American Evangelicals, strangely enough, do not understand this. They are willing to jump upon Abortion as a moral outrage - which they should - but are unwilling to apply the same piece of Biblical truth to other spheres of life.
The best example of this is the Iraq war. Evangelicals in America were the war's most ardent supporters. In 2002, an open letter written by a number of Evangelical leaders was published that gave their explicit support for the war. The signatories included Bill Bright, James Kennedy, Charles Colson and Richard Land. It is known as the "Land letter" since Richard Land was its original writer. The text of the Land letter can be found at Wikisource.
The Land letter was an attempt to justify a pre-emptive attack on Iraq. It outlined what it thought was the biblical basis for a "Just war", and attempted to justify an American attack on Iraq from a Christian point of view.
The Land letter was a watershed in American Evangelicalism, and it will go down in history as one of the movement's greatest and most damaging mistakes.
Obviously there will be many evangelicals out there who maintain that the 2003 invasion was justified, and that American forces must continue to occupy the country. I suppose that is fair enough if you have been convinced of that, but we must remember that the current reasons for "staying the course" are vastly different to the reasons that were initially touted - and the ones that form the basis of the Land letter.
The Land letter is breathtakingly naive in both its assumptions and in its statements. So much of the letter is based upon the rock-solid belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction - a belief that formed the basis of the letter's call to action. Now that it has been proved that Iraq posed no threat at all to America and to the rest of the world, the foundation for the letter's argument collapses.
A clear and present danger
The assumption that Saddam and Iraq posed a clear and present danger because of Weapons of Mass destruction can be found in the second paragraph:
We believe that your policies concerning the ongoing international terrorist campaign against America are both right and just. Specifically, we believe that your stated policies concerning Saddam Hussein and his headlong pursuit and development of biochemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction are prudent and fall well within the time-honored criteria of just war theory as developed by Christian theologians in the late fourth and early fifth centuries A.D.All this sounds fine if in fact Saddam was developing such weapons. But he wasn't. Even if he was planning to, all the evidence shows that nothing had been done. Saddam's WMDs had been destroyed during the first Gulf war, or due to the UN sanctions that followed.
At this point I would like to address the evangelical supporter of the war directly who may be reading this. Listen, my friend, THERE WERE NO WMDS. Saddam Hussein did not have anything that was dangerous to the world. No evidence whatsoever has emerged that contradicts this fact. If you believed before the invasion that Saddam had such weapons, you were wrong.
The letter goes on to discuss seven points that justify the invasion of Iraq.
A defensive war
The first thing that the Land letter addresses concerns whether the imminent war is considered "just". This is what the letter says:
First, your stated policy concerning using military force if necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction is a just cause. In just war theory only defensive war is defensible; and if military force is used against Saddam Hussein it will be because he has attacked his neighbors, used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, and harbored terrorists from the Al Qaeda terrorist network that attacked our nation so viciously and violently on September 11, 2001. As you stated in your address to the U.N. September 12th:But, of course, Saddam did not have any WMDs. He used them against the Kurds so many years ago, but in 2003 he did not have any at all to play with.
“We can harbor no illusions. . . . Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. He’s fired ballistic missiles at Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Israel. His regime once ordered the killing of every person between the ages of 15 and 70 in certain Kurdish villages in Northern Iraq. He has gassed many Iranians and forty Iraqi villages.”
Disarming and neutralizing Saddam Hussein is to defend freedom and freedom-loving people from state-sponsored terror and death.
The other thing, of course, is the statement that a link existed between Al Qaeda and Iraq. This link has proved to be spurious - no link has been proven or even discovered. In the lead up to the war, the President and his aides spoke about such clear links, but analysis proved otherwise.
I'll say it again for the Evangelical reading this: There was no link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. This means that 9/11 had no link whatsoever to Saddam Hussein. Attacking Iraq based on 9/11 was completely false.
