God On Our Side?
04 March 2004
God is on the side of truth, mercy, love. That is not a call to passivism, but it is a call to humility.
It was interesting
a few days ago to watch John Kerry respond to a reporter’s question about
whether God was on our side in the war on terrorism.
Kerry could have answered the question simply, but then if John Kerry could
answer a question simply he would not be John Kerry. He might have said:
God is on the side of the innocent, not on the side of those who murder or kill indiscriminately.
We know this because we can read the collective teachings of Christianity
and virtually every other major faith. Consequently, it is fair to say that
God would condemn terrorism without pause.
On the other hand, I also appreciate why Kerry felt the need to qualify his
answer somewhat. Would God have blessed the invasion of Iraq? Was God on
the side of the United States when it bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki or on
the side of the allies that firebombed Dresden? These acts condemned thousands
of innocent people to death. They also liberated millions more. But does
God keep score that way?
Would the Jesus who preached "love thy enemies" have been pleased by American
soldiers who kept the skulls of Japanese soldiers as souvenirs even as they
stemmed the tide of fascism and militarism unleashed by imperial Japan?
I don’t know the answers to these questions with any certainty, but I do
know that a wise person would be careful about claiming God’s endorsement
for acts of war, however justified by human measure.
If you read the Gospels carefully, you will not find Jesus condemning Roman
soldiers for doing their duty. Nor did he hesitate to drive the moneychangers
out of the Temple, though describing that as an act of violence might be
overstating the case. He was not passive, but he also was not embracing violence
as a solution to human problems.
Jesus was a spiritual presence who did not aspire to provide answers to most
of our secular, earth-bound problems. I think a case could be made that he
would support a just war. I think the case also can be made that he would
not. It is precisely in the uncertainty that our humanity lives, for in not
accepting God’s full embrace of our violence, we temper that violence, and
seek to circle back, even in times of war, to the notion that we are all
children of God.
In short, if we must fight a war, and terrorists seem determined that this
war continue, we should pray for God’s guidance and mercy. That is probably
the best we can do. Read Paul Fussell on the nature of war and you might
well hesitate to invoke almighty God on behalf of the slaughter of our enemies.
Wise leaders understand such nuances.
At the risk of sounding theological in this political season, I would venture
this: Yes, God is on our side. He is on all sides, standing side by side
with each person condemned, sooner or later, to misery and death. God lives
in the pilot and in the soldier, and also in the child that those soldiers
inadvertently kill. God is even in the terrorist and criminals whose rejection
of God is the greatest of human tragedies. If you believe in the teachings
of Christ, this is indisputably clear.
God is in every man. Every woman. Every child. It is the failure to accept
this simple truth that made the Nazis and the communists the architects of
such efficient killing machines.
Of course God is on our side in the war against terror. He is also on the
side of those who are victims of our violence. This is one of those paradoxes
that defies simple answer or easy sound bite. But then the life of Jesus
was a paradox, and his parables were not cut for television talk shows. As
the recent film by Mel Gibson sought to demonstrate, Christ gave his life
under the weight of all our sins.
God is on the side of truth, mercy, love. That is not a call to passivism,
but it is a call to humility. There are plenty of good reasons to not support
Senator Kerry’s presidential aspirations, but his refusal to embrace an easy
answer to this question is not one of them.
Shadroui has been published in more than two
dozen newspapers and magazines, including National Review and Frontpagemag.com.
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