God as Holy Warrior is now apparently running the GOP senatorial opposition to the health care bill.
The Republican response to Senator Harry Reid’s statement that a vote could come as early as Saturday on the health care bill was to declare war. Not just any kind of war, but the crusade kind of war. “It’s going to be a holy war,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah).
God as Holy Warrior had gone out of fashion in Christian theology for about a thousand years. Since the period of the Crusades (1096-1291) and the absolute debacle that became for European nations, the idea of God as in charge of war (hence ‘holy war’) has gradually been replaced with the idea of civil societies of diverse faiths. This doesn’t mean that war has become obsolete; far from it. But politics as God’s war had been abandoned in Christian thinking. Instead, war had become “politics by other means,” in Carl von Clausewitz’ famous phrase.
What a difference a millennium makes. Now we have politics as war, and not just any war, but Holy War.
One of the reasons the idea of God as Holy Warrior had been abandoned in Christian thinking on war and peace is that holy war is the idea of total war, war without mercy, without limits. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1096, they killed so many inhabitants in their zeal – Muslims, Jews, and Eastern Christians — that the city just became a sea of blood. In their own eyes, the Crusaders saw their actions as the instruments of God’s just judgment on ‘unbelievers’ who deserved to die for their rejection of Christ and their ‘desecration’ of the holy city, Jerusalem. The serious alienation of Christianity from both Judaism and Islam created by this massacre became the fuel for tremendous cycles of violence throughout the last millenium and we are not finished with the effects of these cycles of violence. We are not finished at all.
The “Crusade” mentality is truly an alarming, and recent trend in American politics. Take Orrin Hatch, for example. There was a time just a little more than a decade ago when he surprised many in the Senate by co-sponsoring health care legislation for children. In 1997 Hatch joined Edward Kennedy in sponsoring a $24 billion program to get states to provide health insurance for children of low-income working parents who don’t qualify for Medicaid.
Holy War politics is what’s happened to Senator Hatch and far too many of his GOP colleagues. Now we have political opposition to health care reform as total war.
This is a death wish for democracy. Democracy depends on the ability of people in a society to come together and actually get things done through negotiation and compromise as Kennedy and Hatch did in the last decade.
Holy Warriors take no prisoners. They don’t negotiate. They don’t compromise.
This is the mentality tha belongs to what used to be called “the Dark Ages.” It wasn’t a good time in world history. Let’s not go back to that.