Movers and Quakers

jesusbombNearly four out of five folks in this country self-identify as Christian. And (to understate widly) there are very few political issues that 80 percent of the country agree on. The war in Iraq certainly is not one of them. Many of the soldiers fighting the war are Christian. Many of the people opposing the war are Christian. Christian lawmakers voted for the war. Some Christian lawmakers voted against the war. One Christian voted for the war before he voted against it.

I bring this up to point out one of the weaknesses in coverage this past week of the four Christian anti-war activists who were kidnapped at gunpoint by Muslim militants in Iraq. It’s a horribly sad, if not altogether surprising, story. The Muslim Swords of Righteousness Brigade threatened to kill the men if their demand that the United States release all prisoners in Iraqi and U.S.-run detention centers was not met by Saturday, Dec. 10th. They accused the four of being coalition spies.

Concern for the group grew over the weekend as the deadline for their execution Saturday passed. The four men — Tom Fox, 54, of Clearbrook, Virginia; Norman Kember, 74, of London, England; James Loney, 41, of Toronto, Canada; and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, a former Montreal resident living in Auckland, New Zealand — were affiliated with Christian Peacemaker Teams a pacifist group of Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers. The group sends teams of workers to intervene in war zones and other dangerous areas. Their motto is “committed to reducing violence by getting in the way.”

The Christian Peacemakers require its corps members to be “deeply grounded in Christian faith.” So you have a group of peace activists who may have already lost their lives because of their interpretation of the Bible. Leaving apart the possible merit or naivete in their political understanding, why aren’t reporters teaching us more about their Quaker-infused theology? Even after reading through dozens of accounts of the hostage situation, including a BBC profile of Christian Peacemaker Teams that was anything but, the religious motivation angle was only mentioned in passing. The best I could find was this story in the Buffalo News that used quotes from Kathleen Kern, an acquaintance of the hostages:

Kern described Christian Peacemakers Team as committed to peace and human rights. In Iraq, the group initially sent members ahead of the U.S. invasion to protest the war. Later, it focused on detainees, collecting stories about their disappearances and treatment.

The activists don’t engage in proselytizing overseas, she said.

But, she added, “We are not ashamed to say we are doing this, that we are doing human rights work, because Jesus is on the side of the marginalized.”

Christians have been struggling with how to live simultaneously in secular and spiritual realms for millennia. The media tend to see this conflict on the right very easily when they cover conservative Christian battles in the public square. But it seems harder for them to look critically at the equivalent struggles among liberal Christians. In defense of the media, their poor coverage of religious attitudes toward war might be a reflection of the complete lack of debate on the issue in most American denominations.

In any case, are there different standards for justice in the church and in the world? Have Christians discussed this issue before? Does this play into separation of church and state? If there are different standards for how to handle conflict in the church and in the world, what does that say about current hot-button political issues? I hate it when I have nothing but questions after reading two dozen articles from different perspectives about the same situation.

If these four hostages are going to die at the hands of their captors, one of the few things we might expect from reporters covering the saga is an exploration of the hostages’ motivations.

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  • Stephen A.

    Some random thoughts here.

    You’re totally right about the lack of depth when it comes to denominational ID in the stories about groups when they hit the news. But then again, what’s new here? But its lack in news stories does need to be brought up. Again and again.

    Secondly, I love the graphic. To merge politics and religion, I wonder if these leftists were out protesting THEIR guy (Clinton) when he and Madeline Albright were directing the deliberate bombing of civilians in Serbia and even in Kosovo back in 1999? Some were, no doubt, and those Quaker groups are very consistent. But others now are more driven by hate of Bush than love of fellow man.

    It’s wrong to ascribe religious motives to more than 30% of the public anyway, since few Christians even have a clue about “just war” theory or even the Gospels to form an opinion one way or the other. Just ask them.

    Thirdly, if these people are executed, this clinches it: Fundie Muslims are truly idiots. They can’t even distinguish between peacenik Westerners and Halliburton employees anymore. What idiots.

    Seriously, it’s significant that even Muslim religious leaders in Iraq called for them to be spared (and significant that this was indeed reported, even on CNN, the “carbomb network.”) If they killed them, this will further alienate the Jihadists from the rest of the “Arab street.”

    Finally, it’s always intriging when someone posts online anonymously. All I have to say is: “Whaaa?”

  • http://www.psonnets.org/ Michael Rew

    To Christian peace activists attempting to stop all wars, I quote Jesus:

    “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6).

    To Christians who support warfare and just war, I quote Jesus:

    “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36).

