Recently I was in conversation where the question was posed, “Is it wrong that we’re happy that Saddam was killed?” I think this is a valid question worth addressing. However, in order to discuss it, there is one other question that needs addressed first. This article will cover this preliminary question, while I will address the primary question in a subsequent article.
The question about the death of Saddam is a politically related question, since he was tried and put to death by a government. While it wasn’t the U.S. government directly, we were certainly instrumental in bring this event about, since we were of course the ones who went into Iraq militarily, captured and confined him, and directed the setting up of the government who did make and carry out the sentence. At the same time, the people asking this question were Christians, and I know they seek to have their faith inform their beliefs.
So my initial question is, who is the “we” in this question? Does the we refer to us as citizens of the United States, or us as Christians? I realize this question might not make much sense to many people at first, yet I think it’s important. I believe that many Christians would respond, “Is there a difference?” That reveals a significant problem in my opinion. This question is certainly not unique to the afore mentioned question about the death of Saddam, but rather applies to a whole area of thought. I believe that Christians in the U.S. too closely identify themselves with the country. Part of the problem leading into this is the idea the the U.S. is a Christian nation (or at least was and ought to be again). I don’t intend to get into that debate here, as it is not the focus of this article. I will simply say that I think that it is meaningless to say that a country is Christian, and that I don’t believe that the U.S. is a Christian nation.
Because of that, I believe that the questions of, “What should the U.S.’s response be?” and “What should the Church’s response be?” to some situation most often have different answers. I believe that the U.S. has certain goals, values, beliefs, and responsibilities. The church also has goals, values, beliefs, and responsibilities, but they are quite different from those of a government, and may well actually be opposed to them.
As citizens of the United States, even while Christians, we enjoy certain privileges and freedoms. We have a chance to vote and voice our opinions on what we believe that the government should do. While we have this opportunity, we may certainly take advantage of it. But we shouldn’t expect the government to do everything the way we want, nor think that we’ve lost if and when they don’t. Generally, I think we should see the U.S. and the government as being less important than we seem to now.
This is an old issue. The disciples of Jesus asked, “are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) even after his resurrection. They expected the messiah to be someone to be a political, governmental leader. In contrast, Jesus rarely talked to any important governmental leaders, but rather allowed the government to condemn him (even though innocent) and kill him. So let me ask the popular question: if Jesus was born in the U.S. today, what would he do?” I’m not going to claim to know the answer, but do you think he’d identify himself as an American citizen, and spend a lot of time and effort in attempting to affect U.S. policy?
Some of the articles I write have to do with questions that relate (or could relate) to the government and politics. When I do address these topics, I will try to be clear in differentiating between a U.S. response, and a Christian one. Understand though that I’m generally more interested in how we as Christians should respond, because I feel that’s the more important question for us anyway.
photo credit: US flag with cross instead of stars via photopin (license)