KTF Press
Shake the Dust
American Empire and the Aftermath of Afghanistan

American Empire and the Aftermath of Afghanistan

Season 1, Episode 18
A square image. It is a somewhat abstract Illustration in warm, bright colors of a blue and white landscape with flecks of orange. The landscape itself is undulating in about 4 waves descending from the top right to bottom left corners of the image. The sun is partially visible on the top left and the sky is blue. White, cursive lettering spells out “Shake the Dust” across the ground.

This week, the team discusses American imperialism overseas and the end of the war in Afghanistan. We talk about Americans’ naïveté regarding the United States’ capabilities and altruism, the colonialist mindset underlying much media commentary on the end of the war, how Christian nationalism contributes to the persecution of the Church abroad, how Jesus leads us in a different direction, and a lot more! 

Shake the Dust is a podcast of KTF Press. Follow us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. Find transcripts of this show and subscribe to get our newsletter and other paid content at KTFPress.com


Jonathan Walton – follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.  

Suzie Lahoud – follow her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.  

Sy Hoekstra – follow him on Twitter.  

Our theme song is “Citizens” by Jon Guerra – listen to the whole song on Spotify

Our podcast art is by Jacqueline Tam – follow her and see her other work on Instagram.  

Production and editing by Sy Hoekstra. 

Transcript by Joyce Ambale and Suzie Lahoud. 

Questions about anything you heard on the show? Write to shakethedust@ktfpress.com and we may answer your question on a future episode. 


Sy Hoekstra: There are tons of people, tons of people who went over to Afghanistan with America, fully believing that they were there to do good things in the interest of the Afghan people. They were excited about using American influence and power and money to better other people's lives. And Christians have a lot to do with this, right? With trying to take the societies that the Bible would consider to be Babylon, and make that Babylon into Zion. If you don't disentangle the two, you think you can go over there and use the tools of the empire for the good of the Kingdom of God.

Suzie Lahoud: And if you believe God is on your side, not only do we not recognize the naïveté, we call it faith.

[The song “Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in. Lyrics: “I need to know there is justice/That it will roll in abundance/ And that you’re building a city/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]   

Sy Hoekstra: Welcome to Shake the Dust, leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God, a podcast of KTF press. My name is Sy Hoekstra, here with Jonathan Walton and Suzie Lahoud as always. We are going to talk a little bit today about Afghanistan and America's exit from it, what we've been doing over the last 20 years there, and how the church in particular has affected what's going on there. How we think about what's going on there, and how that kind of reflects some things that we may need to correct in our discipleship a little bit. We are going to try very hard to stay in our lane during this conversation. We're not going to pretend to be experts on war or foreign policy or the logistics of evacuating people from a country or anything like that. We're going to be talking much more about the stuff with which we are familiar, and can hopefully have some helpful remarks on. Namely, our theology and how the church interacts with the politics of foreign policy and war and colonialism.

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Okay, so let's get started. So what we're going to talk about, is the United States has officially withdrawn the last of its troops from Afghanistan who have been there for 20 years basically, since not that long after 9/11. There was an extremely chaotic evacuation from Kabul, from the capital city. People go back and forth on whether or not that could have been avoided, again, we're not going to argue about that because that is not our area of expertise.

And then very quickly after the US left, the Taliban retook most of the country, and then just in the past few days has retaken the capital. We're recording this by the way on Monday, August 23rd. So, what I wanted to bring up, all three of us in turn are going to bring up a point and we're going to kind of discuss each other's thoughts as we go. What I wanted to bring up was this: there are so many people on both sides of the aisle, basically taking the exit of the troops as an opportunity to blame the other side for something or other. So there are a lot of Republicans blaming Biden for leaving at this time, blaming Biden and the Democrats for botching the evacuation. There are a lot of Democrats saying this is just the inevitable end of the forever war on terror that the Republicans started 20 years ago. I don't know, those are kind of two of the main talking points, but people are going back and forth on all of that.

