Wallis on Christianity, Empire

I really like Jim Wallis. From a column in Sojourners magazine: The theology of torture.

Christian theology is uneasy with empire, and the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison reveal why. More than politics is at stake in this scandal. Moral theology is also involved, and that is worthy of serious public discussion – especially when this war’s commander-in-chief speaks often of his Christian faith.

4 Responses to “Wallis on Christianity, Empire”

  1. Craig Says:

    There are plenty of ways that moral or theological issues can be discussed in the context of the war or US policies, but I don’t agree with the automatic assumption of US “empire” designs in the author’s main premise for use in comparison to Christian teachings. He just starts off declaring the US policy as being empire building and goes from there. No definition of empire in his viewpoint, or how it equates to Bush’s actions. Just a very partisan and suprisingly simplistic premise for an agrumentive point by an “editor-in-chief”.

  2. John Callender Says:

    Hm. I think this response is kinda weak. He doesn’t just say, “empire bad! Bush bad!” He gives lots of specific examples of the kind of behavior he’s talking about. And he doesn’t just start off declaring that US policy is empire building; you can see that in the excerpt here, which is his first paragraph. He says that Christian theology is uneasy with empire (as it is, which isn’t surprising, given that Christianity was born from an oppressed people undergoing a foreign occupation), and that the Abu Ghraib scandal provides an example of why it is uneasy with it (which it does). That isn’t necessarily the same thing as saying that the US is currently engaged in empire building — just that the Abu Ghraib events should give Christians pause about the direction in which we are heading.

    He does come closer to making that claim later on in the piece, but it’s not just a bald assertion; again, he’s specific about what actions he’s referring to and makes a fairly detailed supporting argument — one that your response pretty much ignores.

    I have too much respect for you to believe you’re trying to undermine his argument by intentionally mischaracterizing it, but I think your disagreement with his conclusions may have led you to ignore some of what he actually said. That’s your prerogative, of course, but it weakens the impact of your criticism on someone like me who doesn’t share your point of view.

  3. Craig Says:

    What does the last sentence of the author’s article say? He clearly is charging the Bush Administration with having gone down the path of “empire” intentions. I simply want to know what he considers an “empire” aspiration to be, rather than simply using the phrase, then attaching it to Bush and the actions of the military. He lists a lot of actions along the way that have been well publicized, and, as I mentioned before, there is certainly a discussion there to be made regarding moral authority issues. But the main point seems to dwell on “empire”, Christian theology (which, by the way, isn’t always against war), and the Bush Administration.

    The author makes a generalized point (it appears) of how Bush has actively created an “us against them” demonization of Islam and Iraqis when it comes to the war, when it can be pointed out that Bush’s comments are geared toward those promoting the perversion of commonly accepted Islamic teachings, and that he speaks of an enemy as those who want to stand in the way of an Iraq free to choose its own course.

    To me, the only details the author gives is in regard to the whole moralistic question as it relates to certain actions that have taken place, such as the prison abuses. The bigger question of “empire” is left incomplete, in the absence of an understanding of what it means, even in the author’s mind, in the first place.

    But, maybe my reading comprehension isn’t what I thought it was.

  4. Michael Says:

    the consequence of empire – the strategy that appears to be the Bush administration’s unapologetic choice for fighting terrorism.” m-webster definition: imperial sovereignty, rule, or dominion) I think Mr. Wallis presumes the reader is familar with the actions of the administration i.e. not clueless regarding the situation’s context. Mr. Bush chose a military action of domination against a third world country instead of a diplomatic solution. At least 14 permanent military basis are being contructed in Iraq. 160,000 combined troops. The US is the lone super power etc… Mr. Wallis is writing a reflection, not an essay on the description of the American Empire as Outlined in Policy Statements From ….

    Perhaps this reflection is an opportunity for further reflection on the biblical idea of empire that each christian needs to investigate for him or herself. The bigger question is how do followers of Jesus Christ respond to the Iraq war? Do christians participate, either directly or indirectly in the torture of other human beings.

    I remember reading an interview with a South African political prisoner who said he could never believe in the white Christ because on Sunday’s one particular prison guard would beat him regularly upon his return from worshipping his christian god!

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