Who Are We? | Sojourners

Who Are We?

IN HIS RESPONSE to my article "Seeing the World Through New Lenses" (January 1993), Barry Freeman argues that my logic is flawed when I contend that we should have been concerned with the oppression under Honecker and Ceausescu as well as under Marcos and Pinochet and that we should be concerned with oppression in Cuba, China, North Korea, and Tibet as well as in El Salvador and South Africa ("Postmark," April 1993). My logical flaw, in Freeman's view, is that the U.S. government allied itself with Marcos and Pinochet and with the governments of El Salvador and South Africa. We as American citizens, therefore, have a "special responsibility" to try to change those unjust U.S. policies.

I'm very glad that Freeman took the trouble to write, because the argument he puts forward is probably the one most frequently heard among U.S. peace and justice activists for focusing on oppressive countries that U.S. policy supports and giving much less (or no) priority to struggling against oppression under left-wing governments.

Certainly we are Americans and have a responsibility to call our country to account. But, more fundamental, we are people of faith, biblical people. Our primary identity is not "American" but "Christian"--followers of Christ. In my reading of scripture, I find no support for the idea that I'm to respond only to my country and the nations it impacts. On the contrary.

See, for example, the first chapter of Amos. The prophet "boxes the compass" by excoriating Aram to the north, Tyre to the northwest, Philistia to the west, Edom to the south, Moab to the southeast, and Ammon to the east--all before he turns his blast upon Judah and Israel for their injustices. These six non-Israeli nations were judged for their own evils ("they took captive whole groups...they ripped open expectant mothers"), not because Israel was allied with them.

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Sojourners Magazine June 1993
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