And underlying so much of that commentary, is basically an assumption that the United States could have, if we had executed it properly, basically created a peaceful, stable society that operated in the interests of the Afghan people apart from the desires of the Taliban or others. So the assumption there that I want to talk about, is that America could have actually invested the enormous sums of money into not just fighting the Taliban, but actually empowering, like legitimately giving power to the Afghan people, such that their interests, not our interests, were met. Because ultimately if we go in there only looking at our own self-interests, then it was basically over the moment the Taliban were defeated, or at least were out of power, right? Because that's what we were there for. We were there to fight someone who had attacked us, and beyond that, as long as Afghanistan isn't bothering us, they are kind of like any other country in the world that doesn't have a stable government, or doesn't have enough money or medical care or political infrastructure or anything else. They're not ultimately… we're not ultimately interested in their wellbeing.

And that is the logic of colonialism. The logic of colonialism is that we are not just like richer people who have more wealth and more ability to be comfortable and less violent, but we are actually people who are fundamentally better than they are. We are in America's case, the best people in the world is our belief about ourselves, and that we can go in and by our mere presence and our directing them, by their submission to us, we can create a stable, peaceful society. And it doesn't matter whether or not we have used violence or selfishness in our pursuit of those goals. All of those things are the logic of colonialist Europe, right? Like our sort of inheritance, our intellectual inheritance.

I just think that a lot of people in their commentary now are assuming that that's not the case. That we haven't carried on in that tradition, and that we really were capable of creating a society in our own image that would just kind of, democracy, as the neocons were fond of saying 20 years ago, would sort of flower in the region as we were welcomed liberators, right? That's kind of my main thought. What do you guys think?

Jonathan Walton: I think your words were too kind.

Sy Hoekstra: [laughs] Do tell.

Jonathan Walton: The reality from my perspective, George Bush, George W. Bush decided that the revenge for the 9/11 attacks was going to be the destruction of a country and a people to get one person so that he could claim a political victory and move forward. And then he created a moral case for invading the country by saying that we were going to liberate girls. And the reality was those girls were being violated and exploited on September the 10th, and he did not care about them. But on September 12th, all of a sudden they become this focus because what Biden said 20 years later, is that “It's no longer in our national interests.”

And the reality is that caring for vulnerable and marginalized people is never in the interest of the United States, unless it suits the political purposes of the people in power to retain that power, or exact revenge. Which is, exacting revenge is really just for political gain to keep power and to look like there was some sort of cohesive military revengeful response. I don't know if that was coherent at all.

Sy Hoekstra: No, it was. I would also add, by the way, in addition to not caring about the women and girls in Afghanistan on September 10th,a couple of decades before we were actually arming the Taliban.

Jonathan Walton: Yes, absolutely. Right.

Suzie Lahoud: To fight the Soviets.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, exactly. We wanted them to, it was part of our policy of containing communism.

Jonathan Walton: I think that white Europeans, by their mere presence, believe that it is God's providence for the people and the land that they are there. That is innate in a colonialist mindset, and it has not changed.

Sy Hoekstra: “We are the city on the hill,” was literally what George W. Bush said [laughs].

Jonathan Walton: Exactly [laughs]. So the mere presence of an American, we believe, makes the land and the people better, and that is like the fundamental lie. That the presence of a white person makes a place more valuable. The presence of a white person, the presence of wealth, the presence of power, proximity to colonial power makes people, makes land, makes resources, makes everything more valuable. And that is a cosmic, sinful, anti-Christian level of hypocrisy.

Sy Hoekstra: Suzie, what are your thoughts?

Suzie Lahoud: I feel like I just have to say, I'm struggling to put words to just thoughts and emotions around what's going on in Afghanistan right now, as I know a lot of folks are. And part of that is I just feel like it's a certain kind of privilege that you can go in and mess up a people’s society and nation and pull out with the kind of debacle that we've seen and then be able to just sit around and talk about it like it's dinner conversation. And the distance that we have as Americans from the violence that we create in places across the world, just really deeply disturbs me, and I think is something that, as you were saying at the outset of this episode Sy, needs to be called out.

Particularly in the church, because as Christians, we need to be close to the broken-hearted and to the marginalized and to those who are suffering. And we are in this, yeah, colonialist situation where we sit in our comfortable seat of empire and we don't hear the cries of the Afghan people. We're not there right now in the midst of the chaos at the Kabul airport as people are fleeing for their lives. So I think just first of all,I know this is an important conversation. It’s one I feel uncomfortable even having, because of the amount of privilege that comes with even being able to just sit and talk about these things from the safety of our own homes.

Sy Hoekstra: I appreciate you saying that. Jonathan and I just came in kind of hot because we're mad, and that is a very good reminder and I appreciate that.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah no, and I don't say that to call out you guys specifically.

