by Mark Tooley
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.