William T. Cavanaugh and American Exceptionalism

Last Saturday night, Amy and I went to hear the final plenary lecture in a PTS conference on Torture and Theology by William Cavanaugh, author of two incredible works of theology: Torture and Eucharist and Theopolitical Imagination. As soon as I get a hold of an audio copy of the lecture, I will offer it to those who are interested. I cannot recommend his works highly enough. You do not have to be a politics buff to enjoy his writings; in fact, they are more geared towards theologians of the church and the sacraments. Cavanaugh's gift to theology, like Johann Baptist Metz before him, is to reveal the profound connections between worship and politics, between God and the world. (Another book in dialogue with Metz and Alexander Schmemann that I recommend is Anamnesis as Dangerous Memory: Political and Liturgical Theology in Dialogue by Bruce T. Morrill.)

The point of Cavanaugh's visit to this conference was to connect the themes and topics in Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ to the present-day issues of torture that have become especially relevant for Americans in light of Abu Ghraib. One should also have a look at Mark Danner's book to help illuminate the context of American torture and the war in Iraq. The beauty of Torture and Eucharist is how amazingly prescient Cavanaugh was in 1998, when the book was published. At the time, he dealt with Chile and the disintegration of a democratic government under General Pinochet. For a brief introduction to the book, I recommend my friend Halden's review found at the Amazon.com listing for the book. One of the most profound insights central to Cavanaugh's theology is that in Chile, the Catholic church became content with having jurisdiction over people's "souls," while handing over their "bodies" to the state. The church became the "soul" of society, while the nation-state was its "body." This dichotomy between body and soul infects Christianity around the world, and it is Cavanaugh's prophetic contention that the Eucharist provides a necessary and profound way out of this mess by emphasizing the unity of visible and invisible in the body and blood of Jesus. By partaking of the wafer and wine, we are joined in fellowship spatially and temporally to all Christians, alive and dead. In Theopolitical Imagination, Cavanaugh writes beautifully: "The whole Catholic Church is qualitatively present in the local assembly, because the whole Body of Christ is present there. Catholic space, therefore, is not a simple, universal space uniting individuals directly to a whole; the Eucharist refracts space in such a way that one becomes more united to the whole the more tied one becomes to the local." Thus, he writes, in the Eucharist we have "the world in a wafer." But we, the catholic church, are joined most centrally to the person of Jesus Christ -- the Tortured One who died on our behalf, in our place, for those who are themselves tortured.

In the lecture on Saturday, Cavanaugh made the important move of situating these reflections in the context of the American political situation under the Bush administration. More importantly, though, he emphasized that the travesties under Bush are no exception. In fact, what we see today is simply part of the logic of the nation-state from its origin. There is nothing uniquely "bad" or (as repcon evangelicals might say) uniquely "good" about what has happened under Bush; it is simply par for the course. Cavanaugh addresses this on two levels: the need for enemies and American exceptionalism. I can only give abbreviated versions of his argument, so I apologize if there are aspects which remain unclear.

(1) It is fundamental to the nature of the nation-state to have enemies. Without enemies, the state cannot and does not exist. Cavanaugh makes this point thoroughly by quoting an array of politicians and political scientists. The point is that torture is rarely used to extract valuable information for the protection of citizens. This propagandistic lie of national governments is part of the political tactic used to convince citizens that atrocious violations of human rights are necessary for their safety. The reality is that, both in Chile and the United States, torture is almost never used for this purpose. Rather, torture is part of the anti-liturgical ritual of the nation-state to force individuals to perform prescribed "roles" that conform to the demands of those in power. The primary roles is that of enemy, and specifically the enemy guilty of attempting to undermine the purity and safety of the country in power (aka USA).

