What if that fear was of being bound hand and foot and then suspended above a pit of hungry alligators? What, furthermore, if I did that to you? There you are, bound hand and foot, hanging above a pit of hungry alligators, looking down (or from your perspective, up) at them. And there they are, looking up at you, mouths wide open, waiting for the feed to begin. As you hang there, looking "up" at them, you can swear you can see them salivating at the thought of you. They lick their chops. Mmmmmm, each one must surely be thinking, as dainty a morsel as ever I shall eat in this life.
What if I had you hanging there because I wanted something from you? What would you be willing to give me? But now wait. Let's say that this really isn't your worst fear. Let's say it's not you suspended above that pit of alligators. Let's say it's the person you love most in all the world, your wife, your son--your daughter. Isn't she beautiful? She's just turned sixteen and she is, after your wife, a vision of loveliness. Surely the angels in heaven could wish they possessed the half of her beauty. Now what would you be willing to give me? (Oh. Did I mention the fact that I have your eyes taped wide open and your head braced so that, if the times comes, you cannot help but watch as your daughter becomes lunch? You will see it all, and hear it all.)
Now I ask again. What demand can I not make? What will you give me to purchase her release? Your own life? No, I don't want that. So. What will you give me? You will probably be willing to do whatever I want. When you think about it, I have the perfect weapon,don't I?
And just what is that weapon? Is it the rope with which your daughter is bound? Is it the alligators? No, my friend, it is your fear. And who is the victim? Your daughter? No, my friend, you are the intended victim. In this scenario your daughter is merely the means to an end.
Now, if you didn't know me better, you might think that I'm bluffing. But you know me well; you know I've done this before, successfully, tens of times already. In fact, you know people to whom I've done this, people who thought I was bluffing and found out--horrifyingly--that I was not. Yes, friend, you know me as a cold-blooded killer for whom this is no more complex than a quick game of checkers.
Perhaps you think for a moment that you might try to reason with me, but then you realize that my logic is so tight as to be indefeasible. My logic is simply this: give into my demands and get your daughter back; refuse me and she becomes alligator food. I must confess that I find the simplicity of it all compellingly beautiful beyond words. Frankly, it almost brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
But you decide to try anyway. "Sir," you ask, "where is the justice in this? It is I who have harmed you, I who owe you what you've demanded, even assuming that your demands are just. My daughter has done you no harm."
I reply: "My dear, misguided friend, you misunderstand. My cause is just. I demand nothing more from you than is my just due; therefore the means that I employ in securing my just deserts are themselves just. So you see, my friend, there is no injustice in what I do here. The injustice is perpetrated by you in denying me what I have justly required of you. Don't dare to lecture me on the requirements of justice. It is you who need lessons in justice, and I who shall provide such lessons."
Maddening, isn't it? How can you deal with me? You know I've done this before; you know I'll do it again. Even if you placate me by acceding to my (just?) demands, next time it could be your neighbor's daughter suspended above those ravenous alligators. Perhaps you don't especially like your neighbor, but his daughter has done you no wrong.
Then the thought occurs to you. You have an opportunity. You could take me out. In doing so, you may lose your daughter's life and probably your own as well. But you can't overcome my tight "logic" (remember what that was?) and you can't appeal to my sense of justice. All you can do is keep me from doing this again--to someone else anyway. So. What do you do?
In the wake of the recent beheadings there have been those who suggest that we should have acceded to the terrorists demands and released the two Iraqi women nick-named 'Mrs. Anthrax' and 'Dr. Germ'. Had we done so, the argument goes, no beheadings would have taken place.
The argument seems to rely upon a very dangerous assumption, which is that we can rely upon it that there is some bit of rationality, or even a sense of justice, on the part of these terrorists to which we can make appeal. I deny this. I make this statement because I do not believe that terrorists have any sort of commitment to rationality, or even to justice as we would understand it, not because they are religious (or, more particularly, Muslim) but because of their actual reasoning.
Let's take a look at their reasoning. Their justification for the 9-11 attacks was something we did. We did something to them, so they attacked us. We had it coming. This seems quite satisfactory not only to them but also to many of the leftists among us.
However--and this is where we get to the 'logic' of it all--this line of reasoning relies upon a logical fallacy. Think about what happened to 'us' on 9-11-01. 'We' were attacked. Some say it was because of 'our' policies; others say it was because of 'our' sins. Supposedly there is a logical relation between 'our' policies, or 'our' sins, and what happened to 'us' such that 'we' deserved what 'we' got.
