FEBRUARY 17, 2003
Martin E. Marty
Columnist Cathleen Falsani (Chicago Sun-Times, February 14) summed up what reporters almost nationwide have concluded: "For once, religious leaders of virtually all persuasions are speaking with one voice. Or pretty close to it. They are begging for more civil, milder, spiritual minds to prevail and avert this war. But," she adds, "Nobody here [in the US] who matters is listening to [these voices or that of] the pope, or the Dalai Lama, or the countless bishops and hierarchs calling for radical peace." Add to her list countless parish pastors and lay people.
Falsani allowed for a few unnamed exceptions who do have access to "those who matter." These include some Southern Baptist leaders, some of the more militant conservative evangelicals -- but by no means all kinds of evangelicals -- and a few Catholics, all of whom would support immediate and unilateral action if the decision were made.
While religious talk in the recent past was confined within one set of polarities, a new and bigger issue looms. So far there has been questioning and debate about: unilateral v. multilateral; with allies v. without allies; 'why Iraq?' v. 'why not North Korea?'; Iraq because of al Qaeda links v. Iraq without such; longer inspections v. fire now; talk v. war; the planned-for morning after v. the not-planned-for; 'it's for oil' v. 'it's not'; just war v. not so. Decent and serious religious "voices" have spoken up on both sides of these issues. But now there's a new watchword, a new concern, a consequence of whatever "we" will do. That word: "The American Imperium." And it's not the language of the Left or the soft.
Typical Distant Early Warning Testimony that rouses the religious comes from conservative and secular sources. Thus: "The conquest of Iraq will not be a minor event in history: It will represent the introduction of a new imperial power to the Middle East and a redefinition of regional geopolitics based on that power. The United States will move from being an outside power influencing events through coalitions, to a regional power that is able to operate effectively on its own." That's from George Friedman, chairman of Stratfor.com, who neither praises nor condemns the "redefinition" referred to in the above passage.
He foresees what another notable conservative foresees, i.e., "once we cross the Tigris and Euphrates River, we may have started down the road to a Pax Americana through an American imperium from which there is no return." That's from columnist Robert Novak (Chicago Sun-Times, February 10), who says that this also evokes apprehension among conservatives who have access to "those who matter."
We will monitor talk about "The American Imperium," as deliberated by theologians and religious leaders, and report back.