At some level, all Christians understand that God is love. This is why the Rev. Pat Robertson, granted special authority to speak on matters of religion, made news with his televised remarks last month calling for the murder of the democratically elected leader of Venezuela. The loudest voices in American religion, the Heritage Foundation-associated Catholic League and Focus on the Family, were completely silent on this opportunity to explore the central imperative of our Christian faith—the call to love, rather than to hate.
Somehow it seems fitting that the Administration's response has been a similar collective eye-rolling rather than rejection. The White House website says nothing. Mr. Bush and his press secretary have not commented on the matter. A State Department spokesman merely labeled Mr. Robertson's remarks "inappropriate." Secretary Donald Rumsfield responded to them by saying, "Certainly it's against the law. Our department doesn't do that type of thing."
The fact of the matter, however, is that Mr. Robertson and Mr. Bush share an advocacy for assassination. Mr. Bush's press secretary called in October 2002 for killing Saddam Hussein, stating, "Regime change is welcome in whatever form that it takes." In November that year, Mr. Bush assassinated an American citizen and five other people in their car in Yemen, using a CIA drone-fired missile. On March 19, 2003 Mr. Bush ordered a cruise missile assassination attempt against Hussein and his family, which was unsuccessful. Thus, Secretary Rumsfield's remarks this week about targeted killing were false; add possibly hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties in Iraq, and killing that putatively advances US petroleum interests appears to have become official US policy. Like the Middle East, Venezuela currently provides a significant chunk of US oil imports, and Mr. Bush's distaste for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is well-known.
In the final analysis, Mr. Bush and Mr. Robertson are both ‘ends-justify-the-means' Christians, perfectly comfortable with violence and killing when it suits their purposes. But as the Biblical scholar John L. McKenzie wrote, "No reader of the New Testament, simple or sophisticated, can retain any doubt of Jesus' position toward violence directed to persons, individual or collective, organized or free enterprise: He rejected it."
Pope Benedict spoke in a German synagogue last month about "neo-paganists" who purported to follow Christianity, but had no qualms about killing. The anguished cry of a Cindy Sheehan and 1900 other American families will help us to clarify our thinking regarding the faulty notion that launching wars is the way to solve our problems. But perhaps we need the Robertsons of the world to reveal the hypocrisy that now prevails, and to put the Christ back into Christianity on this most central issue: the value of every life.