Now the reason that I have placed terms such as we and us and our in scare quotes is not that I deny that anything significant happened to us on 9-11-01. The reason is that the logic in this argument is fallacious. To be blunt: those who rely on this logic are committing the fallacy of division, attributing to parts the characteristics of the whole.
The logic I am discussing goes, I think, something like this: A nation N has a policy P which has--arguably--harmed a group G. Citizen C is a member of the nation N and, hence, also has the policy P which has harmed a group G. Since--arguably--the US is liable for the harm it has caused G by virtue of its policy P, C is also personally liable. It is easy to see how someone (especially someone educated in government schools) might find this logic persuasive.
But applying that same logic to, say, your favorite sports team ought to show the difficulty. Team T is an excellent team. Player J is a member of Team T. Therefore, Player J is an excellent player. See the problem? That which is true of the whole is not necessarily true of each of the parts. And in the same way that an excellent sports team can have a member who is not an excellent player, a nation can have citizens who do not share or support its policies, citizens who are not guilty of the "crimes" for which they have been punished by death. It is quite possible, though, I admit, not very likely, that no one who was murdered on 9-11 either shared or supported whatever policies of the US for which they were murdered. Ought we to waste even as much as a few seconds trying to reason with people for whom division constitutes acceptable logic? No. If people are going to use fallacious logic to justify their killing, then they are too dangerous to negotiate with. And they cannot be appeased because there ought to be a rational connection between a demand (say, for justice) and the way that demand is satisfied (say, payment of a debt either by the one who owes the debt, or a third party who is willing to pay the debt for the debtor). And terrorists have demonstrated time and again that there is no rational relation between their demands and the people they kill in pursuit of those demands.
There is another reason why we ought not accede to terrorists demands, even when they are threatening to kill someone we love. The success of terrorist acts increases the likelihood that such acts will be resorted to again and again. If I can get something I want from you by threatening harm to someone you love, and you give in to me, perhaps I won't harm your loved one this time. But if, after giving me what I've demanded, you have something else that I want, then you can believe that I'll be back: You've already demonstrated that you'll deal. And I know what your price is.
As evidence of the absence of anything rational in terrorist behavior, look at the relation between who they kill and what their grievances are. To the minds of these people the lives of any two Americans are equal in value to 'Mrs. Anthrax' and 'Dr. Germ'. How reasonable a claim is that? In what way can a construction worker be related to a murderess such that the construction worker is justly to be killed if the murderess is not released. Aye, there's another rub. Note the dissonance: 'Mrs. Anthrax' and 'Dr. Germ', though not released, are still alive; two Americans are dead because 'Mrs. Anthrax' and 'Dr. Germ', though still alive, are still being held. (Keep in mind also that, to these people, Nick Berg's having his head sliced off restored the dignity of the Arab male's body (which dignity suffered great harm at Abu Ghraib, you'll recall)).
I'm sorry. We cannot, in the long run, afford to give these people what they want. Their demands are unreasonable. and what they offer us in return is nothing compared to what they want, which is nothing less than dominion over us, which is preceisely what they shall have every time they are capitulated to.
Sojourners ad reveals some sloppy logic, sloppy handling of facts, and sloppier exegesis.
We believe that poverty--caring for the poor and vulnerable--is religious issue. Do the candidates' budget and tax policies reward the rich or show compassion for poor families? Do their foreign policies include fair trade and debt cancellation for the poorest countries? (Matthew 25.35-40, Isaiah 10.1-2).
This use of Matthew 25.35-40 is mystifying. Jesus is addressing his disciples. The application which Sojourners attempts to make here would ultimately make salvation a result of works. Governments are not the ones who are supposed to be feeding hungry people, clothing naked people, and so forth. People are to be doing these things. And the people being praised here are not righteous because they have done these things; they have done these things because they are righteous. I, Philologous, feed hungry people. I clothe naked people. I extend hospitality to strangers. I cannot make sacrifices which cost me nothing (see 2 Samuel 24:24), or at least nothing more than my tax bill. Shall I tell the Lord on judgment day that I saw him hungry, and naked and a stranger, so I paid taxes that supported a bureaucracy with the efficiency of the post office and the compassion of the IRS? The government cannot do works of righteousness for me. To vote for people who promise to give us other people's money is to let our bellies be our gods.
