In the past couple weeks, the mainstream media has documented what has been called a “new activist spirit in America’s youth.” They say college students and twentysomethings have stood on the forefront of the recent protests against the war in Iraq. On closer observation, our generation seems to be protesting the war despite knowing very little about the Iraqi situation.
In his new album, Attention! Blah, Blah, Blah, unabashedly leftist punk rocker Atom and his Package targets liberal leaning activists in a song called, “The Palestinians are not the same as the Rebel Alliance, you Jack—.”
Like the title implies, Atom’s amusing political rant speculates that many activists who support the Palestinian cause have no clue about the conflict: You say stupid things like ‘America is the only terrorist nation’/ Yeah, nice education.’ To Atom, the complexities of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict were being sold short by “catchphrase words” and replaced with the good vs. evil moral clarity of well … Star Wars.
This song came to mind while I watched an anti-war protest on the University of Missouri campus this weekend. One student hoisted a sign that used a four-letter expletive to describe his opinion about the U.S invasion of Iraq. The poster simply read “F— War.”
On one news report I watched recently, a reporter asked a twentysomething woman holding an anti-Bush sign if she thought Saddam Hussein should be in power. She answered no. The reporter then asked her what should be done to remove Saddam from power. She looked blankly into the camera and didn’t say a word.
This doesn’t seem to be an uncommon reaction. Protesters will say they are against war and for peace, but what exactly does that mean? Economic sanctions? Nuclear diplomacy?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing off all war protesters as simple-minded. But the question that I found engrained in my mind is why? If no solutions to the problem are offered except “Peace,” why then are protesters bothering to vomit en masse on the streets of San Francisco? Why are they blocking traffic in busy intersections with their bodies? Aren’t these things futile, or worse, counter-productive?
I came up with the answer as I sang in church on Saturday night. As I glanced around at the people I was singing in unison with, I remembered something. Christ gave us the gift of the Church to be the perfect conduit for the desire to be part of a community. The Church lets us be engaged in a close community under a common goal: to glorify God.
In my opinion, all of the marches, sit-ins and candlelight vigils across the county have little to do with the plight of the Iraqis. If it was about the citizens of Iraq, then why weren’t these same people protesting Saddam Hussein’s inhumane treatment of the Iraqi and Kurdish people? Instead of duct taping street poles and holding rallies at Boeing plants, why don’t they send money or food to help the starving families in Iraq?
Why? Because it’s about community. It’s about purpose. It’s about attempting to fulfill the innate desire God has placed in all of us to be apart of something greater than ourselves.
As I thought about it more, I found a striking similarity between a vast number of war protesters and Christians. War protesters make their sloganeered signs, go to a politically rally for two hours and punch in their “philanthropy” time card for a few hours a week. Then they live the rest of the week however they want to. They may hold an “anti-war” philosophy in their minds, but “world peace” is an abstract concept that has little impact on their everyday lives.
Is it really that much different than Christians who dress up on Sunday morning and go to a Church service for a couple of hours to punch in a “God” time card? Many believers know shockingly little about the Bible. Instead they hold a “Christian philosophy” that’s used mainly to speak out against the evils of the world (abortion, homosexuality, drugs) but has little influence on day-to-day living.
Could it be that some Christians, like war protesters, aren’t trying to change lives, but as Atom says in “Palestinians,” doing whatever “makes you feel good, makes you feel right”?
[Ryan Smith is a 25-year-old reporter for a daily newspaper in Missouri, freelance writer, Kazoo player and fantasy sports icon.]
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