Believe and Obey

A Radical Christian Perspective on the World's News & Current Events

If Only

If Only

A Common Saying

“If Only” is a common enough saying.  We all have likely used it from time to time.  Someone will make a statement like “man, you got it made”.  Then you respond with “If Only”.  The point is to respond by denying what was said to you, at least in a somewhat humorous manner.  Sometimes it is a true thing to say, other times the person saying “If Only” is just being modest.  The implication, of course, is that if the initial statement were true, this would be a good thing.  With this in mind, what follows is a rant about things that I think warrant a clear and unambiguous “If Only”.

The United States is a Global Force for Peace

If only!  If the US was a force for peace, would it have 800+ military bases around the world that enforce its imperial hegemony over vast swaths of the globe?  Would US foreign policy so consistently support odious dictatorships, and authoritarian regimes?  Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, the Philippines, and much of Latin America come immediately to mind.  Would the US and its military alliance NATO be so consistently pressing forward to encircle Russia and be fueling a proxy war in Ukraine rather than seeking a peaceful resolution to this awful conflict?  Would the US be giving a blank check, and a green light for Israel to commit war crimes in response to the war crimes of Hamas?

If the US was a global force for peace, would it spend over a trillion dollars (when you consider all aspects of its foreign policy) on its military programs?  Official US military outlays are greater than the next 11 nations combined, 8 of whom are client states/allies, and one (India) is nonaligned.

This brief overview of US foreign/military policy puts the lie to the notion that the US is a force for peace in the world.  The proper response to this nonsense is If only!

The United States has a Free Market Economy

If only!  If the US was a free-market economy would its domestic economic policy be such a dishonest rip-off of ordinary workers in favor of a politically connected elite (centered in the financial sector) that shunts scarce resources and allows an unrighteous profit to be accumulated by those who only “worked” for it by lobbying?

Would US economic policy empower the government to expropriate vast resources from the productive sector to buy off a variety of interest groups that want something for nothing?  Of course, anyone getting something for nothing is at the expense of someone getting nothing for something. 

Would the US economy be rife with layer after layer of regulations that stifle innovation and protect current market participants at the expense of the dynamic creation of new enterprises?  Would the US tax code be laced with loopholes and incentives to shunt resources to politically connected groups, rather than let the market determine the allocation of scarce resources?

If the US had a free market economy, would the Federal Reserve be the Gosplan of the US economy (David Stockman’s term) by setting interest rates (the key price in a modern economy) which completely distorts the capital structure of the economy and turns Wall Street from an honest market of price discovery into a raging casino where the winnings are rigged in favor of the politically pretty?

If the US was a free market economy, would government at all levels absorb more than 50% of the national income and regulate everything from the price of a home mortgage to how much water flushes down your toilet?

The US does not have a socialist economy that is true, but with just a brief examination we can see that the claim to be free market is answered by “If Only”.

The US is a Christian Nation

If only!  If this were true would the decline in religious practice and active participation in faith communities be so pronounced?  I have discussed at length in my book about why this is the case, and active Christians are by no means off the hook in this decline.  But a decline it is.  Millions more explicitly do not identify as Christian, so this takes the shine off the statement that the US is a Christian nation.  More to the point when looking at a community as large as the whole US, we should look at what that nation does.

Would the US allow millions to be forcibly kept out of the country, especially when all they want to do is come here and work?  Would immigrants be used as political props by both Republican governors and a President whose polices differ little from his predecessor? 

If the US was a Christian nation, would its criminal justice system produce one of the world’s highest incarceration rates, even higher than Russia?  Would this system be so heavily weighed against those at the bottom of the social and economic pyramid as to itself constitute a clear moral outrage? 

If the US was a Christian nation would the culture of violence be so strong?  Everything from murders in the street (exacerbated by the drug war, among other reasons), to the nation’s sports (boxing, football), to the entertainment industry speak against anything resembling Christian values. 

Then there is the culture of exclusion.  The moral panic against everything from drag queens to sex workers to Uber drivers to, well, anyone daring to be different.  The level of intolerance is growing palpable by the day, with a steady erosion of support for such visible signs of tolerance as the 1st. amendment, as proof.  All of this is a clear rejection of our call to welcome the stranger, the other among us.

All of this is just a brief, yet damning retort to the claim that the US is a Christian nation.  While only God knows the interior of anyone’s soul, and works are not how we are confident in our eternal relationship with our Father in Heaven, how we as a nation and community act, especially toward the least of these, is a good barometer of whether we may call ourselves a Christian nation.  So, to the claim I again respond, “If Only”.

My Prayer is “If Only!”

As I stated at the outset, it is a part of the statement “If Only”, that the thing under consideration is a good thing.  It would indeed be good if only the US were a force for peace in the world.  It would be wonderful if only the US economy were a free market.  It would be awesome if only the US was and acted like a Christian nation.  In order to improve things, we must start with an admittance of the problem.  We must recognize that the national myths we tell ourselves are mostly bullshit.  We must honestly recognize our shortcomings before we can improve upon them.  I know, as Paul states, that we all fall short of the glory of God.  However, do we have to fall so far short of that glory?  Perhaps it starts with us as individuals.  If you claim that you are an instrument of God’s purpose, look in the mirror and honestly tell yourself, “If Only”.  Then maybe we can turn “If Only” into “As It Is”.

Praise Be to God

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