Posts Tagged ‘War’
The UK Election and Defence
’Mark Ferguson of LabourList wrote that today several papers had splashed on a particularly unpleasant and personal attack on Ed Miliband, the contending Labour Leader, from Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon. Fallon’s claim that Miliband would get rid of Trident, Britain’s US controlled nuclear defence system, to do a deal with the SNP (the Scottish National Party) is nonsense. He has said on numerous occasions in the past two weeks (in his Paxman TV interview, in an interview with the People and in his leaked debate notes) that he favours continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent.’
Surely this is another example of Miliband making the less principled choice—the same choice as that offered by the right wing Tories! The cost of these four u-boats, as Fallon significantly called them, and their accompanying nuclear armed rockets for the UK is enormous, and it is money the social services and the NHS could do with. I do not budge from my preference for Labour rather than five more years of Tory robbery, but Miliband needs to find some principles from somewhere, preferably from the British working class. Labour will not bring in the socialist millennium, but with Labour in power there is more probability of a determined push from working class activists and institutions moving us and Labour in the preferred direction. In the words of Robert Griffiths reporting to the CPB Congress:
The period up to, during and immediately after the general election is likely to prove decisive in helping us to assess whether the labour movement can and will reclaim the Labour Party or whether major sections of the movement will have to consider what steps should be taken to re-establish a mass party of labour, one capable of winning general elections, forming a government and enacting far-reaching reforms in the interests of the working class. In order to create the most favourable conditions for resolving this question, and to advance the immediate interests of working-class people, an upsurge is needed in mass activity and action. That is why it’s so important that we discuss the priorities and line of march of the trade union movement, the People’s Assembly, the women’s movement, including the National Assembly of Women, and the peace movement.
The electorate have been duped into believing democracy is a five yearly cross on a ballot paper, but it took centuries of mass struggle to get that far, and it does not mean the struggle has ended. As the General Secretary says, it is time to renew it, and that means working class families demonstrating on the streets what they expect of the party they have elected, and that they will not tolerate any more of the BS we have been given by parties of both complexions over the last 40 years.
Let us stand up for ourselves! We can begin now by demanding the waste of our taxes on pointless but hugely expensive “defence” systems should cease, or we shall be canvassing for a new socialist party not merely a new Labour Party leader.
Our morals at core are instinctive, evolved because we are social animals and so living in groups must offer advantages over living separately as solitary animals. The benefits of living socially are that we can defend each other, care for each other, feed each other, and comfort each other, some of the characteristics Jews call hesed or “lovingkindness”, and Christ called “love”.
Journalists and sentimentalists are fond of referring to “our loved ones” meaning people special to us, but proving that Christianity has not penetrated into our souls. “Our loved ones”, Christ taught are all of our neighbors wherever they might be, for any one of them could literally move in next door tomorrow—even some of our enemies!
One of the great advantages of Christianity over most Pagan religions and philosophies is that it has a clear role model for ordinary people in that it relates not only some of Christ’s teaching, but also described how he lived and thought. In the days when people were illiterate or were excluded from reading the life of Christ in the New Testament for themselves, stories of the life of Christ as a role model for them to copy in their own lives was particularly important. Believers were expected to be Christs, to behave like Christ. Only the Cathars kept it up, and the Catholic Church ordered a crusade against them, and scattered them far and wide. There was no need of any particular understanding of theology or philosophy in everyday living so long as simple folk had a model of excellence before them.
It was easier than it was for, say, the Stoic who was expected always to act sensibly—which is to say with reason—explaining why Stoicism remained the preserve of literate and wealthy people in classical times. It was easier than it was for the Platonist who had to look to God Himself. One of the failings of Christianity was that a majority of Christians wanted to raise up Christ to the Godhead, removing him as a realistic human role model for many. Paul exacerbated this deification by making Christ the object of Christian worship as a risen god on the eastern mystery model, though he was more useful as a human role model, with God left sitting aloft on his unattainable seat of power and judgement.
