The Church, The Critique of Perpetual War and the War in Iraq

Readers of these postings know that I continue to be puzzled by the ways in which church leaders seem to avoid consitant critique of the habit of perpetual war, a habit notable in those nations which exhibit now, or have exhibited in the past, imperial tendencies. Occasionally I will remark on the constant need to keep alive the opposition to the particular war, the War in Iraq. There are few comments on this, in part I suppose because readers of this blog, as I am, are more immediately interested in the problems of the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church. The connection, in my mind, is in the parallel use of war language, war imagry, and the mounting of distress signals by the realignment crowd and the similar (and much more effective) use of such instruments by the political right. But even if there were no connection I believe it is necessary to keep before us the obscenity of this War.

I must apologize for hiding some of my critique in the midst of "weekly" summaries of events and concerns in the Anglican /Episcopal stuggles. Perhaps such comments need to stand by themselves. So, with this as a forward, I repost a comment from a previous blog and add a final new comment.

I said this yesterday:

"The Archbishop and the Pope exchanged remarks and the Archbishop made several pronouncements. Here is the only thing I found even obliquely concerning the several wars in which England and the US are involved.

“There are many areas of witness and service in which we can stand together, and which indeed call for closer co-operation between us: the pursuit of peace in the Holy Land and in other parts of the world marred by conflict and the threat of terrorism…” (From the Common Declaration of the ABC and the Pope)

The pursuit of peace is fraught with diplomatic niceties of language, but one might think that two spiritual leaders of these two quite practical religious traditions could perhaps cut to the chase. They may think of some vague thing called “the Holy Land,” but for people on the ground the places, ideals and images, involve other names – Palestine, Israel, Syria, and Lebanon.

It is obscenely polite that neither would mention the damned war in Iraq. They both have been known to make critical remarks about the war on other occasions. To have that war reduced to “parts of the world marred by conflict” is to let too many off the hook.

The Common Declaration was written, of course, by other hands, the work the product of other minds, careful minds, who rather we would read beneath the surface of bland words for other meanings. Too bad. It would have been at least refreshing to read a banner headline that said, “ABC and Pope agree War is Hell.”

In the Papal rooms the cruelty of polite conversation crushes the joy of real engagement every time."

To which I might add, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in her interview with the New York Times was asked, "Have you met Pope Benedict?" Her response was, "I have not. I think it would be really interesting."

I hope that when she does, part of what might be most interesting would be if she opened up a conversation about the war, and about the imperial tendency to perpetual war.


  1. Walking With Others in the Path of Peace: Eucharist in Remembrance of All the Dead in Iraq

    December 7th, San Francisco Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate Avenue

    Join Bishop Marc Andrus and members of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, and other peaceful people of faith as we commemorate all who have died as a result of U.S. led hostilities in Iraq. A procession will leave Grace Cathedral at 12:30 p.m., and the Eucharist will begin at 1:00. The Holy Communion portion of the service will be held in front of the Federal Building's main entrance as an act of civil disobedience. Watch EpiscopalBayArea.org for more information, or contact Sean McConnell at seanm@diocal.org. There are ample opportunities to participate without risking arrest.

    Some Christian leaders are speaking out against this war.

  2. more fun to pick on gays and women - keeps one from thinking about war.

  3. The November 13, 2006 New Yorker Magazine has a beautiful front page, showing the Godly President GWB in a china shop, with all the china broken, his psture denying that it is broken or, if it is, it isn't his fault.

    Today, at the NATO conference, he refused to admit that Iraq is involved in a civil war, although all major media now call it a civil war.

    The U.S. and the world community can't afford another two years of 'lame duck' George.

  4. Bill Carroll29/11/06 8:32 AM

    The only way to avoid preaching about peace and justice is to ignore the lectionary. Last Sunday, Christ the King in year B, was all about speaking truth to power. Jesus is the "faithful witness (martus)" in the Revelation reading. In John, his kingdom is not from this world, if it were his followers would fight. He came rather to testify to the truth.

    I suppose one might have chosen something else to preach about, but pretty hard given the appointed texts and the context and the calendar.

    Pretty hard to ignore during Advent and Christmas too. We are waiting for the desire of the nations and the prince of peace.

    I think that evangelical religion often gets mired in questions of private "morality" in order to avoid the claims of the Gospel, which are many, for public life. Roman Catholics at least do make claims about the political and economic order. It is interesting however when the pope threatens excommunication for politicians who don't uphold anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage stands but does nothing with politicians who support torture or the Iraq War.

    I'm not a huge fan of the Iraq War or of any war or of the perpetual war economy (only pacifism is consistent with the teaching and example of Jesus), but I believe strongly enough in liberty of conscience to see that some might have supported it for what they took to be good reasons. There never were good reasons, even by just war standards. This civil war and quagmire was foreseeable and the war was therefore unjust. The means were indiscriminate and there was no just cause. Now, I find it hard to believe that anyone has what seem to him or her to be good reasons for supporting the war. Ignorance has become culpable.

    As for torture, I think that advocating or practicing torture is grounds for excommunication from any Christian Church. I wish our House of Bishops would issue a pastoral letter to that effect.

  5. Amen, Mark! I don't often comment when you blog on this topic ... That's only because I feel so dog-gone powerless in the face of this juggernaut that is the Bush Monarchy.

    A couple weeks ago I attended a lecture by our David Fly+ regarding his role (then just a baby priest) in the Kansas City riots of 1968 -- where he and an African-American priest marched along with the protestors and tried (in vain) to preclude the violence that broke out between the young people and police. As I said to someone, whom I was urging to attend the lecture, those were in the good days when the church was where it belonged: in the streets.

    I continue to be stunned that religious leaders of all traditions do not speak out more loudly and clearly against our nation's imperialism and perpetual war.

    Thank you for being one voice who reminds me of this most fundamental litmus test of orthodoxy: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.