The Curse of Constantine

“One of history’s greatest lessons is that once the state embraces a religion, the nature of that religion changes radically. It loses its nonviolent component and becomes a force for war rather than peace. The state must make war, because without war it would have to drop its power politics and renege on its mission to seek advantage over other nations, enhancing itself at the expense of others. And so a religion is in the service of a state is a religion that not only accepts war but prays for victory. From Constantine to the Crusaders to the contemporary American Christian right, people who call themselves Christians have betrayed the teachings of Jesus while using His name in the pursuit of political power.”

–Mark Kurlansky, Nonviolence

Of course, this phenomenon is not limited to just the Christian right. To some degree we all pursue our own power while ignoring the powerless. I know that often times I can be violently nonviolent. It’s fairly easy to consider yourself a proponent of nonviolence when the topic surrounds the Iraq or Afghanistan wars currently going on or the build up of nuclear weapons all around the world. But it gets a bit more difficult when considering our own thoughts, words and all the other daily choices that in some way or another commit violence on others, even those we love.

The Conservative Shift on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

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This is a very surprising poll result, to say the least. You can read the full study here. I wonder if the shift among conservatives has less to do with their views on same-sex equality and more to do with their views on foreign policy. That would be one obvious explanation, right? After all, many correlate the size and strength of their military to their immediate well-being. The assertion that “They are over there fighting so we don’t have to fight them here at home,” comes to mind. When it’s a perceived matter of life and death, maybe for conservatives in this case, pragmatism seems to trump ideology.

If I’m wrong and this is not the case, than this is just another harbinger of things to come which is good news for those who support true equality for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Also worth mentioning is that every group polled in both studies grew in favor of gays openly serving in the military except for those with a high school education or less.

Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan

Photo by Platon for The New Yorker

One of the more powerful moments in Colin Powell’s appearance today on Meet the Press was when he talked about a 20 year-old Muslim soldier named Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, who gave his life in military service while on duty in Iraq. He made a point that one can be a Muslim and also a patriot who is willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for this country. It’s really a point that one would think wouldn’t have to be made in 2008, in a country that was birthed from a desire for religious freedom.

It’s interesting that in today’s political climate, a major line of attack coming from the GOP is the possibility that Obama is a Muslim-as if being a Muslim is somehow not consistent with being an upstanding citizen of this country. I’m thankful that Powell, who many in this country admire greatly, made this point today and made it beautifully.

You can see the rest of Platon’s photo series here.

(HT: Jason Linkins)

The War Within

One of my favorite movies of all time is All The President’s Men. After I watched it, I read the book and as a result, Bob Woodward has become somewhat of a hero of mine. His work got me interested in both politics and journalism. His ability to unravel the complicated web of power in Washington is not easily rivaled.

I religiously buy whatever book he releases and his upcoming release, The War Within, is certainly no exception. I’ve really enjoyed his books on the Bush presidency, especially State of Denial, which is an incredibly powerful account of what one could consider the Bush administrations darkest days.

The clip above is amazing. The Bush administration has been both deeply, deeply flawed and endlessly fascinating. Reading along as Woodward illuminates its darkest corners, it breaks your heart, makes you furious and embeds in you a fear that this kind of inept leadership will again steer us this far off course.

You can read more about Bush’s planning for the “Surge” in a recent article by Woodward for the Washington Post.