Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Church's Witness

This op-ed column from the New York Times, via Slacktivist, is not exactly fresh; it's more than a week old. But since the U.S. invaded Iraq nearly three years ago, and there's no end to the U.S. occupation in sight, a week doesn't seem so long.

The author, Charles Marsh, tells us:

Recently, I took a few days to reread the war sermons delivered by influential evangelical ministers during the lead up to the Iraq war. That period, from the fall of 2002 through the spring of 2003, is not one I will remember fondly. Many of the most respected voices in American evangelical circles blessed the president's war plans, even when doing so required them to recast Christian doctrine.
Charles Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, whose weekly sermons are seen by millions of television viewers, led the charge with particular fervor. "We should offer to serve the war effort in any way possible," said Mr. Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "God battles with people who oppose him, who fight against him and his followers." In an article carried by the convention's Baptist Press news service, a missionary wrote that "American foreign policy and military might have opened an opportunity for the Gospel in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

For the SBC's benefit, here's a picture (from March for Justice) showing American foreign policy and military might, busy opening an opportunity for the Gospel.

Yes, there's nothing quite like a foreigner's boot parked on your neck, your chin mashed into the dirt, and the scenic view up the bad end of a rifle to really make you receptive to the Gospel. Wouldn't you agree?

Mr. Marsh recently interviewed John Stott, the Anglican priest who wrote the very-well-known book Basic Christianity. Rev. Stott:

"Privately, in the days preceding the invasion, I had hoped that no action would be taken without United Nations authorization," he told me. "I believed then and now that the American and British governments erred in proceeding without United Nations approval." Reverend Stott referred me to "War and Rumors of War, " a chapter from his 1999 book, "New Issues Facing Christians Today," as the best account of his position. In that essay he wrote that the Christian community's primary mission must be "to hunger for righteousness, to pursue peace, to forbear revenge, to love enemies, in other words, to be marked by the cross."

I would generally agree with Rev. Stott in his main point here: that Christians are supposed to be bearers of their crosses, not bloody-handed butchers. But it is distressing to see him quoted as saying that the error of the American and British regimes lay in "proceeding without United Nations approval." Does this mean that the moral acceptability of invading a country (that hasn't attacked yours) and killing who-knows-how-many of its civilians -- old men, women, and children -- is simply a function of getting (or not getting) the go-ahead from Turtle Bay? Whose teachings are authoritative to Rev. Stott: Jesus's, or the Secretary-General's?

Most American evangelicals, seemingly, remain supportive of the Imperial War on Turr'r and Swarthy Recalcitrants. Which only serves to underline the words of Jesus, from Matthew 7:13-14:

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.

1 comment:

Grace said...

You knew it was only a matter of time until you got tagged.