Following Jesus

Where is the American Conscience?

April 20, 2018 by

After last week’s missile launch against Syria, Milton Zimmerman, a physician, reflects on what he feels is a tacit acceptance of injustice and warfare in America today – and what we might do to turn that around.

I am concerned that when many of us Americans talk about injustice in this country, we don’t realize that there are sensitive points of conscience, human rights, and decency that we are largely neglecting.

One aspect we need to pay attention to is that of killing – from murder, suicide, and abortion to capital punishment, physician-assisted suicide, and warfare.

Law enforcement and our justice system are doing what they can to stem murder and the psychiatrists do what they can to help those tempted by suicide. But what about the other four?

Abortion obtained its legality in Roe v Wade in 1973 but our nation is still strongly divided on this issue. The death penalty is an injustice that comes under increasing examination and I pray for the day when America joins the many other enlightened nations of the world that have abandoned it; that is overdue. Physician-assisted suicide is another perversion of medical practice, which is about supporting health and life, not extinguishing it.

How can we regain the vision of our former leaders who saw America not as the conqueror or ruler of other nations but as an example of a God-inspired people?

Warfare, however, has increasingly become a central part of American life and its financial basis. The United States currently has some level of involvement in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Palestine, the Ukraine, Niger, Somalia, Jordan, and Thailand, either with direct military action or by proxy with financial and political backing, if not with supplying armaments. Justification for these wars and our military presence is dubious if not also unconscionable.

Worst of all, especially after last weekend’s bombing of Syria, it feels like we are sliding toward a more overt war with Russia, or perhaps with China, or North Korea – maybe even nuclear war, with its possible result of a nuclear winter. I recently read Daniel Ellsberg’s latest book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Its subject is the eight thousand additional pages of the U.S. Government plans that Ellsberg copied when he leaked the Pentagon Papers decades ago. The contents of this book will be news to most Americans – what our government has been planning for nuclear retaliation, or first-strike, for over seventy years! How many of us are aware of the very real possibility of a nuclear war that would mean the destruction of human life on earth?

child in Syria

Does no one remember the cautioning messages of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and even of George Washington in his farewell address of 1796? Kennedy and Washington were far from being doctrinaire pacifists like I am, but even they recognized the dangers in military alliances and foreign wars. Perhaps King’s words had a moment in the sun surrounding the fiftieth anniversary of his assassination but many have moved on quickly without much reflection on what he might say in 2018.

America has changed and not for the better. How can we get back to the vision of our former leaders who saw America in its place among other nations, not as their conqueror or ruler but as an example of a God-inspired people? I am convinced that’s what most Americans really want – and what God wants as well.

Nation-states have become the gods of modern Western society. But this is our doom. In a conversation the prophet Samuel had with God, God details the dangers of kings and nation-states very clearly: “And the Lord told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king’” (1 Sam. 8:7).

Sage advice, and we ignore it at our own peril. Let us not reject our true King.

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  • Don't forget about Israel and the violence and indignities it inflicts on the native inhabitants of the land, every day- not just those things mentioned in the newpapers- as well as laws and actions which favor West Bank settlers. There is knee-jerk support of that regime despite anything it does, by politicians of all stripes as well as much of the press. So many Americans uncritically absorb and make excuses for Israel. Many inhabitants of this so-called "Jewish state" don't even practice any religion, and its leaders (like Netenyahu) so reek of arrogance, thinking they are above the law. It all seems so blatantly obvious- the injustice and hypocrisy of it all. There will never be peace without all parties laying down their arms and treating each other with respect, upholding the dignity of all persons.

    Kevin Cushing