    Unfortunately, too few Christians who claim to believe the Bible take His words to heart. There will be wars. No matter how wars are fought, how diplomacy is pursued, and how peace activists try to interfere, there will be wars. America is a kingdom of this world. Christian soldiers in Iraq fight for America and for the stability of Iraq. They do not fight for the Church, because Jesus said “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

  • http://watersblogged.blogspot.com Bob Waters

    Except, of course, that just wars are not an attempt to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth. They are merely the enforcement of His justice in this one, by those He has commissioned for that purpose.

    “Who would Jesus bomb?” Hitler, for one. And I think Saddam Hussein, too. And- since this is a sinful and imperfect world- those who supported them, willingly or not.

    No, it is not the believers in the just war who abandon this world to the rule of Satan. It is the pacifists- and that, quite literally so. And that is a shameful thing to do.

  • http://watersblogged.blogspot.com Bob Waters

    Oh. And parenthetically, if these hostages die- and I pray that they do not- it will be the ultimate refutation of their motivations. There is no redemptive sacrifice here, and no Cross; merely foolish ineffectuality exposed for what it is.

    It’s kind of like Turtledove’s story, *The Last Article,* in which Gandhi challenges a victorious Nazi Germany, not a relatively benign Great Britian. When the General Strike is called, every tenth striker is hauled out of his bed and shot. By the third day, the strike is broken.

    When Gandhi’s followers lie down in front of the trains, the trains merely keep on going. And the story ends with Gandhi himself being taken outside and “given a noodle” (i.e., a bullet in the back of the head), as the Nazi “viceroy” sits down to his lunch of blood sausage.

    The sword which God has ordained is not borne in vain.

  • http://www.nhreligion.com Stephen A.

    Despite the horrible irony if they are killed, which I guess Bob’s pointing to, wouldn’t they in fact become martyrs if they are put to death for their beliefs, if only martyrs to their own religious peers?

    Also, I humbly suggest we’ll have wars even if/when all Christians learn to turn the other cheek, since not all enemies are peace-lovers or even Christians, as we are finding out. Some folks around the world actually score quite low on the “shares our values” question put out by Gallup, but that’s no shock to anyone here, I’m sure.

  • http://watersblogged.blogspot.com Bob Waters

    Martyrs in the same sense that Horst Wessel was a martyr to the Nazi ideology, and those killed in the October, 1917 uprising were martyrs to the rule of Lenin and Stalin.

    Not to suggest that those who stand in danger of death in Iraq at the moment are not far better people than they, or that they would not be martyrs
    to a far more noble (if foolish) ideology. But not martyrs in the sense that St. Stephen and St. Polycarp and those who suffer in the Sudan and in China for the very Name of Jesus are today- not martyrs to the Christian faith.

  • http://www.strecorsoc.org/scs/ Kirk Wattles

    Thanks, Mollie. I think the issues go back quite deep in history. Quakers and Mennonites have generally been a distinct minority with a radically different take on what it means to be Christian. Christian Peacemaker Teams’ activities in Iraq are labelled absurd and foolish by many in the mainstream, but they draw from a long tradition (3-4 centuries, anyway). And in other instances, for example in the movement to abolish slavery, such activities were often heaped with scorn (and sometimes violence) by other people calling themselves Christian.

    You ask why coverage of this countercurrent is so weak? I think there’s a divide in the conception of what Christianity is about, the media tacitly recognize this and tend to avoid it because the secular outlook has no easy way to deal with such a deep conflict over issues. (I’m not putting it so well. I saw your self-biography, Mollie, and I can understand why you raise the issue as you did. You are better positioned than most of us to notice it when most of us just take it for granted.)

    I’ll be trying to bring up some of the deeper background in my blog in the weeks to come. But elements to be considered include the Constantinian shift in the 4th century, the emergence of dissident sects during the Protestant reformation, the post-enlightment Church-State detente, and the industrial (and post-industrial) organization of warfare in the last century.

  • Michael

    Ultimately, I think it is easier for journalists to write about religion when the issues are more “platform” than theologically-based. It’s hard to explain why people do poverty work, anti-war work or anti-death penalty work because they are so intimately intertwined with theology.

    The groups rarely have the public relations machinery and political dollars that the religious movements on the Colorado Springs/Virginia axis have to advocate for their more theologically-tenuous positions that sound more like religious “platforms” than theologically-based beliefs.

