The Bible, Corporal Punishment and Human Guilt - Part 5

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 14 July 2004 0 Comments
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What can people of faith do and say about the war in Iraq?


I think people of faith did what they could, but it was obvious that this administration wanted to take this nation to war. The recent Senate Report on the Intelligence Failures made that very clear. Yet religious voices from all over the world were raised in protest. The trouble was that no one in position of power in this Administration, with the possible exception of Colin Powell, wanted to hear anything that countered his or her 'common wisdom.' Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke out in South Africa with a voice that was heard all over the world. National American religious leaders led by the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, John Chane even offered a peace plan for consideration. The Pope sent emissaries to both Washington and London as well as to Iraq. The only religious voices supporting the war were those of the strident religious right, identified with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. The world community through the United Nations tried to find a peaceful solution. Religious and secular people the world over marched in protest and held candlelight vigils. Nothing helped. The drive toward war was not to be deterred. The United States and Great Britain blamed Saddam Hussein for the war. However, most of the rest of the world, I fear, blamed the United States. Today over 885 American Service people have lost their lives plus literally thousands of Iraqis. I personally feel an enormous sense of failure and I grieve over this reality.

I cannot believe that in the 21st century human beings are so uncivilized and immature as to think that war is the way for a nation to advance its national interests. I see this as the activity of an adolescent humanity trying to prove something to itself. In this war, innocent people died, families grieved, mass destruction occurred, hatreds were enhanced, terrorism found a new cause for recruitment, the world's economy was stretched, suffering was rampant and radical insecurity abounded as people who feel powerless saw no other recourse and nothing to lose by resorting to a countering violence.

When traveling abroad I feel the need to apologize for the actions of my government. I think war represents a failure of diplomacy, a failure in foreign policy and a failure in morality.

I was embarrassed to watch my nation bungle its way toward this conflict. The attempt to bribe Turkey with billions of dollars to join in the war only to be rebuffed by this nation that shares a very long common boundary with Iraq was the most inept thing I've seen an American government do in my lifetime. The turnover of power by Paul Bremer to the appointed provisional Iraqi government carried out in secrecy two days early so that Bremer could be ferreted out of the country safely, gave a clear indication that this war was not won. By every count it was a disaster.

I do not believe that the real motives behind this war have yet been revealed. They will not be because they would be politically indefensible. So we are fed a daily changing line of self-serving propaganda designed to make this evil action appear palatable. That propaganda might satisfy the Rush Limbaugh's, the Sean Hannity's and the Bill O'Reilly's of the world, it may solidify the hard right wing base of the Republican Party, but it doesn't satisfy me. I hope the majority of our people are not satisfied either. I shall register my protest verbally in public and private whenever I can and I shall use the power of my vote when that opportunity arises to turn this nation into a new direction.

I was born when Herbert Hoover was president. I have lived under 13 different presidents. This is the most disappointing presidency I have witnessed in my lifetime.

-- John Shelby Spong




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