Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Not Ready to Make Nice

On Blogswarm you will find links to bloggers who are taking this day, the 5th anniversary of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, to write about our past, present, and future. Five years ago when I served in the Yellowstone Presbytery, I introduced a resolution about the upcoming invasion. A couple of my UCC colleagues and I drafted this as an ecumenical statement for Montana clergy against the war. I adapted it for our presbytery.

Witherspoon posted an article about it in Network News.

Yellowstone — among many presbyteries — urges that US exercise restraint and work with UN in dealing with Iraq
The Rev. John Shuck has reported that on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2003, the Presbytery of Yellowstone passed a resolution calling on the President and government of the United States not to engage in a "pre-emptive strike" against Iraq, but rather "to exercise restraint and to work with the United Nations toward a peaceful resolution of this crisis.

"The vote was 23 for, 21 against the resolution. Shuck continued, "There was a substitute motion to table it without discussion but it was defeated. Then we had 20 minutes or so of discussion. Folks who spoke against felt that church governing bodies should not be involved in politics.

"I frankly didn't think it would pass. I just wanted to get something out on the table. What I said after I introduced it was something like ... 'I would hate to have history look back on this moment as the possible eve of World War III and wonder why when we had the opportunity that we didn't even bother to debate the issue.' There wasn't much debate at this time but perhaps it will spur some more bold acts by other individuals and governing bodies."

The text of the resolution:

As members of the Presbytery of Yellowstone, we believe our faith dictates that we voice strong opposition to a pre-emptive strike by the United States against Iraq. While many of us hold that a state is justified in using force in certain situations, we believe that a military strike by the United States against Iraq at this time is not morally justified.

While we deplore the past actions of Saddam Hussein, he poses no clear and immediate threat to the United States or the nations of the world. A unilateral, pre-emptive strike by the United States would be viewed by the vast majority of the world's population as an act of aggression on behalf of U.S. self-interests, even if self-interest is not our motivation.

If the U.S. sets this example, other nations might claim justification for attacking their weaker neighbors. Peaceful alternatives have not been exhausted, but must be pursued through the United Nations. Iraq has been and can continue to be contained by a cooperative effort led by
the U.N.

If Saddam is a threat, he is a threat to the world not to the United States alone. An attack against Iraq would lead to the deaths of thousands of innocent people, including children. It would further destabilize the entire Middle East. We cannot afford to increase tensions between the West and the Arab world, or escalate the spiral of violence around the globe.

Peaceful alternatives to war are not flashy or terribly exciting, but war will not lead the United States nor the world to the security we seek. Peacemaking is hard work, but the way of peace is the narrow road that leads to life.

Therefore, be it resolved that the Presbytery of Yellowstone joins other governing bodies within the Presbyterian Church (USA) and our ecumenical partners in urging the President of the United States to exercise restraint and to work with the United Nations toward a peaceful resolution of this crisis.

The Presbytery instructs the Stated Clerk to forward a copy of this resolution to President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, members of Congress representing the portion of Montana covered by the Presbytery of Yellowstone, any relevant media, and to the churches of the Presbytery, encouraging them to share it with their members.

Many people were angry with me for introducing this resolution. The reason: we were having such a nice meeting and this raised conflict. Isn't the church supposed to be nice? Shouldn't we just trust the political and military leaders of the United States and go about being nice?

I wasn't ready to make nice then and I am not ready to make nice now. People may today suggest that it didn't do any good. Wrong. Every time someone speaks out, every time someone lights a candle, every time someone drafts a resolution, holds a sign, or today, writes a blog entry, it does something. Silence is what kills.

This is Wednesday of Holy Week. In the Gospel of Mark, on this day an unknown, unnamed woman anointed Jesus. She was condemned by some. Jesus defended her. She is praised as the model disciple:

Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’
I am thankful for Jason Hurd's voice today. Jason spoke at our September peace rally in Johnson City. On Monday he was interviewed by Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow! Here is the transcript. Please take a few moments and read his story from a soldier's perspective. He concludes:

"...the prevailing sentiment in Iraq is this—another time that I was out on patrol in the Kindi Street area—as I said, part of our mission was to meet and greet the local population and find out what their problems were—and so, I approached a man with my interpreter on the side of the road, and I asked him, I said, “Look, are your lives better because we’re here? Are you safer? Do you feel more secure? Do you feel like we are liberating you?” And that man looked at me straight in the eye, and he said, “Mister, we Iraqis know that you have good intentions here. But the fact of the matter is, before America invaded, we didn’t have to worry about car bombs in our neighborhoods, we didn’t have to worry about the safety of our own children as they walked to school, and we didn’t have to worry about US soldiers shooting at us as we drive up and down our own streets.”

Jason isn't ready to make nice, either. He is ready to tell the truth of his experience. He is not willing to hand over his integrity for the sake of obedience to the war machine.

Today's song is by the Dixie Chicks. It is for all of you wonderful people who are not ready to make nice and are willing to find your story and to tell it:


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