A Book Recommendation image

A Book Recommendation

The current situation in Syria and Iraq is troubling, to say the least.

For the Christian populations of these nations, recent years have been disastrous, and our brothers and sisters need our prayers. For those of us in the West, the sudden advance of Isis can certainly appear confusing – especially when military groups who it seemed our governments were supporting in Syria are now those we are opposing in Iraq, and being bombed by Syrian jets. If only it were as straightforward as my enemies enemy being my friend.

The role of the West in the region is also troubling and confusing. Tony Blair’s recent, “It’s not our [my] fault” statement produced general incredulity but I suspect the various rights and wrongs of ‘the war on terror’ will take as long to pick over as the still on-going discussions and arguments about the causes and conduct of the First World War.

In the midst of the trouble and confusion it can be helpful to step back and take a more objective theological overview of the issues in play, and Between Babel and Beast by Peter Leithart is very helpful in this regard. Leithart gives an overview about what scripture has to say about empire (good and bad), provides a scintillating analysis of ‘Americanism’ and concludes by examining where America stands on the spectrum between Babel and Beast.

I read this while in the States recently. I love the States, and generally like Americans very much as well. I think Leithart does too; plus he is American himself – so this is in no way an anti-America polemic. Rather it is a considered warning. Towards the end of the book Leithart sums up America thus:

We pay killers, and we reassure ourselves because we are not doing the killing. We buy the booze, even if we are teetotallers who refrain from drinking the blood of saints. We are not a beast, but we spend a lot of our wealth to keep some of the world’s most ferocious beasts in business. We play with beasts, and our Americanist lenses do not allow us to see the danger. We fund our favourite beasts, then turn a blind eye when they devour the saints. It is a dangerous position, not only for the Christians who suffer at the hands of our allies but also for the United States. Those who consort with beasts might become bestial, and beasts do not long survive.

The whole thing is worth a read.


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