A little further down one of the candidates will tacitly be accused of confusing--among other things--the roles of church and nation. Church is the place where religion is practiced. If caring for the poor is a religious issue--and I believe that it is--then it is a personal responsibility. If I am called to be a charitable person--and I believe that I am--my responsibility is not fulfilled by my government. It is not for the government to show my compassion for the poor. And there's no use saying that we can show our compassion for the poor through our government. By its authority to tax, the government forces people to be "charitable" who do not wish to be. Then, when individuals are called to make charitable donations, they would be justified in responding, Scrooge-like, that the taxes they pay constitute the full extent of their charitable duty. Now that's nonsense. The poor pay virtually no income taxes, so if letting people keep their money is the same as giving them that money (as some people like to argue) then the poor are the recipients of a great amount of compassion indeed. Still, our duty to be compassionate is not performed by our government; it is performed by us as individuals, and through our houses of worship and the charitable organizations we found and support with our financial gifts. It is Sojourners and others like them who confuse the role of church and nation.
Note also the choice of words here: Policies, we are supposed to believe, somehow, "reward" the rich, without (with perhaps the exception of exempting the poor from income taxes) showing compassion for the poor. What is a reward? A reward is a gift, is it not? The fallacy in the religious left's logic is that it is a bit of a strawman: they criticize a policy that supposedly "rewards" certain people (i.e., the rich) at the expense of compassion for others (i.e., the poor). And of course the tacit assertion is that allowing people to keep their money constitutes a gift, or a reward. So I suppose we are to believe that allowing people to keep more of the money they earn constitutes a reward, a gift. Imagine your employer, at the end of a pay period, presenting you with your payroll check and saying, "You've done real good work this week. I'd like to reward you for it, so here's your pay check." No one who does a week's work looks upon his paycheck as a gift, or reward, from his employer; he looks upon it as something to which he is entitled. Anyone, rich or poor, who is allowed to keep more of his income for himself is not the recipient of a gift; he is merely keeping something to which he is entitled: his income. Note also the shifty reasoning which the religious left engage in: It is right to tax the richer at a higher rate for no other reason than that the rich have the money to take in the first place. The guy who breaks into your house and steals your property feels the same way: you have plenty, so you shouldn't mind if he takes some. Of course, Sojourners may like to argue that it isn't stealing because the government is the one doing the taking. But by the same logic capital punishment isn't murder because the government is the one doing the killing; and we know how the left feel about capital punishment.
So, in contrast with the religious left, we might ask: Do the candidates' budget and tax policies punish the rich (who have not, unless proven otherwise in a court of law, broken any laws)? Does their compassion for poor families actually cost them anything? Or do they show their compassion by using other people's money? In other words: Do candidates believe that it is right to steal from the members of class C1 (for no other reason than their membership in C1) and give that stolen money to members of another class C2 (for no other reason than their member ship in C2)? Do the candidates believe that when they take someone's money and give it to you they are showing their compassion for you? Do they believe that when the government allows you to keep any portion of your income it is a gift, or a reward to you? We might also ask them: Where, in Scripture, do you find warrant for believing that God grants to governments the authority to transfer wealth from one group to another for no other reason than that one group is rich and the other group is poor?
Finally: I have nothing to say about so-called free trade because I doubt that Sojourners and I will be agreed as to what counts as fair. After all, if I pay x-percent of my income (y) in taxes and my neighbor who makes twice what I make (2y) pays 2x-percent of his income, instead of x-percent, these people think it's fair just because he makes more. (More frankly: I wonder if they understand the mathematics involved here.) And frankly, I don't think, at this point in time, that debt cancellation for the poorest countries is a bad idea. It could engender some good will, but maybe not.
We believe that the environment--caring for God's earth--is a religious issue. Do the candidates' policies protect the creation or serve corporate interests that damage it? (Genesis 2.15, Psalm 24.1).
Here we have a false dilemma. One is either protecting the environment or serving corporate interests. One might suppose that antagonism to corporations is equal to protecting the environment. Also, no mention is made of the length of time that any harm to the environment may last, or even the amount of harm--however it may be quantified. For example the wreck of the Exxon Valdez spilled a great deal of oil. And that oil did extensive damage, and that damage lingers. Is that damage permanent? Who knows? It depends on how one defines the word 'permanent.' If the damage is still there when the universe ends, then I guess it was permanent. If the damage is gone in a hundred years, then I guess it wasn't permanent. I am discussing the length of time involved in 'harm' because of the verb tense used in the ad. Note the clause: "...serve [present tense] corporate interests that damage [present tense]... ." Use of the present tense seems to imply continuous, cease-less, action. In others words the implication seems to be that (a) the policies always (and only) serve corporate interests and (b) the damage, whether intentional or not, of whatever kind, is permanent, as if these acts "total" the whole environment the same way a roll-over accident totals an auto.
