The International Bonhoeffer Society Denounces Trump

Someone I know recently posted the following article to Facebook, International Bonhoeffer Society Calls for 'Ending Donald Trump's Presidency' in 'Statement of Concern', and I thought that I'd share a few thoughts about that article. Before I continue, I need to point out that I have written no shortage of posts on this blog about my dislike for the current president. I stress that fact up front so that nothing that I say here will be misconstrued as though I am carrying the flag for him. With that being said, I'd like to discuss the problem that I see with the official statement from the International Bonhoeffer Society (IBS). (By the way, if I might take a brief moment to interject a bit of humor: did anyone at their society bother to realize that they share the same initials as an intestinal disease? But I digress...)

Here's the problem with statements like the one issued by the IBS: what gives them the right to speak on behalf of a long-dead theologian? By what right do they support their claim that they are the "grateful recipients, and now custodians, of the theological, ethical, and political legacy of ... Dietrich Bonhoeffer?" That is a self-appointed mission, and I have no cause or reason to recognize their authority in any political or moral debates where they are operating in Bonhoeffer's name. I have also read and studied various publications from Bonhoeffer, and if I so chose to do so, I could cherry-pick specific phrases to reinforce any point of view that I personally held with something that Bonhoeffer had said. That's the essence of "Proof Texting," and people do what with the Bible every day; people posses moral or political points of view, and they choose something that will back up their opinion. It's done all the time, but it's immoral. It's unethical. And it violates scripture. Nevertheless, trying to demonstrate that some late personage who can no longer defend their point of view is a popular tactic for those who are otherwise incapable of defending their stance.

Here's a rather inane example that should illustrate my point quite nicely: I have spent the past 40+ years of my life as a Rush fan. I have at one time or other learned the lyrics to every song, learned how to play all of their songs on the guitar, read books written by their band members, read and watched interviews with band members, gathered together with various fans and discussed or debated the deeper philosophical meanings of their lyrics, and seen Rush live on over a dozen occasions. That being said, their drummer, Neil Peart,  passed away last week, and it would be thoroughly asinine for me to band together with a group of like-minded Rush fans and issue a statement that, "It is our belief that Peart would agree with us that Justin Trudeau is God's choice for Canada's Prime Minister," or "No right-minded follower of Peart would ever support Justin Trudeau." Do you hear how literally stupid that sounds? And yet this is EXACTLY what the IBS is doing. They have no ethical right to do so; but without the weight of a fabricated association with Bonhoeffer, the IBS has no voice. And yet, they have no more right to issue proclamations in Bonhoeffer's name than the Chesterton Society does for G. K. Chesterton, or the Martin Luther King Society does for MLK, or the Augustinians do for Augustine, or we do for Christ. If something isn't specifically in scripture, then we have no right - NO RIGHT - to say, "Jesus would agree with me."

Having said all of that, the IBS is certainly correct in their assertions that "evangelicals" are often guilty of proclaiming that "God chose Trump." And in that respect, those "evangelicals" are guilty of what I was just saying that no one should be doing; they should not be speaking for Christ. But the irony is, the IBS is trying to call out sin by committing their own sin. The SAME sin, to be exact. This is, of course, the textbook definition of hypocrisy. However, throughout their official statement, the IBS makes other points abundantly clear; for example: by calling out "evangelicals" for their behavior, the IBS outs themselves as orthodox. And if I'm not orthodox, then I have little cause or desire to agree with them theologically or philosophically. In addition, the IBS's talking points easily out themselves as liberal theologians, and if I am a conservative theologian, then I have even less cause to agree with them theologically or philosophically. And in a like manner, many of the IBS's political stances are clearly the regurgitation of talking points from political liberals, and if I am politically conservative, then I have even less cause to agree with them politically or sociologically.

