Skye Thomas

Skye Thomas
Writer, Rebel, and Soapbox Ranter

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Iraq war tramples Christian principles

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060418/OPINION02/604180316/1039/OPINION



(April 18, 2006) — An overwhelming 72 percent of American troops serving in Iraq think the United States should exit the country within the next year, and more than one in four say the troops should leave immediately, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows.

If Bush's insistence on "staying the course" can no longer be justified by people on the ground, how can he continue to rationalize what everyone but a handful of his advisers and dogmatic neo-cons know is a reckless and failed foreign policy? By invoking God.

It's a rare day when someone in the White House propaganda mill fails to recycle the mantra "God is on our side."

I'm not a theologian, but as a Christian, a citizen and a supporter of democracy, I take real umbrage at the suggestion that not only is opposing violence unpatriotic, it is un-Christian.

War as foreign policy contradicts the most fundamental messages of Christianity because Jesus himself advocated for principled nonviolence. As the Jesuit scholar John L. McKenzie has said, "If you cannot say on the basis of the New Testament that Jesus was nonviolent, you cannot say anything about Jesus."

The most vocal support for U.S. war-making within the Bush administration comes from those who identify themselves as loyal Christians, but the profound irony is that the main targets of the Bush administration's "crusade" are radical fundamentalist Muslims against whom a primary grievance is their propensity to (mis)use religion to justify violence.

To add hypocrisy to injury, as the world learned recently, the Afghan constitution (hailed by the Bush administration as a symbol of democracy and its own success) allows for the death penalty for any Muslim who has converted to Christianity. So, to this group of God-fearing policymakers, only Christians who had the good sense not to be born in the Mideast or Central Asia are entitled to liberty.

I have even heard it argued that the nonviolence ideology of Jesus is an ethically indefensible position for a nation-state in the age of terror. We can't sit back and let terrorism happen, the argument goes; a state is obliged to defend its citizens.

Notwithstanding the fact that Jesus did not concern himself with base matters like nationalism (all of creation was his community), the assertion that nonviolence amounts to complicity is plain ridiculous. Principled nonviolence is not just an absence of war, it is a proactive commitment to social justice, and it is deeply rooted in the very simple idea that if you treat others fairly, you will have a lot less to worry about (Christians know this as the Golden Rule.)

But many in the Christian war camp, starting with Bush himself, would actually have us believe that there is a moral obligation to meet terror with violence and war. But the good news is that Americans can only stomach so much hypocrisy, and the massive decline in public support for the war reflects this.

Nearly a century and a half ago, Abraham Lincoln, who himself was no stranger to war, remarked, "I am not so concerned as to whether God is on our side, as to whether we are on God's side." Is there a more critical time than now to reflect on this distinction, and the horrors we abide through our tolerance of an unjust war? It is only when Christians reclaim the roots of our spirituality that we will find our collective humanity.

Boaz is an assistant professor of political science and international studies, SUNY Brockport; and Rochester-area coordinator of CODEPINK: Women for Peace.

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