I almost didn't publish this post. It might be too blasphemous - even for me. I sat on it for a good part of three months.
Then the hypocrisy of Christmas set in and how the the Religious Right was going to promote 2008 as a year for "voters' values." (Scroll down to see The Inflatable Nativity). And Mike Huckabee's recently disclosed comments about quaranteening AIDS patients also struck a sour note with me.
I have a Google Alert for “Christianity’s Crimes” and a while ago it came up with WORLDVIEW: Thugs run Caesar’s realm, not God’s, and the article was posted to TownHall.com. Intrigued, I pulled it up. At first it looked to me as if the author had caught a rare case of polemicitis (a mental disease that uses meaningless ranting as a weapon). Then I saw the affiliation of the author: The Southern Baptist Convention. It made more sense: a fundamentalist missionary telling everyone that true Christians will prevail over the dreaded “hug-a-thugs.” Now that’s a B-movie in the making! So, sit down with armchair critics Karbo, Kelso and Klutx – ala Mystery Science Theater 3000 - and let’s watch:
RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--If you're disgusted and disillusioned by U.S. politics, I suggest you count your blessings.
There may not be any new Jeffersons or Washingtons on the horizon, but we've got it better than most. Many places in the world resemble the playgrounds where kids learn the law of the human jungle: Bullies rule.
Kelso: Yeah, kid, gimme a piece of your Congo!
Sure, schoolyard tough guys occasionally get what they dish out. But that's usually the exception, not the norm. On the global stage, the same age-old story plays out. From neighborhood godfathers to national dictators, thugs thrive.
Klutx:: And popes, fathers of the church, inquisitors, bishops, ministers, The Southern Baptist Convention, and televangelists with private jets.
Karbo:: Is he talking about thugs or feminists? I always get them mixed up.
As Chairman Mao observed, power -- the power most people understand, at any rate -- "comes from the barrel of a gun."
Kelso: And from the back of a lead-lined pulpit.
Karbo: No guns, though. They slice people up with light sabers and verses from the Bible.
The age of the 20th-century "mega thugs" (Mao, Stalin, Hitler) who subjugated vast portions of humanity may have passed, but plenty of Wannabes imitate them on a smaller scale. Examples:
Strongmen and spies have reasserted control over some former communist states after an all-too-brief spring of freedom.
Kelso: Must’ve watched a lot of Jimmy Cagney and Edward G. Robinson movies when they were in captivity.
Karbo: Yeah, commissar Capones pushin’ bathtub Stoli.
The nine nations of central Africa, home to nearly 100 million people, are rich in natural resources and should constitute one of the globe's most prosperous areas by now, observes mission strategist Justin Long. Instead, they are "devastated by coups, wars, repressive governments and mismanagement, become the second-poorest region in the world...."
Karbo: But that was way after missionaries and the Bible said slavery was O.K. Hey, it’s better to be a Christian slave heathen than just a mere heathen… isn’t it?
Klutx: Let’s give ‘em some cotton and tobacco seeds. (sings) Ole Nile River, ‘dat Ole Nile River…
To maintain total control over their crumbling societies and economies, several dictators in Asia and Africa appear quite willing to allow significant percentages of their populations to starve.
Kelso: Just like Rumsfield’s “old Europe.” I heard Cardinal Richelieu treated the poor as if they were royalty, but later on they sent some clergy to the guillotine. That’s gratitude for ya.
Klutx:: Didn’t Richelieu look at lot like Tim Curry?
Karbo: No, more like Charleton Heston, but without a gun.
Some of the world's most dangerous and unstable regimes possess nuclear weapons, and others are working hard to acquire them. Terrorists likely will obtain nukes within 10 years, predicts Forecasting International, an agency that tracks possible future scenarios.
Klutx: Oh, I know, that’s the Al Roker Fan Club isn’t it?
Karbo: Keep up with the news, dude. Al almost got burned at the stake for predicting the weather with Runes and calling Anne Coulter an eye sore instead of eye candy.
Smaller-scale terrorist attacks will increase and terrorist groups will multiply. Al Qaeda-inspired franchises and spinoffs might come to political power in "any of perhaps a dozen countries" in the Arab world, South Asia or the "stans" of formerly Soviet Central Asia, warns Forecasting International President Marvin J. Cetron. "As things stand," he adds, "the war on terror will drag on for decades."
True, some thugs have been brought to justice in recent years, including Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. The five-year-old International Criminal Court is pursuing some of the worst African despots and mass murderers. Liberian warlord Charles Taylor is on trial for crimes against humanity.
