03 September, 2008

Christ, Christianists, and our Troops

Watching Mike Huckabee's RNC speech this evening, I realized something that had eluded me since the onset of modern Christian Conservatism influence in Republican politics. Before concluding, Huckabee told a story about a grade school teacher who refused to give her students desks on the first day of class:

Allow me to tell you about someone who understands this type of sacrifice better than anyone.

On the first day of school in 2005, Martha Cothren, a teacher at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, was determined that her students would not take their education or their privilege as Americans for granted. With the principal’s permission, she removed all the desks from her classroom. The students entered the empty room and asked, “Mrs. Cothren, where are our desks?”

“You get a desk when you tell me how you earn it,” she replied.

“Making good grades?” asked one student.

“You ought to make good grades, but that won’t get you a desk,” Martha responded.

“I guess we have to behave,” offered another.

“You WILL behave in my class,” Mrs. Cothren retorted, “but that won’t get you a desk either.”

No one in first period guessed right. Same for second period. By lunch, the buzz was all over campus… Mrs. Cothren had flipped out ….wouldn’t let her students have a desk. Kids had used their cell phones and called their parents. By early afternoon, all 4 of the local network TV affiliates had camera crews at the school to report on the teacher who wouldn’t let her students have a desk unless they could tell her how they earned it. By the final period, no one had guessed correctly.

As the students filed in, Martha Cothren said, “Well, I didn’t think you would figure it out, so I’ll have to tell you.” Martha opened the door of her classroom. In walked 27 veterans, some wearing uniforms from years gone by, but each one carrying a school desk. As they carefully and quietly arranged the desks in neat rows, Martha said, “You don’t have to earn your desks…these guys already did.

Of course it's important to support our troops*. But the allusion made by Huckabee is that our troops are Christ-like figures who have fought and died for our rights [sins] and who therefore represent the image of a perfect citizen [human] deserving of our worship.

This is bogus on two accounts. First, very few among the Christian Right actually preach that we are saved by Faith and Grace alone, but (rather deceptively) put a strong emphasis on the Law (Old Testament) and salvation by our individual acts. Second, the biblical Christ was not just a figurative soldier going through the actions; to imply such is tantamount to denying the Trinity.

In their attempt to draw parallels between our nation's servicemen and the Son of God, the Christian Right fails to remember a repeated teaching of Jesus: pacifism. Pretty quickly, the pick-and-choose, skewed world of the Christian Right disintegrates into a sort of Stalinism where war heroes are exalted and peaceful intellectuals persecuted.

*That said, "supporting our troops" should have threefold meaning. First, to acknowledge that it is their job to obey orders, and that no soldier should be individually held accountable for erroneous decisions made by their superiors. Then, that we should hope/desire/pray for their safe return home. And last, that they should be respected upon their return for the risk they took with the greater good of our nation in mind.


Guadalupe said...

Interesting post, Hig. Cassady and I were just discussing our views on the troops and overall idea of a military...I'll just comment briefly on one part.

What irks me about this story is that there is ample opportunity to use a great teaching method to talk with students about our opportunities as Americans, but instead the focus goes to this idea that these opportunities (very ambiguous besides the use of a desk) are only ours because people have chosen to fight for our country.

I understand that a military is probable in this day and age-we've established that system. However, the military has not created life for us, at least not without creating violence for others that will eventually be our demise (I'll post on this thought later). But Violence enables violence.

I'll tell you a story that huckabee didn't share:
In Canada, there was a strike in the hospitals and doctors wouldn't work. What happened to the people? they became less sick.

We have a tendency to create our own jobs. The military, in my opinion, hasn't created life for me...just a "need" for one in the life of my country.

I don't support the troops (our blog is definitely on a watch-list now if it wasn't yet) because I feel that the troops today aren't what we'd like them to be. It isn't self-defense for our country. In fact, I view it as a cover-up or reaction to our collective wrongs as a country.

I'm rambling.. so to end: A Proverb!

"As a dog returns to his vomit, so too does a fool return to his folly.

higgy said...

I think you have a good point in that the mere presence of an idle military creates a dangerous temptation to use it. That said, I don't think this line of thinking is entirely absolute - eliminating doctors *won't* stop illness, it'll only decrease the number of people who never had meaningful cause to visit a doctor in the first place.

I guess my main point is that the Christian Right tends to disregard truths that their theology supports if these truths get in the way of their vision of American Theo-Imperialism.

Here, I'm not really concerned with the questions "What should it mean to support our troops?" and "Is it right to support our troops?", but they are important questions, and demand more thought and discussion. I think that if you separate out the bad eggs from the military, then all of this boils down to: "Is it morally right to carry out an order that is itself morally wrong?"

Cassady said...

I think I see what you're saying Higgy--the convenient blind eye that theology is given when it's easier to fall back on one's prejudices in a defensive attitude is a hallmark of the people who bother me most in politics. Call it the religious right.

Some of my feelings may arise from wounded pride. Call me a peacenik sissy a few times, and I might think a little less of you, too. I'm not perfect, either. I just wish people who, superficially at least, seem to have such a holier-than-thou attitude fail to remember to turn the other cheek. I think I'm 100% with you on that.

As far as support for the troops, I've recently set on the conviction that I do not support our troops--or ideally the existence of a military. Unfortunately, as Guadalupe points out, we live in a world that presupposes the existence of a military, so it's hard to condemn people for their choice in that matter. It's moreso necessary for me to try and stand up and be able to say why I don't offer my support and not have to apologize for it.

And yes, it is morally wrong to carry out such an order. In the military, soldiers are not bound to carry out such orders because they are not mindless drones, and there is no punishment for acting morally.