  • http://www.bluffton.edu/~bergerd Dan Berger

    To support Bob Waters, I point out that Elizabeth Anscombe, the Roman Catholic ethicist, called pacifism an active evil in her essay, “Mr Truman’s Degree.” Her reasoning was that pacifism, by calling all war and all use of force evil, encourages the so-called “realists.”

    “If war is evil, but necessary to achieve good ends, then it’s OK to use evil means in war.”

    She was referring to the indiscriminate terror bombing of civilian populations, but the argument is still being used to justify torture.

  • Maureen

    Look, I think this particular organization was acting foolishly, and I think some of the folks who worked for it had foolish opinions.

    But it’s not wrong and it’s not unchristian to work for peace and oppose war. It’s not the calling for all, but it is the calling for some.

    If the hostages are still alive, then God be praised; and I hope they’ve learned something.

    If the hostages have been killed, then they died martyrs. (Duh.) And martyrdom atones for all sins, and covers all foolishness.

    So let ‘em be.

  • ceemac

    I am not sure that it is accurate to describe Quakers, Brethren and Mennonite as liberals. That only adds to the confusion.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Ceemac,

    How is it inaccurate to describe the group as liberals? I try to be careful with such labels and would like to know more about what’s wrong with it. Keep in mind Christian Peacemaker Teams’ opposition to border control, their siding with Palestine in the Israel-Palestine conflict, their opposition to all armed conflict, their work against logging, etc.

    Mollie

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  • tmatt

    As many of you know, I only use the term liberal and the term conservative on basic doctrinal issues — creedal stuff, or ancient doctrines linked to sacraments and moral issues — and not politics.

    Thus, I have no idea if these particular Quakers, Mennonites, etc., are liberals or conservatives. Some people in these camps are very traditional, in terms of Christian faith, and some are very modernist and liberal.

    The media is not exactly telling us where they are on salvation, Christology or marriage. I guess that is sort of the point.

    Who are these people, in terms of faith and doctrine?

  • ceemac

    Mollie,

    What tmatt said.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Ceemac and TMatt,

    I’m describing faith-based groups such as the political activist Christian Peacemaker Teams as liberal, not the doctrinal positions of Quakers/Mennonite/Brethren. My Mennonite friends in Iowa are quite politically conservative, fwiw.

    I find it quite interesting that you only like to use the terms conservative or liberal for doctrinal positions.

    I’ve found the terms to be less helpful beyond the political realm. This has a lot to do with my understanding of the history of the terms and also how two completely different groups in my church body self-identify as conservative.

    Also, I’ve never heard anybody describe Quakers as traditional in terms of the Christian faith, what with their lack of creeds and sacraments, but I am aware that Quakers range from universalist/atheist to evangelical.

    In any case, I find this all very interesting and would love to learn more about what labels and descriptors others find helpful.

  • http://www.renewal-1.com Dale R. Evans

    The relentless secular challenge of Christian belief has caused many to make the adjustments necessary for acceptance by their extended peer group whether that be military, business, academia, or agriculture. That “shift” has always been subtle, tentative and ongoing. It has spawned a lot of bad theology, e.g., you can make a case for anything by lifting sentences out of the Bible from here and there. Such Christians do not understand “spiritual warfare,” e.g., how Christianity prevailed over the Roman Empire, and do not truly understand Christianity.

  • Molly

    I imagine the paucity of reporting stems from one of any of these factors:
    1- people doing the reporting are giving it a 30,000 foot flyover until something more happens,
    2- people reporting are ignorant of religion in general and are reporting this because it is part of the war,
    3 – people reporting this may be willing to dig deeper but have been burned by backlash from religious folks who resent seeing themselves characterized in any manner contrary to their own design and so the level remains on the surface
    4 – the public is too busy watching the finales of current reality shows to pay any attention so why bother?

    just off the top of my head, fwiw

  • http://militarychristiansworldwide.blogspot.com Basilides

    There are over 100 groups around the world which called themselves “military Christian fellowships” — groups of military believers who meet together for fellowship and encouragement. One of them, a U.S. organization, has several good articles on the Christian and war at their website (choose “articles” and “resources”. If you’re interested check out Officers’ Christian Fellowship at

    http://ocf.gospelcom.net/

    Also, http://www.amcf-int.org has info on the MCFs.

  • Micah Weedman

    Mollie,
    Thanks for posting your commentary. I think the paucity in reporting may have to do with the way the CPT and other such groups (especially Christian pacifist groups) “get in the way” of not just ground wars but the culture wars themselves.