Sy Hoekstra: Nevertheless, it applies to probably, definitely me and probably Jonathan.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah, and because anger is easier than grief. But go ahead.

Sy Hoekstra: Right.

Suzie Lahoud: But even just in general, Sy you were talking about all the chatter we're hearing right now about Afghanistan, and the way it's been made into this partisan issue. And that to me is just the height of that kind of hypocrisy. That we then get to weaponize it in our own little political games that we play. And again, it's not affecting our lives, the war is not here. I know that there are folks, families of troops who were sent overseas, and that's a whole other conversation. But it doesn't affect us in the same way, and I think that's a problem. I think that's a problem that we're so distanced from it.

Going to your point, Sy, that- which I think is an important one- that you initially made about how all of this ties into American imperialism. And this is something you and Jonathan were talking about the other day when we were initially kind of having a conversation about Afghanistan and you both brought up this concept of the white man's burden that was so prominent in the heyday of the British Empire. And American exceptionalism is really just the contemporary manifestation of that. This idea, like you were saying, and like Jonathan was saying, that by us going in we're going to make things better. That recreating people in our own image is going to make them better. It should be so obvious that it's that same mechanism at work, that same lie, that same deception, that same racist philosophy, and it boggles the mind that so often we don't see that. We still believe in this idea that we are bettering the world by going out and doing these things.

Sy Hoekstra: Specifically, when I was thinking about the white man's burden, I was literally thinking of the poem, for those of you who don't know. That was like, for some reason, it was just like on repeat in my head the last week.

Jonathan Walton: Rudyard Kipling

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, Rudyard Kipling, who was a British imperialist. He wrote a poem to the United States when we occupied the Philippines, which is something that a lot of Americans tend to forget about. But after the Spanish War, we took control of the Philippines. We paid Spain for it as part of the treaty when we got it, and we occupied it for a couple of decades, basically until the Japanese invaded in World War II.

And he wrote this ridiculous poem about the white man's burden and how you take up this colonialist project for the good of other people, and you sacrifice and they are ungrateful. And they judge you even though you've done nothing but a selfless deed. And then he said, exactly what I heard in several places on social media and in the mainstream media, which is that the moment that you think that your project, your grand glorious colonialist project is finished, then basically the laziness of the heathens that have been subject to you will turn all of your efforts to nothing and they will squander it. Which is exactly what we've been saying about the Afghan people for the past week or whatnot.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah.

Jonathan Walton: Right.

Sy Hoekstra: A lot of people have been saying, right? Like they didn't fight for their own country, how long can we be there and babysit these people while they fail to do what we came there to help them do? And you know, that's the way, if you think of it that way, which is the colonialist way of thinking about it, instead of, what did we do to this region that created the instability? That created the poverty and the famine and the fear and the distrust and the corruption, and how unrealistic were our goals going into it, or how prideful, were we? Those aren't the questions. You blame the people who have been the victims of us and the Taliban and the Soviets and whoever, for decades and blame the whole situation on them. So yeah, I guess Kipling was in my head last week, which is never pleasant.

Suzie, you had a point about Christian nationalism that you wanted to make.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah. So another thing other than these, again this sort of partisan mudslinging that we've seen over Afghanistan. Some of that kind of chatter that I've seen is Christians expressing concern- and a lot of times it is actually the conservative, sort of far-right Christians- over the persecution of the underground church in Afghanistan. And certainly we need to be standing with our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan right now. We need to be praying. But what's disturbing to me, is that I find that oftentimes it's the folks who are most vocal about the persecution of the Christian Church that are most prone to espouse the kinds of Christian nationalist rhetoric and ideas that we saw on January 6th.

I want to make that connection because I don't think that folks who are in the Christian nationalist camp, who fall within that camp, realize that when we consciously tie together religion and empire in that way, when we're expressing these ideas- that America is a Christian nation, and wrapping that up in this shroud of patriotism and militarism and these ideas about the American way of life. When we do that, we're actually contributing to the persecution of the church overseas, specifically churches like the one in Afghanistan. When you go into a place like Afghanistan and you say that you're bringing Christ, particularly as an American missionary, what folks see is that you're bringing… and I'm going to use the phrase again that was so prominent within the British Empire, this idea of a “civilizing mission.” This idea that you're going to recreate people in your own image, to make them more like you. To make them better citizens of your foreign empire as an occupying force. And so then you get entangled with this idea of conquering an empire, and rather than trying to disentangle the message of Christ from that, you're actually reinforcing that.

