Citizen Soldier [Sexualotry]

In a comment on a previous post, Abigail made the astute observation that sin and brutality have always been a part of life in this fallen world. This is a great observation, and one that we should definitely keep in mind.

However, as I noted there (and Abigail agreed), Western Civilization has been remarkably blessed by God in specific, tangible ways, not because Western sinners are less evil than others, but because by God’s grace Western Civilization soaked in the gospel for a thousand years or so. When society takes that kind of bath, it can’t help but come out a little cleaner than before.

Now, when people make claims like that (gospel-saturation has borne positive culture-wide fruit in the West), the first thing that we should ask for is some evidence. “Prove it,” as they say.

So here’s on piece of evidence: throughout most of history, those individuals (predominantly men) who have served in the military have not been noted for their chivalry and honor. In fact, the opposite is often the case.

When the Bible records that a certain Roman centurion loved the subjugated Jews and built them a synagogue (Luke 7:4-5), we are supposed to be surprised. “A centurion did what now?!?” Likewise, the story of Cornelius is meant to stretch our categories just a bit (Acts 10). Parts of the Sermon on the Mount seem to be designed to help followers of Christ deal with oppressive military grunts who would take advantage of the fact that they were licensed to use the sword (Matthew 5:40-41).

And it doesn’t stop with the Bible.

The Third Amendment to the US Constitution strictly prohibits the practice of quartering soldiers in people’s homes without their consent. When citizens were forced to house soldiers in their homes, the soldiers often failed to behave as civilized guests (to say the least).

During the Civil War, Union commanders like John Pope, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Phil Sheridan waged “total war” on their fellow countrymen in the South.

More recently, U.N. peacekeepers have been known to sexually assault refugees in Africa.

Examples could be multiplied of militaries and militias that assault and terrorize peaceful citizens in countries around the world. It’s this fact that makes videos like the one below so remarkable.

Now I have friends in the military; I know that our military has its share of thugs and perverts, as fiascos like Abu Ghraib remind us. However, on the whole, the American people do not fear our military. In many places in the world, if soldiers show up, it’s cause for terror. As the video shows, in the US it’s a cause for relief.

This is a precious reality and a remarkable gift, and one that didn’t come from nowhere. A civilized and chivalrous military that protects rather than exploits doesn’t just happen. And Christians of all people ought to know Whom we have to thank for that.

We Keep Sowing, But Nothing Ever Grows Around Here [Religion of the State]

Let’s talk about the Middle East for just a moment. One of the stated goals of the Bush Administration for the past few years in the Middle East is the promotion of American-style democracy. This is seen most clearly in Iraq, where purple-fingers marked the first democratic elections in that country since Saddam took power. At the time, those purple-fingers were seen as a sign of progress and a signal that we were succeeding in spreading liberal democracy in a Muslim country.

Two of the reasons (among many) that this project is doomed to fail in the Middle East are a) the United States was originally conceived as a republic and not a democracy, and b) as my grandfather says, “There are no Thomas Jefferson’s over there.” Now, obviously I think Jefferson got some fairly significant things wrong (taking scissors to your Bible is never a good idea). But caveats aside, the point remains.

“But surely you don’t mean to suggest that Washingtons, Jeffersons, Madisons, and Adams are required in order to have a successful democratic government!”

This is what I’m suggesting, and more. I want to suggest that the Founders of this country, in establishing what has proven to be a fairly successful form of representative government, were standing on the shoulders of those who came before them. And it just so happens that those who came before them were Puritans who were up to their eyeballs in the gospel (see Edwards, Jonathan).

The fact that the Middle East doesn’t have a (recent) Christian history is one of the main reasons that any democracies established over there will simply be short-term transitions to totalitarian states. You can’t simply plant the fruit of representative democracy in the soil of totalitarian religion and get anything other than totalitarian democracy, that is, democratically-elected tyrants. Just look at the Palestinians. During their first elections in 2006, they chose Hamas to rule.

Free and open societies, complete with free markets and responsible and limited government, don’t just appear out of nowhere. They come from somewhere. They are the fruit of something. And until the seeds of that something are sown, we’re just farmers sowing seedless oranges wondering why nothing ever grows around here.

Because a Camel Without A Hump Is Just A Funny-Looking Horse [Wisdom from G.K.]

The moment you step in the world of facts, you step into a world of limits. You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature. You may, if you like, free a tiger from his bars; but do not free him from his stripes. Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump: you may be freeing him from being a camel. Do not go about as a demagogue, encouraging triangles to break out of the prison of their three sides. If a triangle breaks out of its three sides, its life comes to a lamentable end.
–G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (p. 32)

Modest Mathematicians [Wisdom from G.K.]

But what we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a ma that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert–himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt–the Divine Reason…We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.
–G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (pp.23-24)