    Take your statement:
    The Christian Peacemakers require its corps members to be “deeply grounded in Christian faith.” So you have a group of peace activists who may have already lost their lives because of their interpretation of the Bible.

    And yet, faith (and certainly pacifism) are not just interpretations of the Bible–in fact, those who are pacifist generally use that as an interpretive strategy or hermenuetic in itself–its less *an* interpretation and more of a framework of interpretation. Or at least a complicated combination.

    And herein lies the problem. The strategy that leads one to a conclusion about, say, border patrols or war or logging is every bit as significant as the conclusion, and probably plays a more important role in identification. Groups that use “conservative” methodologies to reach “liberal” conclusions and positions defy the whole culture-warrior typology, or at least confuses it. So a dirth in in-depth reporting, perhaps, becuase how do you write about people who actually risk their lives getting in the way of war because of the virgin birth or the trinity or Jesus’ decision not to bomb Ceasar or other such “conservative” things? (The writing of Wendell Berry is a good example here–a staunch conservationist and proponent of non-violence; yet one could harldy label Berry’s ideas on local economy “liberal.”)

    There’s a flip-side, of course. Take this statement:
    Christians have been struggling with how to live simultaneously in secular and spiritual realms for millennia.

    Really? There’s significant theological work out there that suggests the secular realm/sacred realm divide is a made-up invention of the Enlightenment. To quote John Milbank: “Once, there was no secular. And the secular was not latent…” Again, this is an attempt to place a group on a pre-determined scale of liberal-conservative based on the definitions provided by “culture-wars” sociology. Perhaps groups who challenge the divisions between sacred and secular, between “public” and “private” in ways like the CPT are in fact getting in the way of everybody’s favorite war.

    As an afterword, its probably worth mentioning that the Christian country with Christian lawmakers and citizens supporting Christian soldiers also managed to kill Christian Iraqis along the way.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Micah,

    Very interesting comments.

    As for the secular/sacred realm issue, however, if it was an invention of the Enlightenment, someone forgot to tell St. Augustine. And Luther, for that matter.

  • Micah Weedman

    I don’t know. I’m fairly certain that Augustine saw the division of sacred and secular as divisions of time, not of space. The secular was that which we endured until the sacred was in its fullness. This view held sway through Aquinas and begins to crumble in the 1600s.
    Don’t know enough about Luther to comment, though, frankly, his two-kingdom ethic (or, at least the two-kingdom ethic that some folks ascribe to Luther) always seemed suspect to me.

    The notion that each is a *realm* is what I’m harping on. Especially in its liberal democratic usage: the “public square” belongs to the secular realm, while the home/church/etc. belong to the sacred. My point again was that folks who take what used to be just “sacred” and subversively inject it into what is supposed to be “secular”–you know, pacifists, anarchists, and other unsavory types–tend to blur the distinction in ways that perhaps should cause the rest of “us” to wonder where the distinctions came from in the first place.

  • Micah Weedman

    BTW,

    Here is a picture of one of the CPT hostages:

    http://www.cpt.org/gallery/view_photo.php?set_albumName=album143&id=Norman_Kember

    He apparently forgot to put on his flowered dress and petchuli before this picture was taken.

  • pdb

    What exactly do these “peacemakers” do in Iraq? Lie in front of US or Iraqi troops or Iraqi police? Or in front of the cars of suicide bombers? Stand in front of clinics or schools to deter the bombers? Or beg insurgents not to lay IEDs? Hand out pamphlets or tracts?

    I have never seen a story attempt to explain what these people do or why they go there. Never mind why they do it. If someone can point to story that does explain what they do, I’d be grateful.

  • Michael

    What the peacemakers are doing in Iraq (from their website)

    http://www.cpt.org/iraq/projectoverview.php

    In other words, God’s work.

  • Brad

    One saint that is notable for this discussion is named Telemachus.

    The story is told (though from what I read some doubt it…but then, what *isn’t* doubted by *someone*?) of how he spent a great deal of his life as a monk in the desert until, one day, he felt he had to come back to Rome. Upon doing so, he entered the colliseum during the gladiator games and tried to intervene. He was killed in the process, the crowd was horrified, and the gladiator games were ended.

    He didn’t do this while trying to convert anyone, he simply tried to stop the games. How is this effort, for which he was made a Saint and is considered a martyr, incidentally, different than what the Peacemakers and others like them are trying to do (other than the fact Telemachus was successful!)?

    Brad

  • Stephen A.

