Christians have long divided themselves between patriots and peacemakers, between militarists and humanitarians. Patriots salute uncritically the flag and accept the march to war. Peacemakers recognize the inherent idolatry of unchecked nationalism/militarism and favor efforts to resolve conflict.
The time has come for militia Christi and pax Christi wings of faith to join hands to end the war in Iraq. The nation’s self-interest is in grave risk through the folly of war. The resolution of conflict in Iraqi isn’t happening.
As of Wednesday, U.S. military fatalities in Iraq totaled 83 so far in May, a similar pace as in April, averaging more than three-and-one-half troops killed each day.
The body of one of the three American soldiers missing for a week and a half was found floating in the Euphrates River. On Tuesday, at least 100 Iraqis were killed or found dead.
At the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, President Bush continued to mislead the nation about the war in Iraq, blaming al Qaeda for the violence and ignoring the civil war between Iraqi factions.
Democrats in Congress refused to set a deadline for the withdrawal of troops.
A new poll found 60 percent of Americans believe the nation should have stayed out in Iraq, 72 percent think the nations is “seriously off on the wrong track” and 76 percent say the surge of troops into Iraq has had “no impact” or is “making things worse.”
The New York Times/CBS poll reported that only 23 percent of those surveyed approve of Bush’s “handling of the situation in Iraq,” while 72 percent disapprove.
With so much political weakness among Democrats, deception by Bush and public opposition to the war, isn’t it time for patriots and peacemakers within churches to come together to say enough is enough?
John Edwards, a Democratic presidential candidate, has a capital idea for Memorial Day, a day to honor those who have died in defense of the nation, for the nation’s economic well-being and the freedoms, including religious freedom.
He supports a Memorial Day with a “Support the Troops, End the War” campaign. Edwards thinks rightly that Memorial Day is the time to tell Bush to end the war. One might readily add the same message to congressional Democrats.
“What we are asking you to do this Memorial Day weekend is to speak out … reclaim patriotism,” Edwards said in a video. “George Bush has tried to use patriotism as an excuse for everything he has done, including what is happening in Iraq. We need to reclaim patriotism for America.”
The former North Carolina senator says the best way to support American troops and honor their sacrifice is to “engage in an act of patriotism … speak out in support of our troops and bring an end to this war.”
Indeed, let us reclaim patriotism and peacemaking. Let the so-call realists and those who define themselves as being Christocentric agree that the war is neither in our national self-interest nor in our moral interest.
In addition to Edwards, others have also launched campaigns against the war.
Moveon.org targeted radio ads against two Democratic Party leaders because of their support for the war’s continuation. One, Rep. Steny Hoyer, is a Baptist.
In a Wednesday letter to congressional Democrats, Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, urged rejection of a compromise with the Bush administration. According to Roll Call, he said it was “just a blank check for an endless war.”
VoteVets.org has aired a TV ad with General John Batiste correcting Bush’s statement that he listened to the commanders on the ground. “Mr. President, you did not listen,” said Batiste, who left the Army in protest. “You continue to pursue a failed strategy,”
No More Victims recently posted an Internet video urging Americans to observe the real Mother’s Day by working for peace.
Such efforts matter in a democratic society. Both political conversation in the public square and moral dialogue in churches need to intensify.
The heat of discourse is needed to end the war, instead of quietism which prolongs the war with a false hope–hope that somehow, some time in the future, things will end in peaceful resolution.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.