And Satan took Jesus up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”
The Gospel of St. Luke
As the United States draws ever closer to electing its leader for the next four years, Christians everywhere are making their opinions known. The majority of those who call themselves “Bible Believers” stand firm with Mitt Romney, the first major party candidate that explicitly states that he is of a religion that is not Christianity. The former Governor of Massachusetts is a man who believes the social services and collective welfare of the nation are not the responsibility of the peoples’ government, and that those who have become the wealthiest on earth should pay even less tax than they did when they accumulated their vast wealth, even if it comes at the expense of those who work hard yet have little to show for it.
Those who call themselves Progressive Christians, or even “Red-letter Christians” tend to stand with the incumbent, Barack Obama. The incumbent is a man whose first term was noted by ongoing wars, summary executions, and a failure to address the economic inequities that he constantly links to his opponent. His foreign policy has allowed and even applauded events which have replaced one oppressive regime with another, justifying it by prioritizing abstract notions of democracy over the real welfare of the people affected.
Most Christians across the entire political spectrum readily admit that they will vote for their respective candidate in an effort to choose the lesser of two evils. Using such a philosophy is a tacit admission that they will indeed choose an evil. As in every one that has preceded it, this election viewed as more pivotal than all others.
The truth is that it doesn’t matter who is elected in November. Next year, when January turns into February, and the President sits comfortably in the White House, nothing will have changed. America’s economy will still be completely dependent upon enabling humans to kill other humans. We will still occupy other nations despite the majority opinion in those nations. We will still hold an arsenal capable of destroying the entirety of humanity many times over. We will still be the largest supplier of deadly arms across the globe, many of which we will destroy ourselves in future conflict. We will do these things and call ourselves a nation of peace.
We will still incarcerate more of our citizens by proportion than any other nation on earth. We will still murder each other by willful homicide and neglect at a rate shocking compared to other industrial nations. We will still have an infant mortality rate surpassing all other nations with our wealth, yet at the same time spend more money on healthcare than most. We will still allow people to die in the streets because they cannot afford healthcare. We will still snuff out millions of potential lives because of the burden (real and imagined) they will place on our lives. We will do these things and call ourselves a nation of life.
We will still incarcerate at one time or another one third of an entire race. We will still incarcerate the desperate throngs yearning to be free, who come to this nation like every race before them, with nothing more than the clothes on their back. We will still enslave the majority of our citizens in debt by convincing them to want things they do not need, and inflating the price of those things they do. We will do all these things and call ourselves a nation of liberty.
We will still suffer from depression, anxiety, and a host of other lifelong mental ailments. Our children will still kill themselves in ever increasing numbers. We will still spend billions of dollars on drugs, legal and illegal, that will keep us addicted for the rest of our lives. We will still walk away from our families when we no longer are fulfilled. We will still dehumanize one another in a desperate attempt to feel valuable. We will do all of these things and call ourselves a nation of happiness.
We will still not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or heal the sick. We will still boast with a prideful arrogance unmatched on the planet. We will still abuse the orphans, the widows, and the aliens. We will still believe that greed will drive us forward. We will still murder, steal, lie, commit adultery, covet, and invoke the name of God to advance our own desires. We will still worship things created and turn our back on the Creator. We will do all of these things and call ourselves a Christian nation.
When the polls close and the votes are counted, America will once again have elected the status quo. We will admit that things have gone wrong but we will be too afraid to fix them, lest we lose our comfort. We will still accept “what is” and never strive for “what could be.”
We will gleefully follow the road that Babylon, Rome, the modern European empires and every other “great” people has gone down. We will march toward our own destruction having convinced ourselves that we are the exception to the rule, that we are special, that we are blessed. We will march with intent and purpose toward that end, holding fast to the false knowledge that God would never be so pretentious as to abandon us. We will declare ourselves to be the true divine nation, and invoke the promise that God’s people will endure forever. We will carry deaf ears to those in far off places who sing hymns and praises. We will turn a blind eye to those poor nations who practice grace and mercy. We will never entertain the notion that God may be bigger than us, and we are but a tiny people to him. No, we will not consider that. We must not believe for even a second that we may be wrong. We must do our civic duty and once again choose the lesser evil to guide us.
Social networking traffic hit a record high as word of the death of Osama Bin Laden spread across the globe. Before the President of the United States even made the official announcement, dozens of people were shown in front of the White House cheering “USA! USA!” Similar scenes were eventually shown from various locales across the country. Celebration also reverberated around the internet, as tweets and facebook statuses declared “America winning.” But what did America win?
Osama Bin Laden may be dead, as are many of his supporters, allies, and followers. But to what end? On September 11th, 2001, nearly ten years ago, 2,977 lives were ended in a matter of a few hours in New York, Washington D.C., and rural Pennsylvania. Subsequently America launched its War on Terror, focusing on Afghanistan and Iraq. This strategy puzzled many as the hijackers and planners of the horrific attack on America were not acting on behalf of either nation, but through a a quasi-religious non-governmental organizationwith followers from all over the globe, including the United States itself. Ten years of fighting across the globe followed.
On the day that Bin Laden’s death was announced, the death toll in Iraq was 4,404 dead American soldiers, 318 from other coalition nations, and between 100,000-109,000 Iraqis. In Afghanistan, the U.S. and its allies have lost another 2,340 men and women, while Afghanistan lost around 17,000. These numbers do not include deaths indirectly caused by the wars such as illness, famine, etc., nor do they include the deaths that have occurred in the War on Terror outside these two main theaters of operations. “Justice,” as President Obama described it, cost America two lives for every one that died on 9/11, and charged the world about 44 for each of the victims. Eye for an eye be damned, we took 4 dozen for each set! The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still raging, and it is unlikely that the big assassination will slow the carnage. If the dust finally settles one day, those 3,000 killed 10 years ago will still be dead. Their spouses still widows, and their children still living with the pain of a lost parent. The thousands of dead Iraqis and Afghanis will still be in their graves as well, most for committing the same crime as the people in the planes and in the cities attacked that September day, namely, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bin Laden was found in Pakistan, not in a general’s command center desperately trying to continue a losing war, but in an ordinary mansion, reportedly using a woman to shield himself from the advancing American troops. He was not an evil genius, nor some sort of supervillian with super powers to match. He was just a man who hated America. In his mind he had his reasons, and they were convincing enough to sway the minds of many people around the world. Now that he is gone, another will take his place, just like he took the place of the boogeyman before him.
In America we can celebrate that we are powerful enough as nation to take our vengeance. That one eye will be repaid with 44. But did anyone on earth doubt we could do it?
I am a Christian, I am not God. Only God can look back at the past ten years and see what really happened, who is to blame, and what constitutes true justice. I am not so arrogant to believe that I can know that this weekends announcement was one of justice, as my President declared, or simple vengeance. But I do know that God’s justice restores all things to the way they were, and from what I can see with my human eyes is just a lot of graves to dig and far too few shovels. Therefore I can only march with the orders given to me by my creator, and that is to love my enemies and pray for them, while trusting that no one will escape God’s justice.
When your goal is revenge, your only reward is another grave to dig.