Shall We Call Fire Down from Heaven to Destroy ‘Them’?
Posted in : Foreign Policy on by : Michael Maharrey
Recently, I was stalking around Facebook, and I ran across a post advocating a preemptive nuclear strike on North Korea. The person who posted it said he would “sleep better at night” after the incineration of North Korea’s tyrannical ruling party – along with hundreds of thousands of oppressed peasants.
I wonder if this individual simply hasn’t contemplated the number of innocent Korean people who would would die in a nuclear strike, or if he just doesn’t care.
The fact that Americans glibly talk about launching a preemptive nuclear strike still shocks me. I was a Cold War kid and nobody openly contemplated nuking the Soviets first. Maybe there was something to that doctrine of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD).
But I probably shouldn’t find it shocking some Americans view nuclear holocaust as a viable foreign policy. After all, your average American doesn’t bat an eye at the more than 100,000 Japanese civilians killed in two US nuclear strikes during World War II. By even daring to question that decision, I will almost certainly draw the ire of some readers.
This “nuke ’em” mentality fits neatly within a worldview that holds human life in very low regard – at least human life that exists outside of some borders drawn on a map. Nuking “them” becomes an acceptable course of action as long as it protects “us.” I saw this mindset chillingly on display during a Today show interview featuring warmonger Lindsay Graham. Willie Geist asked the senator if he would be for a “preemptive strike” on North Korea.
“If that’s what it would take.”
Graham never said whether his preemptive strike strategy involves nuclear weapons. Certainly statements like “everything remains on the table” expressed by the Trump administration includes nukes. But whether we’re talking a nuclear strike, or simply a conventional military operation, hitting North Korea would result in countless deaths and untold suffering – not just in North Korea, but throughout eastern Asia. Graham knows this, but he doesn’t give a rip. As long as “they” suffer and “we” don’t, it’s all good.
“It’d be terrible. But the war would be over there. It wouldn’t be here. It’d be bad for the Korean peninsula; it’d be bad for China; it’d be bad bad for Japan, bad for South Korea; it’d be the end of North Korea, but what it would not do is hit America.”
It actually sounds like Graham has nuclear war in mind, doesn’t it? Regardless, he clearly has no concern for what happens to millions of Asians, as long as America gets tough with the belligerent, tin-horn government in Pyongyang.
Sadly, Graham isn’t a radical, or an outlier. He represents a prominent stream of American thought. Innocent human lives don’t really matter if they belong to a group of “others.” If it takes killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people “over there” to advance American interests, well, that’s what it takes. Sometimes you have to crack some eggs to make an omelette, right?
This mentality makes sense if you find your primary source of identity in your tribe. And it seems American rhetoric about being a “a Christian nation,” puts far more emphasis on “nation” than Christian.
Christ calls his followers to a different view of humanity. He reveals to us the intrinsic value and worth of every human being, regardless of their tribe. God does not rank human life based on which side of a border they live, or what flag flies over their government buildings. Jesus demonstrated how to treat “others” in his interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well.
Even within the ubiquitous violence and widespread disregard for human life in Old Testament times, Abraham foreshadows the Kingdom of God in his concern for innocent human lives in Sodom and Gomorrah.
God intended to wipe these evil cities off the map. God told Abraham , “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” (Gen. 18:20) But Abraham was concerned about what God might do to the cities, despite the wickedness that went on there.
“Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
God shows his mercy, telling Abraham he will not judge the righteous along with the wicked. “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
But even this isn’t good enough for Abraham. He continues to plead with the Lord to spare the innocent – even though this means allowing evildoers to live. Eventually, God commits to spare the cities if he finds even just 10 righteous people living among the wicked.
Abraham valued innocent human life. He was not willing to sacrifice a few innocent people, even to destroy a great evil. If he had to crack a few eggs, he’d just do without the omelette.
What a contrast to mainstream Americans who condone and justify killing hundreds of thousands of innocents simply to advance “America’s national interest.”
“That’s war,” they tell me with a blasé wave of a hand.
Instead of Abraham’s compassion and concern for the innocent, American Christians tend to take the attitude of Jonah, who became angry at God for sparing Nineveh even after the people of the city repented.
As Jesus journeyed through Samaria on his way to Jerusalem, he stopped in a town along the way. He sent messengers ahead to ask the Samaritans to prepare a place for them to stay overnight, “but the people there did not welcome him.” (Luke 9:53)
“When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them.”
I’m certain Jesus likewise rebukes American Christians who call for fire to rain down on North Koreans, Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Russians, and all of the other “others” the U.S. bombs, drones and missiles in the name of “freedom.”