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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Obama's escalation in Afghanistan, should Christians take a side?

On the eve of the election last November, I wrote a thinly-veiled endorsement of Barack Obama and blasted it out to my friends and family. Now after listening to President Obama’s speech trying to sell the American people on his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, there’s a verse of Scripture that’s taken on a profound new significance, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3).

By all accounts, it looks like President Obama is about to commit a colossal mistake. For starters, 30,000 troops is a drop in the bucket for what’s truly needed for an effective counter-insurgency. The Russians tried to do the same thing we’re doing and it turned out to be the death of their empire. And to top it off, we’re sending our men and women to spill their blood in order to prop up a government of war criminals that brutalize women, oppress their people, and use the tax dollars of hard-working Americans to fleece their people and fill their coffers. Is this change we can believe in? No, it’s not. At least for me it’s not.

Then again, I could be wrong. Let’s do a hypothetical and imagine that by a heavy dose of divine intervention combined with an equal dose of strategy and good luck, Obama’s plan works. In 18 months, the threat of the Taliban is neutralized, the Karzai government does a 180 and cleans up their act, and the war is responsibly brought to an end. If I were to attach God to my political views and make it the “Christian view” that the escalation is wrong, then what will I have done to the credibility of the Christian message if I turn out to be wrong? Even, worse. What if I made that a part of the kingdom gospel that I preach? Come to Jesus and end the war in Afghanistan!

Progressive evangelicals often chide their right-wing counterparts for focusing on a narrow set of issues and claiming that their political solutions are God’s solutions. It seems to me, however, that both sides of the political aisle run the danger of pimping God to endorse their political views. It’s all too easy to take the big three of the Manhattan Declaration (abortion, gay marriage, and religious liberty) and replace them with the big three of progressive evangelicals’ agenda (war, poverty, and the environment). If both sides claim that God sides with their political views or that their issues are the most important, then how are they really that different from each other? If either side takes a position that turns out to be wrong or endorses a candidate that turns out to be disappointing—as I’m sure that right about now there’s a degree of buyers remorse for religious leaders that endorsed Obama—then whose credibility is damaged?

Perhaps a better approach for Christians is to preach the gospel, serve our fellow man with good works, focus on living a Kingdom lifestyle within the life of the Church, and recognize the ambiguity in all political solutions to earthly problems. I may know that abortion is wrong and never counsel a woman to have an abortion because of my religious beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that I’m privy to special knowledge on how to translate that into a political solution that will save the most unborn lives. I may refuse to serve in combat because I believe that killing in war is a violation of Jesus’ command to “love your enemies”, but that doesn’t mean that I have God’s perspective on what should be done about Iraq and Afghanistan. If I claim that I do, then the credibility of the gospel that I preach is damaged in the end. If Obama’s decision has taught me anything, it’s that political humility isn’t just an option for Christians; it’s a necessity.


Kim said...

Hi Aaron, on the eve of receiving and almost finishing your book, I am not surprised to hear your thoughts, and I echo them.

I am so sad at what appears to be more than anything an effort to placate those who opposed him instead of sticking to his truest hope for change.

I am praying.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you coming in from the cold, Aaron. I never thought Obama was much more than a teleprompter in the first place. If I thought he had constructive ideas about pursuing genuine U.S. national interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I might have a different take on his mini-surge. It is hard for Americans to understand how un-nation- like Afghanistan is. Bush's big mistake in Afghanistan was taking his eyes off of Al Qaeda and imaginging that we could forge a democratic nation out of Afghanistan. I sure hate to Americans and Afghanis die for nothing. By the way, we are praying for you and Rhianna and your unborn child. Grace and peace.

Aaron D. Taylor said...

I appreciate your prayers anonymous. Good to read your comment too Kim. I think we could all use some prayer.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with you. Why are Christians so caught up in which political party can advance each side's myopic view of "The Kingdom?" Pay unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's seems to separate politics from our calling to carry the Gospel into the world. I didn't hear Jesus tell his disciples to be politically active to do that but to take up the cross and follow. True change will come with Christians caring for their fellow human beings individual to individual rather than by legislating climate change or against gay marriage.

toby said...

right on. political structures cannot solve the world's problems. they just serve the interests of the rich/powerful.

The Common Loon said...

Excellent post, Aaron. I couldn't agree more.

We must be on the same wavelength because my last 2 blog posts have been on Obama's Afghanistan policy and the Manhattan Declaration.

Aaron D. Taylor said...

Thank you Common Loon. I checked out your blog too. You're an excellent writer!