Shifting Sands

19Sep07

Blackstone Helicopter, Courtesy AFPToday’s news broke the story concerning the cancellation of the operating license of Blackwater, a private security firm based in the United States, by the Iraqi Minister of the Interior following a Sunday shootout that killed 8 and wounded 10 people. Blackwater has been a fixture of the United States’ efforts in Iraq throughout the war, although their presence has not been without controversy–including the mounting disfavor in which Blackwater is held by the Iraqi people.

Whatever your concern is about Blackwater–whether it be a lack of accountability to the law, inequality of pay when compared to soldiers, greater availability of protective gear for mercenaries, or lack of benefits for Blackstone veterans–I think that it is important to step back and consider the big picture.

Our society has been in a trend towards privatization of government programs in recent years. While this has been a trend over a period of time, it has become pronounced in the Iraqi war. Whether it be food services, technical support, nation building, or in the case of Blackwater, mercenaries, we have seen a large effort to commercialize the process of war.

This raises a number of troubling questions. When war becomes a for-profit venture, is it still possible to make a claim for just war? When war becomes a for-profit venture, what code of ethics guides our actions? When war becomes a for-profit venture, what impetus is there to stop?

For people of faith, the question must also be, “When the economy guides some of the most profound decisions of humanity, where is God?” Have we become like the foolish man who built his foundation upon the shifting sands? Who is our God?


Gen 1.26: Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earch, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

Gen 2.15: The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. (NRSV)

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Kelly Miller Circus is coming to Deerfield, and some of the local residents are pissed. A group called ‘Skip the Circus‘ has organized in opposition to Kelly Miller, citing a history of cruel treatment towards elephants and other animals in captivity.

Perhaps most appalling is this video which clearly shows a trainer as he beats and screams at captive elephants during a training, while cajoling other trainers into doing the same. ‘Skip the Circus’ has done their homework–their documentation names the abuser in the video, links to the fine he received from the US Department of Agriculture (a measley $400), and worst of all, shows that he’s still working as an elephant trainer–for a company that provides elephants to–you guessed it–Kelly Miller Circus.

Given the aforementioned quotes from Genesis, it isn’t difficult to see the theological implications here. We humans are the caretakers of the garden of Eden. We have “dominion” over the Earth, not for the purpose of being able to rape and pillage it, but to care for it as God’s appointed workers. Abusing animals for entertainment purposes is ungodly and completely unacceptable. Hopefully, this boycott will flourish and raise additional awareness for the need to repair our relationship with all of God’s creation.

(Cross-posted from Reflections on faith, politics and society.)


Welcome to the incarnation of the community blog, Christian Voices. Our purpose is to provide a forum in which progressive Christians can come together and reflect on issues ranging from current events to timeless truisms. We are a group of diverse individuals, but are united in the following beliefs:

  1. Everyone belongs to God
  2. Jesus is our homeboy

If you are interested in contributing to Christian Voices, please leave a comment below. Leftward, Christian soldiers!