    Sorry Michael, focusing only on the “sins” of America by exposing “the injustice and deaths from the US-led economic sanctions,” and “helping people in the U.S. understand that Saddam Hussein was not the only person living in Iraq” is not “God’s work” it’s political agitation.

    They should be called “Dupes for Dictators,” and drop the religious pretenses.

    * Were they focusing our attention on the murderous actions of Saddam’s two murderous sons?
    * Were they focusing on the rape rooms he created for his political opponents?
    * What about the thousands of murderous secret police terrorizing the civilian population, especially ethnic minorities?

    No, they apparently were and are engaged in a one-sided political movement against America, while blindly ignoring the horrors we have put to an end. (If Saddam needs new lawyers, call them.)

    There is apparently no religious angle to their work, except they’re doing it in the name of, and with the support of, religious liberals here in the U.S., who seem just as tone deaf to the pre-invasion human rights record of Iraq they are.

  • Brad

    I don’t understand how we got from the apostles and early (as in, pre-Constantine) church fathers’ willingness to set up their own separate social systems, etc. and live, quite peacefully, almost a separate existence from Rome to today’s willingness to support, as if by divine decree, most any use of military force our government wants to tell us is “right.”

    Saddam Hussein is evil and murderous. So is Kim Jong-Il, so will Iran’s leader (whose name I dare not try to spell) be if he’s allowed to be. So, I should point out, are several dictators in Africa…a place where people slaughter each other regularly and we hardly bat an eye. Do we attack them all? Where do we arbitrarily draw the line?

    Sometimes I feel like today’s Christians give the term “church militant” a whole new meaning.

    Brad

  • Michael

    Now, if only we were fighting a war over an awful dictator and that was the reason we went to war. Sadly, we aren’t and it wasn’t. That’s why their work is important, when war moves from just to unjust.

    So much for a culture of life.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    So, Stephen, do you believe that political agitation can never be God’s work?

  • http://watersblogged.blogspot.com Bob Waters

    Several observations.

    First, you need to re-read Augustine, Michael. THe entities in question were not temporal. They existed- and exist- side by side. But one is only temporal, and the other, eternal.

    Secondly, not to know about Luther, but to regard his Two Kingdoms doctrine as suspect, is itself rather suspect. This is especially the case since I have literally never read a critic of the Two Kingdoms doctrine who actually understood it.

    To begin with, the Two Kingdoms are not church and state, nor are they the public realm and the private. They correspond, rather, to the New Self and the Old. The New Self- which loves God and loves righteousness- is the Kingdom of the Right Hand. Its currency is grace. There is no compulsion here, and none is needed. By definition, only believers are subjects of this Kingdom.

    The Kingdom of the Left includes believers (who have Old Selves, as well as New) and unbelievers alike. Here, God exercises His authority by keeping the strong from preying upon the weak and minimazing the mayhem our common fallenness causes us to visit upon each other through force and compulsion, exercised by means of individuals duly called by God to this vocation. It would be hard to imagine anything more patently biblical.

    Thirdly, the story of Telemachus is not “doubted by some.” It is generally conceded to have been a myth. It’s a nice story that never happened. I grant that the Turtledove story about Gandhi alluded to above never happened, either, but it’s what generally happens when the “bad guys” aren’t nice, civilized Englishmen. Gandhi himself conceded that his tactics only worked with an opponent who had a conscience. Hitlers, Saddams and Zarqawis tend to react less like Mountbatten than like the Nazi general in Turtledove’s story.

    Fourthly, actually, the evil dictator was indeed one of the reasons we went to war, despite the revisionist claims to the contrary- and the rhetoric of the Bush Administration at the time reflected that fact. So too were the weapons of mass destruction which the UN required be destroyed under UN auspices- and weren’t, of course. Mossad has always insisted that they were the contents of those massive numbers of trucks which our satellites observed leaving Iraq and headed into Syria and Lebanon in the weeks leading up to the war.

    Not all of them, though. Those weapons Saddam admitted having and which were never accounted for include the large amount of chemical agents and delivery systems which have, in fact, been discovered by American and allied troops in Iraq since the invasion, though the media, by and large, have chosen not to report the stories. There have been exceptions, but the stories have generally been buried.

    Nor is it the case that anybody is automatically sanctifying war. I opposed the Vietnam war because it was, in the Augustinian sense, an unjust one. But the war in Iraq is about as just as they come.

    Saddam never met the conditions of the cease-fire from the first Gulf War, which included destroying his WMD’s under UN supervision within ninety days.
    The “rush to war” which took twelve years and seventeen resolutions the Security Council didn’t really mean actually featured the spectacle of the defeated party expelling the inspectors from its territory, with no consequences other than ineffectual sanctions!