In the end, the official statement from the IBS is based on authority that is entirely self-appointed; it does not exist in any fashion other than their own self-infatuation, and I have no reason to accept their proclamations based on authority that I do not recognize. In addition, I am diametrically opposed to their theological, philosophical, political, and sociological positions on many issues. I may dislike our president as much as the IBS does, but I use my own voice to make my arguments. Ultimately, the IBS appears to be a group of petty, misguided academics, who are locked safely away in their ivory towers of liberal thought, issuing useless missives that they believe have some form of impact. So immoral. So unethical. So childish...

One postscript, were I one to "Proof Text," it would be trivial to shut down many of the IBS's arguments through the misuse of scripture - for example:

  • Peter 2:13: "For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority - whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed."
  • Romans 13:1-2: "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished."
  • Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work."
  • Titus 3:1-2: "Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone."

Please bear in mind, I do my best to follow those points of scripture, regardless of who our president is. But that being said, I do NOT claim the authority of Christ to say, "God chose Trump as our president." However, according to scripture - that is true. Just as God chose Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, etc., all the way back to Washington. And yet, we are not called to follow blindly; if our government asks to do something that violates scripture, we are demanded to follow Christ first. But in many situations, we follow Christ by following our leaders - even when we disagree with them.


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written, which I later discovered had never been set to "public."

RIP Neil Peart (1952-2020)

Like many Rush fans, I was saddened by the unexpected news of Neil Peart's death today. (See https://cnn.it/385vcFJ.) Neil was the dominant third of the Canadian Power Trio Rush, and as I have expressed before, Rush's music was truly the soundtrack of my life. Every significant season of my life was punctuated by the release of a Rush album.

I first saw Rush around 1980, and it was one of the greatest concerts of my life. Over the next 35 years I saw them several more times, and I spent countless hours learning how to play their music on guitar for several bands. (Many of my bandmates from way back then are still some of my closest friends.)

I took the following photo of Rush on stage in Toronto during one of their last concerts, and Neil is the central point of focus in that image, as it should be - Neil was the principle lyricist and inarguably the driving force behind their success. This tour was Rush's last hurrah before they collectively stepped down from their 40-year career as the undisputed masters of progressive rock, which was followed quickly by Neil's retirement to spend his final years with his wife and daughter.

I hope no one minds, but I'd like to take a bit of creative license with stealing a few specific lyrics from one of of Neil's earliest songs, Lakeside Park, as an epitaph...

So many memories
Shining stars on summer nights
Singing songs together
Though it's just a memory
Some memories last forever...

I will selfishly admit, when I heard that Rush would never tour again, somewhere in the back of my mind I kept hoping against hope that maybe Rush would put on another show someday - perhaps for a charity - and then I might have a chance to see them one more time. Alas, that wasn't meant to be. But I am happy that Neil spent the past few years in retirement alongside his wife and daughter; I think that's a better way to have lived his final days than putting on a concert for selfish fans like me.

Presidents versus Terrorists

Let me say up front that I think Trump is the least-presidential president that we have had in many years. In fact, I have made it abundantly clear in other blog posts that quite often I think Trump acts like a world class buffoon. But that being said, I recently read a social media post wherein someone who simply hates Trump was spouting off about Trump attempting to act like the King of America and starting wars after a US drone airstrike killed Iran's General Qasem Soleimani. This person is one of a growing group of misguided malcontents who are so blinded by their rage against our current president that they are incapable of properly analyzing the situation.

With that in mind, here are a few facts that everyone should consider.

  • First of all, the President is Commander in Chief (CiC) of our Armed Forces; everyone in the military reports to him. For all intents and purposes, Trump outranks every general in the Pentagon. If the military has viable intelligence that they can take out a known terrorist and Trump gives them the go ahead, then that's well within the powers that are granted to his office.

  • Second, our military killed a known enemy militant who was actively engaged in planning additional acts of terrorism outside of his own country. Soleimani was an Iranian general and terrorist who was in Iraq in order to direct the actions of several groups of insurgents who were attempting to overthrow their democratically elected leaders. Soleimani was directly responsible for an indeterminate number of innocent deaths; and if left on his own, it is guaranteed that additional lives would have been lost.

