Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Chapter and Verse Against Saddam?-The WaPo had a piece yesterday on how evangelicals have been absent in the debate on war on Iraq, unlike their more politically liberal kin who have spoken out against the war. Jason Steffans beat me to the topic, having a nice piece in the wee hours of this morning. I'm not sure if it isn't because there isn't a clear biblical response to whether we should or shouldn't invade Iraq to get rid of a nasty ruler and get rid of his current and near-future WMD. You can trot out Just War doctrines from past thinkers, but the analysis still comes down to weighing the merits of attacking (and their costs in people and property) versus the merits of letting diplomacy have another shot, for you have to use unclear human judgement as to whether an attack is justified. So far, this has broken down on ideological lines, where the churches who have a pacifist streak have pleaded against the war. The evangelical's silence might be less telling than the liberal churches vocalness; they have pacifism (or at least a strong aversion to war) as part of their core values and aren't shy about talking about it. Conversely, the evangelical don't have militarism as one of their core values. They're not shy about being vocal when abortion or homosexuality or euthanasia show up on the political radar, but military geopolitics isn't a topic they deal with. The turn-the-other-cheek personal pacifism in the New Testament is offset by the multiple cans o' whuppin used on Israel's enemies in the Old Testament. Without a coherent message on war, the standard response from an evangelical pulpit will be praying that the leaders have wisdom. They're not going to come out for the war on a theological perspective, so they would be unwilling to preach for it. I think that the war is justified, as Steffans points out. However, my view is more intellectually based than theologically based. That's not to say I haven't prayed over the topic, but I can't say that my support for the war is from a divine word of knowledge. It sets some unsettling precedents for more-or-less striking first; critics of that view will point out that we're not attacking first since Saddam went first in '90 and we're simply ending a cease-fire. That would go against most ideas of a just war. However, if we are right in fearing a very deadly attack in a few years if the WMD programs are allowed to continue, then the advantage of attacking now outweighs the bad precedent of preemption. We're going on hunches and God will correct us in due time. I can support the president's decision to go in, but I don't quite want to be so bold as to say that God wants this war now.

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