    We went to war in Iraq, when all is said and done, to enforce the treaty which ended the first Gulf War, whose terms were not only not met but were openly defied for more than a decade. And no amount of historical revisionism will change that origin for this manifestly just war.

  • http://blogs.salon.com/0003494/ Bartholomew

    Of course it is, Avram – what about all those secularists saying “happy holidays” who need to be battled? And all those biology teachers who need to be kept in line by Christian activist school boards?

    When it comes to science, naturalistic methodology must be overthrown in the name of a higher truth. But when it comes to war, received conservative wisdom indistinguishable from a secular perspective is apparently just fine.

  • Brad

    I would argue that the historicity of the Telemachus story isn’t important to this discussion. Rather, the important thing is that, if he was sainted on account of the *belief* that he did it there must have been some very prominent Christians who thought that what he was supposed to have done was the right thing to do…and that well before we had the “religious left” running Rome.

    I still have yet to see any explanation for why Hussein was the right Evil Dictator to attack. Did we not already by that time have North Korea’s dictator brandishing his nuclear weapons? Was Iraq the low-hanging fruit of the “Axis of Evil?” What about the other countries with dictators that deserve at least an honorable mention for our beloved Axis?

    Brad

  • Brad

    I would also propose that we should prefer to get our ideas for how to live and what to support more from Jesus himself (who, clearly, given his other teachings, didn’t mean “Christians should support wars wherever they may be fought” when he said “I did not come to bring peace but a sword”). I would also propose we be guided by the actual authors of the Bible, both their words and the way they lived, rather than the much later Augustine or the far, far later Luther, who were both already a bit more tainted with the evolution of this world than the one Jesus early followers lived in.

    We can’t quote those 2 as if they are sacred Scripture.

    I would propose, by the way, a good reading of Ron Sider’s new book, “Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience.” It certainly comes from a conservative evangelical perspective, but also really delivers a blow to our preferred, less talked about sins, such as materialism and racism (some of the stats on the extent to which Evangelicals partake in these and sexual sins are quite disturbing).

    Brad

  • Erik Nelson

    Brad, like Augustine and Luther, Christian defence of just war does indeed come from Scripture (it would be foolish, for instance to say Augustine’s famous chapter in the City of God is not based in Scripture). We also have the example of Christ’s words to the soldier in the New Testament. His approach is more like the tax collector than the prostitute. He does not tell the soldier his work is wrong. And John the Baptist’s comment to the soldiers who hear his words are not that they should give up soldiering (indeed, he encourages them to be content with their wages, which implies that their jobs are not at issue) but to be just soldiers, not taking advantage of their power. And Paul himself in Romans 13 tells us that soldiers are, in fact, acting as the blade of a sword bringing God’s wrath upon evildoers.

    So please understand that your suggestion that people get “our ideas for how to live and what to support more from Jesus himself” and the writers of scripture, comes across as a bit arrogant. We are getting our ideas from scripture and biblical writers. Yes, even those of us who supported war in Iraq because we gave great thought to it and decided that it was indeed a just war.

  • trierr

    There are very few, if any of Jesus’ teachings that can be used to justify the pro-war position. And make no mistake, the current administration is pro-war. One of the few arguments that can be made is actually one of silence.

    It is true that Saddam Hussein is a monster, but as others have noted, there are, unfortunately, many other monsters out there. The fact that Jesus noted that there would be wars is by no means justification to instigate or even participate in wars. Pacifism only makes sense of in the context of a God who will judge. The NT makes several statements about giving God time to act out his judgment and the OT notes that this judgment make take generations(!).

    The war in Iraq was sold as a just war, and some of you have bought it hook, line and sinker. But the truth is that the war fails to live up to just war standards. It is questionable whether it is win-able.

    It is now clear that the war was started under false pretenses: Al Qaeda was not in Iraq until after the war started. Face it, Hussein had an entirely secular dictatorship and if it weren’t for the war, everything he stood for was opposed by Al Qaeda. And those WMD that some like to imagine are still there have NEVER been found. Absolutely nothing, not even a trailer nor hardly a bag of fertilizer. As for proportional response, even our own statistics show over 10 times the number of civilians killed compared to our own military. There is no way this can still be considered a just war.

    But what should be truly news-worthy is the lack of response to the hostage situation by the prominent evangelical groups. There hasn’t been a word in Baptist press, not a single word on FOTF’s website nor on FRC’s website and CBN’s has ONE article. Why is this? Why aren’t evangelicals speaking out about this?