(2) Secondly, and more importantly, the current American political situation is fraught with the propaganda (from both the Left and the Right; Cavanaugh is no respecter of parties) that Americans live in an exceptional country, in an exceptional time, fighting an exceptional enemy in an exceptional war, requiring the use of exceptional tactics. All of these are lies of the nation-state. The common element is American exceptionalism: the view that we are a superior nation of superior people. The lie about Sept. 11 is that Americans were just "minding their own business" when suddenly these wackos out of nowhere flew planes into NY and Washington. Such a faulty mindset presupposes this primal Original Sinlessness on the part of America. There are two versions of American exceptionalism regarding war tactics: one says that the U.S. has never engaged in acts of torture and thus we are the morally superior nation (John McCain's position); the other says that we must engage in acts of torture because we are a nation that is above the law and has the right to do whatever is necessary to protect its citizens. Cavanaugh shows how Bush has managed to take both positions, even at the same time.

I'll end my summary here, except to mention one final argument in the paper dealing with the church. The Catholic church declared the war in Iraq to be unjust (it did not meet the requirements of the Just War theory by any means -- and why would it matter if we are exceptional, and thus the exception?), and yet as Cavanaugh makes clear, the church's declaration had absolutely no effect on the participation of Catholics in the military. It is a perfect example of how the average Christian has divided the body and the soul: the church claims people's inner lives, but the body belongs to George W. Bush. More troubling is the fact that evangelicals were almost unianimous in their promotion of the war effort. Another example of the evangelical capitulation to party lines.

After Cavanaugh spoke, there was a response from evangelical David Gushee from Union University in Jackson, TN. His response: 100% agreement. There was much applause. In fact, Gushee is the first evangelical to speak out openly and unequivocally against the Bush administration's involvement in torture. He wrote an article outlining this denunciation of torture that will be published in the Feb. edition of Christianity Today, the flagship publication of American evangelicals. In his response to Cavanaugh, Gushee said that he believes there is an exact, point-for-point parallel between the Catholic church in Chile under Pinochet and the evangelical church in America under Bush (even if there is a significant difference between Bush and Pinochet, both as leaders and in the forms of government). All of this is to say, the silence about torture from evangelicals has effectively ended. The question, of course, remains whether or not the majority of evangelicals will actually listen to Gushee, or whether they will immediately peg him as a "leftist" who does not speak for them. Gushee speaks the language of evangelicals very well, so rather than placing the church in critical opposition to the state (as Cavanaugh does), he speaks in terms reminiscent of another Catholic writer, G.K. Chesterton, by saying the opposition to torture is a critical way of loving this nation. Gushee thus appeals to evangelical patriotism by advocating criticism. Of course, in the end, the best position is to not be patriotic or nationalistic at all, but to be wholly and solely Christ's.

This brings me to the fundamental point in Cavanaugh's books and his lecture on Saturday: The problem with American Christians is that they see themselves first as Americans, and only second as Christians. What the church must advocate from the archbishop to the country pastor is precisely the opposite: we belong to God, and God does not belong or align God's self to any nation-state or political party. God does not claim our "souls" only, but our whole selves, because God knows of no division between body and soul. In closing, I quote from Luke 14:
Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple."
And, I would add, even hate his or her own country. I pray the day will come when even evangelicals will be able to say that together in unity.


I need to mention that if you go to Gushee's website, in the top right-hand corner you can download a Word file of his full article against torture. I heartily recommend that everyone do this.
Shane said…
a great article david, thanks

Douglas said…
"The Catholic church declared the war in Iraq to be unjust (it did not meet the requirements of the Just War theory by any means), and yet as Cavanaugh makes clear, the church's declaration had absolutely no effect on the participation of Catholics in the military. It is a perfect example of how the average Christian has divided the body and the soul: the church claims people's inner lives, but the body belongs to George W. Bush."

The US Supreme Court ruled a a while back that in order to be a conscientious objector and not fight in a war, one had to oppose all war. This effectively leaves little room for people who believe in just war theory to not participate in specific wars, except by avoiding the military altogether.

