Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Many More Christians Condemn Iraq War

Some good news....albeit logical and overdue.....from the San Bernardino County Sun newspaper , via Common Dreams....

Bush Support Eroding as Christians Condemn Iraq Involvement by Jano Gibson

With increasing frequency, Christians are condemning U.S. military involvement in Iraq.
And the growing unrest among Christians threatens to erode President Bush's most loyal base.
"We had no plan for making the peace. We continue as a superpower to be arrogant. . . . And we have acted as though all is well, when, in fact, daily we have reports of suicide bombings and more disruptions in Iraq," said the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, a coalition of mainline Protestant and Orthodox denominations.

"Just like with Hurricane Katrina, (Bush) doesn't want to hear people say'it didn't go well,' " said Edgar, a Democrat who was president of Claremont School of Theology from 1990 to 2000.
In the buildup to war, Bush told Americans that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The despot has been deposed, but WMDs have not been found. U.S. troops remain in Iraq while the fledging government adopts a constitution and trains its own security force.

"The president has said we will be in Iraq no longer than we are needed there," said White House spokesman Ken Lisaius.

Two months after Bush declared major combat in Iraq completed in May 2003, most Christians thought the United States had acted prudently, according to a poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Those agreeing with the military effort were 68 percent of white mainline Protestants, 74 percent of white Catholics and 79 percent of white evangelicals. Mainline denominations are those that originated in Europe and include Lutherans, Episcopalians and Methodists.
The survey numbers fell during the following two years.

A poll last July by the Pew Forum showed 56 percent o f white mainline Protestants and 54 percent o f white Catholics supported military involvement. Even among evangelicals, who helped Bush win re-election, support had fallen by 11 percentage points.

Richard Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, which did not publicly endorse the war but has been a Bush backer, seemed surprised Friday when he was told 68 percent of evangelicals still thought invading Iraq was the right thing to do.

"It's probably attributable to general support of the president," Cizik said.
Many, though, are growing tired of reports of U.S. casualties.

At the invitation of local anti-war activists, including Progressive Christians Uniting, Medea Benjamin is scheduled to speak this morning at Pilgrim Place, the Christian retirement community in Claremont. The 11 a.m. speech will be held in Decker Hall, 665 Avery Road. The anti-war crusader, who is not religious, has worked for years with interfaith groups promoting peace.

"The teachings of all the major religions teach peace and tolerance, universal love. Unfortunately, we humans have strayed too much from those basic teachings, often in the name of those religions," said Benjamin, founding director of the human-rights group Global Exchange.

In San Bernardino, up to 20 people Jewish, Catholic, Quaker and Protestant have held a vigil each Wednesday for the past month on E Street, behind City Hall.

"From a religious perspective, this is not a just war," said the Rev. David Kalke of Central City Lutheran Mission in San Bernardino, a vigil organizer. "We haven't been attacked. The reason for going to war hasn't been substantiated. The lost of life has been tremendous on both sides."
Nearly 1,900 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since March 2003. Thousands of insurgents and Iraqi civilians have, too.

To be sure, many Christians opposed military action long before the conflict began. So changing attitudes shouldn't be attributed to new moral understandings, said John C. Green, a religion and politics expert at the University of Akron in Ohio.

But Green said the practical argument against war has become more persuasive: No sign of WMDs, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was an international embarrassment, states like Ohio and California are facing heavy casualties, and the Iraqi government is struggling to get off the ground.

Christians still favor how Bush is handling Iraq more than the general public, where only two of five agree with the president, recent surveys show. Last month, before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the president's job approval rating was 42 percent, according to an Associated Press/Ipsos poll.

"Regardless of polls, he is going to continue to do what is right for the American people," said Lisaius, the White House spokesman. "This is something that transcends politics. This is about the safety or our country and the safety of people around the world."

But Iraq also is another wedge issue for liberal and conservative Christians.

"Evangelicals want to support this president and want to believe this war, in the long run, is going to make a big difference on behalf of democracy and freedom of religion and civil rights in the whole region," said Cizik.

He does not believe Iraq is dividing Christians but said it eventually may. "But if the (Iraqi) constitution doesn't guarantee those rights, it might shed whole new light on what we are fighting for and dying for there."

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