How are we, as American Christians, to discern the spirit of the Iraq war present in our churches? When the drumbeat of war started up, our ambiguity about where our true loyalty lay became obvious. American hegemony holds the world captive, while always promising freedom and new life, and it also holds our churches captive. Are we Americans first or is our "citizenship in heaven" (Philippians 3:20)? Is our loyalty to our president and nation first or to the cross of Jesus (Luke 14:27)?
"The discernment of spirits," wrote William Stringfellow in An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land, "refers to the talent to recognize the Word of God in this world in principalities and persons ... transcending the moral reality of death permeating everything."
Most professed Christians in America were insufficiently prepared to distinguish loyalties. Pastors and church leaders had not discipled them in the distinctions between America and the body of Christ, had not taught them the biblical narrative of empire. To the percussive swell, we let our children "go save the world" by joining the Army, the Air Force, National Guard, and Marines. Maybe we were wistful, maybe proud. Mostly we just prayed they'd be safe. But did we tell them that it's not what Jesus would do?
Now our children are coming home from the front lines of the "war on terrorism" in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Pakistan, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, and 728 other known U.S. military bases—and they have questions.