Prophetic Leadership

Whatever Christians decide about war with Iraq, they must do it on the basis of Christian theology. Liking and trusting President George W. Bush, as many conservatives do, or hating him, as many liberals do, is just not relevant here. Patriotism means loving your country and its best ideals, enough even to oppose it when it is grievously wrong. And Christian faithfulness always supercedes patriotism. U.S. Christians often need to be reminded that we are a worldwide church—the body of Christ; and what other Christians around the world think about what the United States does ought to be at least as important to us as the views of our fellow citizens. Judging from all the letters, statements, and articles that come across my desk, churches around the world (and across the theological spectrum) don't support the U.S. argument for going to war with Iraq. Which gets us back to theology.

The tradition of Christian nonviolence and pacifism rules out war as a way to resolve conflicts, and the just war doctrine, which many more churches accept, demands that a decision for war be subject to rigorous criteria and conditions. Those are the only two Christian traditions regarding war—unless we want to bring back the Crusade idea of war, which seems to be gaining in popularity with radical elements of Islam but not anywhere in the churches that I am aware of.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2003
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