Shane Claiborne

September 11, 2013

Shane Claiborne, Chile and the “First 9-11″

Popular pacifist neo-Anabaptist activist Shane Claiborne commemorated 9-11 today by posting this moral equation:

In 1973, the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende was overthrown in Chile by a CIA-backed coup.

In 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the United States Pentagon killed twenty-eight hundred people.

The implication is that the alleged U.S. role in Allende’s overthrow contextualizes if not justifies the al Qaeda strikes on the U.S. that murdered nearly 3000. This rhetoric about the “first 9-11” is common on the far-left, which imagines all sins originate ultimately in the U.S and that any attack on the U.S. is predictable “blowback.”

Claiborne is an ardent disciple of the current godfather of neo-Anabaptist thought, Stanley Hauerwas of Duke Divinity School, himself a student of the late Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder. They popularized the notion that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is not so much atoning for the world’s sins as rejecting all violence. Their ideology also demonizes the United States as the “empire” and source of much of the world’s evil. They do not profess any interest in or concern about what would replace the United States as chief world power.

After 9-11 Hauerwas said in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Americans have no sense of how it is that we can be this hated. It never occurs to them that our country’s actions have terrible results for other people around the world, and that they blame us. I have a friend who pointed out that September 11 is the anniversary of the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile and the beginning of a regime of torture there, and of course that was U.S.-sponsored. Why shouldn’t people be mad at us?

Allende was the far-left president of Chile, elected in 1970 by a minority of voters, who was overthrown by the Chilean military, with a virtual green light from Chile’s highest court and legislature, because Allende had created national chaos and trampled on the Constitution, melted the economy, hosted his buddy and role model Fidel Castro, armed his supporters, and tormented the opposition press. His overthrow was somewhat similar to the Muslim Brotherhood’s recent overthrow by the Egyptian military, with widespread support, amid fears that further control would preclude any future removal from power, democratically or otherwise.

Amid Cold War concerns, a concerned U.S. schemed to prevent the pro-Marxist Allende’s inauguration and pursued failed plots early in his rule. The 1973 coup was home grown, a response to impending anarchy, greeted by relief in Washington, D.C., but nor organized by the U.S. Later the U.S. would embargo arms sales and end other cooperation with Chile’s military government in response to human rights abuses. Under General Augusto Pinochet and the junta Chile was restored to order and prospered under free market economics. International pressure eventually helped to compel Pinochet to accede to a national plebiscite restoring democratic rule. Presumably the critics like Hauerwas and Claiborne would have preferred that Chile become a Cuban-style satellite of the Soviet Union in a world dominated by the now thankfully dissolved Soviet bloc. That sort of “empire” never seems to bother them.

The equation of a supposed U.S. role in Chile’s coup with the 9-11 attacks by al Qaeda illustrates the harshly paranoid anti-American ideology of the neo-Anabaptist pacifist Left that passes for sophisticated theology. It’s a form of smugness whose adherents believe themselves morally superior to the ostensibly more simplistic average U.S. Christians who are foolishly worshiping AmeriKa as their idol. The Yoder-Hauerwas-Claiborne cosmology also offers an alternative to the traditional Christian one. Instead of believing in a fallen world needing Christ’s redemption, they imagine a world more benign if only for the sinister influence of the “empire.” They also assume nearly all of the Christian church across most of 2000 years has been seduced into captivity by Constantinianism except for the holy few who have read books over the last 40 years by Yoder and Hauerwas.

Unsurprisingly, respondents to Claiborne’s 9-11 post attached various links to far-left secular journals confirming their conspiracy theories. For all their talk of rejecting the powers of this world, the neo-Anabaptists seem strangely comfortable with the secular Left’s aspirations for total state power.

As an antidote to such silliness on this anniversary of 9-11, read Billy Graham’s wonderful post 9-11 sermon at the National Cathedral, where he superbly preached to an interfaith service, just 3 days after the horrors, with the whole nation listening, without compromising the Christian message. Graham has masterfully excelled as both evangelist and priest of American civil religion, offending the neo-Anabaptist purists, and staying rooted in the traditional Christian notion that serving God’s Kingdom first entails also serving our earthly community.