Some Evangelical Christians maintain a belief that there was some spiritual link between Saddam and Osama - via the devil or something like that. Of course, Satan acts in every evil act, but to somehow think that there was some hidden conspiracy is ridiculous. These people need to stop reading their Left Behind books and start using their brains instead.
The intent of the war is just and noble
The second thing the land letter addresses is the intent of such a war:
Second, just war must have just intent. Our nation does not intend to destroy, conquer, or exploit Iraq. As you declared forthrightly in your speech to the U.N. General Assembly:The fact that President Bush said that his intentions were noble does not mean that the war was noble. The land letter says that the US does not intend to "destroy, conquer or exploit Iraq", yet it is obvious that Iraq has been destroyed, conquered and exploited.
“The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people. . . . Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.”
This is clearly a just and noble intent.
Notice also a developing theme in the letter - an assertion of support followed by a quote from the President himself. This shows that the writers themselves are willingly submitting themselves to the directions of the President. They are, essentially, "evangelical yes-men".
A last resort
The third thing the letter points out is that such a war is only justifiable as a "last resort". It states:
Third, just war may only be commenced as a last resort. As you so clearly enumerated before the U.N., Saddam Hussein has for more than a decade ignored Security Council resolutions or defied them while breaking virtually every agreement Into which he has entered. He stands convicted by his own record as a brutal dictator who cannot be trusted to abide by any agreement he makes. And while he prevaricates and obfuscates, he continues to obtain and develop the weapons of mass destruction which he will use to terrorize the world community of nations.This argument, of course, completely falls over if there were no WMDs. There was no point in invading Iraq if there was no danger.
The world has been waiting for more than a decade for the Iraqi regime to fulfill its agreement to destroy all of its weapons of mass destruction, to cease producing them or the long-range missiles to deliver them in the future, and to allow thorough and rigorous inspections to verify their compliance. They have not, and will not, do so and any further delay in forcing the regime’s compliance would be reckless irresponsibility in the face of grave and growing danger.
It's at this point that the blindness of the writers comes to the fore. The assumption that Iraq has WMDs is totally unquestioned. Despite all the work done by UN weapons inspectors - which proved beyond reasonable doubt that Iraq did not have WMDs - the writers continue to trust blindly in the president's assurances and pronouncements.
The war has legitimate authority
The writers then turn to the war being waged by a legitimate earthly authority. They state:
Fourth, just war requires authorization by legitimate authority. We believe it was wise and prudent for you to go before the U.N. General Assembly and ask the U.N. Security Council to enforce its own resolutions. However, as American citizens we believe that, however helpful a U.N. Security Council vote might be, the legitimate authority to authorize the use of U.S. military force is the government of the United States and that the authorizing vehicle is a declaration of war or a joint resolution of the Congress.Notice the not-so-subtle distrust of the United Nations here? The UN had experienced and trustworthy weapons inspectors in place who were scouring the Iraqi countryside for Biological, Chemical and Nuclear weapons. They found none. Nevertheless this didn't convince these evangelical writers, who trusted in George Bush to be telling the truth - no matter how wrong it was.
When the threat of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba presented a grave threat to America’s security, President Kennedy asked for the support of the U.N. and the Organization of American States, but made it clear, with or without their support, those missiles would either be removed by the Soviets, or we would neutralize them ourselves. The American people expected no less from their president and their government.
The writers then bring up the Cuban Missile Crisis to back up their argument. But time has shown that Iraq's threat to the US was negligible compared to the 1962 crisis. Was Cuba in1962 a crisis? It sure was. Can the same be said about Iraq in 2003? Absolutely not.
The next point the writers raise is that of limited goals:
Fifth, just war requires limited goals and the resort to armed force must have a reasonable expectation of success. In other words, “total war” is unacceptable and the war’s goals must be achievable. We believe your stated policies for disarming the murderous Iraqi dictator and destroying his weapons of mass destruction, while liberating the Iraqi people for his cruel and barbarous grip, more than meet those criteria.How limited is a limited war? At this present moment in time, Iraq is in the grip of anarchy, and has been since the 2003 invasion. Civil society has broken down. Saddam's brutal regime has not been replaced by anything resembling a civil society in the two years since America invaded.
