Left Justified: A Christian’s response to terrorism

July 1, 1993

Left Justified: A Christian’s response to terrorism

By Stanley Campbell

If I told you that the Christian’s response to violence should be to turn the other cheek, most people would say, “That’s nice, but this is the real world.”

The real world seems to be made up of wars and rumors of wars.

“A good defense is a strong offense,” and every cliché that General George Patton uttered during World War II is how most Americans think of war.

Really, Christian churches in America are pretty bloodthirsty. Hell, the fundamentalists all believe the world will end in nuclear war, so let’s get it on! The sooner them nukes are flyin’, the sooner they’ll be in heaven looking down on us poor suckers who didn’t believe them. Well, the joke’s on them! Jesus was a pacifist! He told his disciples to “put away your swords” ‘cause them that “lives by the sword” gets stuck in the end.

What I want to know is, should anyone be doing anything different? Instead of bombing everyone, should we try a little kindness, compassion, police investigation and sharing our wealth and our freedoms? Don’t you have a longing for something better? Shouldn’t there be a more humane response to violence?

During World War II, conscientious objectors—those people who said they believed in a God of love who told them not to kill—were locked up, imprisoned, put away somewhere so as not to infect the general population.

In the early ’60s, war objectors were arrested, but into the ’70s our government gave more lenience. During the Vietnam War, a “CO” status became almost a badge of courage. Perhaps it was the unjustness of that war, but pacifism gained credibility.

That seemed to be wiped away during the Persian Gulf War and the great victory that the U.S. appeared to have won. Bush struck Saddam Hussein, someone who, by the way, received a lot of U.S. military support 10 years earlier, when Iraq was attacking Iran. But when Saddam attacked Kuwait, the U.S. declared war.

Peace activists were expected to defend Saddam Hussein’s evil, or to shut up. In reality, we were saying that those who live by the sword shall die by the sword; nothing is gained by increasing the violence in the world and it will come back to haunt us. Ten years later we still have Saddam, we have terrorists successfully attacking American targets, and we are ready to invade Iraq, again.

The more bombs and bullets and military training that the U.S. shovels into the world, it should not surprise us when it winds up coming back and slapping us in the face. America calls on our young men and women to lay down their lives while being willing to kill other people. Couldn’t we also ask that people lay down their lives in order to stop killing? Couldn’t we support an army of peace activists as well as, or maybe even instead of, an army of trained killers?

On Friday, Dec. 20, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches will speak to the role of the churches in wartime (7:30 p.m. at Court Street United Methodist Church, downtown Rockford). His program is Rockford Urban Ministries’ Christmas present to the area. We hope you are able to enjoy this program, and to find the true spirit of Christ coming into the world.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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