Saturday, November 3, 2007

Bad N.T. Wright

The bishop exudes moral outrage--but not at the extremists. Wright reserves the weight of his scorn for the United States and Great Britain and their foreign policies since the attacks of 9/11.

In the address in Durham, delivered last November, Wright condemned not only the war in Iraq, but also the U.S.-led coalition that toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan--a military offensive unanimously approved by the U.N. Security Council. He compared the United States to a "rogue elephant teased by a little dog," staggering along on a militaristic rampage and "imposing the will of the West" on hapless populations. A first century historian, Wright can't help but regard America as ancient Rome, nurturing similar imperial dreams: "All empires claim they possess justice, freedom and peace and that they have a duty to share these things with everybody else." Imperialism, in fact, is a recurrent theme. "We have relied on the same methods as we used in the nineteenth century," he said. "If in doubt, send in the gunboats and teach Johnny Foreigner a lesson he won't forget." And, as if the imperial metaphor weren't crude enough, Wright reached for a cartoon reference: "The Superman myth, or the Captain America complex, has been shown to underlie the implicit narratives of generation after generation of American leaders," he claimed, "generating the belief that the hero must use redemptive violence to restore the town, the country, the world to its proper state."

America as deranged elephant-cum-Caesar-cum-superhero: These hardly qualify as accusations, much less as arguments. The failures of the Bush doctrine in the Middle East are both numerous and grievous. The hubris of those who acted as if democracy-building were "a cakewalk" in broken societies like Afghanistan and Iraq boggles the mind. But can America's historic struggle against tyranny--Nazism, Communism and, now, Islamic radicalism--be denigrated as the product of a cartoon-shaped ego? It all begins to sound like the lament of an embittered utopian: the moralist who cannot reconcile his ideals with the morally ambiguous world in which he finds himself.

From N.T. Wright Gets It Wrong by Joseph Loconte.

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