Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

OK, Scholars: Put Your Fancy Theology to Work!

Thanks to Sandra at Concerned Tennessee Citizens, I learned this latest news from the National Iranian American Council:

President Bush announced today that he has authorized US forces in Iraq to confront Iran militarily. "I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities," Bush said in a speech to US war veterans in Reno. Simultaneously, US forces raided a hotel in Baghdad and detained ten Iranians who according to a U.S.-funded radio station included members of an Iranian negotiation team.

This move comes amidst a campaign by the White House to escalate the rhetorical war between Washington and Tehran, in which the President has taken concerted new steps toward war. This flurry of rhetoric has largely rung hollow in the halls of Congress, as members are away for summer recess.

While Congress has been gone, the harshness and frequency of the rhetoric from both sides has steadily increased. Last week the Bush administration announced its intention to designate the IRGC as a terrorist entity, an unprecedented move. This week in Reno, the President reiterated accusations that Iran was smuggling weapons into Iraq while chastising the Iraqi prime minister for his diplomatic relations with Iran. Left unchallenged, all these steps point in one, undeniable direction: War.

When I was 18 in high school in 1979-80, we thought we were going to fight Iran. A generation has passed and war with Iran is still on the table. Think it is a swell idea? So theologians, with all your views of predestination, total depravity, original sin, virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, and whatever other theories of God, what will you do? Is there ever a point in which theology deals with the real world?


  1. Well I hope this doesn't mean a bombing campaign is inevitable. The leadership of Iran may be hostile, but a great deal of the population is not necessarily anti-American, but they certainly will be if we drop bombs on them. This would be self-defeating on our part and immoral as well.

  2. In short, John, yes.

    As I mentioned earlier, I believe that the ultimate message of Calvinist theology comes down to this:

    We need to stop worrying about who is saved and who isn't. Saving souls is not our responsibility. God has the afterlife sorted out and wants us to get on with our earthly work. Certainly we should be witnesses to the Good News, but that should be most manifest in how we behave toward our fellow human. It is not our responsibility to convert all Muslims nor to try to bring about the apocalypse by fomenting a war between Israel and Iran.

    We believe our responsibility is to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Everything hangs on these. We are called to do justice, love kindness, and try to walk humbly with God.

    I am an activist, and whether my faith informs my activism or my activism informs my faith is a question for metaphysicists (or psychologists). I have in fact been haranguing my members of Congress for months about the need for us to not attack Iran. My Congressman (the wonderful civil rights hero John Lewis) agrees and is working in the House to stop Bush. My Senators (Johnny Isakson and Saxby "Max Cleland = Osama Bin Laden" Chambliss) wrote me letters explaining how Israel will be destroyed by Iran next Tuesday. Still, Chambliss is up for reelection next year and has toned down his rhetoric in recent weeks. If enough people, especially those represented by conservative Republicans, make enough noise, those politicians will tell Bush in no uncertain terms that a war with Iran will destroy the party and he better stop.

    We live in a (inhale) constitutionally-limited representative democratic republic. In other words, government is us. As Thom Hartmann says, the key is the parade. If enough of us join a parade, any politician worth his or her salt will run in front of it.

    If you don't know your members of Congress, go to to look up your state's 2 senators and and enter your address to find your congressman.

  3. Killing people is bad.

    Killing people in order to build up the power of one's own country is really, really, really bad.

    It seems to me that all the fancy stuff is just elaboration on that.

    My power is perfected in weakness. -- 2 Corinthians 12.9

  4. If theology doesn't connect with the real world, what good is it?

    First a geopolitical observation: Taking on Iran would be stupid. We don't have the troops or the weapons because of the war in Iraq. Besides it would just earn us more enemies, including, as bobby pointed out, the large part of the Iranian population that is sick of the religious rule.

    Theologically: If you go by the Just War theory, attacking Iran would not pass the smell test. We have not been attacked and neither has one of our allies. There is no stated goal at this point and I bet that if it started it we would not limit ourselves to attacks on military targets.

    All that said, I don't trust the leaders of Iran either.

  5. Thanks, theologians!


    I think you are right on Calvinism. It is in the hands of God, now live and be renewed by Christ. Thanks for the reminder regarding congress!


    Don't do to your neighbor what you don't want them to do to you. The rest is elaboration!

    Bob, I wonder if the church wasn't more vocal and used the Just War theory before the Iraq War, that we might have been able to stop it before it started.

    Now, it appears that the drums are beating again for Iran. It is a great deal easier to stop something before it starts than after.

    Over at ConcernedTNCitizens, Sandra is making us aware of a march on Washington on 9/15 as well as a local one in Johnson City on 9/22.

  6. I think it's worth mentioning that President Bush refused to meet with bishops from his own United Methodist Church, particularly in the run up to the Iraq war.

    As he is with everything else, Bush is very careful to surround himself with clergy who say what he wants to hear.

  7. flycandler

    THAT must be why I haven't received a call from the White House!