Who's righteous--Al Qaeda or the U.S.?
By any Christian and biblical, as opposed to nationalistic, evaluation of the righteousness of the United States in her conflict with middle eastern nations, we must not stoop to using the hypocritical criteria of a patriot who says, "My nation, right or wrong." As Christians we are different, called by God to "judge rightly." And a righteous judgment of our nation must start, not with others' sins against us, but ours against a holy God.
It's always easier to point a finger outside our home, community, or nation and to cry out against others' sins, but judgment must begin locally, and move out from there. This is the meaning of Jesus' statement about splinters and beams--we are to correct ourselves before we correct others.
As Christian citizens, then, we must look long and hard at our own nation when we consider the justice of our claims against Iran, Iraq, or Al Qaeda. As the Apostle Paul says:
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:1-4)
So when Christians cry down the wickedness of other nations and rulers without any mention of our own wickedness, I read it as nationalism uninformed by Scripture. And that's bad. Christians are not to judge their own and other nations as if the relations between nations are only a matter of who did what to whom on the international level.
When we want to condemn some combination of mid-east forces for bombing the World Trade Center and the Pentagon...
Christians should immediately think of the 1,300,000 unborn children who are killed each year, like clockwork, just down the street from each of us by our own roommates, colleagues, sons, daughters, and wives. Christians should immediately think of the pornography that the United States spews across the air waves of the world as one of her largest exports. Christians should think about our nation's materialism and the many dictators we have supported around the world as a means of stabilizing the world economy and a balance of power favorable to our continued hegemony.
Christians thinking in this way will then stop and consider that, whereas many other nations have operated largely in ignorance never having had the Gospel ministry of Jonathan Edwards to feed upon, for instance, we have no excuse. Our Lord warned, "To whom much is given, much shall be required," and we have been given much in every way--particularly spiritually. Thus, even if we could establish (which I don't think we can) that the United States has been guilty of a significantly smaller amount of evil than mid-eastern nations, the Christian radio stations, the churches on every corner, and our shelves weighed down with Bibles condemn us far more than those who have lived their lives under the darkness of Islam, never knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And let me say it clearly: God's plan for Israel doesn't trump all other considerations. If I speak up for justice toward Jews and Israel in the mid-east but fail to speak up for justice for the forgotten old and feeble residents who live in our county nursing home down the street, God doesn't overlook the second failure because of the first success. Again, the call of duty starts at home--not across the world. And this is without even engaging the difficult question of the Christian's responsibility to Jewish Israelis as compared to Christian Palestinians.
Now, a few clarifications. I love the United States and sang the National Anthem with gusto when IU's soccer team played the Mexican National Youth Team this past Tuesday. Last summer upon our return from three weeks in Zambia, Rwanda, England, and Hungary, our family was filled with thanksgiving to the Lord for His allowing us to live in this nation. So don't accuse me of being a liberal commie who hates his country. If working to judge rightly means hating the thing or person one is judging, then I hate myself, my wife, my sons and daughters, my sons-in-law, my grandchildren, my mother and father and sister and brother, my in-laws and city and alma mater--even my church. But, in fact, I love each of them and am convinced that it's really the one who says, "My wife or son or church or denomination or seminary or alma mater or city or state or country, right or wrong," who has no love for any of them. The sort of patriotism that keeps count of all the crimes against our nation by others, while refusing to look for, or see, those of our nation against others is a willful ignorance that is unworthy of the man of God. Such patriotism is, as Johnson put it, "the last refuge of a scoundrel."
But beyond loving the United States, if we take our foreign policy alone (forgetting our other areas of moral accountability), I'm not ashamed to be an American. I believe we have done much bad, but much more good around the world. And compared to the vast majority of nations across history, we have stood out as frequently having goals that have bordered on, and sometimes reached, altruism. Both as a nation and as Christians who are Americans, we really do feed the hungry, clothe the naked, nurse the sick, defend the oppressed, and most importantly, preach the Gospel.
But before someone gets confused and thinks I'm finally mounting my white stallion of America first sentiment, stop and remember our nation's murder of her own unborn children at the rate of 1.3 million, like clockwork, each year. Then think of our greed, our sexual depravity, our pride, our lack of respect for our elders and the feeble, our decadent educational institutions, our rebelliousness against all authority, and immediately our feet are brought back to the ground.
As Americans, we may plead for God's mercy toward us, but we may not claim we deserve it. In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln quite rightly reminded a nation at war that every man ought to tremble remembering that "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."