The Pretense of Peacemaking

When 1,400 evangelical Christians gathered in Pasadena, California, in 1983 to consider various "biblical perspectives on peacemaking," a wide range of views was expressed from the pulpit. Sen. William Armstrong, a conservative Republican from Colorado, and Dr. Ed Robb, chair of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), called for evangelicals to support the government policy of "peace through strength." Rev. David Breese, a radio evangelist from Wheaton, Illinois, went so far as to say that "nuclear weapons are no threat to world peace when they are in the hands of the U.S."

Most conference participants clearly differed about the danger of nuclear weapons, American and otherwise; Breese's statement was met by a chorus of audible groans from the audience. The gathered evangelicals heartily applauded speakers like Ronald J. Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, and others who condemned the nuclear arms race and urged Christian peace activism.

Conservatives were troubled by the growing peacemaking activity among grassroots evangelicals. As a result the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) commissioned a survey of evangelical institutions to explore evangelical involvement in peacemaking. The NAE report on the survey stated that evangelical institutions, especially at the college level, "have looked almost exclusively to Sojourners and Evangelicals for Social Action...for counsel on these crucial issues." The NAE's newsletter said that this represented "disproportionate influence" by organizations "whose working premises include a sharp critique of national security policy."

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