“There is a religious war going on in this country,” former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan told the 1992 Republican convention in a primetime address. Mitt Romney has declared that President Obama is waging a war on religion. Whether one actually thinks there’s an ongoing war on religion, it’s time to raise the white flag on warring rhetoric.
In an advertisement released on August 9th, the Romney campaign said, “President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith.” Not only does this skew many facts, it belittles the power of the word. “War” stands a synonymous word for “disagreement,” when in actuality it’s nowhere near a real war.
Using “war on religion” only belittles the actual wars men and women currently fight in the Middle East. Soldiers are still dying, and many of those soldiers fight a battle within themselves once they return home. I wonder how those, soldiers and civilians, that died in an actual war might feel about the “war on religion.”
Not only does the word “war” miserably fail metaphorically, it also belittles the incredible impact of violence within the world. Whether Aurora, Colorado, New York City, or Washington D.C., within the past month our country has experienced unparalleled violence. While they are tragedies and have shaken our society, we continue to use the rhetoric of war as though actual violence didn’t already exist.
Whether we want a new Oval Office tenant or not, perhaps we could agree that using “war” in reference to political debates oversteps reality. Though we are free to utilize that those that have been injured or died in actual wars have secured language free exercise.
For people of faith, specifically Christians, to use “war on religion” does not frighten me so much as cause great concern. We have ignored passages concerned with love and neighbor in favor of political fright. Instead of calling for mindfulness in political debate, many have done nothing more than exacerbate the rousing rhetoric.
There is no more a “war on religion” now than there was in 1992. The one constant, both then and now, is that no justifiable use of “war” can ever be used when soldiers are living and dying carrying out a war that is at best, unjust. With violence palpable in every city to continue to both profit from and utilize “war on religion” we find an eerie comfort with violence, even in our language.
Language creates our world. How many debates have we heard about using gendered language for God? If it’s not really that big of a deal, then why don’t more Christian churches use “Allah” for God? Language matters, and to ignore the violence at work within the word “war” reflects an ignorance of the violence within our society.
I’ve never served in the military, but I can imagine if I did that war would seem very different than the one Mitt Romney & Company currently engage. Before candidates, on either side, attempt to scare up votes they must be cognizant of the world they seek to create.