Time for Peace
by Jim Winkler
(James Winkler writes a regular column for The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society and makes me grateful that I belong to the Methodist faith -mdw)
The United States lost this terrible war in Iraq long ago. Those of us who oppose the war have not done enough to wake up people to reason.
Why is the war already lost? It does not matter how despotic Saddam Hussein was; the people of Iraq did not want the United States to invade and occupy their nation. The American people were told that the Iraqis would welcome our incursion, and hundreds of billions of dollars have been completely wasted and many thousands of lives needlessly lost. It seems right now that no one is to be held responsible for this madness.
What Can We Do?
The Bishops study guide “In Search of Security” is a excellent resource for deeping our theological and spiritual understanding of war and terrorism. The free guide is available to download or order from our online store. Use it in your personal study or in your local church.
In his recent book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” New York Times national security correspondent James Risen tells of when the CIA’s Baghdad station chief traveled in November 2003 to Al Qa’im, a border town in western Iraq. The U.S. commander in Al Qa’im told the station chief, “The war is about to begin.”
Risen’s point is that six months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the resistance was getting organized. Those resisting the U.S. occupation are not primarily members of al-Qaeda. This news was duly reported to CIA headquarters outside of Washington by the CIAâ€™s lead man in Iraq. Not only was his report criticized, personal accusations against him were circulated. Soon thereafter, he quit the CIA in disgust.
Iraq is in the midst of civil war, whether the politicians or the news media call it civil war or not. Dozens of Iraqis die each day in sectarian fighting and at the hands of American forces. The horror is growing. Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia asks, â€œDo we fire at the Sunnis in the sectarian strife? Do we fire at Shia? Who are we fighting?” These are questions being raised now by the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Imagine that the United States had been invaded and occupied by another nation over, say, our nuclear weapons arsenal. Wouldn’t that likely exacerbate the many tensions that already exist in our culture, thus leading to chaos and internal fightingâ€”Democrats v. Republicans, whites v. racial ethnics, north v. south, immigrants v. native citizens, Christians v. Muslims v. Jews v. non-religious. Iâ€™m not convinced a scenario is unrealistic.
Iraqâ€™s population is less than one-tenth that of the United States. Imagine if every day, hundreds of Americans were being shot or blown up in our own streets each day, and thousands more wounded.
The President tells us, â€œIf we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities.â€ I respectfully disagree. This is similar to the domino theory espoused when the U.S. was fighting in Southeast Asia. That was the notion that if we did not “stay the course” in Vietnam, then other southeast Asian nations would become communist. It turned out to be nonsense.
The current Iraqi government will collapse, and the U.S. Administration had better get ready. United Methodist call and write and ask me, â€œWhat can we do?â€ Protest and make your voice heard. Pray and work for peace. Write and call your elected leaders. Organize and teach others.
And keep an eye on the rhetoric about Iran. If this war on terror widens to include the United States, Syria, and Iran, may God save us all. Much, not all, circles back to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a conflict that can and should be resolved through negotiations.
Our United Methodist Social Principles state, â€œWar is incompatible with the teaching and example of Christ.â€ When I’m teaching or preaching the Social Principles, I read that sentence aloud and invite people to move to one side of the room or another based on whether they agree or disagree. Always a few disagree. They cite the need to support the war of the moment. When I challenge them to listen again to the statement, almost always at least one or two disagree. Essentially, they are saying, â€œWar is compatible with the teaching and example of Christ.â€ Sometimes they will cite the scripture in which Christ overturns the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple. I’ve overturned a table or two in my own right, but no one died. War is not an act of indignation, it’s an act of death.
We are followers of the Prince of Peace. We are disciples of the Jesus who told his beloved Peter to put down his sword. Nowhere do the scriptures admonish Christians to keep silent in the face of injustice. Nowhere do the gospels defend killing others as pleasing in God’s sight. What Jesus did warn us is this: No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. It is a trap to serve the agenda of a nation and its leaders over serving our God.
The question Jesus asked is still the singular question — will you follow me?