Also, the Catholic Church can set the guidelines for just war and specific people in the Church may condemn a given war, but Church teaching also leaves the decision making in the hands of the state. Church leaders will never have all the information necessary to make these decisions, nor should they be making them. They only proclaim the gospel truth of Christ that is supposed to guide peoples lives.

Why can't the "gospel truth of Christ" actually proclaim the unjustness of a nation's political actions, and thus "guide people's lives"? Church teaching may traditionally leave "decision making in the hands of the state," but the question Christians must ask is: Should the church leave decisions to the state?

It seems to me that you are following right along with the dichotomy between body and soul. The church should proclaim the "soulful" gospel, while bodily decisions should be left to the state. Is that what you are advocating? What place then do you give the church to actually make ethical demands of the people of God? Is the church reduced to speaking of moral acts of charity, as long as our worship doesn't interfere or subvert society at large? Is not the Eucharist itself highly subversive in that it physically proclaims our allegiance to Christ above all other potential claimants to authority? Is not this the very thing that produced martyrs in the early church? And if the U.S. is indeed becoming what many people feel is the next "Roman empire," should not the church bolster itself as an enemy to all worldly authority and power, proclaiming full allegiance to the Triune God alone? Is not this in fact the true Gospel?
Douglas said…

I'm not saying that one shouldn't give serious consideration to warnings that bishops give. However, there needs to be an acknowledgement that there is room for difference here among brethren. Personally, especially in light of the post-war revelations about questionable intelligence, I would say that the war in Iraq was not justified.

That said I'm not going to bash those who disagree as simplistic or naive. There are good arguments on both sides. I personally think there are far better arguments against the war, but this is an area where there can be a legitimate difference of opinion. Perhaps this is not acknowledged in academia, but among the less vain it is more common to acknowledge that others may be correct.

I hope you don't take that as a pesonal insult. It is simply a generalization that I've found quite apt in my experiences at various universities.

No insult taken in the least. I wasn't really talking to you necessarily. I'm just channeling Cavanaugh in my own words, because I think he has a good point to make: can the church call the body of Christ to resist the social demands of the nation-state? Obviously there are always going to be individual differences of opinion, but the reality which we are dealing with here is that people see themselves as Americans first, not as Christians. What might happen if this were reversed? And what might happen if churches actually spoke and dialogued about political issues as part of their ecclesial life? Isn't it true (and sad) that the sermons and homilies are almost always about purely spiritual matters that leave the physical-political realm entirely untouched? That's the real problem, in my opinion, regardless of the final verdict on the war, or any war.

I really like the Catholic church because of its catholicity and global nature -- same goes for the Anglican Communion, and (in a different way) the Orthodox Church. But I wonder if the Catholic Church simply has an identity crisis right now. Their structure and leadership has remained the same since Christendom, but they are no longer political rulers or advisors as they once were. I wonder if the Church has retreated into the spiritual realm far too much, and along with them, most every other Christian denomination. This is something that deserves to be addressed.
bcongdon said…
You lose credibility with me when the only example of torture you can think of is Abu Ghraib. I just read my latest issue of "Voice of the Martyrs" magazine. They include photos of tortured Christians in China and Malaysia that are much more wrenching than people wearing undies on their heads.

By no means is Abu Ghraib the only example. That was simply the only one I knew how to spell and could count on others knowing about through the news. The evidence is that America has been using tortore consistently for over 50 years, if not much longer.