So we see this in really clear cultural ways with American Christians that go over and we go and we bring our Super Bowl parties and our white picket fences, and again, our undying support of the US military. And what do folks see when they see that? Do they really see Christ in us? Do they really see Jesus of Nazareth, or do they see our Americanness? What do they understand about heaven? Do they understand heaven to be eternity with God in his presence worshiping him forever? Or do they understand heaven to be America?

 Something that happens a lot of times in contexts like Afghanistan and other places, is you have folks who join the church, profess faith in Christ, and then they really, really want to get to the United States. And American Christian missionaries are like, “Well, I mean, that's not our job. That’s not why we're here.” And I think will judge their faith accordingly, that they're not serious enough about their faith that they're not willing to stay and be persecuted for it. But really, I think we create that.

Sy Hoekstra: So you started by saying that that was tied, that that kind of Christian nationalism, that kind of missionary work is tied to the persecution of the church overseas. How does that work?

Suzie Lahoud: People in Afghanistan also have access a lot of times to television, satellite TV, and they see these images that are coming… again, I'll go back to January 6. They saw those same banners waving in the name of Christ at the time of the insurrection. They saw that violence being played out in the name of Christ. And the Afghan people certainly have been victims of the kind of violence that comes out of the United States in the name of God and country. So that endangers the church because then anyone… and this is actively what the Taliban are saying, folks who then choose to follow Christ are seen as traitors, are seen as being complicit in the American occupation. Are seen as being complicit in America's imperial project in Afghanistan.

Sy Hoekstra: And are seen as potentially violent.

Suzie Lahoud: I don't know that I would actually make that connection explicitly. I don't think it's that they're seen as violent, but they are seen as being proximate to the violence, if that makes sense. They're seen as being enablers because rather than resisting it, they're sort of welcoming it and becoming a part of it. Yeah. So I don't think it's that they're seen as being explicitly violent in the sense that they're afraid that they're going to pick up guns and form Christian Afghan militias.

Jonathan Walton: So Suzie, to ask a clarifying question, it sounds like what you're saying is that, if someone from Afghanistan decided to follow the brown man from Palestine, or what is now Palestine, that would be a very different threat and conversation among people from there, than a person deciding to follow the Jesus of America. Because the Jesus of America is a threat in a whole different way.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah no, that's a good way of clarifying it. And I think I should also… you know, we always try to keep these conversations as nuanced as possible, and essentially all religious minorities are in danger in Afghanistan right now. And yeah, the Taliban have been going after, and will continue to go after anyone who falls outside their brand of what they consider to be orthodoxy. But then also part of the problem we reinforce through only caring about the Christians who are going to be persecuted. This is something we talked about in our episode with Wissam al-Saliby. Christians in America right now are all up in arms and concerned for the persecution of the Christian Church. We're not talking about the Hazara people. We're not talking about the Sikhs and the Hindus in Afghanistan who are also going to be hunted down and killed.

And again, that just reinforces this idea that we care about them because they've become one of us. They've become citizens of our empire. And again, I know it's complex. Like you think of folks who have chosen to follow Jesus as brothers and sisters in Christ. And so there is a significant bond there, I don't mean to deny that. But as we've spoken about at other times on this podcast, everyone is created in the image of God. And how does it look when we only care for our own?

Sy Hoekstra: For anybody who's at all still unclear about how this works and you're familiar with American politics, really just think of how we've treated Muslims in America for the last 20 years. It's the same thing, right? Somebody attacked us, we associated them with the one billion Muslims on planet earth and decided that they were all kind of the same. And then we started persecuting Muslims in our own country, whether that was… we, Jonathan and I are in New York where the NYPD for years carried out a massive surveillance campaign on just random, innocent Muslims in New York City, surveilling mosques, surveilling religious leaders’ homes. The military was arresting and torturing innocent people around the world who were Muslims, like had nothing whatsoever to do with Al-Qaeda, right? We had people in America who were attacked, who were killed.

Jonathan Walton: Right, in New York City.

