Sense and Sensibility

Easter wasn't much fun at St. George's Serbian Orthodox Church in Clearwater, Florida, this past Sunday—the day Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter. Yes, parishioners went to church, and they prepared their usual Easter feast. But the mood was somber. Not only because of the war in the congregation's ancestral homeland, but also because NATO had ignored pleas from Orthodox bishops the world over to withhold bombing Serbian targets on Orthodox Easter. NATO went ahead with the bombing despite a unilateral cease-fire, declared by Milosevic, in honor of what Orthodox Christians regard as the most important religious holiday of the year. NATO's actions show how completely tone-deaf Western governing elites have become on the subject of religion—or at least Christianity. NATO chiefs knew they were in for criticism over their decision to bomb on Easter Sunday. As proof that they weren't completely insensitive to Orthodox sensibilities, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said that NATO had shown "relative restraint" because of the holiday. "Relative restraint"? That's the worst example of war-inspired double talk since an Army officer in Vietnam told reporters, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." You either honor the holiday by ceasing all bombing or you don't. Even The New York Times saw how insensitive this was. As writer Nicholas Gage asked, "How... can [our leaders] not see the opportunity... to show to millions of Orthodox that their spiritual sensibilities are as honored as the Islamic ones were during Ramadan?" You may recall that during the bombing of Iraq last December, the Clinton administration justified the timing (which just happened to coincide with an impeachment vote) by citing the need to not bomb during Ramadan, the Islamic counterpart to Lent. Now why wouldn't we show the same sensitivity toward Christians? Besides, it was bad policy because by refusing to participate in Milosevic's cease-fire, NATO helped transform a former Communist thug into the champion of the Orthodox faithful the world over. The origin of this strange double standard is that for people in the foreign policy establishment, religion is a subset of psychology. It's important only to the extent that it might motivate people to take actions that affect American interests. To put it bluntly, Orthodox Christians don't live on top of billions of barrels of oil. Nor is there an Orthodox terrorist mastermind equivalent to Osama Bin Laden. If America had bombed Iraq during Ramadan, it probably would have set off an orgy of anti-American feeling that eventually would have endangered American interests. But bombing Yugoslavia sets off no such geopolitical consequences. It is Machiavellian calculations like these that explain why Ramadan was respected and Easter wasn't—something I find reprehensible. Our governing elites' arrogance against Christians brings to mind Stalin's scornful question "How many divisions does the Pope have?” Well, the Communists found out just how many divisions he had when a Polish Pope stood tall—and Communism fell. We Christians need to take the same kind of stand here. Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox—we all ought to express our disapproval and disgust. Our leaders should know that there is a political price to be paid for dishonoring our holiest day.


Chuck Colson



  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary