Skip to comments.Frank’s Other Blind Spot
Posted on 11/10/2005 9:00:15 AM PST by sionnsar
Its nothing new to find myself appalled by statements from our presiding bishop, but in an address recently to a Japanese audience here he goes again, though this time in a more political vein:
Dateline Japan - Griswold also told the congregation that "Perhaps the single most disappointing moment for me as primate of the American Church is the decision by my government to wage war against Iraq."
Going abroad to represent all of us in his billing as "the primate of the American Church" and publicly trashing the country in front of a congregation of foreign church folks? Man, Im glad none of my hard-earned dollars helped pay for that trip!
It does prompt me to sit back and reminisce a little, though. You know, like when a funny smell wafts by zephyr-like and takes you immediately back to some earlier time and place.
In this case, I was taken back to January, when some of us held a prayer vigil outside our capitals National Cathedral while inside the bishop was giving his keynote convention address. After hearing particulars about the speech we had missed while we were out praying to God to somehow save our confused Church, I was glad not to have been there listening to him lay down the gauntlet to those of us who, in so many words, dont embrace ECUSAs new agenda.
I thought that fortuitous timing had allowed me to escape the worst, but as we prepared to leave the convention floor later in the day (I can never get through a full day at the cathedral anymore - its like apostasy by a thousand cuts), a speaker was at the microphone to ostensibly address the issue of support for military families. The last words I heard, though, were "We need to find a way to help more military men and women become conscientious objectors."
In addition to a gripping bout of nausea predictable for one whos spent most of his life alongside men and women in uniform who are willing to fight and even die every day for the principle of freedom and our own national security, those outrageous words sent another one of those little "smells" into my nostrils like a blast of compressed air.
Yes, Id seen these kinds of folks before. Nothing to them is worth fighting and dying for. I taught for a few years at a liberal arts college and can personally attest to the proliferation of this kind of thinking throughout academia (and by the way, any other thinking there on this subject is unofficially proscribed - so much for the broad academic experience mom and dad are paying that $100K for...). This particular college was a Jesuit one, and I recall clearly the day a visiting Jesuit lecturer just back from an escorted visit to Baghdad told the assembled students and professors that Saddams palaces were not to be seen as "bad" things - they were part of a wonderful work program for "the people."
Even as I write this, I have a small piece of marble from one of those palaces weighing down the papers on my desk. I picked it up in one of these wonderful "work program" palaces - this one destroyed by Kurds before completion (guess they didnt get the memo about the "work program" this one was part of ) - the same day I visited Halabja, the infamous village where over 3,000 villagers were killed by a chemical weapons attack. I keep this little jagged piece of stone where I can see it simply to remind me that there is indeed horrible evil in this world - even when a priest cloaks it in the guise of a "work program."
Having dedicated a fair amount of time myself working alongside the UN, Human Rights Watch and various non-governmental relief agencies and other organizations in Iraq to try to save Iraqis and rid them of the evil of Saddams unholy Babylon, I find Griswolds statement naïve in the extreme but typical of many Episcopal clergy who have somehow lost any belief in evil except to apply it in some strange way to their own countrymen. The Iraqis I know dont think we waged war "against them as they go about their lives for the first time in their memories with hope as they look toward the future.
My life experience tells me that people like this lie low and look the other way when women in places like Afghanistan are taken to soccer stadiums and executed before the crowds for half-time entertainment - yet staunchly proclaim rights for women from the safety of the public square. But there are many of us - and I feel assured in daring to say many, many of us - who think the proximate result of that other invasion solved more than putting a terrorist enemy on the run. We understand that rights for people start with the assumption that you have to be alive to enjoy them.
When it comes to Iraq, people like this overlook the half million corpses of men, women, and children having to be dug up today in southern Iraq and the calculated murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Kurds in the north, the latter a part of a campaign which involved the widespread use of chemical weapons and the wholesale destruction of some 2,000 villages. One project I worked on together with Human Rights Watch was a very lengthy translation effort for tons of captured Iraqi secret police documents. We were looking for a "smoking gun" to expose Saddam once and for all, but the Kurds who captured the documents saw it more simply, pleading with us to "Please just find out what happened to our families who disappeared."
Many - too many - of those with whom I worked in that part of the world are no longer alive, existing for me today only in photo albums thanks to brutal campaigns by the Iraqi regime even as we and the UN tried in vain to protect them. These people never had the chance to dip their fingers in ink, vote for a constitution, or have any reason to hope for their childrens futures. I sense somehow that our presiding bishop in spite of his elevated position is not privy to any special wisdom that might lead him to draw a connection between the encouragement of rising democracy in the near geographic epicenter of jihadist terror and the safety of our families at home.
I used to think many of the folks like Frank were simply guilty of naiveté - and some of them particularly from my generation clearly are, having likely gone into "safe" vocations to escape military service so many years ago so never received any education in realpolitik - but it goes far deeper, and thats where the biggest problem lies.
They dont believe in evil the way most people believe in evil. In any event, to their apparent way of thinking, if evil exists in the world at all, it is greatly circumscribed.
Their understanding of evil is limited to those whom they have not yet been able to convince to set aside their stubborn belief in Scripture, to those unwilling to embrace and call down Gods blessings upon moral degeneracy in our culture and our Church, and even now apparently to those who think there is a reason to fight the one enemy of America that can potentially bring the destruction of our way of life - on our terms and on their soil.
I see evil differently and my own "single most disappointing moment" as a member of Franks and my common church occurs in Groundhog Day-fashion every morning when I wake up and have to face the fact that there really isnt "more that unites us than divides us."
My world view - including my view of evil and what our response to it must be if we are to both survive as a people and remain faithful as a Church - and that of Frank Griswold will always divide us. No doubt Frank and I both pray to the same God to make us all one in the Body of Christ as He intended, but even in that context, how can we ever find common ground when all that he apparently thinks makes for a better world and a better Church are exactly the things which I believe to the depths of my soul will destroy both?
Maybe its time for one of those recently popular "You dont speak for me" tours to start around the country. As he stands in the pulpit as the "primate of the American Church" addressing folks on the other side of the globe, Frank Griswold represents all of us in his audiences minds whether he thinks so or not.
So let me add yet another voice to an ever-growing number in our Church who are saying, "You dont speak for me, Frank!"
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