  • Brad

    Erik, my arguments were not against the existence of a military. They were against the existence of this current war.

    That’s quite an important distinction, as your response implies I am against the very existence of our military. I realize we do need a good defense and, therefore, people to carry it out.

    We have had wars that we clearly had to fight, though I would argue the most recent before Afghanistan was probably WWII (though I admit my history on the Korean war is a bit shaky, so that one *could* qualify, too).

    I think, as Christians, we have to be exceptionally skeptical and questioning of supporting the slaughter of otehrs without very, very good, well-thought out and documented cause. I have followed international affairs for over 10 years now and I could tell well before we went that, though the desire on the part of the administration to go to war was certainly there early, the evidence wasn’t (and certainly there never has been evidence that they posed the greatest threat).

    Brad

  • Michael D. Harmon

    This has all been fun, but I want to see the photo of the demonstrators in Tehran with the bedsheet that says, “Whose head would Mohammed cut off?”

    Oh, that’s right… a Jew’s. Or yours.

  • Brad

    Obviously there are bad people there, but 2 wrongs, etc.

    Brad

  • Stephen A.

    Michael wrote: “Now, if only we were fighting a war over an awful dictator and that was the reason we went to war. “Sadly, we aren’t and it wasn’t. That’s why their work is important, when war moves from just to unjust.”
    I love how the argument changed as the war progressed. From day one, the war was “unjust” because it was all about oil, said the liberals. Now, it’s moved from “just to unjust.”

    If it was unjust to start, I would argue that it’s become all about justice – for a people to freely choose rulers of their own and not live in fear of a police state. Some on the left argue that now, the Iraqis are less safe, because of car bombs. If they keep doing that, I’m going to stop calling them “liberals” or even “humanists” and I’ll adopt the labels myself.

    My friend Avram wrote: “So, Stephen, do you believe that political agitation can never be God’s work?”
    Truthfully, as much as I love politics, politics is not religion, and vice versa. Both the political left and right are guilty of losing sight of that.

    As for the “just war” comments being thrown around, no war is just on a human level, and if we were truly a theocracy – we’re not – we would either never wage war because it’s always wrong, or we would likely wage war all the time in God’s name.

    Since we’re not a theocracy, we don’t make decisions based solely on one Leader’s views of the Bible, even though, obviously (or maybe not,) Godly men and women in government make decisions based on their own views of right, and that often includes their views of God’s will.

    I don’t know why that simple fact seems so odd to some people, and why it’s become political fodder, but it is, and it does.

  • Brad

    The war was never necessary, and therefore it would qualify as unjust (an unnecessary war cannot be just, after all). Having said that, I do think that as long as we have a chance of “winning,” we should stay and clean up the mess we made.

    Brad

  • pdb

    Michael,

    The CPT site is fine but I want to see someone report on what they do. Though if it doesn’t consist of more than complaining about the U.S. military there’s no need to bother.

  • Erik Nelson

    “I think, as Christians, we have to be exceptionally skeptical and questioning of supporting the slaughter of otehrs without very, very good, well-thought out and documented cause.” and “The war was never necessary” need to be justified, Brad. You assert them but don’t argue them.

    And if you had really been listening to those who supported this war, you would know that we had a “very, very good, well-thought out and documented cause” for supporting the war. And we did and do believe the war was necessary. The arguments have been made. Have you been listening?

    I wasn’t saying that your argument was against the military. But your comment implied that the principles that some of us used to come to the conclusion that war was necessary did not come from Jesus or Scripture (that is, that we should listen to scripture and not Luther or Augustine). I was simply pointing out that that was precisely what we did (and what Augustine and Luther) were doing.

    The argument for war did not change over time. There were about twelve reasons offered by the Bush administration for war with Iraq. Let’s note that the New York Times actually complained in an editorial about there being too many reasons (this was prior to the invasion). Among those reasons were to bring democracy to Iraq (which Bush made clear in his 2003 State of the Union address) as well as deposing an evil dictator (2002 and 2003 State of the Union address) and the threat of terrorism/WMD. Those who think the argument was changing seem to either have short memories, or simply weren’t listening.