Sy Hoekstra: In New York City, and to bring in the other people that Suzie was just talking about in Afghanistan, some of them were not Muslims. Some of them were just people that we perceive as Muslims, like Sikhs or Hindus or whoever. Before we go thinking that this is like a foreign concept, it is very easy to associate people who you consider “others” with something bad that some very tiny fraction of that group has done, and then harm those people as a result. Even though before you said this Suzie, about connecting Christian nationalism in this, I never… I don't think I ever had that thought, it's something that I then realized pretty quickly, should have been something that we expect. We've done this, why wouldn't they?

Jonathan Walton: What I was stuck on as Suzie was talking, was the, where I am sitting in this dialogue. And the reality is I'm sitting in New York City, in a house, climate controlled, under the threat of no violence or persecution, at least at this moment. And just the reality, the guilt, shame, fear, obligation, anger, and wanting praise for ourselves are no reasons that are enduring to seek justice. So if I want to get rid of my guilt, eventually seeking justice is going to stop. Shame is going to stop. Obligation's going to stop. Like I can do enough things, get angry enough or whatever, and it'll go away. And the reality is I can get angry and seethe and vent on a podcast and nothing will change, but I will feel better for having said something.

And so I'm wondering, as Suzie is talking, what it looks like not to see the access and resources and privilege, privilege being things that I have that God gave me that didn't do anything to get, leveraging those things, stewarding those things on behalf of those who are not paying taxes in the United States and are not able to donate to organizations. That are not able to organize on social media and in real life. And then to engage in the grief of it, because if I'm actually grieving, then I'm able to see and identify these people as my human family.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah. I agree Jonathan, that dehumanization is so real. And I think actually, as we talk about this, you're helping me process through part of what's so upsetting to me about hearing folks just be able to sit around and talk about these things and that it's that… So, we did a bonus episode at one point on how we commodify other people's trauma, and how dehumanizing that is. And I think that's when it becomes upsetting to me, is when I feel like we're consuming these horrific stories that are coming out of Afghanistan. We're consuming the horror, and I think there are times… You know, I'm not going to deny that there aren't folks who are doing that because they genuinely care and are genuinely distraught. And are really on their knees in prayer for the nation of Afghanistan, on behalf of the Afghan people. I'm not going to deny that that doesn't exist, and I'm grateful for that.

What's upsetting is when yeah, it becomes a dehumanizing narrative. That they're just, that the Afghan people are at best playing a sort of, not even supporting role. They're like extras in a film that's all about the United States, and all about our history. And even if we're criticizing the US, that comes through sometimes. Whether we're the hero or the anti-hero in the story, somehow it all revolves around us. We're not at the center of every single story. We're not at the center of the story at all. It's not about us.

And we need to recognize that and just be able to stand in solidarity with the Afghan people. And I agree Jonathan, yeah, a little less conversation, a little more action. If that means getting on your knees and really just urgently praying over the situation, any way that you can give. God bless folks who are actively taking part in the efforts to evacuate those who are most vulnerable right now. I just went off on a huge tangent, I didn't mean to go off on.

But one additional point that I think is important to me made is, the dehumanization of the Afghan people within US foreign policy and how policy decisions are made. And one thing that I've learned over the past few years is that part of the calculus for US policymakers when they're making decisions like,Do we invade Afghanistan?” “Do we pull out?” The sort of equation they're supposed to use, is you weigh values and interests. And the problem with that is that interests outweigh values every single time, and the values are only relevant when they serve and support the self-interest of the United States. And this goes directly to your point Jonathan, that the United States, the US government didn't seem to care all that much about what was going on in Afghanistan on September 10th. It was after the Twin Towers fell, that all of a sudden folks are all up in arms over the treatment of women and girls by the Taliban. Which again, like that's real, but we only seem to feel like it was our problem when it's best served us to go in and intervene.

Sy Hoekstra: So it sounds like you're saying instead of it really being like interests and values considered as separate entities, a lot of times it’s interests, whatever they are, are put in the terms of our values.

Jonathan Walton: Right. Yes.

Sy Hoekstra: They are translated to the American public in values, but it's kind of a lawyerly way of appealing to those values. Regardless of what the interests are, we have our goals that we want to accomplish in our own self-interest, but we just tell ourselves and the public and the world that they reflect our values.