Now, let's discuss those nasty corporations. Leftists like to talk about corporations in interesting ways. "The corporations" do this. "The corporations" do that. Corporate interests are talked about as if they have nothing to do with people, that is everyday people, not rich people. Corporations employ people; a "corporate interest" cannot be pursued without employees. When a corporation cannot pursue its interests, its employees cannot pursue their interests (i.e., because they are out of work).
Leftists like to talk of "corporate interests" as if these interests can be neatly excised from the society at large. For example, when they talk of drilling in Alaska and of the President's desire to permit the drilling, they talk of his serving the corporate interests of his rich oil friends. One would almost think that an oil company's interest is merely in drilling for oil. But oil companies do not make money drilling for oil; they make money on what happens to oil after it has been pumped out of the well.
In many ways, an oil company's corporate interests are our interests. Think about it. Whoever drafted the Sojourners ad, probably used a computer to do so. You are using a computer to read this. Look at your computer. Do you see any plastic? On my desk, as I sit writing, there is an electric pencil sharpener, a radio, this computer (tower, monitor, printer, etc) and a water bottle--all made of, or containing, a large amount of, plastic. (Most of the automobile that I drive is made out of plastic!) This may come as a shock to the left, but plastic is made from petroleum. The manufacturer of my radio (a name you would probably recognize) employs a great many people, some of whom actually make the radios that are sold, some of whom work administrative and executive jobs. All of these people have work to do because someone--an evil oil baron, specifically--drilled for oil somewhere. I suppose that much of the plastic on that radio, or computer, could be replaced by wood. But then someone would have to chop down a tree. And that, too, damages the environment. So when we talk of choosing between environmental interests and corporate interests we need to be careful not to talk as if these "corporate" interests can be neatly separated from all of our own individual interests. We all have an interest in oil. People who are bothered by that ought to try to find the energy source that will replace petroleum (by being at least as powerful and efficient, if not more) and everything (e.g., plastic) that we derive from oil.
Of course, discussion of "corporate interests" cannot be limited to oil corporations. And I certainly cannot here discuss all of the types of corporate interests that there are. But consider this. Even leftists like Ben and Jerry have interests. Ben and Jerry have a corporation that makes ice cream, a corporation which has interests, corporate interests. The people who work at and for Ben and Jerry's share that interest, so do people, like me, who enjoy Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Assuming that Ben and Jerry's does not have its own dairy farm, but buys milk from dairies, those dairies, and all of the people whose work is associated with that dairy have an interest in Ben and Jerry's corporate interests. (NB: If you are tempted to respond that Ben and Jerry are environmentally conscious or something like that, then you have missed my point.)
I believe that the left are not as bothered by the effect of "corporate interests" on the environment as they are by the fact that people who own corporations get rich. That is what the left want to stop. The religious left may be worse because they think they are serving God in keeping people from getting, and staying, rich.
One more thing. I am not rich, unless you compare me with a Sudanese refugee or something. But I do own some stocks: I am a corporate interest.
We believe that war--and our call to be peacemakers--is a religious issue. Do the candidates' policies pursue "wars of choice" or respect international law and cooperation in responding to real global threats? (Matthew 5.9).
The problem with this part of the ad is that it limits 'peace' to something which is to be contrasted with war. On this view, Jesus, in giving us a duty to be peace-makers, is giving us a duty to do no more than to be absence-of-armed-conflict-makers. But 'peace' in Scripture is not just the absence of war. Jesus, a Jew, was talking about shalom-making. As it is used in the Tanak, or Old Testament, 'shalom' is a word that admits of a great many meanings, perhaps the least of which is merely the absence of armed conflict. When Joseph, in Egypt, saw his brothers again--but before he revealed himself to them--he inquired after "their welfare, and said, 'Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?'" (Genesis 42.27) In this passage both the English words 'welfare' and 'well' serve to translate the Hebrew word 'shalom'. In his commentary on this passage in Matthew, Hendricksen says that this peace is the peace of God's salvation (cf I Corinthians 1.18). Peace-makers are those "who, having themselves received reconciliation with God through the cross, now strive by their message and their conduct to be instrumental in imparting this same gift [i.e., not absence of armed conflict] to others." Look in Scripture and see who are called sons of God; it is those who have put their trust in Him and in His Anointed One. Other wise, everyone who ever signed a peace treaty ending a war, is a shalom-maker and, thus, a son of God. No only that, but on the Sojourners' view, Jesus himself is not a peace-maker, for he says he says he has not come to bring peace [i.e., now we are talking about armed conflict] but a sword. Read it for yourself:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a
sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the
daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
And a mans foes shall be they of his own household (Matthew 10.34-36).