  • Third, in contrast to the killing of an Iranian terrorist on Iraqi soil, when Obama gave his permission to kill Bin Laden, a group of heavily armed American forces crossed into a foreign nation (Pakistan) and killed someone who was hiding out with their permission. As Commander in Chief (CiC), Obama - like Trump - was operating within the powers that were granted to his office.

    • However, in the grander scheme of political diplomacy, Trump killed a positively-identified enemy combatant with a precise drone strike, whereas Obama ordered the slaughter of an entire household of civilians based on unconfirmed intelligence (that thankfully turned out to be true).

    • But make no mistake: when US forces went after Bin Laden, our military violated the borders of a sovereign nation. In no uncertain terms, we invaded Pakistan when we killed Bin Laden. Whereas in Soleimani's situation, our military was already stationed in Iraq as a peacekeeping force, and the Iranian general and his cohorts were the invaders.

    • Think about it this way: when a group of revolutionaries recently attempted to stage a coup in Turkey, they were doing so under the orders of a man who is currently residing in the USA, whom Turkey considers a traitor and terrorist. How would you feel if a heavily armed group from the Turkish military snuck over the borders into the United States and slaughtered every man, woman, and child in that guy's house? Most Americans - including you - would be highly offended; but that's exactly what we did with Pakistan, and no Americans care.

  • Fourth, when you compare the conditions of Obama's and Trump's operations, Obama ran the risk of open hostility with an ally, whereas Trump ran the risk of open hostility with a country that was already openly hostile to us. Remember, Iranian insurgents attempted to overthrow our embassy just a few days ago. With that in mind, let's examine presidential reactions to acts over terror over the past few decades:

    • When a crowd of Iranians overthrew one of our embassies during President Carter's administration, a large number of Americans were held prisoner and psychologically tortured for the next couple years.

    • When a group of terrorists from Libya bombed US forces in Germany, President Reagan ordered the bombing of Muammar Gaddafi's private palace - and we never heard from him again (until his own people overthrew and executed him in 2011).

    • When Sadam Hussein invaded one of our allies in the early 1990s, President Bush Sr. deployed our military in overwhelming force and routed the Iraqi invaders in a brilliantly-executed military campaign.

    • However, when terrorists working for Bin Laden bombed the Twin Towers in New York in 1993, President Clinton did nothing. In fact, President Clinton passed on every opportunity to kill Bin Laden that the military presented during his time in office. What is worse, whenever terrorists would bomb or kill US forces anywhere on the planet, Clinton would withdraw all US forces from the region, thereby giving the terrorists EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANTED ALL ALONG. In the end, the Clinton Presidency was the greatest terrorist training program in world history; President Clinton proved that terrorism works - the US will withdraw its forces, and no one who is responsible for terrorist acts will be punished.

    • When Bin Laden bombed the Twin Towers in New York in 2001, President Bush Jr. invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq, deposed their corrupt governments that sponsored global terrorism, and allowed their people to democratically elect their leaders for the first time in many, many years.

    • However, when a group of insurgents attempted to overthrow our embassy in Libya during President Obama's administration, both Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State (SoS) and Obama as Commander in Chief (CiC) ordered our military to stand down. As a direct result - our ambassador to Libya was killed (along with several other people), and our embassy compound was burned to the ground. (And don't even get me started on how Obama gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran, traded a host of known terrorists from Guantanamo prison without the required congressional approval in exchange for a known deserter and traitor, and he made it possible for Iran to create Nuclear weapons.)

    • On the other hand, when a group of insurgents attempted to overthrow one of our embassies under Trump's tenure, he sent in the military to reinforce the embassy and disperse the crowds of insurgents, and then he ordered their ringleader killed with a drone strike.

So, yeah - Trump is a doofus. But what Trump did was perfectly legal, as it was for Obama with Bin Laden. However, there is no comparison when it comes to results:

  • Carter (as CiC), both Clintons (Bill as CiC and Hillary as SoS), and Obama (as CiC) were all miserable failures with regard to foreign policy and terrorism.

