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Determined to neutralize historically pro-national security evangelicals, the Evangelical Left will convene next month at Georgetown University for: “Evangelicals for Peace: A Summit on Christian Moral Responsibility in the 21st Century.”
“I am profoundly disturbed by the American evangelical response to war, terrorism and national security,” explained one summit endorser in his invitation, Rick Love. “Far too many evangelicals in the U.S. have blunted the moral edge of what it means to follow Jesus, especially in a Post 9/11 world.”
According to the Evangelical Left critique, evangelicals join most Americans in being too enthusiastic about defending the country rather than offering the preferred mournful apologies.
“Instead of being salt and light, we have embraced a flag-waving patriotism that dulls our conscience to Jesus’ commands and blinds us to our moral responsibilities toward our neighbors and nations,” explains Love, head of Peace Catalyst International. “As a whole, we have uncritically supported the three wars in which we are now enmeshed (Afghanistan, Iraq, and the ‘war on terror’).”
On his website, Love cites “nonviolent resistance” as the alternative to war, and he remembers its success especially in 1989, when repressive regimes fell peacefully in East Europe, South Africa, Chile and elsewhere. But those peaceful movements did not emerge from a vacuum. The resurgence of American military, political and economic power in the 1980’s, starkly contrasting with the 1970’s, created the living space for peaceful democratic movements to emerge. Peaceful resistance would not have worked in 1979, which is better recalled as the year of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and of the murderously repressive (though initially peaceful thanks to the Shah’s refusal to fight for power) Islamist revolution in Iran.
Will “Evangelicals for Peace: A Summit on Christian Moral Responsibility in the 21st Century” fully remember the lessons of the 20th century, when naïve appeals for peace often facilitated ghastly wars and genocides? It’s doubtful.
Few evangelicals or anybody of good will would disagree that “peace” is usually a laudable goal if not purchased at the price of gross injustice, or if achieved only temporarily while ensuring ultimate war that the measured threat of force may have deterred. But the line up at this evangelical summit is weighted towards pacifists who oppose any meaningful use of force. It also is slanted towards voices prone to portraying America as the chief threat to peace in the world.
Serious presentation of traditional Christian teachings about the state’s vocation for wielding force in defense of justice and the innocent would, based on the speakers, seems mostly to be lacking. Instead, it appears it will primarily be a gabfest uninterested in deep moral reflection and instead seeking the rhetorical satisfaction of denouncing violence and its ostensibly wicked advocates.
Chief among the speakers will be Sojourners chief Jim Wallis, a pacifist, although typically coy about fully admitting it. Having largely moved away from his angry anti-American rhetoric of earlier decades, when he portrayed the U.S. and not the Soviet bloc as the chief threat to world peace, Wallis still opposes any meaningful use of military force no matter the threat. If tyrants and aggressors, no matter their atrocities, can only be countered morally by activist Christian Peacemaking Teams, then is there really a serious claim to “Christian moral responsibility?”
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