The religious right is being challenged by a new evangelical movement that is called the Red Letter Christians. Unlike the religious right, we are not allied with any political party, because we believe that Jesus is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. Instead, we are going to ask the questions that ought to be asked of whichever party is in power. Right now we have some questions to ask the Bush administration about the war in Iraq, questions we’d also like to direct to the religious right that lends religious legitimization to this war.
First, we want to know how continuing the war is justifiable. Originally we were told that the United States had invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction—but after the invasion, coalition forces didn’t find any. Then we were told that the war was intended to bring democracy to an oppressed people. But now we find that a legal system has been established which promotes Sharia law—a law that oppresses women and curtails the privileges for evangelism that Christians had previously enjoyed. A recent United Nations report states that religious minorities in Iraq have become regular victims of persecution and harassment. Christian women are said to have had acid thrown in their faces. Some have been killed for wearing jeans or not wearing the veil. As many as 60,000 Christians, and perhaps more, have fled the country. The 1.4 million Christians in Iraq have been whittled down to about 700. So much for democracy.
Looking for a new explanation, this administration now tells us that the war is meant to fight terrorists abroad so we won’t have to fight them on American soil. But now we learn from reports coming out of our own government agencies that this war has led to an increased recruitment of terrorists by the likes of Al-Qaeda and made us more vulnerable to their attacks.
So we Red Letter Christians are asking what new explanations will be made up to justify a war that most of us know was a big mistake. Sooner or later our troops are going to have to leave Iraq, and we want to know what our leaders in Washington are going to say to the mother of that last soldier to die because of a mistake that could have been curtailed a long time ago.
Second, to the religious right we address this serious question: “How can you justify the use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners?” You were the ones who so emphatically condemned situational ethics and claimed that the absolute concepts of right and wrong do not change regardless of the circumstances. Yet a recent survey of some of your most prominent leaders shows that they overwhelmingly support torture to combat the threat of terrorism, and that in this case the ends do justify what are admittedly evil means. And please—don’t pretend that this torture is not being practiced with the approval of the president.
Jesus once said that “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” (Matt. 7:12). But I suppose you believe in exceptions to the Golden Rule—and that it doesn’t apply in this situation. Or perhaps you think that when Jesus said this He was only kidding.
The discourse of the religious right is now faced with some tough questions, and we Red Letter Christians are waiting for some honest answers. And we’re not going to let up until we get them.