A Christian Perspective On the Iraq War | View Points | Ammon News

A Christian Perspective On the Iraq War

[4/4/2010 8:28:53 PM]

Terence Nichols

A respondent to my last column asked if I thought the Iraq War was an act of love. My answer is “No, I certainly do not.” But like almost all Americans, and like the Iraqis themselves, I was not consulted in this matter. I woke up on March 20, 2003 to find that the U.S. was at war with Iraq—our bombs were falling on Iraqi territory-- and there was nothing I could do about it.

There was no shura process in deciding to go to war with Iraq. I remember being so outraged, that I considered leaving the U.S. and living somewhere else—Costa Rica, maybe. But this would not have helped the Iraqis, or anyone else. So I stayed in the U.S., teaching at St. Thomas.

Many Muslims, I believe, think the (second) Iraq war was a “Christian” war, fought against a Muslim country, like a Crusade. I was even asked this question on a local Arab television program. After all, the reasoning goes, Bush was a Christian and the U.S. is a Christian country, and here they were invading another Muslim country.
But the war in Iraq was not a Christian war. First of all, I have never heard George Bush or anyone else claim that the reason for going to war was to spread Christianity. Rather, the stated reason was to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. (But of course, no weapons of mass destruction were found. So perhaps that reason was a pretext.)

Most of the analysts I have read think that the real motive of the war was to acquire access to Iraq’s oil (Bush was an oilman, after all). Or perhaps it was trying to spread democracy in the Middle East. (The problem is that one cannot spread democracy by force.)

Secondly, Christians in the U.S. were (and are) deeply divided about the justice of the war in Iraq. Yes, some prominent Christian spokespersons tried to justify the war. But large numbers of Christians strongly opposed the war. The Pope, and the United States Roman Catholic Bishops, opposed the war in the strongest possible language. One bishop went so far as to threaten anyone supporting the war with excommunication. Not one bishop supported the invasion. This was true of other Christian bishops as well.

George W. Bush is a member of the Methodist branch of Christianity, and the Methodist bishops also strongly opposed the war. But Bush refused to meet with the bishops of his own church. Again, there was no process of shura.

Thirdly, the war in Iraq simply cannot be justified by Christian principles. Most Christians subscribe to just war theory (though some are pacificists). But just war theory requires that there be a just cause for beginning the war (which there was not in Iraq), and that war be the last resort. Christian principles also require that a war be fought in such a way that the good produced outweighs the evil caused by the war. But the Iraq war has produced virtually no good, and has caused massive evils, thousands of U.S. soldiers killed, tens of thousands maimed, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, millions displaced, and the destruction of much of Iraq’s infrastructure. There is no way such a war can be justified on Christian principles. It cannot be called a Christian war.

However, we cannot change the past. We cannot undo the Iraq war. Rather, we have to work together to improve the future. My belief is that the United States has a moral obligation to help the Iraqis rebuild their country. This does not have to be done by occupying troops; it can be done by people in the U.S. contributing their support and expertise. For example, Minneapolis, (just across the river from St. Paul, where I teach) has recently declared that Najaf, Iraq, is a sister city. The city of Minneapolis brought over a delegation of 16 Iraqis to discuss ways in which the people of Minneapolis can cooperate with the people of Najaf in rebuilding their city, for example by improving their water supply.

The larger point to be made is that war is what happens when dialogue fails. Put another way, dialogue is the alternative to war. If dialogue is a way to reach out to the other in love, then war is its opposite. It reduces the other to a thing, or a statistic, and the personal aspect of love is lost. That is why dialogue between Muslims and Christians is so important. To prevent future Iraq wars from occurring, Muslims and Christians need to reach out to one another in dialogue, common understanding, and common action.

Dr. Terence Nichols
Co-Director, Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center
University of St. Thomas
St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.A.

  • 1 Omar Othman 3/4/2010 5:23:55 PM

    But many Christians went with the American forces to make the Iraqis Christian.

  • 2 Tim H. 3/4/2010 8:47:27 PM

    I agree with you, that the current Iraq War is not a war that is derived from underlying religious goals. I also see many fellow Christians opposing the war, praying and pleading that their sons/daughters will come home safely. But this is just my opinion..

    I've learned that perception/perspective plays a huge role in life and history. For example, during our "Dark Ages," Muslim society was thriving, quite well I might add; many groundbreaking ideas came from the Muslims during this time. So when we thought life was rough during this time, the Muslims were the complete opposite. So although we might think Christianity has no relevance to the current war in Iraq, Muslims could beg to differ. Who is right and who is wrong? It's all perception.

