian mix of callousness, ignorance, partisanship, selfishness, incompetence, and hubris. The experience in Iraq should prompt religious conservatives to step back in humility and reconsider their tendency to confuse ideology with theology, and politics with faith. The debacle in Iraq has discredited much of America's political establishment, but perhaps none more than members of the Religious Right. Followers of the Prince of Peace should be particularly ashamed of serving as the apostles of war.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Carroll: The Disappearance of War-Broken Soldiers

The Disappearance of War-Broken Soldiers

by James Carroll

My earliest memory of a trip to the doctor is a happy one. I was 6 or 7. I had hurt my arm, and, because I desperately wanted a cast and a sling, I insisted it was broken. I remember that the doctor was kind, and he gently let me know that my arm was only sprained. Nevertheless, he wrapped it in a tan elastic bandage, and prescribed a sling for me. One of the reasons I loved that sling was its brown color. It was an Army sling. Because we were a military family, the hospital where Mom had taken me was Walter Reed.

For many years my associations with that complex of Georgian brick buildings in the far northwest of Washington were only positive. I grew up believing that military medicine is the best in the world, and that that was especially so in Washington. My father received comprehensive care in his last years at Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Andrews Air Force Base, and my elderly mother had a major operation at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. The recent revelations of shoddy care offered to soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan at Walter Reed were doubly shocking to me. Last week, a special commission reported that those failures were the result of bureaucratic mismanagement, but I wondered — was something else at work in the way those soldiers were treated?

Bethesda is the key. Around the time of my visit to Walter Reed, James Forrestal, recently retired secretary of Defense, was admitted to Bethesda as a patient, and I now understand his welfare was not the hospital’s paramount concern. This was the spring of 1949, and tensions with the Soviet Union were running high. Forrestal had stoked those tensions, helping to put in place what might now be reckoned a paranoid foreign policy. That was why, when he had a psychological breakdown — he was found catatonic in his Pentagon office, he was reported seen running through the streets in his pajamas crying “The Russians are coming!” — the clinical paranoia of the secretary of Defense was treated as a national secret. When Forrestal was admitted to Bethesda, he was not assigned to the locked psychiatric ward on the first floor because of the questions that would raise. Instead, he was put in the unsupervised VIP suite on the 16th floor. May 22, he killed himself by jumping from the unbarred window of his bedroom.

No one at the Navy hospital wished Forrestal ill, but keeping his condition secret was more important than keeping him safe. So-called national security trumped patient health, which resulted in unacknowledged pressures on diagnosis and treatment. “Operational fatigue” was the condition which Navy doctors ascribed to Forrestal, establishing appearances that all he needed was a little rest. This concern for public perception led directly to tragedy. In the culture of neglect at today’s Walter Reed, the commitment may be defined as a contrary one , since the object of public perception is not appearances, but disappearances. War-broken soldiers must disappear.

For reasons of national security — namely, to shore up popular support for war policy — the Defense Department has long underplayed the tragic consequences of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Returning corpses (soon to number 4,000) are shrouded in secrecy. The suffering of the wounded (more than 26,000) is kept out of the nation’s awareness. It is not that the medical professionals at Walter Reed are callous or uncaring. It is that the entire system is geared to making the men and women who carry visible signs of the war’s cost slide back into the general population unnoticed. An inhospitable hospital serves that purpose. Mold infested walls of the Walter Reed housing units are the functional equivalent of unbarred windows at Bethesda.

Of all of the lies that the Bush administration has promoted, none is more egregious than that it “supports the troops.” Unlike the others, that lie holds. In its name, Bush vetoed the war appropriations bill last week, as if the welfare of young and vulnerable soldiers is his chief concern. American soldiers are pawns in the game the president is playing with history. No longer capable of pretending that national security requires American presence in Iraq, Bush is simply refusing to acknowledge that what he did was wrong. He’s like a child insisting that his arm is broken, when it isn’t. In Bush’s case, the fake dressing for which he longs are human lives.

James Carroll’s column appears regularly in The Boston Globe.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Short: "If Jesus Christ was here today . . ."

MP Clare Short Slams Lack of Christian Radicalism

May 1, 2007 - Ekklesia

Clare Short MP, the former Secretary of State for International Development, has spoken of her belief that the world’s richest countries are collaborating in slavery today in the same way Christian Churches collaborated in the Slave Trade over 200 years ago.

Speaking outside The Royal Exchange in the City of London earlier today at JustShare’s annual May Day event, she claimed modern day slavery is part of a vicious circle that will not disappear until we in the developed world change our whole attitude to how we live our lives.

“You can’t take the evil of slavery out of the world and abolish it without making the world more just,” she said. “You will never prevent people living in bonded labour or from getting caught up in sex trafficking while they are so desperate that they have no other choice but to sell themselves. As long as we in the West crave ever more excess, we conspire in their desperation, exploiting it and make ourselves sick in the process. We are well off, yet our society has never been more miserable. We suffer today from the disease of excess, from obesity, drug and alcohol abuse and resulting family breakdown. We must change the way we live, change the way the world is governed and create a new world order, both for ourselves and globally.”

Ms. Short also highlighted the necessity to curb excess for environmental reasons and attacked the lack of action on the part of the churches when it came to campaigning for social and economic justice. “If Jesus Christ was here today he would not be pleased with us,” she said. “I think he would be stunned by the wealth of the churches and their lack of radicalism.”

Joel Edwards of the Evangelical Alliance backed her words, calling on Christians to “fight the evil that exploits vulnerable women trafficked into prostitution in our city and ask questions about the migrant workers who break their backs to produce our cut-price food.” While standing, as he put it, “in one of the richest and most powerful square miles in the world,” he called on those present to “look at the image of God” in people enslaved by global poverty and inequality, and harness their power as “consumers, business or fund managers to demand justice.”

Aiden McQuade, the Director of Antislavery International provided some hope for the future at the JustShare event: “There are 12 million people enslaved worldwide today and each one represents a devastating blow to lives and hopes,” he said. “But we must remember that slavery, at the time it was abolished, was as fundamental to the Western economy as oil is today. Today offers us the chance to reflect on the past and in it find inspiration for the future.”

JustShare is a coalition of churches and development agencies seeking seeks to address the widening gap between rich and poor in the global economy. JustShare encourages dialogue with banks and financial institutions in the City of London in order to achieve positive change. It holds regular debates, training seminars and other events to promote justice for the poorest in the world and a just share of the world’s resources for all.