Karbo:(Gasp!) Charles Taylor? Isn’t he the guy Pat Robertson told us was a devout Christian? Didn’t he get jobs for all those Liberarians in Pat’s mines pickin’ diamonds? You can’t trust anybody these days.
"These are uncomfortable times for tyrants, past and present," suggests The Economist magazine. "They used to be able to escape justice through brutality at home, or if that failed, fleeing abroad. Now justice's arms are looking longer and more muscular."
Klutx: Which gym does justice go to?
Kelso: I saw her arms. They were pretty buff before John Ashcroft covered up everything to shield us from those perky breasts.
But long-term prospects aren't encouraging when the supposedly civilized world can't define what tyranny is. Six years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the United Nations General Assembly "lacks the moral clarity to even agree on a definition of terrorism," wrote human-rights expert Joseph Loconte in Christianity Today. "Of the 53 member states of the Human Rights Commission, at least 25 percent were considered 'not free' by leading human-rights organizations.... During the last two decades, attempts to produce resolutions critical of human-rights violators routinely died in their crib -- blocked in backroom maneuvers" by notorious state sponsors of human rights abuse who were commission members.
Klutx: So that’s why Bolton hates the U.N. so much! Weren’t some of those ‘not free’ nations America’s best friends? Didn’t we give them some guns to play with?
The U.N. finally abolished the Human Rights Commission last year and replaced it with the new Human Rights Council. But that body, Loconte reported, "appears to have the same hug-a-thug mentality."
Karbo: I really like “hug-a-thug” – sounds like some toilet paper ad in a whitewashed version of the 50s.
Kelso: It’s a new left-wing subversive cheer: “Hug-a-thug, Hug-a-thug, sis boom bah! U.N. U.N. Rah! Rah! Rah!”
As much as international idealists and proponents of democracy want to believe otherwise, freedom does not easily bloom in the hard soil of human corruption. Some oppressed peoples even welcome the enforced stability of tyranny as an alternative to chaos, which can be worse.
"The end of the Cold War promised to heal the rift between democracy and dictatorship. More nations would be welcomed into the community of free peoples," recalls New York Times columnist David Brooks. However, "The fall of communism hasn't created a global community of democracies. It turns out the Russians don't want to be like us. The Arabs don't want help from infidels. The Iraqis' democratic moment has turned into sectarian chaos. The Palestinians have turned theirs into a civil war."
Karbo: I can’t see why they hate us so much. We’re such open-minded and sophisticated people.
Klutx: Yeah, just ask any French waiter.
Kelso: We gave the world Disneyland for crissakes! How dare they!
In such a world, should Christians hunker down and hope for better days? By no means!
Klutx: Oh oh! Here it comes…(hums Onward Christian Soldiers)
Karbo: No, it should be: “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder!” (All three) “Yat ta da, ta ta ta da!
Caesars of various sorts may dominate the political realm; Jesus acknowledged as much (Luke 20:25). But they don't control human souls. They might slow the spread of the Gospel, but they can't stop it. In many cases, they unwittingly hasten the church's expansion by attempting to control or crush it. Christianity's first great age of growth occurred amid the brutal persecutions -- and later the collapse -- of the Roman Empire. Most modern mission advances have come through storms of resistance.
Klutx: Yep, right after book burnings, witch burnings, heathen burnings, student burnings, cross burnings and ...
Kelso:…a couple of forced conversions.
The only force that effectively silences the Gospel is the reluctance of believers to share it. A follower of Christ recently attempted to tell a man about Jesus in a country long closed to missions -- and long ruled by a notorious dictator. The man immediately stopped him, saying, "Don't talk to me about these things. I was in a Christian country for several years and nobody spoke to me of this when I was there. Why should I listen to you now?"
Klutx: Because I have a loaded Bible in my hand, dude.
What a tragic indictment. Remember it the next time you have the opportunity to tell someone from an oppressed land about the Lord.
Karbo: From the driver’s seat of your Mercedes, then roll the window up.
THE ENDKelso: I’m glad that one’s over, what a lousy script! Couldn’t they have hired Pat Boone to write it?
Klutx: Or even Debbie Boone.
Kelso: I liked Pat Robertson vs the Heathen Zombies from San Francisco better. The special effects were awesome!
Karbo: And their weapons were cool! Let’s see it again!
Kelso: But only if we get some popcorn and drinks first, these double-features make me hungry.
Note:The author of the "hug-a-thug" article - Erich Bridges - is senior writer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. You can reach him through The Southern Baptist Press.