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Why Are Some American Christians So Bloodthirsty?

by : Dr. Teresa Whitehurst
Sunday October 24, 2004 - 16:20

Why Are Some American Christians So Bloodthirsty? Understanding Pro-war Christians’ Indifference to Civilian Deaths by Dr. Teresa Whitehurst

It’s been going on for years now. Almost daily we read that another child, another parent, another sister or brother, another grandpa or aunt, is killed in Afghanistan or Iraq by U.S. weaponry in Mr. Bush’s "war on terror." Sometimes it’s a wedding party, or a bunch of kids, or a family of six. Sometimes it’s a journalist, or a whole group of journalists, who may even be killed on camera in real time for all the world to see and hear.

But no matter how bad it gets, nothing seems to change Americans’ support for war, which for some reason is stiffest among Christian supporters of the Bush administration. "Stuff happens in a war zone." "Don’t worry because God is in control." With these and other slogans, I’ve been reassured by countless pro-war Christians that, as long as civilians aren’t intentionally targeted, taking their lives is okay, maybe even predestined, God’s will.

Recently a Christian from Australia wrote to ask, "Why are American Christians so bloodthirsty? Why do they support the war in Iraq, no matter how many innocent people are made to suffer? We just don’t understand why they’re willing to kill other people so that they can feel more safe - it’s so selfish!"

She’s right, and she’s wrong. She’s right about the fact that many Christians in America will blindly support whichever war their president promotes, with the assumption that his much-advertised praying guarantees us that God approves of all those bombs and missiles, and even the inevitable collateral damage.

This "don’t worry, be happy" stance of pro-war Christians can make those of us who suffer at the news of civilian deaths almost green with envy: How do they go blithely to church, pray and give an offering, then go eat some nice mashed potatoes and gravy at Cracker Barrel with nary a worry about the families being bombed or shot or crushed by their own military at that very moment?

But she’s wrong in her assumption that all Christians in the U.S. find civilian deaths an acceptable price to (let someone else) pay for Mr. Bush’s ultimate goals. Many, including those in the evangelical community, were raised to obey Jesus’ teachings above any other, and suffer mightily whenever they learn that more innocent people have lost their lives to this terrorizing "war on terror."

She’s also wrong about the seemingly bloodthirsty attitude of pro-war Christians; most of them are nice people on a personal basis. They love their kids and their fellow Americans, and would never have supported the bombing of, say, Oklahoma City’s malls and suburbs in an effort to target a Timothy McVeigh. And they certainly don’t go around saying they hope a lot more civilians are killed by U.S. bombs and guns. They’ve been trained to deny it’s happening or downplay its importance, thinking instead about Iraq’s future democracy, the next life, or the "big picture."

Failure to Care: How it Happens

The reasons for blindness or indifference toward civilian casualties are several. Many if not most pro-war Christians, particularly those in the southern and midwestern states:

1. rarely see news accounts of civilian casualties because our major TV news programs and newspapers either omit those stories altogether or mention them in passing (without photos, the crucial element in terms of public opinion) and, wanting to believe that Bush’s war is working, do not seek out evidence of the maiming and killing of our troops or of Iraqi civilians, 2. have been immunized against thinking for themselves or doubting the Bush administration with certain Bible verses (particularly those verses in Romans telling us to obey and submit to governmental authority figures) - a passive stance that’s strikingly different from the questioning that Jesus both urged and modeled toward greedy, power-seeking, and hypocritical authority figures (e.g., "false prophets" and "wolves in sheep’s clothing"), 3. are told not to worry, when they do hear of civilian casualties, that life in the flesh is less important than life eternal (one European writer told me that a friend confided, "Yes it’s sad, but if some Iraqi civilians are killed by U.S. bombs and it saves even one soul, it will have been worth it" - a sentiment that, sadly, is not unusual), 4. feel they dare not oppose this or any war because talking about peace, objecting to war’s human cost, or even referring to the United Nations has become associated in their minds with the Antichrist and eternal damnation, thanks to fictional works based on Thessalonians such as the Left Behind books and video (this video makes clear the fearful reasoning behind the knee-jerk reactions of many pro-war Christians against peace itself, peacemakers of any kind [poignant indeed in light of Jesus’ teaching, "Blessed are the peacemakers"], the Middle East "road map," international dialogue and cooperation, and any form of human rights accountability), and 5. have been convinced by right-wing preachers, authors and radio hosts (people like Rush Limbaugh are the most influential, because their voices are heard for hours daily rather than written in a book or heard once a week in church) to shift their allegiance away from Jesus’ teachings about merciful behavior toward and compassion for family and stranger alike ("the least of these") to the more pro-violence, pro-war values espoused by various non-Gospel biblical writers.