Stoics missed a human role model to such an extent that they inclined to idealize philosophers in that role. Epictetus, the Stoic ex-slave who was a near contemporary of Christ, urged his disciples to choose a role model and to imagine he was always beside them to instruct and guide them in the ways of excellence. Christians, in Jesus Christ, had this model of excellence ready made inasmuch as he was a man of exceptional morality.
Not only that, he was, as the propounder of love of others as the key to proper morality and sociality, the object of deep affection. Christians were to love God and to love other human beings, just as they loved Christ first as a symbol of human excellence, and then as an aspect of God Himself. To love others as if each of them were God Himself was Christ’s central tenet, though later Christian leaders decided it was something they would rather not know. It was much easier to get gentile recruits who were simply required to have faith! Most therefore came to prefer just to love God while continuing to hate other humans except for the narrow circle of “loved ones” that most of us love without any effort at all. It seemed to meet Christ’s requirement sufficiently well, they mutually agreed.
Having the loving Christ notionally at ones shoulder, like the eminent person of the Stoics, is still the belief of many a Christian. Christ is their buddy, but few of them know him at all well. The image of him they carry with them is not the Christ of the gospels. The role model of the modern US Christian is a Rambo Christ or a type of Dirty Harry. Yet no reading of the New Testament gospels can yield anything like any such image. Christ as a brutal avenger is an atavistic decline from an advanced to a primitive morality, from mutual concern and universal service to reactive tribal vengeance for some dishonor, imagined or otherwise. It has been seen with pelucid clarity in the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, a wicked man, certainly, but no more so than many of our own tribal heroes, no more so than Bush, Blair, Clinton or even Obama. We have lost the ability, essential for compassion, of being able to imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
Christians, to follow the lead and tenets of the gospel Christ, ought not to gloat over human death, or to glorify it, yet that is what they do, even the most pious—they claim—of them. Society, which is the origin of the concept of God, has the right to protect itself from those who work to destroy it, but it should do it reluctantly and with sorrow not joy. Joy is for the lost sheep found, for the returning wanderer, not for finding and killing the wayward sheep or wanderer for causing those at home too much worry.
Society justly protects itself by due process of law, not by taking arbitrary revenge, and, when all that is left for society to do is to take a life in defense of itself, any human being and especially anyone who professes to be guided by Christ must make every effort to demonstrate the value and efficacy of human morality, which, when universally practised, would abolish the need for punishment.
Christians have been ready to castigate Islam as lacking tenderness, despite its pure monotheism and high general morality, because it lacked a suitable role model. For all the Moslem talk about their brotherhood, that was not their central principle—that was their universal submission to God. Curiously, modern Christianity has grown in the same direction. What was meant to be universal, and once was so regarded, is now so narrow that it applies only to “our loved ones”, with no love extended to enemies, nowadays innocent people thousands of miles away being bombed, shelled and machine gunned by our heroes, professional terminators armed to the teeth, and drone killing machines remotely piloted from some distant aircraft carrier.
Arabs were not averse to spreading their new imperial religion, Islam, by conquest, by coercion and by taxation (exempting Moslems and converts from it), rather than by love and example. Even so, the Christian world had been in turmoil for centuries, and Persia was decadent, so by keeping order in their conquered territories the Caliphs were preferred by their subjects to their predecessors.
Today’s nominally Christian western powers, led by the USA, have no compunction in murdering foreigners on an industrial scale by indiscriminate use of WMD, scarcely even for revenge, but often simply as a warning and an example to the survivors and onlookers. They now know just what to expect when they fail to submit to the will of the all powerful financial and military class of the US. There is no justice in it.
The attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan were nominally in revenge for the deaths of 3000 innocent office workers in the Twin Towers, yet the US and its ally, Israel, had conspired to rob a whole nation of its homeland of several thousand years, the very people of whom Christ was a member 2000 years ago, the Palestinians. The UK and US had spent much of the Clinton administration bombing Iraq under the pretence of a “no fy zone” and a stiff regime of sanctions, even before Bush engineered the invasion of 2003. An unknown number, but at least a million, innocents died in the two operations combined. These mega murders were to avenge nothing. They were directed at one man, a man protected for decades by the not at all worthy Christian leaders of a supposedly Christian nation.