    One point that caught my attention in your article was the part about Christian principles and war. I presume that you're referring to the Just War Theory. After stating that " There is no way such a war can be justified on Christian principles. It cannot be called a Christian war," I could not get the image of the Crusades out of my mind. During the crusades, soldiers of the Christian movement (i.e. The Knights of Templar) would pillage, among other things. That doesn't seem like good conduct during war..

    I seem to be ranting, so I'll get back on track. I completely agree with you, that dialogue between the two parties are absolutely necessary. If both parties talk, they are more likely to understand the other side's position. And in doing so, bloodshed and hardships would hopefully decline. Make love not war people!

  • 3 Mike Hutton 3/4/2010 9:05:11 PM

    I agree with a lot of what was said above in that the war was not a Christian war and that there were other things that we went to war for. However to say that nothing good has come out of the war is not true. The simple fact that Saddam Hussein is not in power anymore is a good thing. Also, I have to question whether Iraq could have been rebuilt without Americans in Iraq. They had poor security forces that our military has helped build up and without them it's been said that it could just be a place where everyone's aid just goes to the rich and it doesn't get spread like it should. It is extremely important that all of us help out Iraq with our contributions and people's expertise as well, but I think that we needed to build up their security forces greatly before we could turn them over to themselves. The last thing I have to ask is where is the religion playing in with Minneapolis declaring Najaf as a sister city? I think that communication between nations is important and a religion should be a part of that, but it sholdn't just be Christians reaching out to Muslims, rather the U.S. reaching out to Iraq.

  • 4 James Feeks 3/4/2010 9:08:41 PM

    I agree with the paragraph that considers whether or not the Iraq war can be called a Christian War. By any rational justification, oftentimes Just War theory, the Iraq war cannot be justified in a Christian context. Unfortunately, the majority of Muslims probably do not know what Christian Just War theory is, just like many Christians think Jihad is a codename for terrorism. The fact of the matter is that most people only know what the media tells them. Over here we only hear about the Muslim terrorists, not the vast majority of Muslims who strive to live honorably and peacefully. I would assume the same is true in many Muslim countries about Christians. A solution to the problem would be to encourage dialogue between ordinary citizens of America and Muslim nations, in which case we would all see that behind the differences in language, nationality, religion, we aren't really all that different after all.

  • 5 Uthman Al-Habahbeh 3/4/2010 11:37:45 PM

    I have one questions. I remembr Mr. Bush saying that this is Iraq war is crusade. Here is what he says about the war: "this crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while." Here is link for the speech: http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010916-2.html

  • 6 jordanian 3/6/2010 3:23:13 PM

    Bush said that he is an" instument of god "
    Saddam put in his flag God is great (allah akkbar)'both are using religion as warfare to win their war and naive muslims and christians are victims in this chaos

  • 7 Jaya James 3/6/2010 11:09:15 PM

    I agree with the conclusion that dialogue is important and necessary to prevent war. I believe that one of the main reasons people engage in war is due to a lack of understanding each other. It has been proven many times throughout civilization. One may think that they know what is better for the other but without understanding the culture of a people, one cannot make such claims.

  • 8 Pam Dentz 3/9/2010 1:16:57 AM

    As I understand it, isn't the US supposed to separate religion and state? I find it strange that even though the US was founded on Christian values, state and religion are still supposed to be separated. So that being the case, why would it be used as a reason to go to war?

    I agree that war is caused by a mis-communication, whether it is over how to conduct the government, or about religion. Either way, each country needs to strive to understand one another and be more accepting of the other's faith, in the true form and not construed to make it support a group's belief (as in the Taliban).

  • 9 Tony Sadder 3/9/2010 11:33:04 PM

    My professor for my foreign policy always says "international relations always come down to war and peace. What is necessary to establish peace and prevent war." I agree with the author that war is what happens when dialogue fails. Misunderstandings are often the cause of many conflicts, whether on an state or individual level. Many people fear what they don't understand, and many people reject what they don't understand. Arrogance also plays into this. Many people, even if they do understand a new philosophy and even agree with it, are often to arrogant to admit that it may be better than their own current belief system. As far as the reasons for war, I do agree that this is not a Christian war. However, most people will never know the true motives behind the invasion of Iraq.

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