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  • Matthew Hamilton

    I was born in Chile, my parents were missionaries in Santiago for over a decade beginning in 1980 so take these statements with a little bit more weight than the casual observer but feel free to not put too much weight to them, my views do not speak for Chileans everywhere.

    Pinochet in many regards did exactly what he should have done, that is, to prevent the socialists from taking Chile. It is what the German military could and should have done to remove the Nazis (also democratically elected) and what the Egyptian military are doing now to oust the Muslim Brotherhood (also democratically elected). Unless you are an ardent socialist, then only the means of Pinochet’s suppression of the socialists should be reproachable.

    Geopolitical events are perceived through the lens of the ideology of the observer. Claiborne’s lamentation of Pinochet’s coup merely reveals that he is an ardent socialist, much like how anyone who laments the recent coup against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt reveals that they are an Islamist sympathizer.

    Pinochet prevented Chile from falling into the abyss of socialist totalitarianism, a fate that befell many South American countries and which many have still yet to recover. Chile, being now a politically secure, increasingly affluent, and peaceful nation is a far-cry from the current state of affairs from many of its neighbors that were conquered by socialist parties.

    Pinochet was brutal and ruthless, there is no doubt of that. But, let the historical record be straight: if Pinochet was ruthless it was only because he faced a ruthless enemy who would have gladly visited the same horrors Pinochet committed on even grander scales. Oftentimes, to defeat an enemy you must become like him. That by no means exonerates Pinochet for his crimes, but keep in mind that those crimes would have happened under the socialists as well, they would have just targeted people at the opposite end of the political spectrum as they have done in every nation they possess.

    And as for trying to tie the Pinochet coup to some overarching argument about how Americans deserved to be butchered by Al Qaeda: please, that’s a pathetically fantastical failure of reasoning and morality.

    • mountainguy

      thankfully, usamerican exceptionalist evangelical christendomians like you are not the rule in latinamericna christianity (which is quite conservative)

  • Gabe

    Thank you for posting this well written rebuttal to the ridiculousness of these Leftists. The implications of what they advocate are truly disturbing and would lead to world “red in tooth and claw”.

  • Morgan Guyton

    You’re filling in a lot of blanks and putting words into Shane Claiborne’s mouth. I don’t expect much better from the Institute for Republican Propaganda to the Mainline. But the more I see these things come across my newsfeed, the more I want to know who your donor base is. To apologize for Pinochet is to support terrorism. I realize that you’re not interested in real dialogue because you’re a professional propagandist but I figured I would waste a few minutes typing this anyway.

    • Donnie

      Physician heal thyself.

    • Occupy Christianity

      Absolutely, Morgan. What a load of claptrap. Claiborne wasn’t saying that 9/11 was justified because of the Chilean coup. There are plenty of examples to justify blowback if one just confines the discussion to the Middle East! What he’s saying is that U.S. foreign policy has consequences…many of which are unforeseen.

      And I don’t get the ad hominem, non sequitur attack on his theological position. What does that have to do with the political point he’s making?

      • cleareyedtruthmeister

        The problem is that Claiborne appears to be drawing moral equivalency between two things that are not morally equivalent. Perhaps he is simply too misinformed to understand the error of his analogy. Unfortunately, many, even less informed people, take his proclamations as gospel, thus multiplying the ignorance.

    • Greg Paley

      One of the problems with the left (and there are SO many) is the inability to see the shades of gray in the world. There are no angels in politics, so there never is nor ever will be a totally good government (and who but God could make that judgment anyway?). When I was still in diapers, many Americans applauded the end of the corrupt Batista regime in Cuba and its replacement by the “reformer” Castro, but the world quickly learned that it’s possible to replace a scumbag with an even worse scumbag. There’s no doubt that Pinochet was a vile human being in many ways – but politics is the art of the possible, not the ideal. The right often gets accused of seeing the world in black and white, but in my experience it’s the left who sees that way. The right looks at Pinochet and says “Well, could’ve been much worse.” A left-wing goofball and moral poseur like Claiborne sees Pinochet as the incarnation of Satan – oh, and incidentally, a springboard to denouncing evil America. Claiborne’s grasp of history, politics, and human nature are a perfect fit to his buffoonish appearance. My suggestion to him: haircut, gray suit, no bandana, AND, most importantly, THINK before opening your hyperactive mouth.

