Trump Assumes Command of the American Church, by Sheldon Richman

The American Church above all else sanctifies war and those who fight them, mission accomplished or unaccomplished. From Sheldon Richman at

As Donald Trump demonstrated in his first address to Congress, no matter how loathsome a ruler may be, he can bring an assembly of politicians to its feet and disarm some critics simply by invoking the quasi-secular faith – Americanism – and eulogizing the latest uniformed war-state employee to sacrifice his life for it. Trump has indeed shown he can fill the job expected of any president: supreme head of what Andrew Bacevich calls the Church of America the Redeemer.

Horace’s declaration “Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori” – “It is sweet and proper to die for one’s country” – is just what poet Wilfred Owen called it: “The old Lie.” Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky extended Owen’s point when he had his protagonist in The Americanization of Emily tell a war widow, “We perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices.”

How many times must people fall for this ploy before they realize they have been cruelly scammed? (The American Church is sustained by a coalition of profiteers and true believers, or what economist Bruce Yandle generically dubbed “bootleggers and Baptists.”)

If we are ever to abolish America’s bloody and costly permanent war state we will have to rethink the quasi-secular faith which holds that dying – and killing – for one’s country is the greatest honor and virtue to which one can aspire. It is time we learned that killing and dying for an ideology – even so-called liberal democracy – is as bad as doing so for a religion – even so-called radical Islam. (The distinction between ideology and religion is more apparent than real).

In his speech, Trump milked the moment for all it was worth. Navy SEAL Owens died in a bungled special-ops raid in Yemen in late January. (Did you know the U.S. government conducts ground operations there?) It was the first such operation Trump approved, although it was planned during the Obama administration and Trump has shifted responsibility to the generals.

To continue reading: Trump Assumes Command of the American Church


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