Over the last few days, I have been reflecting upon the unfolding circumstances that surround Cindy Sheehan -- in particular, as a Christian theologian, I have wondered about the spiritual implications of what we are seeing play out. I have found myself drawn to a biblical account recorded in the second book of Samuel -- an account of a rather remarkable interchange between King David and the prophet Nathan. Earlier, the King had been attracted to Bathsheba, another man's wife, and in order to have her for himself, the King sends Bathsheba's husband into the thick of battle in order that he be killed. When he is, the King takes her into his harem.
Then we come to the dialogue, which begins with Nathan telling the King a story about two men, one who is very wealthy and has all the lambs he needs and more. The other man is very poor and has only one small lamb. As it turns out, a traveler comes to the rich man, and the rich man chooses to extend the customary hospitality by killing a lamb to make a feast. Yet, he is not willing to sacrifice one of his many lambs; rather he takes the one lamb from the poor man and kills it instead. As Nathan tells the story, the King becomes very angry. When Nathan is finished, the King says he will make the man pay for his pitiless behavior. Then comes the shocker as Nathan responds to the King, "You are the man!"
Analogies are never perfect, but let us consider the striking similarities. On the standards by which they care to measure wealth and power, the members of this administration have all that any one could reasonably want. But, as is often the case, there is that unquenchable lust for more. We now have reports that this president had reflected on how cool it would be to be a "war president" even before he was elected. By the accounts of several past members of the administration's inner circle, many in the administration wanted to attack Iraq from the beginning. The events of 9/11 unified public opinion in support of responding to these unjustifiable attacks, and we now have a pretty clear picture of how various reports were, shall we say, "nuanced" in order to defend war against Iraq. We could go further into this "nuancing," but let us set that aside and return to the similarities to Nathan and David.
To extend their quest for power and wealth, the administration was willing to sacrifice the meager wealth of others (to fund the war) and in too many cases to sacrifice the children of others. The bitter similarity of the stories ought not be lost: this group of so-called neo-cons who hold the reins of power in our government have, overwhelmingly, been able to avoid military service themselves. Like the mother who recently claimed that, though she supports the war, "military service isn't for our son. It isn't for our kind of people," this administration simply does not see a problem with sending troops to be killed and maimed while judging that such sacrifice is "not for their kind of people." Overwhelmingly, they did not serve; overwhelmingly, their children do not serve. While having plenty of young, metaphorical lambs of all kinds, they choose to sacrifice the lambs of others.
I suspect this is part of what makes Cindy Sheehan so impossible for the administration to deal with -- she has made the sacrifice they are only willing to require of others. They have given no lambs, but want all that attends a "war administration"; she has given the lamb, but will not be granted even her small request: face-to-face dialogue with the one who sent her son into harm's way. As another writer posted on the HuffPo yesterday, she has shown just how naked the emperor is! In so doing, I continue to hope that she will help free for action all those who agree with her sentiments regarding this unwise war, but who have been shouted down by the administration's enablers.
One last point from the story of King David and Nathan, a point that I would love to see embodied in this president. After Nathan tells his story and identifies the King as the perpetrator of injustice, the King, to his credit, responds, "I have sinned against God." I am not holding my breath; since this president can admit no errors at all, it is hard to see how he could ever admit that the thing he most uses to identify himself was mistaken. But, we can hope, and we can support the Cindy Sheehans of the world who will stand before the president and say by their actions, "You are the man!"