The Common Good

Wars and Rumors of War

While compiling the morning “Daily Digest,” I often recall  the advice of Karl Barth, who is said to have told young theologians “to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”

 Photo by Przemek Tokar/
Special forces troops patrol in the smoke. Photo by Przemek Tokar/

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There are many mornings that Jesus’ advice comes to mind after reading the news. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come (Mark 13:7). While I am not an end times apocalyptic, there are days that Jesus’ prophecy seems all too real. For instance, just in today's news:

In the Mideast,

  • Human rights activists in Syria report that the army is been rounding up men and boys over the age of 14 who are still in the Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs, then torturing and killing them
  • two suicide bomb attacks in Afghanistan killed 6 people
  • a wave of attacks in Haditha, Iraq, killed at least 27 police officers
  • 90 soldiers and 28 militants were killed in a battle between Islamist militants and Yemen troops

In Africa,

  • A major base of Somalia's al-Shabab militants was captured by government troops backed by African Union forces

In South America,

  • Two soldiers and an eight-year old boy were killed in Colombia by explosives planted by the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC

In Asia,

  • Three Tibetans killed themselves by self-immolation in western China over the past three days, to protest China’s repression of Tibet,

And in the rumors category...

  • President Barack Obama said explicitly that he is prepared to use force against Iran if necessary, but warned that there is "too much loose talk of war"
  • Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. plans to provide a detailed account of the Obama administration’s legal rationale for killing U.S. citizens abroad
  • North Korea has renewed threats to launch a "sacred war" with South Korea
  • China announced that it is increasing its military spending by 11 percent, causing new tensions about its rapid military buildup

A depressing litany. But, interpreting it "from the Bible," as Barth suggested, I can see Jesus weeping, as he did over Jerusalem, and saying to the world, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! (Luke 19:42). 

And, I can hear him saying to us, “Do not be alarmed.”

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Advisor for Sojourners. Follow Duane on Twitter @DShankDC.

(Photo of special forces troops patrolling in the smoke by Przemek Tokar/

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