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A critical response

A reader writes, regarding my piece on the murder of civilians in Afghanistan ...

It looks like there is more to the SSgt Robert Bales story, and that the instant analysis that David Brooks, and you have done may not do full justice to the facts. Evidently, Bales was deeply in debt ($1.5 million), and was convicted of securities fraud prior to joining the military. This may be the picture of a stressed man, who (wrongly) believed he could escape his troubles by enlisting. While I have no doubt his tours of duty contributed to his actions, I think it is also overly simplistic for you to claim

When […] an individual becomes part of a long-term occupying army, he is more liable to being swept up in a different kind of whirlwind, one that operates quietly and under the guise of patriotic propriety, like white privilege or entitlement or colonialism


More details must emerge before we begin to form conclusions or pronounce judgments. But as I read you more, it seems that you are only aware of sins committed by whites/christians/republicans.

I wonder if you will ever be bold enough to discuss how Islamic-dominated countries treat gays, women, or transgressors of the law. Will you ever write about Mohammed Merah’skilling spree, or the growing anti-Semitism in Europe that is rising (not coincidentally) with the growth of Islam in those countries?

In the end I suspect you will still blame America/christians/whites, and excuse (or overlook) the actions of Jihadists.

Thanks for your note. I certainly agree that it is too early to form conclusions or pronounce judgments about any as-yet unprosecuted case. You'll notice that David Brooks included the word "if" in the quote I included, and my comments are about personal and social evil related to occupation, not Sgt. Bales specifically. And I certainly do speak out against mistreatment of gays, women, and others, as a search here on my blog will make clear, and I have a long section in my upcoming book about these subjects, including anti-semitism, for example. As the title suggests (Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?), the book addresses religious identity, hostility, and solidarity across the board, although (as the subtitle suggests), my special focus is Christian identity, since I am a Christian.

I suppose that helps explain why I do feel a special obligation to talk about problems among white Americans and Christians. That obligation flows from my understanding of Jesus' words about taking the splinters out of our own eyes. And it also flows from Jesus' words about much being expected from those who have been given much. Regarding white privilege, of course it's good and important that African Americans, Native Americans, and others speak out about white privilege and related themes. That's where I learned about these realities. But eventually those who are beneficiaries of white privilege need to acknowledge these realities too, which I've tried in my own small way to do. Hostility and violence among any people - whatever their skin color, religion, economics, politics, social class, and so on - are sad and tragic and wrong, and I would never excuse them. I'm simply trying to advocate for a path of peace. Thanks again for your note, and God bless you.