Readers Speak Out On War In Iraq

I have just reread the article, “Holston members weigh in on war” [Feb. 28 issue]. I agree with [others] that it is unbalanced. It contrasts the Holston people quoted with National leaders and does not include at least a proportion of Holston Methodists who do agree that the proposed War with Iraq (as proposed) is ill-advised. While my membership is in the North Indiana conference, I can name a number of persons in the church my wife and I attend (First-Centenary UMC in Chattanooga) who oppose the war as presently proposed. At least two ministerial members of the Holston Conference have been particpating with me and others in weekly Wednesday vigils against the war.

Please do something to correct the erroneous impression (whether intended or not) that the persons you quoted in the article adequately represent Holston Conference opinion as a whole. A significant portion, perhaps, but neither you nor I know whether they are a majority, do we?

Rev. B. Carter Pate
First-Centenary UMC
Chattanooga District

I write to express concern about our nation’s apparent intent to go to war with Iraq. As a Christian, I must separate the convictions of my faith from civil religion that tends to equate love of God and love of country. Such a stance does not look in-depth at the nation’s policies and apply Christian principles to them. Civil religion is not the conscience of the nation, as I believe Christians should be. I must, with other persons of faith, try to be that conscience because I love my country.

I believe that I am to take seriously the admonition of Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and “love your enemies.” I believe that it behooves me to try in every way to contribute to a peaceful world because he said, “blessed are the peacemakers.” The great visions in the Hebrew Bible of beating swords into plowshares and of the peaceable kingdom are parts of our tradition that I hope still inspire us to action.

Another Christian tradition, the just war theory, was developed in the fourth century A.D. Many doubt that there can now be any “just war,” given the kind of armaments that have been developed, and the kind of harm they do to the environment which we all share on planet Earth.. But even if we adhere to that tradition, all other avenues to resolve a conflict must be exhausted before we go to war. If we wage this war immediately, it will not meet that criterion.

Here are a few additional reasons that I oppose this particular war at this particular time:

  1. In an already volatile part of the world, we will likely be unable to control all the chaos that this war may unleash. Terrorism will undoubtedly escalate, as will worldwide hatred of the United States. Violence breeds violence.
  2. Innocent non-military Iraqi children and adults will be harmed. They are not the enemy. Only their government is. Already hundreds of children have died as a result of sanctions. A bad situation will be magnified many times over if we attack Iraq. International relief and refugee agencies may find it impossible to respond adequately.
  3. There are viable alternatives to this war. A very thoughtful one is being promoted by a variety of religious leaders. To read about this alternative, go to http://www.sojo.net/action
  4. A preemptive strike on Iraq will set a dangerous precedent. The United States will be left with no logical recourse if other nations decide on such a course of action.

And, finally, think about this. If we would put as much effort into preparing for peace as we do into preparing for war, the world would be very different. It would be a world more in keeping with the kingdom of God. That kingdom was, after all, the main theme of Jesus’ preaching and teaching.

Claire Lovelace
Munsey Memorial UMC
Johnson City District

We have heard debate lately on whether or not the United States should launch a unilateral, preemptive military strike on Iraq. I do not want to argue for or against what the United States should do. I would like to raise the question: what should the church’s position be in the face of this possible military action?

If we as Christians take Jesus’ teaching seriously: “Love your enemies” (MT 5:44), “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (MT 26:52), “do good to those who hate you” (LK 6:27), then I do not know if we could ever be in a position to condone violence. I certainly do not remember Jesus condoning violence in any of his teachings. To the contrary, he seems much more interested in the things that make for peace. The only record we have of Jesus being physically aggressive was when he drove the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip, but even in this episode there is no record that he actually struck anyone in the process.

If the church is ever in a position to condone violence, in my opinion, it should be only as a last result and when innocent life is imminently threatened (e.g., the Allied victory in Europe in WWII). I certainly do not see how the church can justify, or even underwrite, United States aggression in Iraq on Just War terms, especially given the current war plan to murder thousands of Iraqi civilians in an overwhelming first strike.

I agree that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a murderer and that the world and the Iraqi people would be better off without him (I support thoughtful nonviolent activities designed to remove Hussein). I know that there are sincere Christian people who believe a military strike against Iraq is the right course of action. I pray daily for our military personnel who may soon be asked to die for their country as well as kill for their country.

However, it is my sincere conviction, in agreement with our bishops, that the church should be a voice for peace, restraint, and patience in the face of this difficult situation.

As I said earlier, I am not sure, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, that the church could ever justify violence and encourage war. I certainly do not think we can do so in the midst of such a confusing situation.

Rev. David R. Jackson
Wesley Memorial UMC
Johnson City District

I’m concerned that the anti-war movement and sentiment in this country and around the world seems to be disregarded or belittled by the current administration. Therefore, it’s important that the media strive to accurately hear and report the strength of anti-war/preemptive attack movement and sentiment.

Here’s an illustration: Rita Lasar, whose brother was killed in the World Trade Center, has just spoken in this area. She and other families who lost loved ones at the World Trade Center and Pentagon have formed “Peaceful Tomorrows,” a nonprofit advocacy group sacrificially committed to proclaim the message: “Our grief is not a cry for war.” President Bush referred to Rita Lasar’s brother’s heroism when he spoke at the National Cathedral on Friday following Sept. 11, but when representatives of Peaceful Tomorrows requested a meeting with him, they were denied that opportunity (although they met with National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice). When Peaceful Tomorrows sought meetings with senators and representatives, the only one who gave them any real hearing was Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. Other senators and representatives, according to Lasar, expressed sympathy for the families’ loss, but didn’t want to hear their anti-war concerns.

Thanks for listening to my concerns, and thanks for your ministry through journalism and communications.

Rev. Bob Cantrell
First Oak Ridge UMC
Oak Ridge District


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