    “There are very few, if any of Jesus’ teachings that can be used to justify the pro-war position.” -trierr

    Again, an assertion without argument. Those of us who believe wars can be just in certain circumstances take Jesus seriously in John 15 and Paul seriously in Romans 13. For a Christian, war must be motivated by neighbor love. For those I know who supported invading Iraq, our concern was for the Iraqi people, and remains so. Our concern is also for the people of the Middle East. You may disagree that Christ’s call for neighbor love demands such action, but we can argue that. Perhaps a comment list on a blog is not the ideal forum for such a discussion, but I’m willing to answer questions you have.

  • Brad

    Erik,

    I actually had listened quite intently to the reasons for the war and didn’t agree that they were robust enough from well before the wars onset.

    It was clearly inevitable for quite some time that we’d be going mostly alone (with the exception of a few hundred soldiers from a handful of countries). We basically set up a UN resolution as cover that we knew Hussein wouldn’t honor. I felt it was a bit dishonest to use that then say “well, too bad, we tried!” and run off to war the way we did.

    We did have something like 12 reasons, as you say (quantity over quality, I suppose), but they were generally either shaky (it was practically hearsay that they had a weapons program and, hey, who doesn’t have a weapons program?) or they applied to lots of countries (I refer again to countries in South America, Africa, etc…or the other 2, far more dangerous, axes…why does Iraq require a military response and they don’t? Why not take Pat Robertson up on his offer and hit Chavez while we’re at it?).

    We have a veritable smorgasbord of options when it comes to undemocratic countries led by dictators. Even Russia is heading that way!

    So, basically, I don’t agree that the case we had against Iraq specifically was strong enough to justify the weight, the horror, the infliction of another war.

    All that without even getting into other areas like the fact we’ve proven really good at breaking things there but not putting them back together, etc.

    Brad

  • Erik Nelson

    How many countries, Brad? A handful? Is thirty merely a handful? Only eight nations openly opposed the war. Eight.

    We didn’t just set up one UN resolution, Brad. There were SEVENTEEN UN resolutions Iraq was in open violation of. One resolution he didn’t honor? Again, Brad, you don’t seem to know what you’re talking about.

    “practically hearsay that they had a weapons program”. Hearsay from every intelligence organization who had investigated the issue. No one disagreed prior to the war that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. We’ve since found precursors to chemical weapons and items like centerfuges necessary for nuclear weapons production. Some still claim that chemical weapons were moved to Syria in the long run-up to the war, but that has not been investigated adequately.

    You say evidence was shaky, but there have been dozens of mass graves found in Iraq, all of which verify the horrific human rights record of the regime. Iraq had weapons delivery mechanisms which were in clear violation of UN resolutions and the ceasefire. Unlike other nations with similar human rights violations, Iraq was inviolation of its ceasefire agreement and specific UN resolutions. Twelve years of diplomacy with Iraq after the ’91 war had failed to stop Iraq from its path of destruction. If you can name any other nation with this combination of violations, please do. There aren’t any.

    But you’ve been paying attention, Brad, so you already know all this, right? Apparently not. If you really had been listening to what people have been saying, you wouldn’t have mischaracterized nearly every point. All the more reason why it is hard to take you seriously when its so obvious you *haven’t* been listening.

  • Erik Nelson

    Let me point out one final thing, and then sign off of this discussion (since we are treading old ground here, which I admit is at least partly my fault).

    Notice how quickly this argument (again, I take some responsibility) devolved from necessary discussions over the role of scripture to the defense of specific policies and events. This is why it has been impossible to have these arguments in our churches. I’ve heard some very good arguments against the war from Christians, mostly because they refused to participate in the political side of the discussion. We can have the theological debate in a civilized manner, where everyone does their homework and appeals to the same authority (in that case, scripture). Politics has no similar authority. It’s unfortunate.

    And I promise not to get into any more of these war brawls in the future :)

  • Eric Phillips

    Ok, you’re right, Brad. We should’ve attacked North Korea and Iran and several African countries ALL AT ONCE. That would’ve been smashingly good foreign policy.

    Or alternately, since that would’ve been so STUPID, we could’ve attacked just one of them… you know, the one that had the most reason to hate us, and that had actually agreed _under treaty_ to get rid of its WMDs, and then flouted that treaty every step of the way.

    You know, like we did.

  • Stephen A.

    Evil old America has made “such a mess” in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should have left them alone, I guess.

    Dang Americans and your filthy “elections.” Bring back the rape rooms! Bring back the mass murder of political opponents! Bring back the good old days of the Baathists! Bring back the Taliban and beheadings of adulturous women in soccer stadiums!

    Yeah, that would be MUCH more Christian of us. After all, nothing was wrong with THOSE societies that a little more repression couldn’t have solved over the next few decades.

    /sarcasm


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