The Bible, Blowback, and the Bomb
By Steve Matthews
For the most part, the Republican foreign policy debate held November 22 was a contest among the candidates for the title of who could bomb, sanction, no-fly zone, and occupy the greatest number of countries with the biggest, most expensive military toys. The underlying premise – that the US has the right, indeed the obligation, to do all these things – went unchallenged except by one individual. I would like to explore this premise further, but before I do, I wish to make two points.
First, the Bible is the sole source of truth about how to conduct foreign policy. It likely seems odd to most people, even to most Christians, to suggest that the Bible has anything to say about foreign policy, let alone to suggest that it is the sole source of truth on the subject. Secularists despise the Bible for its message. In their view it is unscientific, unloving, unforgiving, judgmental, out of date, racist, sexist and homophobic. Christians, who rightly reverence the Bible as the word of God, are accustomed to think of it as a book on how to get saved and live a life pleasing to God. Of course the Bible is about those things, but there is much more to it than that. The Bible has a monopoly on truth. All truth, including the truth about how to conduct foreign policy. For the Scripture says that in Christ are hidden “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” including the wisdom and knowledge necessary to conduct foreign policy.
Second, rulers and the nations they govern are not sovereign. Governors are subject to the law of God just as much as are private citizens. There is a tendency among some to suppose that there is one law for rulers and another for everyone else. Governors, so goes the argument, have a special dispensation to lie, steal, blaspheme and murder if they do so in the pursuit of some stated greater good. But the Bible tells us that, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). There are no exceptions for governors. Elsewhere Paul, writing about rulers, states, “for he is God’s minister to you for good” (Rom.13:4). If rulers are God’s ministers, then they are responsible to God, that is to say they are answerable to him for their actions, not only those taken as private citizens, but also those as rulers. And God has only one set of ethical principles: the Ten Commandments. These apply to all men everywhere, regardless of their station in life.
Since it addresses how we are to relate to others, of special interest in this case is the so-called second table of the law where we are enjoined to honor our father and mother, not murder, not commit adultery, not steal, not bear false witness and not covet. Christ summed up these commandments by telling us to love our neighbor as ourselves, or as he said in another place, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12). Unlike what the comparative religion types will tell you, this is not the same statement as was made by others before Christ, for Christ grounds his injunction in the Law and the Prophets, something Confucius and others who supposedly held to the same idea did not do. This principle, simple enough for a child to understand, seems completely lost on most of our leading politicians and intellectuals, not to mention the entire American foreign policy establishment.
As an example of what can happen when we ignore the Bible when making foreign policy decisions, consider the case of Iran. I’m old enough to remember when Iranian revolutionaries raided the American embassy in Tehran in 1978 and the ensuing hostage crisis. What I also remember from that time is all the pictures of the angry mobs in Iran chanting and carrying signs around that read, “death the America the great Satan,” and other things of that sort. I was shocked. I couldn’t fathom why Iranians hated America so much. As far as I knew, I had never hated Iran or done anything to offend Iranians. Clearly, I thought to myself, these are not rational people. It wasn’t until years later that I found out that the animosity expressed by the Iranian mobs in 1978 had its origin 25 years earlier in the 1953, when the CIA orchestrated the overthrow of the elected government of Iran and installed the Shah, a US puppet. It turns out that the Iranian revolution and the hatred that fueled it were textbook examples of what students of foreign policy call “Blowback,” defined as the unintended consequences of interventionist American foreign policy. And the echoes of 1978 are still resounding today, for, if we take our Secretary of State at her word, we could end up dropping an atomic bomb for the first time since 1945 in order to prevent a still hostile, Islamic fundamentalist, Iranian government from going nuclear.
To further illustrate this point, ask yourself this question, would you want a foreign country, China let’s say, overthrowing the Obama administration in a coup and installing some puppet president? For my part, as much as I don’t like Obama, I like even less the idea of the Chinese dictating to the US who occupies the White House. I would never stand for it, and, I suspect, neither would most Americans. With that in mind, is it so hard to understand that people in other nations may resent like treatment at the hands of the CIA regardless of how many schools or hospitals the US builds for them?
Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending fundamentalist Islam as a good idea or extolling the virtues of Sharia law. Far from it. I am thankful to God to live in a nation that does not suffer under those twin burdens. But the Bible nowhere sanctions the imperialist foreign policy that this country has followed for the past one hundred years, let alone the doctrine of preventive war that is so popular today among so-called conservatives. The US federal government has no right to start wars against foreign nations to stop them from getting the bomb, make the world safe for democracy, defend Israel, secure natural resources, stop human rights abuses, establish voting rights, or most of the other reasons that have been offered as justifications for war by people in high places, including most Republican presidential candidates.
The Bible tells us “to mind our own business” and to make it our “ambition” to lead a quiet life (1 Thess. 4:11). This is good advice for individuals. It’s good advice for nations too. Those who wield or would like to wield the levers of power tell us that we must, “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here,” as a way of justifying the immoral and unconstitutional wars being conducted by the US federal government. This is a lie. The truth is, much of the animosity and resentment directed toward the United States has been caused by the belligerent policies of an out of control federal government pursuing the folly of an American Empire.
Now most Americans would be shocked at the suggestion that we have an empire. But we do, and like the British version, the sun never sets on it. It’s just that unlike the British, we’re not honest enough to call it what it is. Maybe that has something to do with how the US got its start. After all, it’s an embarrassing historical fact that a nation born out of revolt against an empire has now become the world’s leading imperial power. That’s not the sort of thing one advertises.
Empires are expensive and tend to end badly. Ours is consuming our financial resources at an unsustainable rate, to say nothing of the damage it is doing to our military personnel put in harm’s way to defend it. The US is going bankrupt, and our foolish foreign policy is a major cause of this. Unless Americans force a change of direction by supporting politicians who advocate a Christian foreign policy based on the Golden Rule rather than those who support the failed policies of the ruling establishment, we can expect, in the words of Chalmers Johnson, to continue suffer the sorrows of empire.Explore posts in the same categories: Politics