Suzie Lahoud: I think so, which is hypocritical at best. And also that's not to say that there aren't policymakers and lawmakers who don't genuinely care about these issues, but the fact that them caring doesn't lead to any sort of concrete action until it's in our best interest. I don't mean to say that the concern for marginalized and oppressed people is always disingenuous. I'm not going to judge every single person who espouses those ideas. I'm just saying, yeah, again, why doesn't it lead to what is expressed as a moral imperative- why didn't that moral imperative exist before?

Sy Hoekstra: I think that's a good point to make, is there are tons of people, tons of people who went over to Afghanistan with America, fully believing that they were there to do good things in the interest of the Afghan people. They were excited about using American influence and power and money to better other people's lives. People who went over there, policymakers who sent them over there, voters who supported the Bush administration, like all of that is real. But I think what we are saying here, is that believing that that was going to happen, stems a little bit from our, I think naïveté about what America is actually going to do when it goes somewhere.

And Christians have a lot to do with this, right? With Christian nationalism, or just even not, it doesn't have to be like modern Christian nationalism; colonialist Christians have been doing this for centuries. Trying to take the societies that Jonathan has correctly identified before on our podcast, as what the Bible would consider to be Babylon- the people going around conquering and harming other people and trying to shape them in their own image and doing it with violence and arrogance and pride- and make that Babylon into Zion. Like that's what our religion has been doing for forever. And if you don't disentangle the two, you think you can go over there and use the tools of the empire for the good of the Kingdom of God.

Suzie Lahoud: Well, and if you believe that God is on your side, asa quote unquote “Christian nation” then not only do we not recognize the naïveté, we call it faith.

Jonathan Walton: Yes. Child-like faith.

Suzie Lahoud: We go over there believing, yeah, we go over there believing that everything's going to turn out okay. We are going over with the best intentions, with our armies anointed by the Lord to bless people, and we think everything's going to turn out fine because God is on our side, God bless America. And then fast forward, 20 years later we have this.

Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. Suzie, that is an incredibly powerful point. I could not agree more.

Jonathan, you had something to say about the way that we ask, “What do we do with these people?” when we go over and we invade or insert ourselves into the affairs of other countries. Can you talk a little bit about that, and that'll be where we close at.

Jonathan Walton: So, there’s some really, really good journalism happening about what's happening right now. The piece that struck me the most is in our newsletter, which was William Barber's piece, I think is the antithesis of what Suzie was talking about. Not Suzie was talking about, what Suzie asserted about people who conflate white supremacy, racism and imperialism with the gospel, is that a missionary kid can show up and preach a quote unquote “gospel devoid of context,” devoid of historical knowledge, devoid of the narrative that's happening. And then when someone raises their hand or runs to the altar and says they've decided to follow Jesus, they can frame that under it was them who did it. Their showing up did that. So the gospel becomes, again, we talked about this before this, individualized event, whereas what William Barber pulls the gospel into, and many theologians like him, we pull the gospel into an “Our Father, and our Savior, the savior of all creation,” as opposed to “My dad, who takes care of my world, and redeems me.”

So all of this conversation, I feel like we're asking the same question that the original colonizers were asking of Pope Nicholas V with the first papal bull, where it was like, “What do we do with these people that we want something from, or have done something to us?” We want to take what they have. We want to commit violence against them. We want revenge. We want something. And so we need to figure out a way to baptize what we're going to do. So “What do we do with them?” is, I think, the question. And it's always been the question. When the Spanish were leaving… had children out of rape and abuse and violence in South America, they would say, “What do we do with these kids? Because they can't be Spanish. We can't take them back.” What do we do with a kid like Frederick Douglas who's the product of rape? Like, “Oh, he's half Black.” Like Harriet Tubman. They’re half Black. What do we call them? What do we do with these people who are not white, who are not straight, who are not men, who are not wealthy, who are not quote unquote “Christian”? What do we do with these people?

Jesus shows us what we do with them. We love them because everybody is them to God. Everybody. Ephesians 3 says, “Once you were enemies, now I call you friends.” Every single one of us to God was them at one point. But he who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God. And that is what I would hope that we would be able to do, which is why it's infuriating when Biden stands up and says, “Well, these people don't love their people enough. Don't love their country. Don't love…” That is infuriating. So you're going to say to a mom who's literally tossing her baby to a soldier, she doesn't love her country enough to fight. She doesn't love freedom enough to raise her kids differently. And this is every narrative of white supremacy and American exceptionalism that says, “What do we do with these people who ain’t like us, who we don’t understand?” So I feel like there's a fundamental violation of the image of God, individual and corporate, that's happening, and it is…

Sy Hoekstra: …heartbreaking.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah. Yeah, it sucks. It really, really sucks.