Cavanaugh quoted the Red Cross's research, which showed that over 120 of the world's countries actively and regularly engage in torture practices. So America is by no means alone. Nor are they the worst, of course. Magazines like the one you mentioned are doing us a good service by making that explicit. What they are missing is that the use of torture by these foreign governments is not an ad hoc practice against Christians; it is a systematic aspect of their nature as nation-states. The same goes for the United States.
bcongdon said…
I think you just said that the only way to get rid of torture is to get rid of nation-states.
Yes and no. We are never going to live in a world without torture as long as nation-states exist. BUT Christians can and must fight for a world in which torture is not a reality. That begins by challenging and even opposing those who support torture for the sake of the "greater good," and in so doing lose their own humanity, as David Gushee argues. Gushee, for that matter, is somebody evangelical Christians need to listen to, because he has their love for America but he is disgusted with some of the political practices that are taken for granted. His love for this country has pushed him to criticize it openly as a Christian. Cavanaugh is doing the same thing, but he will never be listened to by evangelicals because he is a Catholic. It's time Christians of every denomination stop looking the other way.
bcongdon said…
"We are never going to live in a world without torture as long as nation-states exist. BUT Christians can and must fight for a world in which torture is not a reality."

Ergo, (following the logic of statements #1 and #2 above) "Christians can and must fight for the end of nation-states."


A disingenuous reading of my statements doesn't move us anywhere. But I will continue to indulge your comments in the hope that you will accept the larger logic: that torture is evil and Christians ought to oppose evil whenever and wherever it exists, even if that means evangelicals have to break with their party loyalties.

Here's the logic that you missed. Fighting against torture only means fighting for the end of nation-states if nation-states are ONLY constituted by torture. But clearly that is not the case. Christians can and must do whatever they can to create a more just and true society, one that does not idolize power and wealth, but rather sees the inherent worth of human beings and all of creation.

That said, Christians must never be attached to nation-states, since nations are not part of the eschaton -- only the kingdom of God is, meaning the Church. Hence, whenever we look the other way, whenever we sanction a nation's evil actions by refusing to challenge those in power, we assert our love for this world, for our nation, over our love for God. And that is sin.
bcongdon said…
Thanks. I was probing to see if you had a basically preterist eschatology; i.e., that we are making and can expect some level of utopia here and now. Because you accept (it appears) that the millennium is not attainable in this age, then I am interested in pursuing your unusually pointed criticism of the United States. Simply, what nation-state would you prefer to live in at this time?

You've completely misunderstood what I was saying. I am speaking fundamentally about the church, not about nation-states. Let me explain.

Evangelicals (and not only evangelicals!) have largely forgotten that Christianity, in its origin and at its heart, is the first and perhaps the only religion to ever set itself in direct opposition to human governments. Up until that point in time, and even afterwards, religions were directly identifiable with the nation in which it arose. That is, the various nation-states were the spheres in which people understood the relation between the divine and the human. But all of this was overturned by the person of Jesus. And Christians today unknowingly hold on to this subversive seed in Christianity whenever they say "Jesus is Lord." By calling Jesus, "Lord," a Christian denies lordship to any other person or figure. In early Christianity, this meant death, since Caesar was the lord over his subjects. The loss of this word in the socio-political vernacular has meant the loss of this subversive element in Christian worship -- a great loss indeed.

The point of this is that the Christian faith stands in direct opposition to any association of faith (or theology) with ideology. The marriage of religion and ideology results in fundamentalism, as it is understood today. Thus, Hitler was a fundamentalist, as was Mao, Mussolini, Pot, and bin Laden. But these are simply the most extravagant and noteworthy examples, the ones that had the power to do something. Whenever anyone justifies and supports their political ideological views with divine arguments from the faith, fundamentalism results. Thus, the German liberal protestants of the 19th century were fundamentalists in that they gave religious sanction to WWI, resulting in Karl Barth's strenuous rejection of their theology. Barth's reaction is thus the reaction of people like Cavanaugh, Gushee, and me, who see in American evangelicalism a fundamentalism of a very pernicious kind: the religious sanctioning of conservative Republicanism, to the point of ignoring violations of basic human rights.

The point is: fundamentalism is as much a problem for Christians as it is for Muslims, Jews, et al. The failure to identify and condemn this religious justification of social ideologies is a root of our modern predicament.