The mass murder was to demonstrate western, primarily US, power, the US allies in these “coalitions” being simply to dilute the responsibility for unspeakable crimes against humanity by the USA alone. And already in earlier times the US had killed an estimated 2 million Vietnamese by the most horrifying carpet bombing and the use of chemical weapons that are killing and deforming Vietnamese babies still. Just what is Christian in this, only partial, litany of mass murder of innocent human beings? Millions have been killed to show that the US was not to be meddled with, or to avenge much lesser crimes albeit serious ones themselves.
Isn’t the point of Christ’s passion and death the lesson that taking human life must always be wrong? Christians consider that Christ was God, and pious Jews approved of his murder. If Christ were to return, he would have a good chance of being klilled at the instigation of some US Christian leader. God is everyman, according to the one Christians recognize as having the authority of His Son, one of the Trinity. When a slight to anyone is a slight to God Himself, as Christ taught, the leaders of the USA are carrying a burden of sin that far exceeds that of its well publicised enemies, those so wicked that they constitute an “evil empire”.
If the wickedness of a nation is to be measured by the number of innocent people it has killed then the USA is up with Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and Polpot’s Cambodia—millions! The failure of successive Christian leaders of the USA to recognize the enormity of their own crimes, and their responsibility for them, and the grotesqueness of their boasted claims to moral propriety is an insult to the intelligence of anyone normal, but not, it seems many Christians. The fact that they nearly all remain mute in the face of these horrors shows that Christianity is dead in the modern world.
Therefore, no longer love this world or its military service, for Scripture’s authority declares that “whoever is a friend of this world is an enemy of God”. Whoever serves as a soldier with the sword is the servant of death, and whenever he sheds his own blood or that of another, this will be his reward—he will be regarded as guilty either because he caused his own death or because of his sin.S Paulinus of Nola (c 355-431 AD)
Paulinus was a very rich man, of the Senatorial class with large latifundia in Southern Italy, Gaul and Spain, who quite unlike most modern rich Christians, did what Christ told the rich they had to do to be saved, gave away his vast fortune when he converted to Christianity, except for enough to start an ascetic community. He was made Bishop of Nola (409-431 AD) in Campagna, Italy, becoming a senior bishop of the Church responsible for several important synods.
Murder, which in the case of an individual is admitted to be a crime, is called a virtue when it is committed wholesale. Impunity is claimed for the wicked deeds, not on the plea that they are guiltless, but because the cruelty is perpetrated on a grand scale.S Cyprian (d 258 AD), Epistle to Donatus
More evidence, should it be needed, that our Christian leaders know so little about Christian morality that they can have no claim to be Christian. Bush and Obama in the US, and Blair, Brown, and now Cameron, in the UK, have all “committed wholesale” murder and perpetrated “cruelty on a grand scale”, apparently believing they are entitled to do it with impunity because it is virtuous in the eyes of God. This Christian saint, who presided over seven Church Synods, so must have known something about Christian moral dogma, begs to differ from today’s smug and mendacious paragons.
Is it any wonder that the Christian nations throughout history have been so monstrously callous, aggressive and warlike—even though Christ was, according to the gospels, not at all aggressive, rejecting swords, refusing to retaliate and rebuking a disciple who did—when the teaching of the man Christians believe to be God Himself are distorted into their opposite. S Paul is considered by most Christians to be the author of Ephesians, and we read at Ephesians 6:11 that we must “put on the whole armour of God”. Now, in defence of Paul, even a non-Christian can see that this is a metaphor not to be taken literally, but the trouble is that Christian priests and pastors are only too ready to let their flocks of Christian sheep believe otherwise.
