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Fear, Greed Prompt War, Baptist Prof Says at Rally

Fear and greed fueled America’s rush to war in Iraq, a Baptist seminary professor said in a sermon this summer at a rally featuring anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan.

Sheehan, of Vacaville, Calif., lost a son in the war. She is president of Gold Star Families for Peace, an anti-war group made up of people who have lost loved ones in Iraq, and has become a celebrity through media coverage of her ongoing protest near President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.

This summer Sheehan headlined a “Freedom and Faith Bus Tour” through several states. At one rally, media quoted Baptist Seminary of Kentucky Professor Glenn Hinson as suggesting the nation is greedy and morally bankrupt and warning that America’s fear of terrorism is excessive and unhealthy.

In a text of a sermon obtained by EthicsDaily.com, Hinson, senior professor of church history and spirituality at the moderate Baptist seminary located in Lexington, Ky., cautioned against “fear that immobilizes, fear that causes you to lash out mindlessly, fear that prompts a nation to launch a preemptive strike against an imagined enemy.”

Hinson, who retired in 1999 from the faculty of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond and before that taught more than 30 years at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, said he found it ironic that America is shaking with fear.

“The United States has amassed the most formidable weapons systems the world has ever seen,” he said. “Piles upon piles of nuclear weapons. Delivery systems capable of reaching any spot on earth. Technologies of detection which count the hairs on our heads from heavens’ orb.  The only country now meriting the sobriquet of ‘superpower.’

“Yet the destruction of those twin symbols of global economic dominance left us quaking and trembling,” he said. “It led us into war. We are afraid. By consensus judgment on the reelection of George W. Bush to a second term, Americans are dreadfully afraid.”

Pondering “what lies behind such fear,” Hinson cited James 4:2, “You lust for it and you don’t get it, you murder and are jealous and don’t obtain it, so you fight and go to war.”

“One might expect that in a land as rich as ours, with a seemingly endless supply of the world’s goods available, the ‘haves’ would reach a point of contentment, of satisfaction, of enough,” he observed. “But you and I know our thinking does not work that way. Rather, enticed on and pushed forward by a market economy, the more we have, the more we have to have. Like old King Midas, we want everything to turn to gold. More and more is our entitlement. We’ve made a virtue of selfishness and greed.”

“This may sound like an awfully harsh thought, and I apologize if it’s too harsh,” Hinson said. “As I meditated during preparation of this message, I began to wonder whether we in America were morally bankrupted by our materialism before the invasion of Iraq and whether the war has completed the process. Need I mention more than Enron and MCI, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo?”

“There’s no doubt that war diminishes the human soul, but the readiness to fight to protect and to obtain what we claim as entitlement had its source somewhere else,” Hinson said. “Was that not in the materialism which possesses our culture to the point that we would launch a ‘preemptive strike’ to safeguard our goods and way of life and that we would accept the flimsiest of evidence as ‘proof’ of the threat to our security?”

Preaching from a Bible text from First John, Hinson said only God’s love can bring excessive fear under control.

“In our culture that means that we, religious people though we claim to be, are not giving the love of God a chance to do its work in us,” he said. “We are letting our culture shape us in its mold. It beats, hammers, molds, engraves us in its ways. It’s blocking the beams of love which can come in and turn fear into hope.”

Sheehan, whose son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in action in Sadr City, Baghdad, on April 4, 2004, left the vigil Thursday to care for her mother, who suffered a stroke.

On Tuesday, Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, urged President Bush to join with Gold Star families and religious leaders in an interfaith prayer service outside the Bush ranch at noon Friday.

“I urge the President and the First Lady to join this brief and simple service,” said Edgar who earlier visited mothers and their families who have been waiting outside the Bush compound to meet with the president since start of a five-week vacation Aug. 6.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

Click here to read sermon by Glenn Hinson, “Will Fear Win?”