Sy Hoekstra: And I think… first of all thank you, Jonathan.

Jonathan Walton: Yeah, that’s all.

Sy Hoekstra: Both of you, but both of you have been very open and generous with your emotional energy today. I think so often… not so often, always, our answer to that question is, “Not much.” Is what you were saying before. I do not fundamentally see Obama's and Biden's instincts to leave Iraq and Afghanistan because the mission there, the people there were no longer serving our interests, as that fundamentally different from the instincts of the neocons and the Bush people who wanted to go in there in the first place, in that respect in particular. Like, “What do we do with these people?” The answer is we control them to the extent that controlling them supports our interests, and then we leave and they deal with the fallout.

Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, and this is an American problem across the aisle, across the board. We’re calling everybody out on this one.

Sy Hoekstra: And we've brought this up before, but in the foreign policy section of our anthology that we published last year, Jesse Wheeler wrote about this, I think, really well. His essay was called “Bad Theology Kills.” One of the things he said that we, I think the three of us come back to a lot, is that from the perspective of the people who live in the areas where we have been conducting our wars for the last 20 years, a Republican drone and a Democratic drone don't look any different. So I think your point is well taken.

Suzie Lahoud: Just another thought that… and this is a little bit tangential to our conversation, but another I think kind of bigger picture comment that just came to mind while, Jonathan, you were talking. And I think it's so important, the point that you made about how we need to embrace this collective, communal vision of the Kingdom and try to be discipled out of our individualistic, self-interested, selfish ways. So one danger with deconstruction without decolonization, is that we end up maintaining that focus on self. So it's still “How has religion hurt me? How has this portrayal of the gospel hurt me? How has the church hurt me? How has toxic theology hurt me?” And we need to be asking those questions not just individually, but corporately. “How have these things hurt us? How have they hurt the world that, as Jonathan so powerfully just expressed, the world that God loves and that Christ died for?” And that can be a more difficult question to ask and more uncomfortable to ask, because it does point to our complicity in these systems. So that means that even as Christians who are trying to critique these things, we also need to repent of these things. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We're part of this too.

Sy Hoekstra: And I think we're going to end it there. There isn't… we could try and find a hopeful note or something to end on, but that's just not the reality of the situation right now. And so I think we're going to conclude there. All three of us are praying for what's going on over there, and we're praying for everybody as we process through all of this. And we just wish everyone the grace and peace of Jesus and that's what we have right now.

So, thank you so much for listening to us through this. I know that a lot of you will be praying with us about this, and we appreciate that as well. So just thanks for being here with us this week.

Our theme song, as always, is “Citizens” by Jon Guerra. Our podcast art is by Jacqueline Tam, and we will see everybody next week.

If you do want a tiny bit of something that will make you smile, I suggest you do not hit stop until the end of this podcast. I can promise you that much at least.

We will see you next week.

[“Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades back in. Lyrics: “Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” Song fades out.]  

Jonathan Walton: And what I think we have to be able to do, which is…

Maia: What bow can’t be tied?

Jonathan Walton: What did you say?

Maia: What bow can’t be tied? It’s a joke.

Jonathan Walton: What bow can't be tied? Is that what you're saying? I am not sure what bow cannot be tied. Can you tell me?

Maia: A rainbow.


Maia: But it’s not a bow.

Jonathan Walton: Thank you. Thank you.

Sy Hoekstra: [laughing] Apropos of nothing, Maia just walks in, slays her dad with a joke and leaves.

Jonathan Walton: Okay. Maia, Maia, I have to talk right now, Maia, but I appreciate you sharing your joke with me. Okay?

Sy Hoekstra: Uncle Sy thought it was hilarious.

Jonathan Walton: Uncle Sy and Suzie āyí laughed like really good.

Suzie Lahoud: It’s a great joke.

Jonathan Walton: Thank you, Maia.

KTF Press
Shake the Dust
Seeking Jesus, confronting injustice–Shake the Dust features candid interviews and informed discussions that guide us as we resist the idols of America.