Even if this much were not true, a war on terror and those who support it (e.g., Saddam Hussein) is hardly a "war of choice." War is upon us. Indeed, terrorists and those who support them have made the choice for us. And with respect to shalom-making (i.e., where 'shalom' refers to health and wlefare): A war on terrorism and those who support it, if successful, certainly ought to increase the health, well being and prosperity of just about the entire world.
Our invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq was an invasion pursuant to, and enforcement of, UN Resolution 1441, a resolution which, unless I thoroughly misunderstand, forms part of the body of international law that Sojourners claims to be concerned about. If other nation's have not the strength to enforce resolutions which they supported in the UN, why should that stop us from doing so? The left in general, and Sojourners in particular, seem to be in the position of asserting that the body of international is nothing more than what the UN is or is not willing to approve at any given point in time, no matter what resolutions they pass. It seems as if Res. 1441 is part of the body of international because the UN approved it, and not enforcing said resolution is also a part of the body of international law merely because the UN refuse to do so.
Let's look at Res 1441 in a different way. Say that 1441 was a resolution asserting that the refugees in the Sudan be provided with clothing, clean water, latrines and so forth. If the US were to be the only nation to begin acting on that resolution and other nations--other nations which supported 1441--were unwilling to act pursuant to that resolution, how seriously would we take criticisms that we were acting as a rogue nation? Not very, I hope. And yet that is precisely that sort of logic by which we are criticized for acting in accordance with the real-life resolution 1441, which required--among other things--that Saddam Hussein account for weapons of mass destruction which he was known to have had before he forced UN inspectors out of Iraq. If the UN had no intention of actually enforcing Resolution 1441 then they should just have spit in Saddam Hussein's general direction. It would have accomplished just as much.
If Sojourners wishes to give lectures on respect for international law, they may lecture the UN first.
We believe that truth-telling is a religious issue. Do the candidates tell the truth in justifying war and in other foreign and domestic policies? (John 8.32).
Even if truth-telling is a religious issue--and it is--this passage is hardly the passage to cite in support of the case. Jesus isn't speaking of truth-telling at all; much less of truth-telling as setting the truth-teller free. The truth he is talking about here is the truth that one learns by being His disciple. And the freedom that He is talking about is freedom from sin (see John 8.34). And one does not provide for oneself freedom from sin, not even by telling the truth. A more relevant passage to the issue of truth-telling as a religious obligation might have been Psalm 15.2, which in answer to the question (v.1), "Lord who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?" responds, in relevant part, "He that...speaketh the truth in his heart."
This is not a petty criticism. It matters which passage of Scripture one cites in order to claim authority for a religious obligation. Even though we have a duty to be truthful, John 8.32 cannot be cited in support because truth-telling is not the issue there. It is difficult to accept Sojourners as a credible source of information on what Scripture teaches if they will cite as authority passages of Scripture with only the most superficial relevance to the topic at hand.
But even if all of the above were not true, even Psalm 15.2 wouldn't help very much. Apparently, we are to believe that the President lied about (a) there being weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and (b) Saddam having ties to known terrorist organizations. With respect to (a) it seems that the failure so far to find WMDs means that Bush lied. It is interesting to note that, for their present purposes, Sojourners, and the left generally, are quick to decide that Bush lied, rather than was merely wrong about there being WMDs in Iraq. Look at where this sort of logic takes us. Your weather man tells you that it is going to rain where you live tomorrow. Tomorrow comes, but no rain. Your weatherman, by the left's shifty way of reasoning, wasn't wrong about the rain. Oh, no. He's a dirty rotten liar. When Bush, and others, were informed by various intelligence organizations (and not only the CIA) that Saddam Hussein was attempting to secure yellowcake uranium, and decided upon the basis of that (and other) information that this made him a "gathering threat" the left would have us believe that Bush was somehow to know that the CIA, and other intelligence organizations, were wrong.
One more thing. The left often talk as if the fact that WMD's have not yet been found in Iraq means (a) they were never there or (b) that they shant ever be found. Regarding (a): It is not disputed that Saddam had them. The question is their present whereabouts. He was supposed to account for them. That means that if he no longer had them he was to inform the UN what happened to them. Regarding (b): I just want to say that the left's logic is simply laughable. We have not found WMDs yet, therefore we never shall. Let's apply that logic differently: I have not died yet, therefore I am eternal.
