Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Larison on Un-Christian Delusions

Daniel Larison, here, takes to task Michael Novak and First Things, and their neocon-servative lunacy found here. The subject at hand is Novak's plea for a proposed pre-emptive strike on Iran. Daniel notes:

It is bad enough that Novak invokes Niebuhr (!) in support of this mad call for unprovoked, unnecessary war, but when he says that the “most dreadful war of all time is just ahead of us, is already well begun” we can safely say that he has lost all touch with reality. WWII remains the most dreadful war of all time, and nothing on the horizon even remotely compares to the loss of life and destruction that occurred in that war. So there is nothing realistic at all about Novak’s “Christian realism,” and neither is there anything Christian about it if that word is to have any connection to the teachings of Our Lord.

There is no justification for destroying what peace exists to satisfy our irrational fears of a deterrable and containable threat. There is no conceivable justification for initiating hostilities to attempt to stop the potential future acquisition of a weapon that the other state is very unlikely to use against us or our allies. To start a war for such a reason would be a crime against God and man.

The message is quite clear: if you treasure the sacred places where God revealed Himself, you will endorse my monstrous proposal, and otherwise you probably don’t really care about these places or the revelation itself. The proposal is horrible, and the manipulation being employed to advance the proposal is simply despicable.

As usual, I find myself in total agreement with Mr. Larison. The comments are of interest, as well, including the observations of David Lindsay, who writes:

Why does Zionism play so well among many (not all) Evangelicals? It is not usually because they subscribe to Dispensationalism....No, it is because they either do not know, or do not want to know, about Levantine Christianity, much as they either do not know, or do not want to know, about the Sub-Apostolic Fathers. They do not wish to be confronted with entirely matter-of-fact descriptions of all things “Romish” existing during the lifetimes of the Apostles and providing the context that the New Testament text presupposes. Nor do they wish to be confronted with the entirely matter-of-fact existence of communities of that kind which have been present continuously for two thousand years, right there in the Bible Lands.

Christian communities that go all the way back to the Day of Pentecost are problematic enough in themselves for them....Evangelical theology is increasingly looking beyond the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to its earlier and more cerebral roots, and thus to a place within the older, broader and deeper Tradition. Approaches to the Middle East are starting to reflect this shift....But most churchgoers, and indeed most clergy, are not academic theologians. So, for the most part, the attitude continues to be essentially the same as that which has since the nineteenth century maintained the completely made-up Garden Tomb because those who invented it did not like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and did not want people to know about it.


Steve Hayes said...

I didn't realise that First Things was a neocon rag. Not that I've read it, but I have seen it quoted with approval by others.

James the Thickheaded said...

Not that I'm certain that we can contain Iran without incident - Lord knows I find it hard to suggest that we managed the Cold War without casaulty or incident (we didn't), but I find it extremely dangerous for the USA to suggest that the mere ownership of nuclear weapons is sufficient and justifiable cause for a first strike. I mean... seriously... doesn't that justify folks taking out the USA at some point? And if Hezbollah is so dangerous and Iran's supply/direction of their campaigns, then why wasn't something done before nukes started changing the balance?

I think the last generation has nostalgia for a day that never existed, the day after Japan's surrender when it looked like we were all powerful and could do what we wanted on every field - as long as we didn't look across the Rhine. The Fall of the Wall must have engendered something of the same delusion, except all that's left to us now is military dominance... though less in feats of arms and more so in simple ability to blow things up... and this probably only for a brief tech weapon-addicted moment. We seem to have an adolescent's fascination with our ability to destroy "in the name of making safe for democracy". So... only a flattened earth is "safe"? Is Democracy really THAT fragile? Are our so-called intellectuals really this insecure, really this intoxicated with dangerous distractions from the task of spiritual and moral renewal here at home that it just seems easier to demonstrate our "virtue" in a foolish way? I love this country, our people, etc... but I worry.

Thanks for a though provoking piece.

FWIW, the first comment following Novak's article is probably the saddest thing I've seen in a long time... anywhere.

David B said...

Regarding comment 1 following Novak's insipid article: wasn't it Basil the Great who said the same thing about pilgrimages and holy sites?

Mimi said...

I've certainly seen evidence of the lack of historicalness of the modern Evangelical movement, but I'd never put it together quite like this.

It is especially appropriate to read it on the day of St. George, who was from modern day Lebanon.

Ostensive Lyme said...

Christ is risen!

James and David B;
I remember Fr Tom Hopko saying it was St Gregory of Nyssa (Basil's brother of course) who gave a homily on the non-need for making pilgrimage.
His point, I believe, was that all the Kingdom of God is within us. Though we may not take this to the radical conclusion in that 'first comment', nevertheless St Gregory had a point. A good, orthodox point.
I recall Arch. Sophrony saying something similar to the commenter but even regarding holy scripture: even if all holy scripture were wiped out, the content would still be present in God's living saints. Nothing "ultimate" would be lost.

I am sympathetic to the overall point of the first commenter and I think it's orthodox in heart. I have been on one pilgrimage- I think anyone with a similar experience knows that not all fellow pilgrims are spiritually benefited by their experience. Some seem in fact to be harmed.
The sad thing remains, of course, that all the whole world is not catechized by the Orthodox Church, and some make errors of ignorance as I take this 'first comment' to be.


James the Thickheaded said...

I read his comment a little differently... maybe too quickly. I look at it more as te Spirit is everywhere, Christ isn't just in heaven but at our Eucharist and in each other. And I read his emphasis on the absence from the Holy places as the excuse to drop the big one. I'll agree I may have been a little to quick on part 1, but it still sounds to me like he's giving the okay for "nuke'n 'em til they glow" 'cause only a few people would be killed. I'm sorry... I do think something of our salvation would be lost if we go around giving the okay to the nuclear option of a first strike.

Milton T. Burton said...

It would be well to remember when assessing the danger to the world represented by various nations that only one has ever actually used nuclear weapons in war.

Milton T. Burton said...

“next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

He spoke. And drank rapidly a
glass of water — e.e. cummings

Joe Prentis said...

When I was a small child, my father carried me to see the famous magician Harry Blackstone. I was electrified by his ability to saw a woman in half, produce small animals out of thin air, and his talent in misdirecting the audience. After the performance, my father explained to me that it was nothing more than an illusion. I have wondered since if Dad was just trying to entertain me on that memorial afternoon, or if there was a subtle lesson he wanted me to learn. Whenever I see the soothsayers with their rattling bones and portents take center stage, I wonder how much of their claims are real, and how much of it was learned at the feet of someone like Harry Blackstone. God protect us from those who want to shout fire on in the middle of the political stage or to kill the innocent in the name of peace.

Milton T. Burton said...

I agree, Joe.

Milton T. Burton said...


“I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians.” --- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard Price, Jan. 8, 1789 (Richard Price had written to TJ on Oct. 26. about the harm done by religion and wrote “Would not Society be better without Such religions? Is Atheism less pernicious than Demonism?”)