    • cleareyedtruthmeister

      Mr. Guyton, in addition to ignorantly and prejudicially interpreting history, you apparently have trouble comprehending the English language. Mr. Tooley never said Pinochet was a saint, just that Allende was a worse sinner. It is interesting to see a person so sanctimoniously opposed to vitriol and unfairness epitomizing those very same things.

  • Dwight Welch

    The IRD may have played some role in the 80s when the left had a blind eye to third world dictators on the left but this article indicates how groups like the IRD have their favorite third world dictators on the right. From Pinochet to Franco, from Doc Duvalier to the military juntas of Guatemala and El Salvador, the right has it’s own authoritarian movements to excuse if not even celebrate, as we saw Republican members of congress swoop down to Egypt to celebrate a government that has killed thousands of its own people in a few days time. This is why Shaine Clairborne’s talk on this subject is important.

  • V

    All of you are wrong. BOTH sides are evil. When will you stop playing this damned “left-right” game? It’s a distraction from the truth. The truth is suppression, violence, evil, and murder exist in nearly all governments that are totalitarian, regardless of the fact that those governments support “the people” (socialists/communists), or “big business” — under the guise of free markets (but they really aren’t)– also known as “fascists”. Please realize it is entirely probable that a horrific government tyranny can be replaced by another horrific government tyranny. And the second can ALWAYS justify its evils by saying it had to in order to fight the first evil.

  • Daniel

    Just a coincidence that the picture of Shane shows him talking at the GBCS? Boy, I wish those brave GBCS types would journey to Riyadh for some street corner evangelism, or while there publicly criticize the House of Saud for their handling of women’s rights and see how well the “religion of peace” would tolerate that. Oh wait; then they would have to face persecution for their faith instead of hiding behind the skirts of liberal DC.

  • Christian

    Wow… what a revisionist history of the 73 coup.

  • mountainguy

    You can be all right wing you want, no problem with that, but as you want to think that some victims are more deserving than others, and that some 9/11 is more deserving than other (would it be just that for usamericans their 9/11 is more significant, that would not be problematic), then you are showing your true colors: you are not a christian anymore, and your religion is nothing but american exceptionalism (one of the many branches of “christendom”)

  • Enrique Salazar

    I respect Shane Claiborne for his work with The Simple Way… but when I have heard him speak on politics, I have usually found his perspective without the nuance that would do justice to those who disagree. I see in this post the same lack of nuance and justice. Both perspectives are overly simplistic and needlessly dualistic: bad guys (the US? or the neo-Anabaptists?) and good guys (“us” and those “we” like). Labeling and guilt by association seldom lead to clarity and most certainly do not exemplify charity, which should be primary for such conversations between people of faith.

    With that in mind, what if the historical reality were a bit of both-and? The Allende coup was neither CIA-manufactured nor entirely homegrown; there was a convergence of interests there that included the involvement of the US in a sovereign nation, for better or worse. And the 9/11 attacks were pure evil, but an evil that arose from real anger about the involvement of the US in sovereign nations… again, for better or worse.

    So what do we take from this? Maybe something like this: If we (the US) think we must intrude into the affairs of other nations, for our own sake or for theirs, let us (those advocating such action) make the moral case as best we can or, lacking such a moral argument, let us not do so. And, in either case, let us then be prepared for the implications, whether they be expressions of gratitude or anger.

    As Christians, we do hold a higher citizenship, which gives us a unique perspective from which we can critique that moral argument and perhaps even then influence the actions of government, which is usually inclined too much toward self-interest and too little toward justice among nations as the primary criterion of action. Our Anabaptist friends will help us by guarding us against militant self-interest when we should let well enough alone, and our more conservative friends will help us by guarding against impassive self-protection when we should intervene to prevent greater evil. When both voices are at the table, perhaps we will have greater wisdom than if we would seek to silence, discredit, or malign the other voice.

  • cynthia curran

    Actually, Chile has fair well than its neigbhors and even has had a moderate left in charge lately. So, why is Chile singled out.

  • George Waite

    Blond dreadlocks are such an affectation; no wonder Mainline protestantism can’t get treated seriously.
    This man isn’t so much sinister as irrelevant. Nobody notices, nobody minds, nobody cares.