10 years ago: It begins

March 20, 2003, on this blog: It begins.

CNN is appalling. Wolf Blitzer is making his “O face.” He’s covering this war like it’s Bobby Thompson’s home run. He’s wound up like a little kid on Christmas morning.

And also: Down in My Heart.

The dangers of such an approach are obvious. All considerations of consequence and outcome (including respect for the potential of unforeseen consequences) become secondary to the matter of intent. For Mr. Bush, if someone has a “Good Heart,” his intentions are pure and he can do no wrong

This sentimental approach is also aggressively individualistic, producing idiosyncratic and novel ethical positions that may, in fact, contradict longstanding, catholic (small “c”) Christian tradition. These positions are not held in deliberate opposition as a challenge to the tradition, but rather in blissful ignorance of that tradition. After all, if you’ve got a Good Heart, all that tradition is just an unnecessary distraction.

This evangelical sentimentalism also explains Bush’s impatience with the cautious, disciplined ethics of the Christian just war tradition. It did not matter to the president that the papal emissaries pleading against a “pre-ventive/emptive” war of aggression could cite 2,000 years of Christian thought. For evangelicals like Bush, all that Christian teaching just showed that these people were spending a lot of time reading and writing books other than the Bible — the meaning of which, he believes, is self-evident and unambiguous to anyone with a Good Heart. Apostolic traditions, systematic theologies and the like are seen as barriers between individual Christians and the Jesus who lives in your heart.

This approach also explains why evangelicals — including George W. Bush — can get so angry and aggressively personal in any political or ethical dispute. If you believe that the only (or at least the primary) reason you hold political opinion X is because you love Jesus, then you will also come to believe that anyone holding opinion Not-X must therefore not love Jesus. Thus evangelicals who disagree will quickly move to accusing one another of not loving Jesus, which — for an evangelical — is about the worst thing anybody can accuse you of (except, of course, for homosexuality or voting for Clinton).

This is what prompts President Bush’s angry indignation when any initiative or position of his administration is questioned. He interprets all such questions as challenges to the Goodness of his Heart. Thus his response is usually to angrily reassert that he has a Good Heart, without ever responding to — or hearing and considering — the substance of the critique.

  • J

    The Iraq War was all monotheists’ fault. Remember the Land Letter? We atheists do. And we will never, ever, let you forget it.

    http://erlc.com/article/the-so-called-land-letter

    Four trillion dollars and 200,000 people gone. Because Jews and Christians scare easy and Muslims are a wee bit fractious.

  • LoneWolf343

    You don’t follow this blog, or else you’d know we’re no fans of Richard Land or Chuck Colson.

  • J

    Well NALT, I’ve also been reasurred by many here that such ilk are a ‘tiny minority’ of Christians. If that’s the case, then it’s obvious that the ‘majority’ did nothing to rein in this supposed rogue element.

  • P J Evans

    Demonstrating that you’re clueless isn’t a good way to make friends.

  • J

    Whatever, NALT.

  • flat

    ten years already, the worst thing is that if you told me ten years ago that it would take a decade I would have believed you.

  • Lori

    Using your own standards all atheists were at fault for the Iraq war because Christopher Hitchens was for it.

    Look, someone has helpfully compiled his “greatest hits” on the subject and everything:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcvgAMnMne0

    IOW, you’re an idiot.

  • mountainguy

    “We atheists do. And we will never forget it”

    Did you forget that Christopher Hitchens suppported it? And did you forget sam Harris defending bombings and dismissing civil victims as collateral damage? Well, I do not. And unlike you, at least I’ll try to focus on who the real criminals are, and what unites them: greed, lies, oil, etc.

    And I say this as a christian from southamerica (Colombia). Now please post something that makes a little sense, because in my mennonitism I’m further to the anitwar side than you will ever be, GRINGO DE MIERDA!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30319652 Tim Lehnerer

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but when Hitchens’ name comes up in conversation I say he’s an asshole who happened to be right about one thing (that one thing being the number of existent gods). His political views were a garbage nightmare and his support for the Iraq war means that a human being with a functioning brain and a working conscience can never listen to him on any subject without wincing.

  • Nick Gotts

    It should surely be obvious to you by now that you have no right to speak for “we atheists”. I’m an atheist and I’d be happy to see religion disappear, but given the choice between you and practically any of the religious believers posting here as a companion on a long walking tour, you’d be left behind.

  • LoneWolf343

    We’ve dealt with your kind before, the kind that converts to atheism but retains all the tribalism and irrationality that made religion bad.

  • Jon Altman

    At least he gave Pope John Paul II the courtesy of a reply. He refused to even MEET with a delegation of Bishops from his own United Methodist Church.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    We watched the invasion on CNN. My mother’s husband was absolutely thrilled, and didn’t understand why we weren’t. My mother’s only reaction was to say, very softly, “It’s Vietnam all over again. The bastards never learn, do they?”

    Hubbie started to angrily explain the difference to her. He was a former Army supply clerk who tried to convince people he was an ex-sniper, and since he was a fairly accomplished compulsive liar, superficially charming, and had relatives who backed him up, he usually succeeded. She HAD been married, many years before, to a man who had served two tours of duty in Vietnam. She simply stared at him with no expression while he angrily lectured, and merely said “Yeah, okay,” when he was done.

    A decade later and here we are.

  • flat

    No offense towards your mother, but how the hell did she get married to that moron in the first place?

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    thank you

  • Ima Pseudonym

    She still asks herself that every day, eight years after the divorce.

  • Michael Snow

    Evangelicals need to read one of our heroes of the faith, Charles Spurgeon: “The Lord’s battles, what are they? Not the garment rolled in blood, not
    the noise, and smoke, and din of human slaughter. These may be the
    devil’s battles, if you please, but not the Lord’s. They may be days of
    God’s vengeance but in their strife the servant of Jesus may not mingle.”

    “.What pride flushes the patriot’s cheek when he remembers that his nation
    can murder faster than any other people. Ah, foolish generation, ye are
    groping in the flames of hell to find your heaven, raking amid blood
    and bones for the foul thing which ye call glory.” http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/


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