  • On the other hand, Reagan (as CiC), Bush Sr. (as CiC), and Bush Jr. (as CiC) were demonstrably better at foreign policy.

The future will tell as to whether Trump will fare as well at foreign policy during his time as CiC. But that being said, just because you cannot stand Trump does not grant you the right to disparage what was well within the realm of his duties as Commander in Chief. In fact, at the moment it appears as though his decision to take out a known terrorist was incredibly well executed; with minimal loss of life to US, Iraqi, and even Iranian personnel.

As I said earlier, these are just some things to consider.


UPDATE: When this blog was originally published, it made no reference to the drone airstrike. As a result, the context was missing. That gaffe on my part was corrected later.

It's a New Year with the Same Warped Sense of Humor

I joined the Army in early 1986, at which time the following dark humor marching/running cadence was in prominent use:

A yellow bird / With a yellow bill
Landed on / My window sill
I lured him in / With a piece of bread
And then I smashed / His yellow head

Although to be perfectly honest, the original cadence didn't say "his yellow head;" instead, it used a more-colorful expression with the same number of syllables. But this is a public forum, so I'll stick to the sanitized version here.

Nevertheless, an unfortunate mishap occurred at my house recently: a tiny yellow bird flew into one of my windows, and - tragically - died as a result. However, when I discovered his demise, my first instinct wasn't to clean up the carnage. Instead, I grabbed my camera and a half-piece of bread and took the following picture, which I uploaded to a veterans' group on Facebook with the caption: "This guy landed on my window sill today... it didn't end well for him."

Now at first glance, this might seem rather... morbid. However, my fellow veterans immediately recognized my joke, and they posted comments like the following:

  • "His head seems intact. I'm confused."
  • "I see you lured him in with a piece of bread."
  • "You MUST finish what you started... CRUSH HIS ******* HEAD!!! "

They also replied with images like the following:

yellow-bird-knows
yellow-bird-grenade

One dark example of veteran humor was answered by dozens of darker examples of veteran humor. Once again, this behavior might seem somewhat disturbed to the casual observer, but none of the people involved in the ensuing discussion were sociopaths; most of them were happily married, with great jobs/careers, and selflessly devoted to their kids and grandkids. With that in mind, a short examination of the dichotomy between what veterans might find amusing versus what "acceptable society" might find amusing is worth discussing.

Here is another example of what many veterans find funny:

mushroom-cloud

I have to admit, I literally laughed out loud when I first saw that image; I honestly thought that was one of the funniest cartoons I had seen in a long time. However, when I showed it to my wife, she didn't find it funny. In fact, her comment was, "That's kind of sad..." And as I thought about our different reactions to the same image, I realized why veterans see things differently: we have learned to laugh at death. Not death itself, mind you, but the concept of death. We have to; we'd go crazy if we didn't, and I'll explain why.

The longer you serve in the military, you will eventually have to face death. This will rarely be your imminent demise, although that occasionally happens. But sooner or later you will have to survive the death of a friend or acquaintance, or you will have to come to terms with the fact that what you're doing is likely going to get you killed. Both of those realities are extremely difficult concepts for any sane person to deal with.

In an attempt to deal with the stress of these likely scenarios, most active service members of the military will employ the following coping mechanisms: toxic sarcasm and a dark sense of humor. This may seem strange and/or counter-productive to outsiders, but contrary to common sense - developing a cynical worldview helps service members successfully grapple with the subject of death. Learning to laugh at the inevitability of facing death in some form or other makes time in military service a little more endurable.

When veterans leave the service, their dark senses of humor follow them home; much like having a psychotic ex-lover stalk you across the country. But this is why I love hanging out in the veterans' groups on Facebook: I love seeing that there are others who still see things as I do. My sense of humor may be warped and distorted, but there are others who share that same warped and distorted sense of humor.

In short, other veterans "Get Me." They understand me. They share the same irreverent contempt for death that I do. Or to rephrase a famous idiom, "Fate whispers to the warrior, 'You cannot withstand the storm.' The warrior whispers back, 'You could really use a breath mint.'"