Beating of Wardrums

By A.R. Schaffer

A personal and religious look at current events

January 21, 2003

 

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, the homeless,

whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of

totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?”

(Mohandas Gandhi, 1948)   

 

 

Secular Opinion

     One of the most insane concepts of human creation is the idea that war can make the world a safer place, and this is even truer of offensive wars, or what our president is terming “a preemptive war”.  History has proven the latter part of this statement a folly over and over again.  Attacking a people without provocation only breads hatred, resentment, and contempt of the attacker. Killing has been prolonged for centuries when one country tries to force its control over another.  Revolutions that are successful most often come from within, and not without.  To use destruction and death, as a banner to protect freedom is a hypocrisy of the worst sort.  And, one would think that the present administration hasn’t a clue to history, as we need only look to Rome’s or England’s experience with Empire to see it is costly and ultimately fails.  What about our own experience in Vietnam?  Even today we can see the problems in the Israeli - Palestinian conflict.  The more the Jews become determined to use force to solve the situation, the more death and destruction on both sides. Seems only the annihilation of one side or the other would resolve the conflict under the present mindset; and I am certain no civilized culture would advocate such a solution.

     Before giving religious objections to the potential war with Iraq, there should be some common sense questions asked.  I, as a patriotic American, find it hard to swallow that Iraq is any threat to the security of the United States.  We are talking about basically a third world nation being a threat to the most wealthy and powerful nation on the face of the earth.  The chant about “weapons of mass destruction” is merely a slogan to justify a potentially simplistic and “evil” solution to a minute threat.  I say this because for Iraq to attempt any aggressive act would be suicide for its leaders.  It seems our leaders have not made a case that Iraq actually has these weapons, yet alone, that they will use them without provocation if in fact they do have them.  It appears that  we as a people are ignoring this fact.  You will have to pardon me as an American for questioning any rhetoric that comes from the Pentagon; they do not exactly have a good track record for honesty.   I should also think it probable that an attack on Iraq would threaten US security much more than a diplomatic attempt to solve the problem; in that, it would give fanatics a battle cry,  such as Al Qaeda,  for their cause of hatred.  So, ultimately, where is the case for Iraq being a threat to the United States outside G W Bush and company saying there is one --- and exactly what is that threat?

    Another talking point these days by the administration, is this idea that somehow Sadam is connected to Radical fundamentalists groups.  This also seems to be empty rhetoric in that there has been no proof of such links, with the exception that some radical group will call for anti-American activity citing Iraq as one of their causes.  The reason our government backed Sadam in the first place was because of his ability to keep religious fanatics and far right extremist from taking power in Iraq, as they did in Iran.  So in the absence of any substantiation, it would seem that any logical mind could legitimately question the claim.   How quickly we, as Americans, forget some of the untrue propaganda thrown at us during the last golf war, a war which at least had some legitimacy in that Iraq had invaded another nation. 

    Another secular concern that seems to get little attention these days has to do with death.  Yes, it has religious overtones but from a purely humanist perspective; should not any leader justify to his or her people the need to spill the blood of its citizens for any cause?  Should there not be a indisputable reason to take the lives of any declared enemy, especially when it involves innocent bystanders?  “Collateral casualties” is a phrase often used by governments when such innocent civilians are killed, as if that makes it somehow more acceptable.

        This picture is from the last golf war and sums up the cold reality of war [*] :

 

 That could just as well be an American, or, an innocent bystander!  This is the cold reality of what war is all about --- death, destruction, and human misery on both sides!  War may sometimes be a necessary evil, but any human being with a conscience should only grab hold of such a devastating tool as an absolute last resort, --- when actually attacked, or, when there are just no other options available!  Seems in this case there are many options being suggested by several nations.  The administration, by any reasonable standard, has not presented a convincing argument to use the last resort at this time.  Soothsayer predictions, fear driven propaganda, economic gains, judgmental pronouncements, just don’t seem to cut the mustard; especially, when the words are not accompanied by any substantiated proof.  A truly great leader brings about change through peaceful means.  And, the idea that you can protect any people by killing them is lunacy.   So, where is any justification religiously, or politically, for shedding one drop of blood for this cause we seem to be embarking upon?  

     Another secular argument cited is: It is up to Sadam to prove he has no weapons of mass destruction.  In the first place, one can never prove a negative, so the play on words puts him in an unattainable situation.  Secondly, we are threatening to attack another nation based on an argument built on this impossible proposition.  This whole idea is in opposition to a very American fundamental concept “that a man is innocent until proven guilty.”  It becomes a complete hypocrisy to everything we define as freedom.

    And, as self proclaimed leaders of the free world claiming to be the model for democracy, we must set a higher standard for our behavior.  We should be the example of restraint and hold a much higher degree of tolerance for even that with which we disagree or feel threatened by.  The ideal of freedom itself holds that we must tolerate even that which we find distasteful.  One cannot claim freedom if it tries to destroy that which differs from it.  It is up to the Iraqi people to change their government, and again, our leaders have not presented any substantial argument that they want a change.  We set a dangerous precedent for America, as well as the world, when we as a nation can invade another nation based on the accusations of our leadership --- without any act of provocation!  In essence, this makes us as immoral as that which we speak out against.

