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"We're Not Leftists. We're Much More Radical Than That" By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, March 31, 2008


The Religious Left convened its annual “Ecumenical Advocacy Days” outside Washington, D.C. earlier this month to rally about 700 activists behind its anti-war, environmental and welfare state causes.  A chief star this year was Mennonite “professor of peacebuilding” Lisa Schirch, who assured her applauding audience that America’s exploitative economic agreements with poor nations create the humiliation and frustration that lead to terrorism.  According to the report about Schirch’s speech by the sponsoring National Council of Churches (NCC), she believes that climate change is another sinister contributor to all the global misunderstandings.  No wonder the crowd or professional Religious Left activists loved it.   

Schirch teaches at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia and undoubtedly shares the traditional pacifism of Mennonites.  Historically, “peace” churches like the Mennonites and Quakers have espoused pacifism for themselves without demanding it of others, much less condemning governments for employing force.  But the officials of modern pacifist denominations have largely coalesced with the larger Religious Left in demanding that Christianity reject all force at all times.  Often they will condemn specific U.S. military actions while not fully explaining that even if Osama bin Laden were openly targeting a nuke at an American city, they would oppose any physical force against him.  For the modern Religious Left, every security situation should be addressed through aggressive “peacemaking,” apologies, or increased international welfare as an atonement.

"Using military power is like taking a hammer to a beehive," Schirch insisted at this year’s Ecumenical Advocacy Days, which was hosted by the NCC, United Methodist agencies along with other Mainline Protestant groups, left-wing Roman Catholic orders, and Jim Wallis’ Sojourners.  The “Advocacy Days” aim to “strengthen the Christian voice and mobilize for advocacy on a wide variety of U.S. domestic and international policy issues, through worship, theological reflection and opportunities for learning and witness.”

According to the NCC report, Schirch warned the crowd that Iraqis and others in the Middle East, including her Jordanian taxi drivers, are closely watching the U.S. presidential elections.  "Do Americans know they have made the situation worse?" a group of Iraqi female refugees supposedly asked her.  "Why do they focus on hunting down the terrorists rather than on civilian security," the women ostensibly asked Schirch. "It is a backwards strategy, it only helps the insurgents in their recruitment."  Naturally Schirch insisted that Iraq’s only hope "is an economic solution and a political solution. Security does not land with a helicopter, it grows from the ground up."

Iraq’s ultimate problem, apparently, is not al Qaeda, Iranian meddling, Islamist ambitions or sectarian hatred.  According to Schirch, the main problem is American consumerism and greed, which propelled Americans into Iraq so as to ensure ready oil sources.  She noted anger around the whole world about Americans who live sumptuously thanks to oil and cheap goods facilitated by unfair trade agreements that benefit the U.S., as the NCC described her speech.  "Until Americans change their lifestyle, we will need a military presence around the world,” Schirch lamented.

"Do good to those who hate you,” Schirch advised.  "It's the smart thing to do," she said. "Not just the right thing."  But the Founder of Christianity, whom she was presumably quoting, did not deliver the Sermon on the Mount as a civil policy statement. Nor did He demand of civil states the same behavior he asked of individuals.  The Apostle Paul even specified that God ordained civil governments to avenge and punish wicked deeds.   The modern Religious Left, while chronically denouncing conservative religionists as “fundamentalists,” itself proof texts a limited number of favored Scriptures to make political points divorced from wider Christian teachings about statecraft.

Schirch’s assumption that global strife and terrorism are the inevitable consequence of American greed and profiteering is a favorite theme for the secular and Religious Left, neither of which accepts traditional Christian understandings of human sinfulness.  Instead, the secular and Religious Left believe people to be innately good but corrupted or provoked to wrath by unjust “systems” that are predictably identified with capitalism, patriarchy, Western Civilization, and especially the United States.   That the American economy is itself the economic engine that helps to uplift tens of millions around the world out of chronic poverty is a point that always escapes them.   That terrorism is primarily a product of often irrational human hatred and base resentment is a possibility that the Religious Left would prefer not to consider.   Combating hatred in human hearts requires spiritual warfare by churches and often material warfare by civil states.

But the Religious Left, divorced from traditional Christianity, has little interest in spiritual warfare, preferring direct political action.  And its pacifism adamantly denies that civil states, especially Western ones, have any recourse to military force.   The NCC’s chief, Michael Kinamon made all of this abundantly clear when he spoke at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days. 

"Christians have a definition of security that is unstated by politicians," Kinamon pronounced, according to the NCC news service. "Security is never won through unilateral defense. The security of one is inseparable from the welfare of others. U.S. security is dependent not on force but on addressing the injustices" that he believes breed resentment and terror.  “Those who guarantee their own security at the expense of others will find they have even less security."  Like Schirch, Kinnamon assumed that the U.S. only employs military force so it can continue to gobble up the world’s goods disproportionately. 

The NCC chief even enthused:  "We're not leftists.  We're much more radical than that."  No doubt he is right.


Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.


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