Not all though. In a sermon, the Reverend Jane Florence, First United Methodist Church, Omaha is reported as having said:
I’ve cringed to see children’s Sunday school classes take this passage quite literally by having children cut out kid sized paper swords, shields, breastplates and boots of military apparel. They then decorate the cutouts with crayons and tape the pieces to their pint-sized bodies while singing songs about “marching in the infantry, riding in the cavalry, shooting the artillery” and shouting the chorus, “’cause I’m in the Lord’s army”.
Indeed the hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers by S Baring Gould, remains popular still. How can a man who considered swords in a bad light possibly want his followers to imagine themselves as soldiers, to the extent that they dress up their children in Christian soldier suits? The Reverend Jane continues:
The nonviolent message that Jesus taught about resisting social and political oppression became the battle cry for just the opposite.
This Methodist minister is right to maintain that modern Christians have in general lost the metaphorical aspect of this passage and similar passages, so the girding on of swords and armour ought not translate today into indiscriminate use of “AK-47 assault rifles, explosive tennis shoes or smart bombs”. The armour is spiritual armour, as the passage makes utterly clear, and the battle is a spiritual battle, not a material one.
Unfortunately the metaphor is all the more confused because Paul was here being at his most Gnostic, and Christians early on rejected Gnosticism as a heresy. It was, though, already too late to reject Paul whose distortions of Christ’s message filled much of the New Testament. Paul speaks of “the rulers of the darkness of this world”, as the King James’s Version has it, making it sound as if Christians have a duty to take out the evil living rulers of this world in Christ’s name!
Yet, in the very same verse, the sense is repeated as “spiritual wickedness in heavenly places”. The confusion is that the belief understood here is that the ruler of this world is the Devil Himself, not God, so the rulers of the darkness of this world are the Devil and his attendant demons. John 14:30 refers to “the prince of this world”, and the temptation of Christ suggests the same when the Devil offers Christ all the kingdoms of the world, but he refuses the offer (Mt 4:8-9). Gnostic duality existed at the very root of Christianity, but Christians should have nothing to do with it, if the early tradition is to be accepted.
Zoroastrianism was clearer. Anyone had responsibility for one spiritual fight only—one’s own. It was your own personal fight to preserve your life against wickedness. If everyone won that single battle, the world would be good. Nevertheless, the same is true of Christianity, for it derived much of its teaching from the Zoroastrianism that preceded it. To presume you are God and make judgements on others meant you had lost your personal war against wickedness—it was the sin of hubris, pride. Christians have to be humble, and humility is not swanning around claiming to be already saved, when that is another judgement to be made by God.
The Christian is not allowed to correct faults in others until he has corrected his own faults—they must not try to remove a mote from a neighbor’s eye when they have a plank in their own. In short, how can they pick out tiny faults in other people when they cannot see clearly through the huge faults they have themselves? To think otherwise is hubris.
Nor must Christians judge—for the same reason: “The one among you without sin, let him cast the first stone”. Judgement is God’s job, and if anyone should judge others adversely, then God will judge them adversely. It all cautions Christians that their battle is a personal one, and that is hard enough for anyone to have to concentrate upon without imagining that they can tell others what they ought to do.
All of this is what Christians should believe, because the teaching of the Christian God is a clear and easily comprehended morality that even a child can follow. Even an atheist can follow it! Why then cannot Christians? It is what is necessary for society to thrive, and has evolved as a moral instinct for that reason. Jeremiah said the covenant of God was to be written in anyone’s heart—it is inborn into all of us that are fully human, and when we try we can feel it there.
Why then are so many Christians apparently not fully human? And not just Christians. It is because they have allowed their clergy, their priests and pastors, to dictate for their own benefit and that of imperialistic churches, what morality is, rather than encouraging them to use their instinct.
To teach that morality means sexual abstinence is absurd. That is a simple choice. To accept and even endorse that one man should seek to put down or exploit another as capitalism requires is against Christian teaching because it is counter instinctual. To promote greed as a human virtue suits the capitalist but ought not to suit any Christian. Christ favored the poor!
A healthy society requires us to rely on—and therefore trust—the honesty, goodwill and empathy of our neighbors. Christ called it love!