The role, then, of the church must be, if it is to remain faithful to the gospel that proclaims Jesus as Lord, to openly condemn religious ideologies as sin, as forms of human idolatry in which we worship ourselves (our own ideas) rather than the God who demands our total allegiance. Consequently, the church stands on its own; it cannot be identified as the "American church" or the "Russian church" or the "Mexican church" without some violation of its true nature. Here I enter into a clear criticism of Christianity's past. The faith established by Jesus was "messed up" (to speak colloquially) by Constantine. The formation of a "state church" was a deep perversion of Christianity's character and a clear violation of Christianity's allegiance to Christ alone. Thus, as Miroslav Volf recognizes, Christians should be thankful that we lie in an age that separates church from the state, because this places the church in a more proper relationship to society. It is the fault (the very big fault) of Christian fundamentalists/evangelicals (fundagelicals, if you wish) to seek a complete alignment of American politics with their notion of Christianity. Fundagelicals are the true heirs of medieval Catholicism in that they are attempting to revive Christendom in our modern American context.

So where do I want to live? That doesn't matter at all. I am at home in any place and a stranger in every place -- such was the saying of an early 2nd century Christian, paraphrased of course. The point is that as part of the Church, I am not loyal to any nation-state. My identity lies elsewhere. Therein lies the main criticism of Cavanaugh (with Gushee in agreement): that most Christians in the U.S. see themselves as Americans first, and as Christians second. It should be the opposite at the very least.

However, as Christians, as the body of Christ, we cannot and must not take the stance of dispensational fundamentalists who, in their faulty eschatology, simply thrust off any concern for this world in the hope of Christ's imminent return and the replacement of creation with heaven. As the body of Christ, we are to love and care for this world, not because we believe like those in the era of the French Revolution, that utopia is a human possibility. Clearly, it is not. But the kingdom of God is not a trans-temporal, extra-worldly entity that we simply wait for God to realize. No! We are the kingdom of God here and now, and it is this world and this creation which will be redeemed when all things are made new. As a result, Christians have a stake in this world, in this planet, in these human societies. We are responsible for being peacemakers, for being caretakers of the environment, and for spreading the "message of the cross" to all persons and nations.

Christianity is not anti-political, but it most definitely cannot be nationalistic, patriotic, or ideological. Christians, in their allegiance to Jesus Christ, must feed of the poor, care for those with AIDS and other diseases, tend the earth, work towards reconciliation between persons and nations, fight against economic and political abuses, pursue social equality, defend the defenseless, recognize those unloved by society as loved by God, and all the while speak and act as representatives of Christ. The difficulty of fulfilling this mission is that the church can never identify itself with any party or nation. At the same time a Christian stands against abortion, she also stands against the marginalization of the poor and the hegemony of big industries and political powers both domestic and abroad. In pursuing this mission, the church would truly be a community of aliens and strangers. To the extent that Christians desire complete assimilation into culture, they pervert the faith.

And yet -- here I emphasize the yet -- the church is not anti-culture, anti-world, etc., for all the reasons I already mentioned. The church exists in this dialectic between "in the world" and "not of the world" while always loving the world (Jn. 3:16). The church is always "for the world," being being for something may mean radically criticizing it. In being "for us" (pro nobis), God in the person of Jesus Christ radically condemned our sinfulness. But in love, God condemned our sin on the cross, in the death and resurrection of Jesus. As followers of Jesus, the church must also willingly die on behalf of others in the pursuit of justice and peace on earth. In this way we will truly be the body of Christ.
bcongdon said…
Beautifully stated. I wish it were so simple to be "non-political" or "outside politics" and at the same time be radically involved in social change. But in fact all the social changes you mention are deeply political, too.

There is nothing more political than how you go about changing society to "feed the poor, care for those with AIDS and other diseases, tend the earth, work towards reconciliation between persons and nations, fight against economic and political abuses, pursue social equality," etc. If you were advocating doing these things outside the political realm with your own resources (such as George Mueller's orphanages) then I would be totally behind you. But you have always advocated fighting political battles (such as pro-gay-marriage laws) to pursue these goals.

