From a Fissure to a Chasm

Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan

This article, written by our colleague, Will Grigg, is republished from December 20, 2006.

“Turn with me to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes,” instructed our pastor.“Let’s leave,” I whispered tightly to my wife Korrin. She quietly but firmly shushed me, and she had a point.

At the time – March 2003, the Sunday before the beginning of the most recent Gulf War – our family hadn’t yet welcomed our youngest daughter, Sophia, who would be born the following January. Nonetheless, there were six of us, situated very near the front of the chapel, and had we chosen to take our leave at the beginning of the service we would have caused quite a spectacle. So we sat through the entire sermon, which was a potted, pre-fabricated homily on the theme of the supposed virtues of war, just as I knew it would be.

Our pastor at the time was a young man, well-turned out and personable with a remarkable high baritone singing voice. His sermons tended to be well-crafted and theatrical, and generally very effective. This particular installment was less than inspired or inspiring, because the pastor seemed determined to circle the point he was making without running directly into it.

The Bible says that “there is a time for war,” he said in at least a half-dozen different ways, none of them sufficiently clear or specific to permit his audience to answer this question: Was the then-impending war in Iraq one Christians could support in good conscience?

Although he was emphatic in making the case for the righteousness of war in the abstract, our pastor seemed unable to make a case for this particular venture. His message appeared to be that when our Leader commands us to kill, it is our duty as Christians to obey.

The following Saturday, several days after the invasion of Iraq had begun, our family happened to be driving down the main street of Appleton, Wisconsin – our residence at the time – en route to the YMCA. Just short of our destination we saw two contending demonstrations. On our left was a small group gathered behind a large banner bearing the legend “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!” — which is always phrased as an imperative, and generally in capital letters with an exclamation point. Most of the people arrayed behind that sign were people from the church we were then attending.

On the right side of the street was a somewhat larger group of anti-war protesters drawn from various local activist groups. Korrin and I glanced at each other briefly and – without a word, practically in unison – shouted our support for the peace protesters through the windows of our mini-van, as I honked the horn to get their attention.

“It would appear,” I commented to Korrin as we pulled into the parking lot at the Y, “that we are attending the wrong church.”

Hey, Christian war-bots — remember this guy, the Prince of Peace?

We migrated to three other churches, only to encounter the same problem: Theologically and politically conservative churches were badly infected with the leaven of Bushiolatry, and saw nothing amiss in their approval of the blood sacrifices being offered up in Iraq.

By late 2005, Korrin and I had found a theologically suitable church whose pastor was a disillusioned ex-Republican and recent recruit into the Constitution Party (which, alas, has problems of its own with which to grapple). We had also become regular weekend participants in anti-war demonstrations in Appleton and as far away as Milwaukee.

Just shortly before leaving Appleton to move to Idaho in November of that year, our family took part in that most stereotypical liberal exercise, the candlelight vigil for peace. We didn’t join in the John Lennon sing-a-long, or participate in any of the New Age rituals some protesters insisted on performing.

We attended those events to give voice to our opposition to a monumental crime against Christian decency and constitutional law – and, when opportunities presented themselves, to explain to fellow protesters the intimate connection between a large, interventionist government (which many of them supported) and an aggressive, interventionist foreign policy (which they obviously opposed).

With remarkable consistency we found that anti-war activists were willing to reverse-engineer their assumptions about big government from their opposition to the war.

We also found that our friends and family members who are conservative supporters of the war have been utterly unwilling to reconsider their positions in spite of their advertised hostility to big, invasive government.

It’s likely that millions of other politically and theologically conservative Christians have had similar experiences. Perhaps more than a few of them have reconsidered their support for the Iraq war as the multi-layered rationales for this misadventure have been abraded way by the pitiless sandstorm of reality.

Roughly four years ago, as it became clear that the Bush Regime wouldn’t settle for any outcome in Iraq that didn’t involve invasion, occupation, and the theft of that nation’s energy resources, a small but significant fissure became visible between those who pledged their devotion to the Dear Leader, and those of us who don’t reside in the reality-optional realm where Bush’s will is the only standard.

That fissure has now become a chasm. And others will soon develop as well.

The Wee Decider has let it be known that, well, gee golly Ned, it would be a ripping good idea to expand the size of the Army.

Like any small child too long permitted to believe in the invincible sovereignty of his whims, the Bush-baby doesn’t explain exactly how this is to be done. He’s simply going to have incoming Minister of War Robert Gates devise a “plan” to accomplish this objective.

It works like this: Georgie wants, and Georgie must have it, so the nice adults surrounding him have to find some way to get it for him.

Perhaps Mr. Gates can simply inform the Pentagon’s recruitment officers that they needn’t be so picky, and that they are now free to enlist the hordes of would-be inductees who are being turned away – their hopes of glory cruelly dashed, their eyes bright with frustrated tears.

Those hordes, of course, have made their absence keenly felt. This isn’t going to change.

Which means that at some point, the order will be given to send forth the draft-nappers. When this occurs, parents in countless conservative churches across the nation will likely be treated to yet another version of the same homily based on the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, as pastors try to swaddle child sacrifice in the sanctified robes of Christian duty.

When this happens, how many parents will look on their children – both sons and daughters, since the New Model Slave Army would be “gender-inclusive” — and decide that the State, the coldest of all cold monsters, is entitled to feast on the warm, living flesh of their offspring?

How many, on the other hand, will find themselves blinking awake in mortal horror as they realize – however tardily – that it is utterly perverse to allow strangers living in a cocoon of privilege to steal their children, in order to have them either kill or be killed by children of other parents with whom they have no quarrel?

The chasm opened between those two types of parents could conceivably lead to an actual shooting war in this country, one side of which would be considered entirely just by non-pacifist anti-war activists like myself. Our National Anthem points out that it is the duty of “free men” to “stand between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,” and that this is a “cause [that] is just.”

God grant that I’m entirely wrong, and that what we’re contemplating here never transpires. But it’s clear that our rulers are perfectly willing to allow young Americans – including, may God forgive us, young mothers – to kill and die in Iraq simply because neither of the ascendant factions wants to risk the political liabilities for “cutting and running” from a war we should never have fought.

Those bastards (no other word is suitable, at least none I would use) care that little for the lives they waste in the service of their own convenience.

The time will most likely come when the battle-cry of the patriots at Thermopylae so suitably adopted by the gun rights movement, will be adopted as well by those of us determined to protect our children from those who would steal them to serve in the imperial Slave Army: Molon labe!

Roughly translated, the phrase means: If you want them, you’re going to have to come and get them.

That’s not an invitation. It’s a warning.

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Will Grigg (1963 – 2017), the former Managing Editor of The Libertarian Institute. He was an independent, award-winning investigative journalist and author. He authored five books, most recently Liberty in Eclipse: The War on Terror and the Rise of the Homeland Security State.