The latest installment of the Theocrat Watch focuses on the Rev. Janet Edwards, the PCUSA pastor whose actions and writing have caused her ancestor to posthumously change his name to Jonathan Moskowitz. She’s writing as a panelist at the “On Faith” column at the Washington Post in answer to this question:
In the wake of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s dismissal as chief commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Congress is evaluating our policy and presence there. Is it time for the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan? Do we have a moral responsibility to stay or to leave?
Edwards starts off with a conviction that embodies a perfectly legitimate Christian position:
I know it is silly to expect the United States of America to beat its swords into plowshares, but that does not change my utter conviction that following Jesus requires me to be a pacifist. I take to heart the words of the Psalmist, “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).
I have all the respect in the world for the Christian pacifist who sees her stance as a witness to the ethics of the Kingdom which is not of this world. When I was in seminary I developed a deep admiration for the early Anabaptists such as Menno Simons and Hans Denck, Pilgram Marpeck and Michael Sattler. That’s not the school of Christian pacifism for which Edwards speaks, however.
So what, then, do I, as a Christian, conclude about U.S. military policy and presence in Afghanistan?
The value of care and respect for others is not limited to Christian understanding. We all recognize it as the Golden Rule — that most basic moral guideline that calls on each of us to treat others as we would like to be treated.
Here I believe the moral code that applies to individuals also applies to countries and governments. We, Americans, do not want another nation’s military within our borders, just as the Afghan people have demonstrated again and again that they do not want any foreign military presence lingering within their borders, either.
The idea that the Golden Rule (and any pacifist implications one cares to draw from it) also applies to nation-states and their governments is, shall we say, novel. The Anabaptists would have thought such an idea bizarre, and there’s certainly no New Testament evidence for it (it would certainly make it difficult for the state to “bear the sword,” as Paul puts it in Romans 13, wouldn’t it?). And her assertion that “the Afghan people have demonstrated again and again that they do not want any foreign military presence lingering within their borders” is just that, an assertion. I don’t doubt that there are many Afghans–lots of them supporters of the Taliban and its reign of terror–who would like U.S. military forces to leave. I also don’t doubt that there are many–including many, many women–who would rather that they stay, if the alternative is for the Taliban to return to power. In any event, Edwards is simply projecting her own politics on to the Afghans.
And so, whatever name it goes by — loving your neighbor, or the Golden Rule — the moral responsibility is the same. Reflect on how we would like other nations to treat us. And listen to what the Afghan people are saying.
Love is our moral responsibility to Afghanistan. Loving means our military leaves.
The idea that “love” should be the defining characteristic of any government’s foreign policy is also bizarre. Governments don’t engage in self-sacrifice, and they don’t normally put the interests of foreigners ahead of the interests of their own people. Genuine love is a characteristic that defines a regenerate believer, and the idea that it would define the public policy of an institution made up largely by non-believers is ridiculous. Edwards also doesn’t come to grips with the question, is the loving thing to do to the Afghan people to allow them to fall once again under the domination of the Taliban and its al-Qaeda allies? Instead, she again simply asserts that her conclusions are self-evident. I genuinely don’t know whether continuing American participation in military operations in Afghanistan is a good idea or not–but Edwards’ nationalized pacifism, and its easy answers to hard moral questions, isn’t going to provide much guidance.
Here’s the point I most want to make: what Edwards (along with other politicized pacifists such as those at the American Friends Service Committee) want to do is apply what they see as the pacifist principles of Christianity to American public policy. In other words, they want to impose the view of a small minority within what has become a minority faith within our country on the non-Christian majority as well as the non-pacifist majority of Christians. Is that not the very definition of a theocrat, according to the religious left, at least when it is speaking of anyone with conservative political convictions?