We believe that human rights--respecting the image of God in every person--is a religious issue How do the candidates propose to change the attitudes and policies that led to the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners? (Genesis 1.27)
It is difficult to understand how Christians, who supposedly believe that only God can change the human heart, can find a way to convince themselves that a President can change someone's attitude. I can't think of a single person who can change my attitude about anything. My mind can be changed by appeal to facts and logic. My behavior can be changed by someone possessed of enough authority to command that I act differently (which presupposes knowledge of my present behavior). But changing my attitude is an impossibility. (Ask my parents, or my wife.) As to the policies that supposedly "led to" the abuses of Iraqi prisoners, I do not think that there has been an adequate explanation by anyone of how a policy "leads to" abuse. The abuse in question is part of the policy, or it is not. Talk of a policy "leading to" some behavior is not the same as a demonstration of a causal connection between the policy and the behavior it supposedly "leads" to. The sort of reasoning which has some policy of this President "leading" to some behavior by soldiers overseas approaches the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc: "The policy P was in place before/when the behavior B in question occurred, therefore the policy P is the cause of, or "led to" the behavior B in question." In other words, P preceded B and therefore was the cause of B.
We believe that our response to terrorism is a religious issue. Do the candidates adopt the dangerous language of righteous empire in the war on terrorism and confuse the roles of God, church, and nation? Do the candidates see evil only in our enemies but never in our own policies? (Matthew 6.33, Proverbs 8.12-13)
Given that the left believe that our government ought to be engaged in charitable works, I just don't believe they are qualified to pass judgment on who is or is not confusing the roles of God, church, and nation. The government of our nation has a duty to protect our lives (which includes our property, by the way) (see Romans 13.1-7). Often that means going to war--even pre-emptive war--to do so. The left are the ones who are confused if they believe that a nation has some duty to "turn the other cheek" when its citizens are either killed or threatened with being killed!
With respect to this business of seeing "evil only in our enemies but never in our own policies", one has to wonder just what that really has to do with anything presently at issue. If someone wants to kill me, I don't have to spend even a second wondering which of us is the most evil. Who is evil is no issue. I don't have to prove that one who tries to kill me is evil, or more evil than I am in order to be justified in preventing him killing me. I don't even have to see the evil in my own life in order to be justified in killing someone before he kills me. Again: war is upon us. States of being (i.e., 'evil' or 'not-evil') are irrelevant; actions are relevant. The actions of people who wish to blow people up, fly aircraft into buildings full of (innocent?) civilians, slice heads off of living, unarmed, and defenseless people, is prima facie evidence that they are evil-doers. What do the left expect? For us to allow people to kill us while we spend months or even years in introspection? What if those who wish to kill us do not give us that long? Here's a question: Should a man who regularly abuses his spouse permit someone else to rob and kill him because, after all, being a spouse-abuser makes him evil? We do not have to assert an unqualified moral superiority here; all we have to assert is our desire to live, to see our neighbors live, to see our families live--and to kill, if necessary, those who wish them harm. Most of the people that terrorists kill do not formulate or implement policy. Can the left seriously entertain the proposition that some US policy justifies the acts of 9 September 2001? If so, how do they avoid the fact that such a proposition implies that those who died that day deserved to die? (NB: This is what Pat Roberston was accused of saying when he--foolishly--stated that 9-11 happened because of our sins. Saying that it happened because of "our" policies is no different.)
We believe that a consistent ethic of human life is a religious issue Do the candidates' positions on abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, weapons of mass destruction, HIV-AIDS--and other pandemics--and genocide around the world obey the biblical injunction to choose life? (Deuteronomy 30.19)
The biblical injuntion here spoken of has nothing to do with abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, weapons of mass destruction, HIV-AIDS--and other pandemics--and genocide around the world. The injunction here is to choose life by keeping convenant with God, or choose death by breaking covenant him. Keeping the covenant is life; breaking it is death. Had Sojourners been serious about a biblical injunction regarding life they should have pointed us all in the direction of Deuteronomy 20.13: "Thou shalt not kill" (which I think is better translated as Thou shalt not murder, since God authorizes all sorts of killing). And with respect to capital punishment, it is interesting to note that the same God who forbade murder also commanded capital punishment, and sent the Israelites into battle. Some like to believe that Jesus made some changes in the law, so now capital punishment is forbidden. But Paul said that the government "beareth not the sword in vain" (Romans 13.4). Not only so, but we need to pause and think for a moment about what Scripture says Jesus is going to do to his enemies when he returns. It is strange to think that the same Jesus who has the temerity to cast the unrighteous into the lake of fire becomes suddenly squeamish at the thought of capital punishment.
