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Public Theology: Faith-Based Lunatics in the White House
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Faith-Based Lunatics in the White House
Should people of faith really be called lunatics?

By Ed Knudson

At first I reacted negatively to the phrase "faith-based lunatics" in a message on the DailyKos online discussion forum. The writer was blaming people of faith in the White House and Pentagon for getting us into the Iraq war.

But then I thought about it some more, and, I have to agree. When highly abstract religious beliefs are tied directly to specific political proposals the result is, indeed, lunacy, or even worse, blasphemy.

Here's the problem. You and I might believe in God. But if we ask ourselves what God that is, what that God wants for the world, how it is we can know for sure what it is that God wants us to do as a particular person or a particular nation at a particular point in time, then we would have a very long conversation. It is not at all self-evident that God can be attached to any particular political proposal, especially such a thing as a war.

You and I might want to follow Jesus when he tells us to "love God and neighbor." But how do we know how to do that in very specific circumstances? It is not always clear at all. The decisions we make are our decisions, and we cannot claim God's will for whatever it is we think is right. God has created us free to make moral decisions and we must do so with fear and trembling, not with claims that we know exactly what God intends in every instance.

But that is what George Bush did in his recent inaugural address. He did not pray that we might know God's will, he claimed to speak for God, that God intends all people to be free, and that freedom is defined as understood in the tradition of constitutional democracy of modern western nations, and that anything that opposes this is tyranny, and that God thus supports military adventures of this country against such tryanny. Although he didn't say it in his speech, later Bush said his words represented his vision for the world providing the basis for the war in Iraq. That war now is understood by him not to be about weapons of mass destruction (none have been found and the effort to find them is officially over), not about links between Iraq and al-Qaeda (no links have been demonstrated as Bush himself admits), but the Iraq war has been, indeed, a holy war on behalf of God's intention of freedom in the world.

This really is very dangerous talk in a democracy. If God is on your side then it is very hard to argue with you, to take another position. This kind of talk is really a kind of blasphemy, it defames God by associating God with that which is not worthy of God, less than the full majesty and purpose of God for the world. For Christians, freedom comes not through a particular political structure or set of political beliefs, it comes through faith in Jesus Christ, as the Apostle Paul makes clear in the book of Galatians.

And when a person believes that God wants a particular thing to be done then we will not exercise our own reason and logic to ascertain the facts of a situation, apply moral understandings, and make an informed decision. Faith-based actions without using the rational capacity God has given to us can lead to much lunacy.

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Date Added: 1/29/2005 Date Revised: 2/1/2005 1:03:07 PM

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