Rumsfeld Preaches A Different Gospel

Former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered Bible verses to be placed on the front of top secret military intelligence documents prepared for cabinet and Presidential briefings during the Bush years.

The covers of these documents have now been made public and combine to paint a picture of a gospel of violence and nationalism.

The images, which can be viewed here, are a sober reminder of the dangers of misusing the word of God to support one's own agenda - in this case the Project for a New American Century , a right-wing think tank advocating the aggressive expansion of American diplomatic and military influence around the world, especially into the middle east. The Project was the first body to articulate the concept of a "regime change" in Iraq, several years before it was expressed as government policy by the Bush administration.

President Obama has ordered these Bible verses to be removed from future intelligence briefings under his administration - a move which may be criticised by some as evidence of the secular nature of the current administration but which, in my view, could be equally seen as the kind of action needed to purge a gospel of war from the corridors of power. Perhaps this act could be loosely compared with Hezekiah destroying the bronze serpent - an object that had been a means of grace but whose use had been perverted into a form of idolatry.

Historically, third stream Christian groups have included many pacifists or, as some would describe themselves, active peacemakers. Even those who have not been pacifists have been careful to avoid the trap of using Biblical proof texts to justify militarism, as Donald Rumsfeld has so crudely done.


Menno Simmons on Poverty and Piety

O preachers, dear preachers, where is the power of the Gospel you preach? . . . Shame on you for the easygoing gospel and barren bread-breaking, you who have in so many years been unable to effect enough with your gospel and sacraments so as to remove your needy and distressed members from the streets, even though the Scripture plainly teaches . . . [that] there shall be no beggars among you.

Menno Simons, “Reply to False Accusations” (1552), in Complete Writings, ed. J.C. Wenger.