The fact is that many Americans are now convinced that the Iraqi invasion was a massive mistake. Recent polls show that supporters of the war are now significantly outnumbered by those who oppose it. America has changed its mind on the war. Why? Because Iraq is in anarchy and the presence of US troops has not changed that fact.
The fact that "total war" was not declared or waged is immaterial. The fact is that America's invasion of Iraq has completely devastated the country and brought its people to suffering and ruin. I'd hate to see what "total war" would have done to the nation.
The immunity of non combatants
The writers also point out that the suffering of innocents must be minimised:
Sixth, just war theory requires noncombatant immunity. We are confident that our government, unlike Hussein, will not target civilians and will do all that it can to minimize noncombatant casualties.Confident that the government will do all it can to avoid the deaths of civilians? Such a statement is naive in the extreme, especially considering everything that has gone on since the 2003 invasion.
The fact is that tens of thousands of Iraqis have died since America invaded. The bulk of these have been non-combatants, such as women, children and families. Plenty of news reports since the invasion have proved that American forces did target civilians.
The writers state:
Seventh, just war theory requires the question of proportionality be addressed. Will the human cost of the armed conflict to both sides be proportionate to the stated objectives and goals? Does the good gained by resort to armed conflict justify the cost of lives lost and bodies maimed? We believe that the cost of not dealing with this threat now will only succeed in greatly increasing the cost in human lives and suffering when an even more heavily armed and dangerous Saddam Hussein must be confronted at some date in the not too distant future. We believe that every day of delay significantly increases the risk of far greater human suffering in the future than acting now would entail.In hindsight, the argument of proportionality is obscene. There was no security at all to be gained by the 2003 invasion, which means that the tens of thousands who have subsequently died have died for no reason whatsoever.
How different and how much safer would the history of the twentieth century have been had the allies confronted Hitler when he illegally reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936 in clear violation of Germany’s treaty agreements? It is at least possible that tens of millions of the lives lost in World War II might not have been lost if the Allies had enforced treaty compliance then instead of appeasing a murderous dictator.
Notice that irrational fear is what is driving these writers. They assume, despite the sterling efforts of the UN weapons inspectors to prove otherwise, that another disastrous terrorist attack involving WMDs from Iraq was a distinct possibility.
Also notice that they make the cardinal error of Godwin's Law by invoking Adolf Hitler. Saddam Hussein was no doubt a brutal dictator, but to compare him to Hitler is an insult to everyone who suffered and died under the Fuehrer's rule. Hitler engineering the deaths of millions. Saddam was simply a brutal idiot.
Learning from the Bible.
What is noticeable in the land letter is the total absence of any biblical references. In fact, for a letter from America's most religious people, God is not mentioned anywhere at all. This oversight was obviously not deliberate, but it does speak volumes about the terrible error that these evangelical leaders have fallen into. Had they chosen to read the Bible, the writers may have discovered the following verses:
Deuteronomy 17:6There are no real passages that deal with the issue of "Just war", but a verse like this should help us to understand God's mind. In its context, this verse is all about making sure that people who are to suffer the death penalty get a fair trial. This involves the corroboration of evidence to make sure that malicious accusations can be minimised.
On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.
What this verse teaches us is that the God who wishes justice is not one who ignores evidence. God will judge justly because, as God, he has all the information available to him as judge. For us as Evangelical Christians, we should fight for a society that promotes dispassionate justice, based upon evidence, not heresay.
But this was ignored by the writers of the Land letter. Their assumption was that Saddam had WMDs. Despite all the evidence to the contrary they supported a pre-emptive war. Even at the time there were grave doubts expressed by others in the international community. Rather than use their positions in Christian leadership to counsel restraint and objectivity, they became cheer-leaders for a war effort that was not justified based on the evidence.
