Archive for October, 2009

The Immorality of Aggressive Force

Father Larry


            On a recent Monday morning I was surfing the radio stations while driving, and I caught Rush Limbaugh saying: “The world is ruled by aggressive force.” I am not sure what his topic was. Right after that I think he said something about how he liked to wear lace panties, but he was, like most other drug addicts, somewhat incoherent, so I am not certain about that. But even as I continued surfing I kept thinking about that one sentence, and the crazy belligerence and hostility with which it was said, “The world is ruled by aggressive force.” Ever since I heard it, that sentence has been stuck in my brain like some sort of little splinter. It is probably because I am an Anglican priest interested in moral questions, and force and how we use it is a moral issue.


            I don’t mean “moral” in the little sense of the word — like whether two teenagers with raging hormones forget their pledges of abstinence, or whether Rush, who can’t seem to keep any of his many wives satisfied very long, really hates Bill Clinton because of cigar envy. But, you know, questions about supporting with our tax dollars a mercenary army like Black Water that forcibly rapes and murders and brutalizes — apparently cruelty is expensive. Or, I mean things like pillaging the poor by denying them, not just adequate, but any sort of health care.


            Force can, of course, be something other than physical; although, this country has most certainly proved itself a proponent of aggressive force in its willingness to attack without having been attacked, and in its use of torture. But there is also a violent force that is economic and social – the kind of force used by insurance companies, mortgage brokers, lobbyists, and politicians like Chuck Grassley, and Joe Wilson, John Boehner, Michelle Bachmann, and Sarah Palin – well, I don’t know, maybe the whole Republican party and their “blue dog” friends like Max Baccus.


            The kind of force Limbaugh was talking about is immoral, and the mendacity that goes with it and protects it is immoral, because it restrains, it pins down, the innocent, the poor and working poor, while with impunity the powerful strike them with heavy blows. I often hurt for working class people, because they are my people, and so often they just don’t get it. They are so quick to believe the half-truths and the lies that are killing them. How can anyone think that insurance companies, which keep decreasing benefits while, in one way or another, raising premiums are the good guys? Last year the company with which we have health insurance told us that we would have a larger deductible, and that this was really going to benefit us – huh? How can someone driving a truck, operating a forklift, teaching school, or driving nails think that Rush Limbaugh with his $400,000,000.00 contract has his or her best interest at heart? How can anyone believe that a senator or congressional representative receiving huge amounts of money in campaign contributions, a euphemism for bribes, from the healthcare industry is capable of writing compassionate healthcare legislation?


            A year ago, or maybe a little more, Jim Wallis, an evangelical with a keen social conscience – who would have THUNK it? challenged, or really invited, James Dobson, the ultra conservative founder of Focus on the Family, to a debate – really a discussion regarding what moral priorities Christians should embrace politically and socially. Dobson who had gotten just plain silly over how George Bush called him “Jimmy Boy” (I don’t think Dobson really reads the Bible or Proverbs 23:1-3 would have given him pause) obviously refused the invitation. I think that if I were ever in a debate or discussion or encounter like that I would want to quote the modern Christian monk, Thomas Merton:

  I am against war, against violence, against violent revolution, for peaceful settlement of differences, for nonviolent but nevertheless radical changes. Change is needed, and violence will really not change anything: at most it will only transfer power from one set of bullies to another. If I say these things it is not because I am more interested in politics than in the Gospel. I am not. But today more than ever the Gospel commandment has political implications, because you cannot claim to be “for Christ” and espouse a political cause that implies callous indifference to the needs of millions of human beings and even cooperate in their destruction (Merton, Midsummer Letter, 1968).

             Rush Limbaugh may be right, this world may be ruled by aggressive force, by the Prince of Violence, but even if that is true it does not make it good, or right, or moral, or in any way worthy of our support. I think that Limbaugh, and the right wing hardliners, are fighting a rear guard action. I think the whole world is in the process of an epic shift of consciousness, and that politically this will mean a shift from ideological thinking to values based thinking – not moralistically based, but values based. Whether this ultimately proves true or not makes little difference to me personally. My faith was born at Calvary, and neither hell nor conservative talk show hosts can shake my confidence that love and goodness are stronger than any amount of aggressive force.

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