First, a meditation on the nature of whom Christians are called to imitate, emphasis mine:
This is a great mystery: that the one before whom every knee must bow should become a human being, who would kneel to wash the feet of fishermen and tax collectors — and of the one he knew would betray him.
Yet all the while Jesus knew what this humble act would cost. He knew perfectly well what he was doing, and who he was doing it for. Jesus’ simple act of foot-washing is set side-by-side with his knowledge of who his betrayer was, and what he was about to do. Jesus knew that his hour had come, that he was about to be betrayed into human hands by human hands, the very hands that would dip in the bowl with his. Believe me, one thing you don’t want to do is fall into human hands. And yet he stripped himself of his robe, and knelt to wash his disciples’ feet — all of them.
This foot-washing, this humility and love and tangible, physical care for every person, even those who would kill him or have him killed, is the lived illustration of Jesus’ exhortations on the mountainside:
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,* what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
These are not empty words or platitudes. These are the principles that Jesus lived and died in. This is the path for those who would ‘take up their cross and follow.’ Love. Real, tangible, this-worldly love. Tenderness, concern and humility for the bodies of those who would soon hand one over to the torturing, anti-human domination of the Empire. Perfect, corporeal love that rises like the sun and falls like rain on the evil and the good, the righteous and the unrighteous.
Much has been said lately of the United States being a “Christian” nation, as if the One Body could be subdivided or mapped by political jurisdiction, as if there were any other nation besides the Kingdom of God that could lay claim to the adjective “Christian.” But let me posit a criteria for measuring the Christianity of a given nation. Rather than measuring how many classrooms display the Ten Commandments, rather than count how many public officials bloviate about being “Under God,” let us measure how well a given nation imitates the God revealed in Jesus, who showed perfect, corporeal love, love that cared about the physical strain and grime on even his betrayer’s tired feet.
We certainly do let the rain fall on the evil and the good…a rain of bombs.
2008 has so far seen a sharp increase (39%) Afghan civilian casualties compared to last year, with this past August having had the highest number of civilian casualties since the overthrow of the Taliban.
…What is especially worrying, says spokesman Rupert Colville, is that every month things seem to get worse.
…[C]ivilian casualties caused by pro-government forces are rising too – 577 so far this year, compared with 477 over the same period last year.
This election year, the most viable “less war” candidate wants to send more troops to Afghanistan, despite warnings against such a move even from a strictly strategic standpoint. The “less troops in Iraq, more troops in Afghanistan” theme which has emerged over the past months (which I, to my discredit, helped push for a time) emerges not even from a strategic framework, let alone a “Christ-like” perspective, but rather from a feeling that Afghanistan is “The Right War”:
In the last month, both presidential candidates have stated they wish to send more troops to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, neither candidate has stated what he sees as the United States’ strategic interests in Afghanistan. Even more dangerous, neither candidate has expressed a strategic framework for the region. Despite increased violence in Pakistan, Musharraf’s recent resignation and the collapse of the coalition government, neither candidate has even commented on how our actions may be feeding Pakistan’s instability. Their determination to send more troops seems to be based on the idea that Afghanistan is the “good war” than on any thoughtful evaluation of the situation.
This feeling of a “good war” arises from the fact that al-Qaida planned their attacks in Afghanistan, and the Taliban regime refused to capture them and deliver them to what was probably a death sentence in the U.S.
Imagine you could travel back in time from where you were on September 11, 2001 to first-century Palestine. Imagine you are late to the meeting. Imagine you arrive in the middle of the foot-washing and butt into line. Imagine that He invites you to sit in the chair and take off your shoes. As you do, you start to tell him what happened. You tell him about the Towers, about the Pentagon, about the Pennsylvania fields. He scrubs between your toes. You tell him you know it was al-Qaida and the Taliban won’t give them up for prosecution and possible execution. (He might give you a long, meaningful look when you mention the death penalty, and maybe he’d absentmindedly rub the soft space between his wrist bones where the nails will fit tomorrow.) As he finishes washing your feet, you tell him your nation has fleets and bombers and computerized weapons that could bring justice to the perpetrators…should you use them, you ask?
Imagine he doesn’t answer, doesn’t say a word – he motions to the next person in line, and starts to wash Judas’ feet.
Much more will likely be said in the next forty-something days in order to get your vote, especially if you identify yourself as “Christian,” and a lot of it will include loud, certain declarations that this is a “Christian” nation. But that word means something: Christ-like. It is an adjective that means the noun behaves like Jesus, shows tangible love to the spirit and body of all people, whether they are good or evil, righteous or unrighteous, friend or enemy.
Afghanistan is not a “good war,” and America is not a “Christian” nation. It is an unbelievable offense to the memory of Jesus’ work on Earth to exhort a “Christian” America to double-down on a “good war” in Afghanistan.