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Christine Wicker Headshot

Drop Bibles, not bombs

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Here at last. I give you a one-fits-all strategy. Whichever candidate adopts it will be first to the finish line.
Drop Bibles, not bombs.
It's easy to understand. Easy to remember. Has alliteration. Gives everybody something to love.
It's cheap. Cuts big government. Saves billions. Makes tax cuts and national health care possible.
It could increase American security and spread democracy.
It will work for McCain, who needs to be the super-evangelical, super-conservative, not-Bush. It will work for Obama, who needs to be the super-evangelical, super-progressive.
This magic elixir has two problems. The first one is not a big one. If America can embrace torture, ignore due process and accept massive abridgment of its citizens' civil rights, surely it can okay a little hole in the wall between religion and state. Especially with the stakes so high.
So, let's consider the idea.
I'm actually thinking that New Testaments would be enough.
The Hebrew Bible or Old Testament would only muddy the waters. It contains too much violence to be part of America's Golden Rule vision. Converting everyone to Judaism wouldn't help our situation. Converting them to Christianity would.
Bible sounds better than New Testament. But for the purists, we could spin off other slogans.
"Want to win wars? Try Testaments."
Or how about, "Need a new world? Give a New Testament."
That's gagging some of you secularist liberals. But you can choke it down. Think about maimed Iraqi kids, dying American soldiers. Think about fewer of them.
It would scare evangelicals, whose security is in national defense no matter what they say about Jesus. But they could calm themselves by thinking about democracy and its friend capitalism growing from the ground up all over the world, becoming an unstoppable force being led by good Christian men and women everywhere.
Political operatives could help by putting leaflets on all the cars in church parking lots reassuring everybody that we still have enough nuclear power to destroy the entire planet.
Most importantly evangelicals, a.k.a. the voters all candidates court, are in a box on this one. They can say they like bombs, but they can't say they like bombs better than Bibles. They can't even say that bombs are more powerful than Bibles.
Can they?
They can. They will, but only behind closed doors.
The savvy candidate would soothe them by suggesting a gradual change-over. Bombs one day; Bibles the next.
You've got the concept now. But you're wondering why I'm dumb enough to think it would work.
Because the New Testament teaches a guilt-based morality. Most of the world follows a shame-based morality.
A guilt-based morality runs by law. There's a right and a wrong. Guilty people want to be on the right side of the law. They want to be the good guys, universally proclaimed and acknowledged by all.
That's why Americans everywhere consider themselves the good guys. That's why they embrace tolerance of other groups and champion free speech. That's why they abhor bribes. That's why they forbid nepotism. That's why suicide bombers come from Muslim societies, not Christian ones.
In a shame-based society, it isn't right and wrong that are most important. It's shame and honor. An honor-bound person is far easier to offend. The wound to honor is deeper, inspires more hatred and will be passed down through generations much more easily than any other wound.
So a suicide bomber is celebrated as a hero who has brought honor to his group and destruction to outsiders. He's following the same general code of behavior that God himself displays in the Hebrew Bible. The Ten Commandments forbid murder. But God instructs his followers to kill every man, woman and child among their enemies and punishes anyone who shows mercy.
Why? Insiders are subject to one set of rules. Outsiders are subject to another.
But Jesus says, "Love your enemies." He calls the enemy the good neighbor (see Samaritan, good) and holds the outcast worthy of forgiveness, not death (see Woman, fallen, about to be stoned).
Then along comes Paul who goes a step further. He converts the outsiders to insiders. He turns enemies into kinsmen.
It's a 2,000-year-old setup for modern democracy because now everything is fluid. Movement from tribal societies to modern ones has begun.
Understand, I'm not arguing that Christians are less violent or less vicious than non-Christians. Northern Ireland and many other conflicts would give the lie to that contention.
I'm not arguing that Christians are better people than Muslims. Nazi Germany and many other examples give the lie to that.
But as author Sam Harris points out Christianity is older than Islam. Four hundred years ago Christians were instituting religious policies that were right in line with the most extreme examples of fundamentalist Muslim belief.
We don't have 400 years.
So what's the second problem? It's multi-part but the common theme is that it's an offensive idea. To almost everybody.
Dropping Bibles would enrage autocratic Muslim regimes, many of whom are our putative friends, far more than bombs do. Mostly because accepting Christianity means accepting a passel of other Western ideas that would inevitably erode their power.
Dropping Bibles would inflame the most fundamentalist, violent segments of the Muslim community. But, come on, they're already pretty ticked off at us (see Twin Towers, 9-11). Maybe they'd be so busy snatching Bibles out of people's hands that terrorist-training time would have to be cut back.
The last problem is the most serious. It's with us. The idea of demeaning another religion by encouraging conversion offends us. It's playing dirty pool. Imperialism of the worst kind.
Isn't that strange? Dropping Bibles seems more offensive than dropping bombs.