Though I am the
pastor of First Christian Church and President of the City Club of
Eugene, I cannot speak for those two fine institutions as neither has
taken a position on the issue before us.
I do know that many of the members of both are very much opposed
to the war and many of them are here today.
But I can speak as a minister and a representative of organized
religion has often been portrayed as part of the problem, and that may
be true, but it is also part of the solution.
I want to share with you just some of the statements from church
leaders against a possible war on Iraq because these are voices, the
voices of organized religion, that we have not heard in the media.
The Board of
Directors of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, a group of 17 diverse
Christian communions, has just recently taken a stand against the war,
stating that though "we have differing perspectives on the need and
justification for war, we all agree that the call of the Gospel of Jesus
Christ is a call to the values of peace, justice, compassion,
reconciliation, and care for neighbor.
We acknowledge that the government of Iraq is a deeply corrupt
and criminal regime. However,
we join with many of our constituent denominations, to express our
opposition to pre-emptive and unilateral military action against Iraq."
"We believe that
pre-emptive, unilateral military action towards any nation is not
consistent with US and UN policy and would set an unsettling precedent
for other nations. Our
conviction is that the values of peace, justice, compassion,
reconciliation, and care for neighbor expressed by our Christian faith
calls us to a different course of action.
We call upon President Bush and the government of the United
States to fully explore diplomatic means of diminishing the threat
Saddam Hussein including a new weapons-inspection program and renewed
international peace efforts."
The Central Committee
of the World Council of Churches (WCC) issued this statement last month:
reaffirming the words of the WCC First General Assembly (1948): War as a
method of settling disputes is incompatible with the teaching and
example of our Lord Jesus Christ. The
part which war plays in our present international life is a sin against
God and a degradation of humanity."
conviction that under the sovereignty of God, no nation or group of
nations is entitled to prosecute vengeance against another.
Nor is any nation entitled to make unilateral judgments and take
unilateral actions that lead to the devastation of another nation and
the massive suffering of its people."
"Calls upon the
Government of Iraq to respect the resolutions of the UN Security Council
[and] calls insistently upon the Government of the United States of
America to desist from any military threats against Iraq and any further
development of plans for military actions against that country."
The United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a letter on September 13 stating
in part, "The United States and the international community have
two grave moral obligations: to protect the common good against any
Iraqi threats to peace and to do so in a way that conforms with
fundamental moral norms." The
letter goes on to define those norms under the concept of 'just war' and
concludes with this request of President Bush: "We respectfully
urge you to step back from the brink of war and help lead the world to
act together to fashion an effective global response to Iraq's threats
that conforms with traditional moral limits on the use of military
The National Council
of Churches also has issued a declaration against the war signed by 48
Christian leaders, including the heads of the Presbyterian Church (USA),
the Reformed Church in America, The Episcopal Church, USA, the Mennonite
Church, the Church of the Brethren, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Religious
Society of Friends (Quakers), the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian
Universalists, Evangelicals for Social Action as well as the General
Secretary of the National Council of Churches and many others.
The statement reads, in part:
"We, leaders of
American churches and church-related organizations, are alarmed by
recent statements by yourself and others in the Administration about
pre-emptive military action against Iraq for the expressed purpose of
toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. Understanding that Mr. Hussein poses a threat to his
neighbors and to his own people, we nevertheless believe it is wrong, as
well as detrimental to U.S. interests to take such action."
use of military force by the United States to deal with proliferation
problems, as serious they may be, establishes a dangerous precedent,
particularly for other nations that feel threatened by the weapons
capabilities of their neighbors. Furthermore,
unilaterally overthrowing enemy governments heightens concern in other
countries about American respect for their integrity as nations, as well
as for international law."
"As do many in
the world, we look to the United States government to set an example for
the international community. As
Christian religious leaders responsible for millions of U.S. citizens we
expect our government to reflect the morals and values we hold dear of
pursuing peace, not war; working with the community of nations, not
overthrowing governments by force; respecting internal law and treaties
while holding in high regard all human life."
statements from all of these church leaders, I want to know, just to
what church does President Bush belong?
The President has stated that he has nothing but "hate in
his heart" for Saddam Hussein.
I do not know what church teaches that, but I know it is not
mine. I do not know any
religion that teaches that, but I know it is not mine.
Jesus said, "You have heard it said, 'Love your neighbor and
hate your enemies,' but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for
those who persecute you." There
is a sign in the back of this crowd that says "Trust Jesus".
I believe that is precisely right.
We can trust Jesus in this, that love is the stronger force than
The President has
called the war on terrorism a "war on evil".
But is not evil a spiritual entity?
How does one fight a spiritual matter with military means?
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The ultimate weakness of
violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it
seeks to destroy. Instead
of diminishing evil, it multiplies it."
I do not know what
God the President worships, but the God I worship calls us to "turn
swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks" as declared
by the prophet Isaiah. The
God I worship calls us to turn bombs into bread and butter.
The God I worship seeks to overcome hate with love, evil with
good, war with peace.
You are a wonderful
crowd to preach to! I am
pleased to stand with you here today.
May God truly bless you.