Are we fighting a holy war?

September 19, 2008

An effective response to Charlie Gibson’s question for Sarah Palin.

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2 Responses to “Are we fighting a holy war?”

  1. Andrew Says:

    I disagree that these other clips are an effective response. Palin’s comments are in a different league from those other prayers. No other president so closely identified American activity with God’s will. God does not speak of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – this is more sloppy mixing of American politics and Christian faith. Jesus was about losing life, giving up liberty and pursuing justice for others without using violence.

  2. jakesavage Says:

    1. Palin’s comment did not “[identify] American activity with God’s will.” It expressed her hope and her prayer that the task on which our leaders are sending our soldiers would be one that was “from God.” In other words, she was expressing the exact same wish as Abraham Lincoln: that we would be on God’s side. The other quotes in that clip demonstrate just a few of the many times that America’s leaders have connected God’s will to American politics, often with the fervent wish that the two be compatible. I do not see Palin’s comment as remarkable in that regard, though perhaps you still do.

    Gibson’s question displays a lack of grammatical understanding more than anything. For comparison, think of the difference between the phrases “I hope the interview will be fair” and “the interview will be fair.” One is a wish and one a belief. Palin’s comment was the former, while Gibson misquoted it as the latter. That is really all that is needed to understand the problem with his question.

    2. If you disagree that our Creator endowed us with the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then you mostly have a problem with America’s founders rather than with Sarah Palin.

    But I think you are missing something in your analysis. The fact that God gave us rights is not incompatible with the idea that Jesus asks us to lay them down. If God gave us these rights, then only He may take them away. Government may not do so without just cause. As such, your statement of Jesus’ mission could be completely accurate (though I disagree on at least one point–*see below) without it affecting these rights in the least.

    Since Palin’s comment and your interpretation of Jesus’ mission are not in conflict, I assume that you merely disagree with her about whether the spread of the rights she mentions is part of God’s plan. You may be right on that and you may not. As she says, we cannot know God’s will, but we do believe he has a plan. She chooses to believe that God’s plan is one of good for the world and she also believes that part of that plan includes the widespread recognition of fundamental human rights. I’m not sure what you find objectionable about that.

    Regardless of any other discussion, the point of the post and the video is that Gibson’s question was either misinformed or malicious. He quoted only part of her sentence, so as to take it out of context, and he tried to imply that a wish that our actions would comport with the will of God is somehow radical for an American politician. I only saw this clip and the clip about the Bush doctrine (in which he asked a gotcha question about an ill-defined phrase), but based on those two I think Gibson did a very poor job in the interview.

    * Regarding your statement of Jesus’ mission, I can agree that believers are called to lay down their lives (though He also came that we may have life in full, no?) and to forgo the pursuit of their own short-term happiness in order to seek to please God. However, I do not see where you get the idea that Jesus was about “giving up liberty.” He came to set free the captives, to loosen the shackles of sin, to liberate mankind from the strictures of the law which had condemned them. The concept of liberty is expressed all throughout the Bible. Adam and Eve were given free will, otherwise they would not have had the option to sin. God freed the Isrealites from oppression in Egypt. Jesus asked people to follow him; he did not demand it. Paul says that all things are permissible to him, though not all are beneficial: a clear statement of the freedom to choose and the responsibility to accept the consequences of our choices. None of these indicate that liberty be restricted. Liberty carries capacity for sin, but also capacity for love. Liberty is what makes our choices meaningful. I do not believe that Jesus asks us to give up our liberty, but instead asks that we exercise it by choosing to follow him.

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