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Perverting Peace By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, September 04, 2009


Having actually to remember 9-11 is rough for the pacifist Religious Left because it prefers not to acknowledge any violent, evil force not connected with the United States.  So alternative commemorations have to be contrived.

Self professed Christian monastic pacifist Shane Claiborne of the Simple Way Community in Philadelphia, writing for Jim Wallis's Sojourners, suggests remembering 9-11 by donating to Christian Peacemaking Teams (CPT).  Claiborne himself served with one of CPT's most infamous crusades, when it sojourned in Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 2003 to discourage U.S.-led coalition forces from overthrowing that despotic regime.

"We lament the violence suffered by 9/11 victims and their families," Claiborne recently penned.  "And we lament the violence that people in Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered these past eight years. We cry out against the violence, and we want to act now for peace."  Note the religious pacifist's moral equation.  The U.S. suffered "violence" on 9-11.  And Iraq and Afghanistan suffered "violence" at the hands of the U.S. ever since then. 

Of course, the "violence" in Iraq began well before the U.S. led liberation in 2003.  Saddam's regime had been waging war against its own people for more than 20 years, killing perhaps more than 1 million Iraqis, terrorizing, torturing, and starving many millions more.   The same is true for Afghanistan, where the Taliban had literally and figuratively gagged and bound a whole nation under its brutal Islamist rage across much of the decade before 2001, while also nursing al Qaeda.  But for the pacifist Religious Left, "violence" not originating with the U.S. is not of primary concern.

In Claiborne's somewhat unique brand of anti-American, far-left neo-Mennonite fervor, he portrays the United States as the figurative Whore of Babylon, or reborn Roman Empire, against which the Bible's Book of Revelation inveighs for trying to "slaughter God's love in the world."  Claiborne is very much against "empire," but mostly only if it originates from Washington, D.C.  Aspects of oppressive and violent "empire" emanating from, say, the late Saddam Hussein or, more currently, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, do not seem to particularly interest him.       

While in Iraq in 2003 with CPT, Claiborne did not seem to defend the Iraqis from the depredations of their own murderous dictator.  Instead,  he saw their only victimizer as America.  He even composed a ditty after CBS News asked if he was a traitor:  "If this bloody, counterfeit liberation is American ... I am proud to be un-American. If depleted uranium is American ... I am proud to be un-American. If the imposed 'peace' of Pax Americana is American, I am proud to be un-American."  

CPT was started in 1984 by "peace" churches such as the Quakers, Brethren and Mennonites to "get in the way" of "violence."  But the "violence" that arouses CPT's ire is fairly selective.  Currently, CPT is apparently still in Iraq, monitoring potential misdeeds by U.S. forces, especially detainee "abuse."  Naturally CPT is also on the West Bank, guarding Palestinians from Israeli aggression. It also operates in Chiapas, Mexico to protect Zapatistas from the Mexican Army, and in Colombia, to ostensibly protect Colombians from their army.  In short, CPT only targets pro-Western democratic regimes as human rights abusers.  CPT is evidently not in Sudan, protecting southern Sudanese Christians, or Darfurian Muslims, from the Islamist Khartoum regime.  Perhaps if the U.S. were threatening the Sudanese tyranny, CPT would quickly deploy there to "protect" Sudan

Evidently CPT was founded in the wake of a 1984 appeal to the Mennonite World Conference by Christian pacifist Ron Sider, now head of Evangelicals for Social Action.  He condemned the "competing self-righteous ideologies of the United States and the Soviet Union" as they "trample arrogantly on the people's dreams for justice and freedom in Central America and Afghanistan, the Philippines and Poland."  Such moral discernment!

Traditionally, the Mennonite/peace church tradition has insisted on pacifism only for its own adherents, without denouncing the state, or Christians who support it.  But Sider, speaking for much of the modern pacifist Religious Left, condemned the traditionalists for their "isolationist pacifism."  He insisted:  "If pacifism is not God's will for all Christians, then it is not God's will for any."  And he implored the true believers to march to the "front lines of nonviolent peacemaking."

CPT was born to become what Sider envisioned as a "sophisticated, highly trained nonviolent peacekeeping force" of potentially 100,000 pacifists who would "stand peacefully between warring parties" and be "prepared to die by the thousands."  Seemingly CPT has fallen short of such grand numbers, both in participants, and martyrs.  But it has steadfastly retained the anti-American, anti-Western bias of which Sider dreamed.  

As Claiborne enthused in his recent Sojourners column:  "CPT has been interrupting injustice and respectfully partnering with local nonviolent movements in some of the toughest corners on the planet for years," radiating "courage and imagination" in a "world riddled with terror and smart bombs," citing his own personal Iraq experience. 

So Claiborne invites the true pacifist believers to their own "9-11 Campaign" in which they donate $911 to CPT.  "We're praying for the church to stand behind them every bit as much as taxpayers stand behind the U.S. Army," he concluded.  "May God continue to give us the courage to get in the way of injustice and to interrupt evil with grace."

Despite all the big talk of 25 years ago from Sider, and the more recent ballyhooing from Claiborne, CPT has hardly become the anticipated army of martyrs sacrificing themselves at the temple of global harmony.  Instead, it is mostly cranky, self-righteous, left-wing, and hypocritical. Most of the U.S. Army, even in service to the so-called dreaded "empire," better exemplifies nobility and self-sacrifice than the angry neo-Mennonites who claim to represent the Almighty. The victims of 9-11 deserve, and will get from most Christians, better remembrance than a donation to CPT.      


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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