Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Marcus Borg speaks on Iraq

Marcus Borg has become an important Progressive Christian voice in our country and in an On Faith (Washington Post/Newsweek) posting, he has tackled the Iraq War. He calls it as it should be called, an "unjust war." Pointing out that there have been just two Christian positions on war -- pacifism (which reigned among Christians until Constantine) and the "Just War" theory, of which Augustine is the preeminent theorist. On both counts, the War in Iraq, which was a "pre-emptive war" or a "war of choice" is illegitimate from a Christian perspective. That our President, who has justified the war, is a Christian and that a majority of those supporting the war are Christians, suggests that we have as yet failed to understand the meaning of a "just war."
Like Marcus, I opposed the war before it started and continue to oppose it, because it was entered into, from a Christian perspective, illegitimately. I am tempted by pacifism, but my realism, as faulty as it may be, keeps me from embracing this path. So, I'm stuck with Just War theory. I just wish we'd learn it well and follow it!
Marcus offers some suggestions about how we might make the best of this bad situation.
The first thing we must do is repent, we must say we did wrong. This wasn't the proper choice.
The next thing we must do is ask for help from the international community. If we'll admit we've done wrong, maybe other nations will decide to help stabilize Iraq. An unstable Iraq isn't good for anyone!
Borg writes:

I have no idea if we can still “rescue” the situation in Iraq. It may be beyond our ability to do so. But we can imaginatively consider options other than the ones we are pursuing. We are presently spending about two billion dollars a week on the war. What if the same amount were genuinely used for the rebuilding of Iraq? What if we actively sought the aid of Iraq’s neighbors and our allies in working on a solution?

But for us to continue on our present course because we want to avoid the humiliation of admitting that we made a terrible mistake is not only foolish, but decidedly unchristian.

What do you think?


Mystical Seeker said...

My background is Quaker, and I lean towards pacifism, but as you point out, the Iraq War was wrong even if you subscribe to the Just War theory. They funny thing is that bishops from Bush's own church (Susan Hassinger, for example) opposed his march to war, although a few years later, a group of Methodist bishops signed a letter of repentence for silence on the matter.

As for how to get out of the situation, I think we have to fist ask ourselves ultimately whether the US's role as an Empire is consistent with Jesus's teachings. It is easy to jump on the antiwar bandwagon now, because the war has proved to have been such a colossal failure. But if the war had been a success, you can bet that Hillary Clinton and John Kerry would now be patting herself on the back for having voted for the war. The problem is that both of those politicians support the premise of Empire. But I think what we need is not a better run Empire, or an Empire that doesn't make stupid military decisions, but an end to Empire altogether.

Mike L. said...

I like the way Dominic Crossan descibes the "2 ways". He describes the way of Empire and the way of Jesus as two methods for similar goals. In each case the goal is peace and prosperity. We should remember that Caesar Augustus was worshipped for his ability to unite the empire and restore peace to the "nations" through his military victories. What is different between these 2 "ways" is that one uses violence and exclusion while the other uses non-violence and inclusion.

As much as I dislike Bush we have to realize that he also is doing his "best" (as poor as that might be) to bring peace. The problem is that he thinks violence is the best means to that end and he only defines peace as the saftey and prosperity of himself and "his own". He doesn't realize that gaining peace through violence NEVER brings lasting peace. It just postpones war by weakening your opponent, but those same opponents will still hate you just as much(if not more).

Greg said...

To me, the phrase, "just war" is an oxymoron. How can the killing of individuals be just and healthy for society?

I realize the reasons behind war can be complex, but I believe we as a human race MUST seek ways besides war to reconcile future differences. In our day of atomic weapons, if we do not seek other ways to reconcile besides war, will we not do ourselves in?

Killing other individuals is wrong under any circumstances. It may temporarily grant desired results, but I cannot believe it is healthy for society in the long run. Why do we feel that war is an answer?

And as a follower of Jesus, I feel that I personally cannot support violence and/or violent retaliation under any circumstances.

I'm reminded of the words of Thomas Merton in "The Root of War is Fear:" "What are we to do? The duty of the Christian in this crisis is to strive with all his power and intelligence, with his faith, hope in Christ and love for God and man, to do the one task that God has imposed upon us in the world today. That task is to work for the total abolition of war. There can be no question that unless war is abolished the world will remain constantly in a state of madness and desperation in which, because of the immense destructive power of modern weapons, the danger of catastrophe will be imminent and probably at every moment everywhere. We may never succeed in this campaign but whether we succeed or not the duty is evident. It is the great Christian task of our time. Everything else is secondary, for the survival of the human race itself depends on it. We must at least face this responsibility and do something about it."

Greg said...

And I will also add:

Men need to realize that they CAN be men WITHOUT aggression and violence!

Granted, men may be biologically predisposed to aggressive tendencies, but I do not accept that as an acceptable excuse for aggression and violence. I think much of that thinking is socially enforced and construed. I think much of it - the same as warring - is a learned trait.

Anonymous said...

Saddam Hussain was a weapon of mass destruction. The thousands and thousands of men, women, and children who were tortured, gassed, and executed in Iraq I am sure would not consider the war pre-emptive, for them it came much too late.

My son, a deeply spiritual and compassionate man, joined the Army at the age of 30 because he felt that “people should not have to live like that”. His own words to me were "If not me, then who?" He felt a responsibility to fight for economic and social justice for the Iraqi people.

It is very easy for those of us blessed to live in freedom to see all war as evil. It is perhaps too easy for us to pass off a responsibility to protect the innocent because we interpret our guilt over being so blessed as instead a moral and spiritual objection to war -- any war.

As a child and young woman I felt that those who intended harm to others simply needed our love, compassion, understanding, and prayers. However, I came to look evil in the face having been the victim in a violent crime – which I tried to negotiate with compasson and love my way out of. I learned two things that day: That evil truly does exist in this world (not just in the Bible or movies) and pure evil does not negotiate.

While I pray for that man’s immortal soul, if I ever found myself in the situation again, I would give thanks and praise to God for sending someone to assist me who was willing to put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect me. The prior regime in Iraq, as well as those who conduct terrorist stikes, have embraced evil as a means to an end and it is my belief that a spiritual directive exists to physically protect innocent lives. I am in awe of those who are actually willing to do this.

War is never good, but it is sometimes not only necessary, but is a reflection of our love and compassion for the suffering of others. I cannot imagine Jesus condemning my son, or the other courageous people who stood, and stand, with him for being willing to lay their lives down for the welfare of others. As a matter of fact, this was the greatest example He gave us of true Humility and Perfect Love.

I am hoping that this email may provide a perspective of this war not normally considered: the idea of a compassion so great that one is willing to marytr themselves so that others may live. Millions and millions died in WWII because the United States was unwilling to lay down American lives for non-American lives until it was almost too late.

It is not a given that Jesus would condemn the war in Iraq, nor those who place themselves in danger on a daily basis in order to detect and protect others from obscene acts of terror perpetrated by those who confuse religion with power.

God Bless You