I can sympathize with some of many criticisms of the Christian right. I am not the biggest fan of James Dobson, Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell precisely because of some of the sloppy reasoning and exegesis of Scripture they engage in. But frankly, my sympathies are closer to those of the Christian right than to those of the Christian left. (I believe myself to be just to the right of center, if even that far). But I believe that the Christian left is just a bit worse (note their citation of only-superficially relevant passages) than the right. And this ad is a great example. I suppose, just to be fair, I should offer an appraisal of some of the positions of the Christian right. Perhaps I'll do that my next time out.
It seems, listening to Kerry, that these traditional allies are not with us in Iraq because, among other things, the US have not signed the Kyoto treaty. I have my doubts about that. But let's say, for purposes of argument, that Kerry is correct. If that is the real reason for their reluctance to go into Iraq with us and our coalition of the 'bribed and unwilling' then these allies are being just a bit irrational.
Let's just review for a bit how I conceive of rationality, in order to see why I believe this. Borrowing a bit from C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, Chapter 1) let's say that I have been threatened by a man, and his relatives, who wants to kill me because he thinks I maligned his girlfriend. Let us further say that yesterday, when you were set upon at the mall by a squad of minimum-wage-earning high school graduates (because of your position against raising the minimum wage), you asked for my help as a favor. I obliged. Today, I am asking for your help as a favor.
You ask, "Why should I help you?" I respond by appealing to a sense of fairness: "Well, yesterday, when you were in an unfair fight, I helped you."
You could respond in one of several ways and still be rational. (1) You could help me, assenting to my claim of fairness. (2)You could deny me help, explaining that my giving you help yestersay did not create in me a right against you to respond in kind--ever, regardless of circumstances. (3) You could tell me that, unlike my circumstances yesterday, you have a sprained ankle and that, as a consequence, you could not possibly help me in a fight today. (4)You could even tell me that you just don't feel like fighting today--for reasons that satisfy you. ( And if I were here to try the 'but-I-helped-you-yesterday argument', you could, rationally, tell me that if it creates an obligation in you to give me a hand today, then helping me would not be a favor; it would be re-payment of sorts.)
Conversely, there are several ways you could respond which would be irrational. But let's just say that you tell me that you are not going to help me because I won't agree with you not to run my air conditioner at a setting that I find satisfactory. (Bear in mind that helping me means helping me not get killed!)
In these examples, what I am getting at is a sort of ratio between the request for help and the response. Clearly, the first set of examples are all rational, even if we do not agree with the end result. (We might want to say that there is some other consideration which would overcome the denial of help. That would exceed the narrow limits I have set for myself here.) But what reasonable relation can there be between help in an unfair fight and the setting of an air conditioner such that your agreement to help me can (and ought to) be predicated upon my agreement to run my air conditioner at a setting that you approve of. Rationally speaking, can't you help me in the fight and table the discussion of the air conditioner for now? It seems to me irrational for you tacitly to assert that I can only save my life by setting my air conditioner in accordance with your demand.
Now, if John Kerry is correct, then our (traditional) allies are being a bit irrational in predicating their refusal to join us upon our refusal to sign Kyoto. What is the rational connection between clean air (assuming the fairness of Kyoto's stipulations) and a fight against people who fly jets into skyscrapers, slice people's heads off, take hostage children in schools and kill them, and so on? It would be more rational to come to our aid and table Kyoto for now. If our (traditional) allies are going to be this irrational about the matter, then we shouldn't bother ourselves about them.
The unanswered question here is this. Is Kerry right about all this? Is he really saying that our (traditional) allies are this irrational? Frankly, I don't think he has reflected adequately upon the matter. I believe he stopped thinking as soon as he came up with something he could throw at Bush and didn't bother thinking through any of the implications. And if he does believe all this and, furthermore, believes that our so-called allies are justified in this sort of reasoning, then his priorities are screwy. Clean air over the physical lives of your supposed allies? Is he serious?
Perhaps the US should sign Kyoto. But in order, now, for the US to sign Kyoto there must be a US. And at this point, in order for there to be a US, the US must win the present conflict against terrorists. Otherwise Kyoto will be moot, since there won't be a US pumping impurities into the air. Perhaps that's what these so-called allies really want. Well, that's what Kerry seems to think.
