On a sticker: “Liberal Logic: Terrorists have rights, Christians don’t.”

July 8, 2010

church / culture

Last week, we were at Cornerstone Festival 2010. Most years, I write a post or two in advance of the fest, previewing shows and seminars that I’m looking forward to, but this year it just didn’t happen due to a lot of craziness that I’ll talk about later. But in spite of it, I do hope to write a few posts reflecting on the music, seminars, and so on that we experienced.

This first one is a really random one that, I assume, is not Cornerstone specific although I experienced it there. As a festival, there aren’t necessarily a ton of conservative political folks. There are some, but there’s a vein of activism that runs through it due to its creators, and it keeps things a bit more tempered than you might expect. In any case, one morning we were walking down a path and I saw a sticker on someone’s ATV that read: “Liberal Logic: Terrorists have rights, Christians don’t.”

Read that again. “Liberal Logic: Terrorists have rights, Christians don’t.” I couldn’t let the image go, and I’ve been reflecting on it since I saw it. This isn’t a political post. The statement, politically, is patently and demonstrably false and based exclusively on the ignorance and fear that dominates a great deal of conservative rhetoric these days. That isn’t surprising or interesting. But I am deeply interested in what is going on with the statement beyond that ridiculous world, and in the images that it raised in my mind.

The church in America is preoccupied with its own rights. We are spoiled by living in a country that has sought to give religious rights to everyone because for so long we have seen ourselves as everyone. We are further spoiled by generations of religious empire-builders, including our own that overwhelmingly believes it’s okay to torture people, in which we thought it was okay to combine the American agenda with the Christian agenda regardless of the people who lost their rights and their lives because of us.

The deadly irony in this is that the entrenchment of that combination causes us to react with fear and mistrust of anything that seeks to tip the scales even a little bit in favor of rights for human beings that are not part of the American or the Christian agenda. Liberals have asked that we stop torturing and indefinitely locking people away who are suspected of terrorism. They’ve asked that we stop giving insane favoritism to Christianity within a society that has people of many faiths. Both of these are completely reasonable and should be supported, but instead they are feared.

My mind, though, went from a gut reaction of sad laughter to an imagination of a church and a world in which this sticker was actually true. Don’t misunderstand me: this is still not about politics or foreign policy or anything to do with the State, though it would deeply affect the way that Christians engaged with the State. Maybe they would rethink their unquestioning support of violence.

Imagine if, instead of seeking to kill terrorists by whatever means possible, we sought to dignify, help, and seek reconciliation with them. We often ignore the fact that terrorism breeds among poverty and oppression, and we act like the fights America engages in are between people who possess equal power. This just isn’t the case. So imagine if we as Christians, regardless of what American politics sought, tried to give rights to the poor and oppressed, whether or not they liked us and whether or not it cost us. Imagine if we sacrificed our positions of power, hate, and dominance, and the military and other backings of establishment that came with them.

I know I’m a liberal and I know the American church would have to lose a lot before this could happen (and might lose things it thinks are valuable if it did happen), but it sounds like Jesus to me. It sounds like the sacrificial love for enemies that he displayed and commanded us to display.