Methinks you dislike how conservative Republicans are going about changing society to do all these things, and you support how liberal Democrats are going about changing society to do all these things. And like a lot of liberal Democrats, you don't like that label.

For example, a conservative Republican would see that condom distribution encourages behaviors that cause AIDS and increases the incidence of AIDS wherever that political solution is tried, so they propose a different political solution we might call "tough love" which says we will do everything to discourage the behaviors that lead to your early death; we will encourage abstinence outside marriage. In your mind, the conservative Republican is being "fundagelical" and is dirty with politics, while your solution of handing out condoms (which you have recommended in an earlier blog entry) that are paid for with my tax dollars is somehow not dirty
with politics and is suprapolitical. I say you won't get anywhere with that ivory tower perspective.

For another example, what's the best way to "feed the poor"? Well, by giving them food. Everyone should follow the Biblical exhortation to do that. But if you have grandiose ideas of solving poverty, is the best way to do that to grow the welfare state using wealth redistribution? Now you're getting into politics. You, I believe, would say yes, let's grow the welfare state, because that is showing "compassion". A conservative Republican would say, no, you will actually reduce poverty if you reduce redistribution payments and if you shrink the welfare bureaucracy. And the conservative view in this case has been proven conclusively correct in the years since Clinton signed the welfare reform bill.

To demonize the fundagelicals is to ignore the fact that in a head-to-head comparison between their politics and your politics, theirs does a better job dealing with the practical need to "feed the poor, care for those with AIDS and other diseases, tend the earth, work towards reconciliation between persons and nations, fight against economic and political abuses, pursue social equality," etc.

And I think that blindness on your part can be illustrated most clearly in this statement from your earlier post... "Christians can and must do whatever they can to create a more just and true society, one that does not idolize power and wealth, but rather sees the inherent worth of human beings and all of creation."

How can you ever expect fallen, lost, unsaved, depraved human beings to "not idolize power and wealth"? Liberal Democrats seem to think that they can change human nature just by tweaking a few laws (civil rights, gay marriage, health care, education). Conservative Republicans recognize that human nature is flawed beyond human repair, and so instead of trying to "fix" human greed and selfishness, we accept and work with the mess we're given, by limiting the power of government and having checks and balances and reducing taxes and thus restricting
how much one person can control another. The proof is in the pudding. This philosophy (of our founders and now best heard among the conservatives) has produced the nation-state with the best record in human history of minimizing the horrendous effects of flawed human nature. Hence my question of which nation-state you would prefer to live under.

Here's the answer. If you want a society that does not idolize power and wealth, you will NOT get it with a political solution (whether you call it political or not). You will get it by introducing your neighbor to Jesus Christ. It is only when people are changed by Jesus that they can, with the power of the Holy Spirit, be truly agape-loving with their own time and money and strength. Introducing your neighbor to Jesus is the one truly subversive and revolutionary thing any of us can do that makes a difference. And maybe on that we agree.


Maybe you missed this statement of mine: "Christianity is not anti-political, but it most definitely cannot be nationalistic, patriotic, or ideological." I never said that Christians are supra-political, or somehow work outside of the social institutions within which we live.

However, you make the faulty assumption throughout that I am simply equating Christian ethics with liberal politics. How wrong you are! Here's a relevant quote:

"If you were advocating doing these things outside the political realm with your own resources (such as George Mueller's orphanages) then I would be totally behind you. But you have always advocated fighting political battles (such as pro-gay-marriage laws) to pursue these goals."

I "have always advocated fighting political battles"? Hmm, it appears you are blinded by your disgust of liberal politics. First of all, I never advocated pro-gay-marriage laws. What I said is that such laws should not be opposed by Christians on religious grounds, and that even on social grounds, such laws would do nothing to disintegrate American society. I think far more disintegration has been done by people like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson.

