One news story: The alleged mobile bioweapons labs in Iraq didn't exist. Bush and his associates were told they didn't exist, but persisted in flogging the mobile labs story in the service of a policy leading to the deaths of tens of thousands.
Os Guinness, in Unspeakable: Facing Up to the Challenge of Evil, says:
As modern, democratic people, we pride ourselves on our commitment to freedom. But a moment's thought shows us that our need for order is even more basic than our need for freedom—which is why human beings often submit to tyranny rather than feel the terror of their hands shaking in the face of chaos.I had barely finished reading this when I came across a recent Paul Krugman essay (here in the New York Times $elect section). Discussing the speculation that our government was fine-tuning plans for an attack on Iran, he said:
"But he wouldn't do that." That sentiment is what made it possible for President Bush to stampede America into the Iraq war and to fend off hard questions about the reasons for that war until after the 2004 election. Many people just didn't want to believe that an American president would deliberately mislead the nation on matters of war and peace.No, our need to see order around us, and especially in our so-called leadership, gives us quite an investment in passivity. We know, we sense, that the world is capable of dangerous chaos, and we want to believe that our government plans intelligently to increase world order in ways that reflect our own national values of fairness, freedom, and generosity.
What do we do when it appears that this chaos has infected our own nation, and our government? This is not just an issue of policy; it relates to unmistakable evidence of wickedness in high places. For better or for worse, we expect our presidents, defense secretaries, and other high officials to lie in our own best interests as a nation (or at least we're inclined to forgive them when the truth emerges); but when their lies subvert the very essence of governance, leading to the squandering of lives and a nearly unprecedented financial hemorrhage, doesn't the restoration of order mean challenging those officials?
In a constitutional democracy, when the officials surrender to chaos, order is not preserved by abject servility to those officials; it is preserved by going to the next line of defense: the constitution. The process is called impeachment. It is a measure of our servility that the advocacy of impeachment has been seen as a "fringe" movement, but with new revelations of corruption and mendacity each week, it is time to make accountability a matter of basic order, not an issue of likes, dislikes, and conventional wisdom.
The evangelical establishment flunks again. See the sadly hilarious story of the king of Israel and the prophet Micaiah. All the domesticated prophets were telling the two kings to attack Aram; Zedekiah, son of Kenaanah, backed war with a dramatic flourish that would do a modern televangelist proud. With biting irony, Micaiah stood up for the awkward truth: God was seducing the king into a self-destructive war by putting a lying spirit into the mouths of those other prophets. To avoid self-destruction, King Ahab would need not just to believe Micaiah instead of the others, but on a more basic level, as Kings and Chronicles make clear, to turn himself and his country back onto a path of righteousness. That's what true prophets require. Are our spiritual leaders in the line of Micaiah, or in the line of Zedekiah?
The same question occurred to me when reading about the evangelical establishment and immigration. Almost nothing is clearer in the Bible than the imperative of treating the "alien" with fairness and hospitality. Christianity Today has taken an editorial line basically supporting a progressive approach (see this article and this follow-up) but another article from earlier this year documents the apparent indifference in much of organized evangelicalism. I guess it's okay to go abroad to preach the gospel, but, goodness, don't let 'em come here.