Demos and Dialogue

How is a Christian to deal with a useful idiot?

“No more war, never again war.” So said Pope Paul VI at the United Nations, so says Pope Francis today. Yet there continue to be wars and rumors of war. Often political leaders encourage us to add to the patriotic gore.

Just a few weeks ago, I joined an international protest against incitements to wage war against Iran. One reason I did so was to make visible the American Solidarity Party and especially its “pro-life for the whole of life” commitment. We are pro-life in the womb, believing that peace begins in the womb, and we are pro-life in the face of militarism.

Enter now the “useful idiots.” There were a number of them at the protest. Leninists first used the term to refer to their unwitting, or witless, supporters in the West. But regardless of political persuasion, there is no shortage of useful idiots. Communists, fascists, and laissez faire capitalists are only too ready to enlist them. (Full disclosure: some think that my joining a third party qualifies me as such.)

So how is a Christian to deal with a useful idiot? In just the same way as a Christian is to deal with anyone. With loving kindness. And just what is loving kindness in such a case?

A friend of mine, a fellow Solidarist, quickly identified some useful idiots, and I thanked him for it. Our approach to “loving kindness” differs, though. He doesn’t challenge them directly. Instead he looks for authentic peacemakers. Think of World Without War and the American Friends Service Committee. Real peacemakers are open to the “pro-life for the whole of life” message. They are open to dialogue.

Well, I can follow his example…unless. Unless what? Here are some examples. An impassioned speaker listed, and rightly, several kinds of violence that prey on the American people. He didn’t mention abortion. I asked him why, and he said he didn’t want to discuss it. Sorry, friend. I insisted on underscoring his inconsistency.

Another group of protesters, about fifteen of them, surrounded “a right-winger” and not so gently moved him across the street from the demonstration. Then they complained bitterly when the police told them that the right-winger had civil rights, too. No, they weren’t pleased when I vocally agreed with the police, something which I rarely do.

There’s a last example that boggles the mind. An outfit calling itself the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) was passing out leaflets announcing another demonstration. Its purpose would be “to explain how the Democratic Party’s focus on impeachment has sidelined progressive issues and stunted the growth of a real people’s movement.” But there’s more: The leaflet continued, “At the same time Democrats peddle impeachment, the Trump administration faces no opposition to its warmongering and lies against China.”

My only problem with the impeachment is that it failed. My problems with China begin with its being a police state. As such, it is doing what it can to destroy religious freedom. As many as a million Muslims are now in detention camps. And it is as a police state that China is throttling the civil rights of its people, with a special vigor those of lawyers and journalists. That the local PSL bunch don’t get this qualifies them as “useful idiots.” They should be called out. Doing so, for their good and ours, is both kind and loving.

 

Jim Hanink is an independent scholar, albeit more independent than scholarly!

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