War Lords, Theologies of Violence, and the Culture of Death

War Lords, Theologies of Violence, and the Culture of Death May 2, 2011

“Welcome to hell, bin Laden.”~ Mike Huckabee

The logic of retribution and war is simple and intuitive—and misguided. The pleasure of violent victory is rich and intoxicating—and perverse. It feels great, oftentimes verging on immortality. The world itself seems to be this way: from dangerous ocean reefs to the wild plains, the games of life are filled with bloody conflicts, killing, and survival.

But this is only a small, distorted part of the picture.

The heavens and the earth are also deeply harmonious. The gentle balance of creation is attuned to show us the that life and death conceal deep mysteries that defy the laws of justice, are immune to violence, and build a culture of love. (Note: not cheap, sentimental, “love;” I mean the love of John, the love that is God.)

The universal call to holiness is a call to be whole, to dwell within the wholeness of God—to seek the sacred attunement we witness and participate-in within the balance of creation and the love of children. To be catholic (καθόλου), to become universal, to live in the key of love.

Today, we must bear witness to this truth, to the truth of the call to be holy through the sanctification of love. Amidst the spectacles of modern-day politics, we must also bear witness to the truth by rejecting what is false.

Today is a day of perverse clarity: we can see, in the words and actions of the elect, that we are ruled by thugs and war lords, that Osama and Obama observe the same creed; that the theology of violence, ritualized in the practice of physical, mental, and spiritual war, is at the heart of their politics, irregardless of their polemic affiliations.

Make no mistake: Osama was a killer. The culture of Saudi Arabia from which he came (and both the secular and Islamic Middle East) is a culture of death, ruled by violent men. But make no mistake: Obama is a killer too. His liberal ways of killing are more subtle at times, but he is the commander in chief of the American military industrial complex; he presides over all US wars, those fought through martial forces and technologies and those waged through institutions that violently enslave the bodies, hearts, and minds of people at home and abroad. The culture of the United States of America is a culture of death ruled by killers and slave-traders, who are themselves dying and enslaved.

The age we live in is no different than the other dystopian times of yesteryear. But this modern era, this time of nation-states and nuclear warfare has shown itself able to increase the quality and quantity of self-destruction to the very brink of nihilism. In poignant times such as these; in times of cruel war lords who are captured, killed, and re-elected; in times when a theology of violence can been seen as nearly universal; in times when the culture of death has, like capitalism, become transnational; in times like today we should not despair or presume: we can only hope.

We can hope through the forgiveness and love that come without prescriptive healing or facile redemption—love that comes in the mystery of the God we cannot even begin to imagine, but must always seek, all the same.

Let this become a day of conversion (μετάνοια), a day of revolution. A day to reject war lords, theologies of violence, and the culture of death.

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