November 30th, 2012 at 7:00 am
There has been much talk recently about the impact of Hispanic and Asian immigration on the outcome of the Nov. 6 election. No matter your politics, there is another interesting aspect to these demographic changes.
Scott McConnell, writing for The American Conservative, notes that the new ethnic makeup of the U.S. will act, as it did in the pre- and post- World War I eras, ”more as a brake on an interventionist or militarized foreign policy than a leaven for one.” In other words, the U.S. may be less likely to engage in wars and such overseas.
Christianity has historically taken a dim view of war, so much so that a theory developed for determining the difference between just and unjust wars. But followers of Christ have seen even just wars as the lesser of evils, something that, while justified, is terribly tragic.
“War is always cause for remorse, never for exhilaration,” wrote William Sloane Coffin.
As a result of our faith heritage in regard to war, any news that the U.S. might be less likely to engage in armed conflict is indeed encouraging.
So how does McConnell get to this conclusion? First, he looks back to the first half of the 20th century.
McConnell says there was “ferocious political conflicts over American intervention in World Wars I and II, in which an Anglo-American establishment eventually prevailed over fierce opposition to intervene on Britain’s side.” The writer references “the German, Irish, and Scandinavian immigrant communities’ intense efforts to keep America out of the Great War.”
Then, in the 1930s, “Walter Lippmann interpreted American isolationism as an ethnic phenomenon: intervention in Europe risked exacerbating America’s own tensions,” McConnell says.
Then, in a post-World War II analysis, “political scientist Samuel Lubell opined that American isolationism was more an ethnic than a geographic phenomenon, rooted in anti-British prejudices stoked by the Republican Party.”
McConnell is a journalist, not a historian, and he is a journalist pushing a particular agenda, so I cannot vouch for the full integrity of his analysis. I simply offer it as food for thought in helping us try to understand our times.
His perspective, however, on the current situation is as good as any other you will hear in the popular media. He maintains today’s “new immigrants” appear to have “little obvious interest in foreign policy, or at least nothing to compare with the fierce anti-Castroism of the early Cuban refugees. An exception might be made for Muslims who at this point make up less than 1 percent of the American population.”
Also, McConnell cites the Reuters/Ipsos exit poll, which did not find sharp differences between whites and non-whites. He writes:
“Asked, for instance, whether the United States should use military force to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, 41 percent of minorities either strongly or somewhat agreed, versus 51 percent percent of the whites.
“Asked whether they agreed that the United States should spend less money on the military, 28 percent of minorities somewhat or strongly disagreed, as opposed to 39 percent of whites.
“Such gaps persist on most of the foreign-policy issues. Relatively few of the polled questions translate into a straightforward hawk-versus-dove dichotomy, but those that do tend to show the minority coalition about 10 percent more dovish than the whites.”
War ever lingers as a possibility in this world. People are dying every day in various conflicts, including Americans in Afghanistan. War is a terribly ugly business that is contrary to the Spirit of Christ, even though it does seem to be necessary at times in order to restrain greater evil.
A prayer: Dear God, help us to hate war. Help us to desire peace when others may desire conflict. Help our nation, the most powerful one in the world, to be very careful in how we use that power. And thank You for bringing the world to our shores so that we may have a broader view of the world. God, please bless America, please bless this world.
War powerfully shapes a person’s understanding of the world, including one’s faith. World War II created in many people a veneration of the United States that caused love of country to sometimes override love of God or to conflate the two into one love. The Vietnam War then brought about a mindset of distrust, and since love of God and country had often been melded the two could be dismissed together by some.
It is not surprising that war shapes understandings of faith, but it is surprising that faith does not more often shape understandings of war.
The other day I ran across an article written by Charles Colson in July 2001 shortly after the release of the movie, “Pearl Harbor.” Colson told a story of a young man who wanted vengeance on the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor and how we was able to exact that revenge as a bombardier in Doolittle’s famous raid.
But that was only the beginning of the story. That young man, Jacob DeShazer, became a POW in Japan and asked for a Bible. Ten days into his study, DeShazer asked Christ to forgive his sins. He remembered, “suddenly … when I looked at the enemy officers and guards …, I realized that … if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel. … My bitter hatred … changed to loving pity.” Remembering Christ’s words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” DeShazer asked God to forgive his torturers, too.
That is an example of faith shaping one’s conception of war, and it was expressed by someone deeply impacted by and involved in war. The story continues and illustrates the power of the gospel to change lives. It can be read at colsoncenter.org.
It is interesting that just two months after Colson’s column, the United States was attacked again. Like World War II, it brought a revival of national and religious spirit—and the two together. I do not recall many Christian voices calling for love of our enemies, but some did.
Of course, individuals and nations are different. The United States needed to take action to break up the terrorist camps in Afghanistan, but there was a great temptation for individual Christians to beat the drums of war as if our national enemies were some alien race and not fellow children of God.
Terrorism and war should produce more sadness than anger among Christians for those tragedies are a reminder of how much the people of this world need Christ.
Colson said that when World War II ended, Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the raid on Pearl Harbor, returned to his family farm near Osaka. Later, stepping off a train in Tokyo, he was given a copy of DeShazer’s pamphlet about his experience. Fuchida started reading the Bible. And despite his Shinto heritage, he accepted Christ as his Savior.
Two opposing warriors: Both loved by God. Both forgiven. Both united in Christ.
A prayer: Dear God, help us to see our world through your eyes and not our own. Help us to love all people, not just the people who are like us or who fly the same flag. Help us to be more like Jesus and love those whom others see as enemies.
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