catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 3 :: 2006.02.10 — 2006.02.25


Mea Culpa

Note from the author: The following is offered on the heels of great prayer, with tears, without heat, with a heavy heart, with great hope, and more prayers.

On a recent Saturday evening, a group of evangelical Christians from around Washington, D.C. gathered to pray about the war in Iraq. I convened this group, along with a friend, a former Republican congressman. We prayed for the people of Iraq, our troops and military personnel, our enemies, and our President. And we confessed, for we are complicit in a great sin.

In the months leading up the war in Iraq, the world and the American people were told that this preemptive war, the first in the history of the United States, was necessary because of Iraq?s connections with terrorism and implicitly with Al Qaeda, and then we were told it was because of the presence of weapons of mass destruction. And, with little support and much outrage from the global village, we went to war.

Preceding the strong statements against this war by leading Protestant theologians like John Stott and N.T. Wright was that profoundly loud voice of protest belonging to Pope John Paul II, who resisted both the Nazi regime and Communism. He consistently spoke out before 2003 that ?this war would be a defeat for humanity which could not be morally or legally justified. In the weeks and months before the U.S. attacked Iraq, not only the Holy Father, but also one Cardinal and Archbishop after another at the Vatican spoke out against a ?preemptive? or ?preventive? strike. They declared that the just war theory could not justify such a war.?

And how much less can this Iraq war be justified when it has become clear that Saddam Hussein had no connections to Al Qaeda, and that there were no weapons of mass destruction. The Iraq war has never been a just war, and it is not a just war. At best the war in Iraq is an unconscionable mistake. At worst, it is much worse.

In January, the BBC reported this story: ?US Air Strike Kills Iraqi Family.? Quoting directly, ?Ghadban Nahd Hassan, 56, told AFP news agency that 14 members of his family had been in his house when it was bombed… ?I rushed over to see it. My house was destroyed??So far, the bodies of a nine-year old boy, an 11 year-old girl, three women and three men have been found in the rubble.?

When civilians are killed in a just war (such as World War II), it is a tragedy. When they are killed in an unjust war, it is a tragedy, and it is sin. May God have mercy and grant repentance and wisdom for those who have determined such a course and whose choices commit us to it.

For what it?s worth, I am not a pacifist. I do not support an immediate and unilateral withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. I support American military involvement in humanitarian crises caused by violent aggressors and oppressors, and wish we would do more of it. And God knows I believe in the risen Lord Jesus. And by virtue of being a citizen of a country that has perpetrated and perpetuates an unjust war with lethal implications for innocents, I am complicit in the killing to the degree that I do not do all in my power to stop it.

As Christians, we are a people who should desire peace and justice and work tirelessly for it in whatever ways we know how. This transcends our opinions and convictions about the current war our country is engaged in. As followers of Jesus, we can all find ourselves in the following list.

For those who support the war: Pray for God?s protection for the people of Iraq, pray for the protection of our heroic troops there, pray for our enemies, and pray that our President would be led in the ways of justice and peace. Pray for a speedy end to the violence in all forms in Iraq.

For those who do not support the war in Iraq: Similar to the previous sentence, pray, and pray all the more, and gather others together to pray, with the Eucharist if possible, for the battles of earth are not unrelated to war in the spiritual realm. And create space for God to lead you to another act of protest and peace.

For those who are increasingly troubled by this war: Well, there are more of you now.* Pray (as above), study and collect facts, and discuss with others your opinions, questions, doubts, and convictions. Come to your conclusion, and know that it is legitimate as a Christian and as an American to oppose this war. Our patriotic duty is to pursue the highest ideals for our country. Our Christian duty is to uphold the sanctity of life in all its forms and to be God?s agents for justice and peace in the world in whatever ways that we can.

On March 9, 2003, ten days before we started bombing Baghdad, I was with my wife and unborn son in Amman, Jordan, preparing to post my questions and concerns about the impending war on a website with a clear statement of ?This should not be.? I wrote, ?Questions without answers, and even more so, convictions without action, lead only to cynicism, bitterness, and despair.? And, as an action based on conviction, I posted the piece entitled “Marching to Baghdad.” My former congressman friend read it, was deeply encouraged by it, and our friendship deepened, as did our sense of ?If these are our convictions, together let us move forward with actions?. And so, among other things, we pray. And despair and cynicism give way to humility, and to gentility, and to love, and to hope, and to more prayer, and greater resolve. We?ll gather again in Washington (and then again and then again), to confess and cry for mercy, for us and for all people, and especially every person, regardless of nationality, who find themselves in what once was the Garden of Eden.

* "An astonishing 87 percent of all white evangelical Christians in the United States supported the president’s decision in April 2003. Recent polls indicate that 68 percent of white evangelicals continue to support the war.? (Charles Marsh, ?Wayward Christian Soldiers?, International Herald Tribune Jan 22, 2006)

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