I disagree with your politics. That's fine. We can disagree on that. But what we cannot disagree on, at least what we should not disagree on, is that the church is a separation institution from any state program or partisan ideology. Now I stated as much numerous times in my post. You countered by saying that I am naive in thinking that the church can be supra-political. But that's not what I said. I just said the church is supra-national, or supra-party politics. I think you illustrate well what the problem is with fundagelicals in America: they cannot conceive of politics that is neither Republican nor Democratic. My suggestion -- no, my ultimatum -- is that Christians realize that the church's socio-political presence has nothing to do with the nation-state's political environment. If we feed the poor, it's not because we advocate a welfare state (something I've never advocated, by the way), nor does it mean we advocate some trickle-down theory of economics (something I have never advocated either). Feeding the poor is simply the self-evident thing to do as a Christian. We may refuse to do, ignore the problem, or appease our consciences by voting instead, but the command by God is in no way lessened.

Brad, you are under the impression that I think like Jim Wallis, who equates Christian ethics with Democratic ideologies. In the end, I may think Wallis is far more right than any of his conservative evangelical opponents, but it does not mean I accept or validate his approach. The mere fact that "American evangelicalism" is more or less synonymous with conservative politics is a huge problem; it demonstrates clearly that evangelicals, by and large, have not thought through what the Gospel demands of Christians or what Christianity has to do with politics. I accept the fact that some fundagelicals, such as you, believe that your political position is the best one, but you have to accept the fact that a high majority of evangelicals blindly equate their faith with Republicanism. You may think that is the right decision, but in the end you cannot accept a blind equation of those two positions as in any way intelligent or responsible.

The issue of torture is a perfect example of how blind the evangelical community really is. As is the Iraq war situation in the first place. Prior to 9/11, most evangelicals (except for the crazy ones, like Pat Robertson) would agree that a war needs to be "just" in order for a country to fight in it. Hence, WWII was just, because we were attacked first, blah blah blah. But what does Bush do? He says we have a reasonable concern that Iraq is plotting against us, thus we should attack them preemptively. The Catholic Church was right on the money when they said this was completely "unjust." It absolutely was. But what do evangelicals in America do? Almost unanimously they approve of Bush's actions. Why? Because they saw (and see) themselves as Americans first and as responsible Christians second. As Americans, they accepted the president's language of fear and emergency; they took his bait and said "yes" and "amen" to anything he did. So did most Democrats, too, for that matter.

A couple years later, everyone realized that they were fooled. But evangelicals just let him off the hook, saying, "Well, he had good intentions. He truly meant what he said originally." Did he? Or are you just giving Bush the benefit of the doubt? Hmm. The answer is rather obvious.

Now we have clear abuses all over the place -- NSA spying, torture camps all around the world, the U.S. shipping suspects to countries where torture is not illegal, etc etc. Do any evangelicals speak out? Nope. Not until this month when David Gushee's article appeared in Christianity Today, condemning American policies. His voice, unfortunately, is a lone voice in the choir of evangelicals. The rest of them are either staying quiet to appear busy with other matters (like opposing abortion and gay marriage), while the crazy ones are urging the president to do worse acts of violence (such as assassinate world leaders). Is there any way in heaven or on earth that you, as a self-proclaimed fundagelical, can agree with Pat Robertson's views on U.S. foreign policy? If you can, then I believe you step outside the sphere of what it means to be Christian. If you cannot, then where do you draw the line? At what point do you challenge Republican policies? Where does Christianity begin and the partisan politics end?

Here's the kicker, in my opinion. Republican politics rests on this one principle: self-protection. This single principle undergirds everything that Bush has advocated, including the most recent decision to increase the Pentagon's budget and cut social programs. Christian politics rests on this principle: love your neighbor as yourself. Is there a disconnect? I believe there is. If Jesus were walking with us today, I believe he would turn to fundagelicals and say, "I never knew you."