Wednesday, June 20, 2007

faithful & thoughtful responses to war

Various theologians, biblical scholars, and ministers at On Faith engage the question of what the moral position is regarding Iraq. I am grateful especially for Marcus Borg's, Susan Brook Thistlethwaite's, and Randall Balmer's voices on this serious matter. Here are some excerpts from each:

From Marcus Borg:
Early Christian pacifism and later Christian just war teaching have something in common. Both seek to minimize Christian participation in war – the first by forbidding it, the second by limiting it to wars of self-defense. These are, according to Christian teaching, the only legitimate Christian positions.

I am dismayed that our country violated Christian teaching by launching a pre-emptive war – a war of choice, as it is often correctly called. And I am dismayed that a President who is a born-again Christian could have been so unaware of the history of Christian teaching and wisdom about this issue. It is a galling defect in his re-socialization as a Christian. It is also telling: much, indeed most, of Christian teaching for over a millennium has been focused on individual issues of right behavior and the fate of individuals, whether in this life or in life after death. Of course, individuals matter to the God of the Bible. But the God of the Bible and Jesus is also passionate about justice and peace – about our life together and our behavior together.

So as a country, we are involved in a war that is wrong and that never should have happened. Given that, what is the responsibility of Christians, of people who affirm that Jesus is our Lord? When one commits a wrong act, of course one is responsible for minimizing the consequences of that wrong act. So how should those of us who are Christian respond in this situation?

The first act should be confession – confession that as a nation, we were wrong to do this. Confession is about repentance – which means going beyond the mind that we have. Our national mind in the wake of 9/11 has been shaped and manipulated by fear – despite the fact that one of the most common affirmations in the Bible is “Fear not,” “Do not be afraid.”

The second act should be an appeal to the international community to help us out – to become involved in seeking to secure a stable Iraq. We were wrong – and we need your help. Whether other countries will be generous enough to do so is unclear.

From Susan Brook Thistlethewaite:

How can we as a nation, and certainly this administration that claims to take religion so seriously, have drastically underestimated the impact of religious differences on the post-Hussein Iraq, to say nothing of the impact on religious groups both inside and outside Iraq of an invasion by a so-called “Christian” country? Once again, instead of looking at Iraq with clear vision, we looked and saw what we wanted to see.

When the devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness, what is the temptation? The devil tempts Jesus with political conquest. “And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory…’” Jesus, you may recall, said ‘no.’ The American people and their leaders didn’t have the wisdom to say no before.

Now’s the time. Our leaders and indeed the nation need to confess that we were tempted by “all power and authority” and we need to give it up. This act will permit others to enter in to a political and regional solution which is the way forward both morally and practically.

It won’t be easy since the trip back along the road to hell is rocky. But this I know and I tell you truly. The first step out of Iraq is to confess that it was a huge mistake. Admitting you were wrong is the first step anyone needs to take in order to make positive change. Ask yourself this: Why don’t our leaders know that?

From Randall Balmer:

At the core of the problem with our Iraq policy is that this putatively "Christian" president utterly ignored centuries of thought and writings in the Christian tradition about what does or does not constitute a "just war."

Is the use of force taken as the last resort? Is it a defensive war? Is there a reasonable chance of success? Is the amount of force roughly proportional to the provocation? Finally, and most important, have provisions been made, as much as possible, to shield civilians from being collateral damage?

Despite the labored efforts of such neoconservative theorists as Jean Bethke Elshtain and George Weigel, the invasion of Iraq meets none of these criteria. (Elshtain, for example, totally ignores such crucial bits of evidence as the Downing Street memorandum in constructing her justification for war in Iraq.)

Any military adventure begun under such deplorable circumstances and with such faulty justification will not turn out well -- as indeed it hasn't.

My prescription for a way out, I freely admit, is based on policy considerations, not necessarily a moral compass. My sense is that the best -- or, rather, the least damaging -- course would be to initiate a gradual pull out of U.S. forces, to be replaced by an international force. The United States would be morally obligated, in my judgment, to finance these forces as well as to pay reparations to the people of Iraq.

I suggest that we begin doing so by diverting some of the money now going to Halliburton.

Read further responses click here.

No comments: