Thursday, May 16, 2013

Our Double Standard Is Showing (Again)

There was quite an uproar a few days back when President Obama addressed an event for Planned Parenthood and closed his comments with "God bless you", a "blessing" aimed at Planned Parenthood. The uproar was understandable. Planned "Parenthood" is the face of the American abortion industry, a business that is responsible for unimaginable butchery on a daily basis. To invoke God's blessing on their endeavors, even in the throw away manner that politicians typically say "God bless ", is an affront. George Weigel writing for  First Things described it as blasphemy in his essay yesterday, Tribulation Compounded by Blasphemy: 

But there was worse. For President Obama concluded his remarks as follows: “Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you . . .”

And that is nothing short of blasphemy.

Too harsh? No. For in its discussion of this grave sin against the Second Commandment, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 2148) teaches that “it is also blasphemous to make use of God’s name to . . . reduce people to servitude, to torture persons or to put them to death.” That is precisely what happens in Planned Parenthood abortuaries. And on that, the president of the United States called down the divine blessing.

Pray for him. Pray for the United States, which is in very, very serious trouble.

Now I don't put much stock in what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say on a topic but it is interesting that it says that it is blasphemous to use God's name to put people to death. I would agree that invoking God's name in the process of putting people to death is blasphemy (an irony I will leave unexplored for now). To ask for God's blessing on a group that murders children for money on a daily basis is a perversion and gross blasphemy indeed. No issue there but that also raises a sticky question that most Christians in America not only refuse to consider but get awfully mad when someone else does. Many, many Christians and generic religious Americans alike pray loudly and fervently for God to "bless our troops". What is the connection you ask?

We don't say "God bless the troops of every country". No, often Christians in America thank God for our soldiers, the soldiers that "keep us free" and ask God to "bless our troops". A quick Google image search for "God bless our troops" brings up some pretty extensive results as a testimony to the notion that somehow American soldiers are more deserving of blessing and serve in a more righteous capacity than soldiers of other nations. After all America is a "Christian nation" founded on "Judeo-Christian values" so of course our soldiers are carrying out God's will.

If someone were to say "God bless Planned Parenthood" and mean "God bring repentance to those engaged in their bloody work of murder for profit" that would be one thing. Likewise if our desire for God to bless our troops was a call to change hearts and bring repentance that might be something else indeed. However I cannot imagine that is what President Obama meant in his attempt to invoke God's blessings on the mission of Planned Parenthood nor is that what American Christians mean when they pray for God's blessings on "our" troops to prevail over "our" enemies. The blessing in both case is for a blessing on their current efforts to continue and that is problematic.

Just as I cannot divide my loyalty by pledging allegiance to a flag, I cannot pray for God to intercede on behalf of one side of a secular military conflict over another side. I don't see that God calls me to be concerned over a "way of life" or state sponsored "religious liberty" or the various economic, territorial or ego driven reasons we go war. I understand the very substantive difference between the military which has a legitimate secular function even if I don't agree with the policies and a business that makes money from carving up unborn children in the womb. They are not the same but that doesn't change the very real double-standard in play here where we place our loyalties to nation on a pedestal and pray for God to bless the armies of Caesar because we are terrified that we might lose our precious "rights" or have to pay more for gasoline. We have not faced a real threat to America proper since the beginning of the 20th century but those intervening decades are filled with war after war that American Christians have dutifully and often eagerly participated in not just by praying for our troops but by filling the ranks of those troops with our sons. In spite of this, if you dare to ask the question of why God should bless our troops you can be sure that you are in for a hostile response.

The double-standard in our pro-life position is glaring and if you think that the world we are called to reach doesn't see it you are fooling yourself. We pray outside of abortion clinics but cheer when unbelievers die. We talk about loving out enemies on Sunday and pray for God to smite them or at least assist our troops in smiting them on Monday. We worship a Savior executed by the state and have no problem with the state executing others. We speak of the sanctity of human life, especially children, but turn a blind eye to the dead children who are "collateral damage" in American wars. The often hurled charge that American Christians only care about children until they are born is spurious but we seem bent on trying to prove our accusers right. After Kermit Gosnell was convicted of the heinous crimes of which he was accused, some Christians seemed to be tripping over themselves to call for his execution while the majority of the church seemed disinterested once the cause of the day left the headlines. Even while it was going on the church in America was largely silent on the killing in our name of innocents abroad. Out of sight, out of mind I guess and after all when it comes to "national security" you have to break some eggs to make an omelet.

Few things undermine our witness more than hypocrisy and even when it is in our blind spots, the world sees it clear as day. People reject Christ because of the hardness of their unregenerate hearts but they reject "Christianity" because they see our hypocrisy and double-standards, preaching one thing and practicing another. No matter how much we cherish our American identity and the privileges that come along with our worldly citizenship, it pales compared to the holy and eternity impacting mission we are called to. If our loyalty to our land of birth impedes our witness, it is unhealthy and needs to be cut out of the church. If we can rail against President Obama asking for God's blessing on an organization of butchers and do so while driving cars asking for God's blessings on those we send to kill and die on our behalf for secular reasons we shouldn't be surprised at the derision of the world. 

Being pro-life means all life. Loving our enemies means all of our enemies. The commandments of Christ don't change at the borders of America.

1 comment:

Don G said...

I understand the anger felt when Obama makes a statement like this. This is not an endorsement of his beliefs or politics. (I am definitely on the other side of the political fence.) But I also have issue with the judgement that has been placed on his statement. As Christians, are we not to pray for and bless our enemies? While his statement is taken as a blessing on their endeavors (which I would agree is wrong), it is quite an inference (or judgment or assumption) to state without doubt that this is what has been done. Did not Jesus ask forgiveness for those who "knew not what they were doing?" Was that wrong?

"We pray outside abortion clinics but cheer when unbelievers die." We see the President invoking a blessing of God on a people who most assuredly need it, and we chastise him for it. That seems a bit hypocritical too.