1 hour 28 minutes
WN: Last night my grandson Josh and I were not a little gobsmacked by the new documentary: Theaters of War.
While I am a convinced Christian pacifist (any other designation is to me an oxymoron–see, besides the highlighted: Christian Pacifism on this website), this film–a concentrated dose of exposing American Empire Propaganda and Marauding Horror–leaves one nonetheless profoundly unsettled. Or if it does not, you might wish to check your moral compass . . .
I have a fundamentalist Christian relative who waves off any troubled thoughts about such a film with an airy, “Well, these things happen . . .“; and other relatives who loved the new release (same month as Theaters): Top Gun: Maverick, seemingly untroubled (?) by the overt American Empire propaganda, and the habitual parading of the latest weapons of mass destruction: available of course to the highest bidder.
(An ethical issue aside: In the “secular” West, it is a largely unrecognized truism that our ethical epistemology, our morals touchstone, is in fact Christian revelation. See on this for example my friend David Cayley’s CBC Ideas series: The Myth of the Secular.
Cayley puts it thus in the book below:
But the Enlightenment and its sequels say that Christianity is not Christian enough, just as the Reformation had said that Catholicism had not been Christian enough. Modern reformers complain, quite justly, about the violence of Christianity, [René] Girard says, but they fail to notice that “they can complain [only] because they have Christianity to complain with.” 1
In this way, there arises a race of super-Christians who have renounced Christianity but have no other basis for their fantastic hopes and their extreme sensitivity to injustice than the Gospel that they consider to be entirely superseded.
This creates an extremely confusing situation, in which what Illich considers obvious, and is obvious from his point of view, is far from obvious to those who take their own good will for granted and believe themselves to be the authors of their own “values.” (Ivan Illich: An Intellectual Journey, p. 404. Emphasis added. See also the post of our six two-hour discussions with him of this book:
March 29, 2022)
Cayley’s and Girard’s point is: Western secular ethics are shot through structurally and epistemologically with Christian revelation. To reject Christianity therefore (Girard calls such “the last and only allowable scapegoat in academia”), one needs the ethical tools of Christian belief. The grand irony is, therefore, that this is classic instance of cutting off the (religious) nose to spite the face; of severing the (Christian) branch one is sitting on ethically–all-unknowing–to rail against Christianity. The amazing folly in such historical short-sightedness; the sheer hubris in one’s attendant self-congratulatory ethical impulses, seemingly are boundless.)
Theaters of War then repeatedly asks the viewer to consider: Why pay good money to be entertained by grand schemes/scripts of premeditated lies designed to engineer buy-in or at least complacency about monumental evil (re)presented by the US of A?
. . .
Whether Trump, the Pentagon, or the CIA, one wonders: Just what is the appeal to be constantly lied to, to have one’s morals anaesthetized, to throw away one’s critical faculties in favour of being all-in to gross manipulation and prevarication . . .
Over to you . . .
If you’ve seen Top Gun or Transformers, you may have wondered: Does all of that military machinery on screen come with strings attached? Does the military actually get a crack at the script? With the release of a vast new trove of internal government documents, the answers have come into sharp focus: the US military has exercised editorial control over thousands of films and television programs. Propelled into a field trip across America, media professor Roger Stahl engages an array of other researchers, bewildered veterans, PR insiders, and industry producers willing to talk. In unsettling detail, he discovers how the military and CIA have pushed official narratives while systematically scrubbing scripts of war crimes, corruption, racism, sexual assault, coups, assassinations, and torture. From The Longest Day to Lone Survivor, Iron Man to Iron Chef, and James Bond to Jack Ryan, the deliberate creation of this other “cinematic universe” is one of the great PR coups of our time. As these activities gain new public scrutiny, new questions arise: How have they managed to fly under the radar for so long? And where do we go from here?
- See the transcript of The Scapegoat: René Girard’s Anthropology of Violence and Religion, p. 44. Girard continues:
From what point of view, otherwise, could they blame Christianity? We don’t radicalize things enough. We take for granted certain things of Christian ethics as if they had been the norm [in all cultures]. We always turn against Christianity the foothold into non-violence that it gave us. Where would it have come from before?
The answer both of brilliant 20th-century social critic Ivan Illich, and of brilliant 20th-century Jewish philosopher, Hannah Arendt, is: no such ethic–non-violent love of enemies–existed in all previous annals of human history. It started with Jesus.
Further from biblical scholar James Williams:
In Western culture, “It is an irony of history that the very source that first disclosed the viewpoint and plight of the victim is pilloried in the name of various forms of criticism… However, it is in the Western world that the affirmation of ‘otherness,’ especially as known through the victim, has emerged. And its roots sink deeply into the Bible as transmitted in the Jewish and Christian traditions… the standpoint of the victim is [the West’s] unique and chief biblical inheritance. It can be appropriated creatively and ethically only if the inner dynamic of the biblical texts and traditions is understood and appreciated. The Bible is the first and main source for women’s rights, racial justice, and any kind of moral transformation.
The Bible is also the only creative basis for interrogating the tradition and the biblical texts (James Williams, “King as Servant Sacrifice as Service: Gospel Transformations”, Violence Renounced: René Girard, Biblical Studies, and Peacemaking, Telford, Pa.; Pandora Press; Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2000, pp. 195 & 196.”
See further on this for example: Inventing the Individual: The Origins Of Western Liberalism, by Sir Larry Siedentop, that argues,
The roots of liberalism – belief in individual liberty, in the fundamental moral equality of individuals, that equality should be the basis of a legal system and that only a representative form of government is fitting for such a society – all these, Siedentop argues, were pioneered by Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages, who drew on the moral revolution carried out by the early church. It was the arguments of canon lawyers, theologians and philosophers from the eleventh to the fourteenth century, rather than the Renaissance, that laid the foundation for liberal democracy.–emphasis added.