As for me, I believe those who have argued that these so-called allies have other, economic, interests which simply are not served by joining the war in Iraq. And I certainly don't fault these nations for acting in their economic self-interest. But I do believe that they have sacrificed other, long term, interests. They will pay dearly for it, unless they get help from us again--this time against Islamo-facists, who seem to be taking--without a fight no less--what they could not take by arms in the eighth century. (Thank you Charles Martel!) Of course, Europeans were a whole different breed back then.
At any rate, if these allies are going to make their decisions so irrationally, then we shouldn't worry about doing whatever it might take to bring them to the table. Kerry's conviction that he can, and should, bring these people into the conflict in Iraq by the US's signing onto Kyoto, and whatever other terms they may wish to dictate, is a sign of his own irrationality. He and these so-called allies of ours are well-suited to each other.
This, we should recall, was one of the reasons for the invasion of Iraq in the first place. There was certainly little reason for terrorists to be in Iraq if Iraq was not, as the administration claimed, was a haven--if not a training center--of sorts for terrorists. Kerry also intended that the increased number of terrorists be seen as a demonstration that the war is not proceeding well.
It is difficult to understand how a proven combat leader like John Kerry could mistake this as evidence that the policy in Iraq is failing. Can he truly believe that terrorists were going to surrender immediately after the first shots were fired? Why should they have done? Kerry, and others, talk as if the present circumstances mean that we are losing the war on terrorists in the Iraqi theater. I think it appropriate to recall that, initially, the South was winning the Civil War. At any time before the tide turned in favor of the North, Yankee pacifists could have argued against continuing the war. (If you want to say, in response to that, that the Civil War was more worth fighting than the war in Iraq, then: (1) The burden of proof is on you; and (2) You're missing the point I'm arguing here.)
We might also recall that, after the invasion of Normandy, the Germans didn't just give up and move out of France; they had to be beaten out of France; and it still wasn't over when that happened. (Thought experiment: Imagine what would have happened if, in response to the invasion of Normandy, Hitler had sent more and more troops into France. Had John Kerry been a senator then he would, no doubt, have complained against Roosevelt that "There are now more Germans in France than there were before we went in.")
It is no different with the terrorists who have moved into Iraq: they are not going to lay down their weapons just because we succeeded in removing from power the man who gave them a home away from home. We shall have to defeat them in Iraq, and wherever else they may be or go. The fact that, as Kerry puts it, there are now more terrorists in Iraq is no more a sign of failure than would have been more German troops in France after D-Day. It simply means that the war continues apace. We were told that would happen.
That we are fighting more terrorists in Iraq now, if true, means that we have taken the battle to them. We are, after all, fighting them in Iraq, not New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, California or Massachusetts. It's not so great for the Iraqi people, of course, but it was their former leader who gave terrorists a home there in the first place. We have to live with the actions of our leaders and former leaders, whether or not we like or agree with those actions; and so do the Iraqi people. On Kerry's view, apparently, if you attack your enemy and he counter-attacks then you are a failure. If only my enemies would be so obliging!
The Vice-President has warned that not voting to re-elect President Bush could result in another terrorist attack. John Edwards, in responding to the Vice-President's warning, said that, by Cheney's logic, if the people of the US vote for Kerry and the US are attacked the people will have only themselves to blame.
This, of course, was a criticism of Cheney for suggesting that the people could be responsible for what happens to them because of the way they vote.
Some Bush/Cheney supporters might prefer to spend time arguing that the VP didn't really say, or even intimate that. Not me. I say, "So what if he did?" Can anyone seriously suggest that the people of the US can vote with impunity? Can we really believe that we can vote for people who make decisions on our behalf and not, even in the least, be responsible for those decisions, or their effects? Did Edwards believe that sort of thing when he was still a trial lawyer?
When the Left have spoken of how the world hates us, have they not all the while implied that we are responsible for the decisions made on our behalf by the people we have elected? (NB: As the Left use the term, 'we' includes our ancestors.) Against Edwards, I assert that if we elect Kerry/Edwards, knowing of their "wait-until-fired-upon" philosophy of battle, and are attacked, then we shall have been somewhat responsible. It could not be otherwise. And there's nothing wrong with saying so.
I'm sure Edwards knows this as well. But he's running for election: the things he says don't really have to accord with the truth. The things he says merely have to inspire anger against his opponents. And we are supposed to be angry with Cheney's implicit assertion that we might have only ourselves to blame if we elect them and then are attacked. But isn't it true that, in fact, we very well may be responsible?
Well, not exactly. I won't be: I vote Republican.
- James Frank Solís
- Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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