Each of these is a powerful influence, but when combined, they dramatically alter Christian values in fundamental ways. Whereas evangelical churches used to teach compassion (in liberal doses, not conservative soundbites) and warn against responding to threats or attacks with violence, today’s conservative churches urge parishioners to support capital punishment, zero-tolerance policies of all kinds, and corporal punishment to "shape the will" of babies, toddlers, and children. Someone raised in this kind of environment grows up to become an adult who’s afraid to step out of line, and who naturally resents or even hates those who feel free to do so.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card summed it up best: President Bush sees Americans as so many children who need a father to guide and protect them. Indeed, conservative Christians are raised for a dictatorship where the "leaders" make the calls and are not to be questioned, rather than a democracy, where dissent is a cherished right. As linguistics professor George Lakoff has concluded from his study of the conservative-liberal divide that’s polarizing American society, conservatives (the popular but by no means accurate label) are accustomed to, hence gravitate toward, a strict father - and nothing can be more strict than "our father" Bush demanding that we accept without question all the "stuff" that happens in his war.

Moral Relativism: In War, Anything Goes

But most importantly, conservative Christianity in the U.S. has succumbed to that which it has, in decades past, most rigorously warned against: moral relativism. By restricting any discussion of morality to sexual behavior, right-wing politicians have obliterated the once-central Christian teaching that the way we teach others is of paramount importance to God. Cleverly "working the room," pro-war politicians have infiltrated churches to such a degree that killings and torture are no longer within the province of morality. When morality is only about sex, no aspect of war - even the killing of entire families - can arouse criticism, much less condemnation.

In short, everything that happens in the execution of war, even that which is flagrantly in violation of the moral values that Jesus taught regarding violence and revenge, prayer for enemies and peacemaking, becomes acceptable when Jesus’ teachings are compartmentalized as relevant only in our personal lives. When Jesus is sidelined, those parts of the Bible that support authority, no matter what it does to innocent people, will take precedence. This is what has happened (often with the prodding, political influence and financial support of right-wing political organizations) in many of our churches today. Unless Christians begin to speak up publicly for the teachings of Christ - the cornerstone of our faith - we will continue to slide into the kind of moral relativism that causes others to wonder why we are so bloodthirsty.

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Commentaires de l'article

> Why Are Some American Christians So Bloodthirsty?
Sunday October 24 - 23:38 - Posted by 58e0f4f3f098937e...

A very interesting article; In my view the Pro War American Christians are not really Christian at all, they only say that they are. I have never felt that George W. Bush is a Christian, if anything he is anti-Christian. I believe Jesus answered this guestion when he said addressing certain religious leaders; And they said to Him; Have not we cast out devils in your Name?, and he said unto them, "I never knew you, depart from me you workers of iniquity."

No; in my view these pro-war Christians are fakes, they are not Christians at all, they merely claim to be.

> Why Are Some American Christians So Bloodthirsty?
Monday October 25 - 02:17 - Posted by 737e97918a1f1b5e...

I absolutely agree. Christians need to start ACTING like christians. I went to church every week of my life as a child, and know that at no time did Jesus EVER advocate for killing others—for any reaason!!! Jesus advocated forgiveness, and love for ALL people. Our current president certainly pays lip service to his faith, but the bible he reads is not the one I and many others read. Do not be fooled by mere words, my friends. Judge Mr. Bush by his actions. Wars, lies, secrecy and deception are not at the cornerstone of Christianity. The way our hateful government acts absolutely defiles the name of Jesus. Power-mongering, fear-mongering, and war-mongering: these were not Jesus’ gifts to the world.

> Why Are Some American Christians So Bloodthirsty?
Tuesday October 26 - 04:19 - Posted by 52a4d39c64fdd2bf...

in the new testament. when the saviovr healed the roman soldiers sevant .did not the soldier tell
isus[jesus]when he is given orders by his cammander what ever they may be probably even war .he follows them with out quiestion....when the savior wanted to go to his house the soldier said he was not worthy but to just say the word and he would belive his servant will be healed jesus responded never in all of isreal have i seen such great faith.. obedience to country and all the laws is of God ...... how can we obey Gods laws if ...and dont obey the earthly ones amin...
not that im for any kind of war......

> Why Are Some American Christians So Bloodthirsty?
Friday October 29 - 00:40 - Posted by e9b88d193b3645e4...

as long as those killed are not white christians, american Christans don’t care.

> Why Are Some American Christians So Bloodthirsty?
Wednesday November 10 - 05:36 - Posted by f815028edc17cf14...

Dr. Teresa Whitehurst
You are so very right, I left my
Church on the acount of this, and now I just follow
our Lord Jesus, and go by his commandments only.
I am not one to be Bush Whack, and true
Christians would not Pray, so all that our Lord
Jesus said’ Is coming unfold
They are part of the world and the world
is fond of what it owns.
I am no part of this world
and I can see the love of the greater
number is cooling off
Warm Blessings and thanks for the post.

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