Psalm 146:3One of the most thoroughly embarrassing features of the Land letter is the enthusiastic and uncritical support the writers give to George W. Bush. Their attitude is almost worshipful. They quote sections of his speeches as though they were inspired by The Holy Spirit himself.
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
The Bible is clear when it comes to human sinfulness - all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our trust should not be in man - and certainly not in princes or presidents. The bible is full of examples of leadership gone very wrong, and also full of rebuke for such leadership. George W. Bush was treated in an overly reverential way by the writers of the Land letter - at no point did they say anything to warn the president of making the wrong decision. The assumption was that the president was right and just and should not be questioned. This is not a biblical attitude.
Proverbs 30:5-6Evangelicals are supposedly people of the book - the word of God found in the Bible. Yet the complete absence of biblical backup for the Land letter, not to mention the lack of reference to God, shows that many evangelical leaders view their own pronouncements as being almost on par with the bible.
Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
The events in Iraq have shown these Evangelical leaders to be men who trust in their own words, rather than in the word of God. They chose to ignore the ample evidence that had been given to them, and instead gave into the thinking and beliefs of the time. Their pronouncements seemed so wise, so sure - but they had spoken from their own authority. As a result, God has rebuked them and proven that they speak falsehood.
There is only one option open to the authors of the Land letter and to all who took it as their own - they must publically repent of their sin.
I need to remind the evangelical reader that tens of thousands of Iraqis, including women and children, have died as a result of this war. Millions more are suffering from the anarchy that exists in Iraq because of America's invasion. The Land letter explicitly supported George Bush's war on Iraq based upon the understanding that the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction was imminent. It was not. There was no threat whatsoever. Moreover, the American effort in keeping the peace in Iraq is totally inadequate. These people, who according to Jesus are our neighbours and who should be the recipients of our love, are undergoing terrible suffering because of the current situation.
It is for this reason that I submit that many American evangelicals - especially those who signed the Land letter - are complicit in the deaths of thousands of people. I am not aiming this at the person in the street who supported the war, but rather those evangelical leaders who stood up and publically supported the invasion.
Charles Colson, one of the Land letter signatories, wrote an article in the December 9 issue of Christianity today that defended his position on "Just war." He defends the position based on the idea that we should love our neighbour, and that sometimes war may be the best way to help them. Despite the wisdom that this appears to have, Colson then makes the most breath-taking of statements:
Of course, all of this presupposes solid intelligence and the goodwill of U.S. and Western leaders. I find it hard to believe that any President, aware of the awesome consequences of his decision and of the swiftness of second-guessing in a liberal democracy, would act recklessly.This is one of Richard Nixon's former advisors speaking here. Of all people who could know the utter stupidity that a president can fall into, Colson should know. But it seems he has not learned anything from Watergate. The fact is that Bush acted recklessly and without any thought to the consequences of his actions when he ordered the invasion of Iraq. Like other evangelical leaders, including those who wrote the Land letter, Colson has shot himself in the foot by presuming to trust in the judgement of a sinful man.
Along with many other evangelicals, I believe that the modern evangelical movement is in complete disarray. The gospel of Christ crucified is not the message that is being preached in the pulpits of American Evangelical churches. The word of God - the Bible - is being either ignored or butchered by preachers who aim to please men, not God, in their preaching.
As I stated earlier, the Land letter will go down in history as one of the greatest mistakes made by American Evangelicals. There is no knowing how much damage to the Gospel of Christ has been done by this present generation of evangelical leaders and teachers. As the years pass and the invasion of Iraq is seen in a more objective light, many will lose their trust in the evangelical movement. Future evangelicals will have to fight hard to distance themselves from the actions of present-day believers in order to present the gospel in a world that has turned against God.
From the One Salient Overlord Department
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.