    And, the hypocrisy of our reasoning shines out in this current situation.  In our criminal justice system you cannot arrest someone unless a crime is committed.  You cannot arrest one for suspecting that they will commit a murder.  But, that seems to be the logic with Iraq.  Eliminate Sadam, and kill who knows how many, under the assumption that at some time in the future he may harm somebody.  Maybe we should apply some of that same logic to our own leadership; because, if we do a reality check, we are threatening world security far more than Sadam in our present course of action. 

 

Religious Objections

 

    While eclecticism draws on many sources to form it theological speculations, for our purposes here we will draw heavily on the Christian ideals that is often claimed this country is founded upon.   

      I think what bothers me most about this whole offensive war is the seemingly Christian indifference toward the matter.  There are even some Christian fundamentalists that support such killing using theological arguments that completely go against everything Jesus stood for; just as, they often argue for American intervention on behalf of Israel so it can be restored to its original glory and the Second coming can take place --- But that is for another discussion.

     Jesus was a man of peace, and any Christian theology that argues otherwise has not read the complete Gospels and  becomes a distortion of his life.  “Love your enemies”; “pray for your persecutors”; “blessed are the peacemakers;” “my peace I give unto you;” “love one another as I have loved you;” “turn the other cheek”; “those who live by the sword shall die by it”:  are just a few phrases off the top of my head.  The whole theme of the four Gospels is that God’s Kingdom will come to fruition through love, forgiveness of others and compassion towards our fellow man. “ Peace on earth” is the central theme of his birth.   “I come to turn brother against brother…” is often used by hawkish preachers to justify wars, but such an unusual outburst by Jesus flies in the face of the whole of his life and preaching ---- enough to question its authenticity.  The gospels are in fact manuals of love and tolerance. 

     Another theme that is heavily accented by Jesus is the idea of not sitting in judgment of others, something our administration is arbitrarily doing by proclaiming Iraq has and will use weapons of mass destruction.  That is a judgment call pure and simple.   “He used them in the past” is the rationalization for this judgment that he will use them in the future.  Well, consider this using such reasoning;  we are the only country in the world to have used an Atomic Bomb!  America also has its history of both genocide and slavery!  What kind of judgment could be made about America and her potential future? And, as already stated, it would become suicide for Iraq to use any aggressive actions for every nation would come down on her just as when she invaded Kuwait.

       Every time someone recites the Our Father they proclaim “forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who transgress against us”.  While we do have every right to make human judgments, when we are taking about sending people to their deaths, talking about devastating destruction, at least from a theological perspective, we should have a strong secular reason for doing so --- especially when one proclaims Jesus as their hero as our president did!  Judgments about peoples lives in the balance need more than speculation and assumptions, more than unsubstantiated words, especially when they are made by men who might have other agendas in mind.  

     The idea that God could be behind any cause of bloodshed is equally ridiculous; that is of course, depending how one views God.   If we see God as just and loving than such a concept as war would be totally against His/Hr being.  He/She is the giver and taker of life.  Any human justification for war (for I cannot fathom any Divine justification for such insanity), should require a strong human reason for such action --- a case that doesn’t seem to make itself as demonstrated in our secular discussion.  It is an absolute outrage that Christians remain silent about this proposed war based upon the reasons presented by the administration.  The fact that the country we are proposing to attack is of the faith of Islam makes it even more outrageous!  A country that is lead by self-proclaimed Christians needs the Christian community to speak out emphasizing the love that Jesus himself expressed.

     Wars are a human invention, just as economics or even governments.  They are never justifiable in spiritual pursuits.  Despite the reference to wars in scripture; it would be childish or sick of any deity to pit human beings against one another for the sake of amusement or even punishment.  We try to rationalize such things by putting God on our side, or by citing some scripture written by humans to begin with ----   but how could God in His/Her Divine Love be partial to any cause which causes the death, suffering and destruction of war?  Especially, when such death, destruction, and suffering are inflicted upon innocent people, many of which become children!

 

     Maybe it is time that the Administration calls upon some of that Christian Ethic it is always boasting about.  Maybe the President ought to think about the cost of human life and the suffering he will inflict in his obsessive call to arms.  Maybe he ought to think about how contradictory it is to proclaim war in the name of peace --- to kill in an effort to protect. He should reflect upon the families that will be torn apart by the death of their loved ones.  

    We as Americans need to pray for peace, but also accompanying those prayers with our voices of protest being heard in any way we can. Ask questions of our leaders, make them accountable.  Write your representatives, and the president seeking justification for risking so much life!  At the very least, we need to demand a better justification for violating our most sacred American principles and the spilling of innocent blood in a seemingly senseless attack on another nation that not even its neighbors feel threatened enough by to support our position.

 

 

 

 

    Please feel free to add your thoughts to our Message Board.  We would also ask that you send this link  Beating of War Drums  to anyone whom you think may be interested. 

 

Thank you so much for your time , and God’s Peace and guidance be with us,

Bud (Art Schaffer of the Eclectic Church)

                                                                                                         

 



[*] This photo was taken from http://www.airborne-ranger.com/~vance/gulfwarpics/ , where other Gulf War pictures can be viewed.