Living in the Power: the Quaker Peace Testimony Reclaimed

Skip to first unread message

Johan Maurer

Feb 17, 2013, 11:06:49 AM2/17/13
April 3 2004 at 5:52 AM link to Martin Kelley's article  (no login)
I think this article absolutely fits the topic of evangelism and the Friends testimonies...

Thanks, Martin!

(no login)
"Living in the Power" ... with Iraq April 14 2004, 12:19 PM 

I have felt a sort of spiritual suffocation, watching the apparent ability of most "coalition" churches to coexist with their government's actions in Iraq. At the same time, I know we're supposed to be "balanced" in our expressions; I can remember hearing third-hand that my work for peace in my own meeting was taking "energy" from the meeting.

Wondering whether the emperor's lack of clothes would ever be pointed out, I had to get something on paper. I've posted it on Reedwood's peace and justice forum and sent it to several people who might constitute the "proper" channel in my yearly meeting. Here it is, along with the query: What do we do to "live in the Power" in private and in public during times of social agony?

A call for wisdom and perspective for Iraq
I would like put before Friends the following comments and suggestions for review, referral to the right channels, and follow-up.
  1. The situation in Iraq is an affront to Christianity and affects every Christian community, whether by our participation in the countries and societies involved, our fellowship with believers in Iraq, the credibility of our evangelism and witness among non-Christians, or simply our hearts breaking with the unfolding tragedies of death, kidnappings, wounded families and damaged communities.
  2. In a time of spiritual warfare when truth is being manipulated and innocent people are caught in lethal crossfires, Christian response is shaped by the teachings of Ephesians 6:11-16. Having put on the belt of truth, we need to speak the truth about what we see in Iraq.
  3. The current war in Iraq began under questionable political circumstances. With all the U.S.’s attempts to appear to be the legitimate power in Iraq, our presence there is still the result of an illegal invasion. As a nation, we and our ad hoc coalition had the power to present the world, in effect, with a fait accompli – but as every child is taught, “might does not make right.”
  4. The language of “terrorism” is not being used by our government in a helpful way. Terrorism is the use or threat of lethal force (whether by “us” or “them”) against civilians for political purpose. Attacks on occupying soldiers, however regrettable, is not terrorism. There is indeed a rising level of genuine terrorism in Iraq, but in the past there has been little or no evidence of Iraqi involvement in global terrorism. As the forces of Osama bin Laden exploit U.S. errors in Iraq, however, such evidence may increase.
  5. Overall, there is an astounding lack of wisdom and perspective among those responsible for deciding U.S. policy in Iraq. We have lost the ability to reflect on long-term consequences or question our own assumptions. Our operating assumptions seem to be, “If it is a U.S. decision, it must be correct” and “If someone disagrees with us, they deserve to be arrested or shot.” It is easy to forget that, for thousands and perhaps millions of Iraqis, even those who thought our original intervention against Saddam Hussein was justified, we have long since become trespassers, and our financial involvements in Iraq seem to confirm the most cynical possible interpretations of why we prolong our stay.
  6. The U.S. siege and attack on Fallujah broke every civilized understanding of policing. Yes, four murders were committed. Rather than doing normal detective work, involving listening to community leaders, developing sources, testing alibis and so on, U.S. forces surrounded the city and demanded the surrender of the perpetrators. Those who resisted this display of great-power arrogance have had their humanity cancelled and are now legitimate targets. How have we allowed the line between those we are there to liberate and those we are there to kill become so blurred? Did six hundred or a thousand people, whether or not they approve of us and our occupation, deserve to die in the process of enforcing this barbaric method of criminal investigation?
  7. In the case of the al-Mahdi Army and its leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, we face a challenge to our claim to be the sole arbiter of legitimate force in Iraq. If we were not occupiers, this militia would be an Iraqi problem, not an American one. Public confrontations on the scale of our announced intention to kill or capture al-Sadr are not productive even within the U.S. culture, to say nothing of a delicate cross-cultural and cross-religious situation.
  8. In the service of bringing democracy to Iraq, we are sending incredibly mixed messages. For example, “due process” is a cornerstone of democratic judicial practice, but thousands of arrested Iraqis disappear into a detention system that cannot satisfactorily account for them to their relatives, cannot give them a court date or a definite process to determine guilt or innocence, does not redress grievances for damage caused by violent arrests, mistaken identities, or other miscarriages of justice.
  9. I believe in praying for our leaders, and I pray daily for President Bush. By this prayer, I intend to hold myself accountable for remembering his humanity, his need for wisdom and protection, and my own responsibility for speaking truthfully to and about him. What do I do with my sense of outrage as an American citizen of reasonable intelligence, when this president explains to us that the situation in Iraq can be analyzed as follows? – “We've got tough work there because, you see, there are terrorists there who would rather kill innocent people than allow for the advance of freedom. That’s what you're seeing going on. These people hate freedom. And we love freedom.” I’m sorry, this is not acceptable as an analysis of a situation where my tax dollars are being used to kill people in large numbers. Do U.S. citizens and the citizens of the Middle East really believe that there are people who simply have a pathological hatred of freedom, who have no grievance against the USA that we are obligated to listen to, but simply “hate freedom” and prefer killing people to letting them have freedom? In public, our president shows no capacity to reflect, to empathize with those conservative Muslims for whom American “freedom” looks like pornography, decadence, objectification of women, trespassing on Islam's holy lands, and approval of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. I don't believe all these complaints are completely justified, but I yearn for the U.S. to gain the respect that would be ours if we simply demonstrated (at our leadership level) the capacity to analyze and empathize more deeply than “they hate freedom and we love freedom.”
  10. Another awkward responsibility of leadership is to admit mistakes and modify policies when necessary. Again in this current situation, we hear the old excuse that to change course would lead our enemies to question our resolve. However, our “resolve” to kill people rather than admit errors also affects our reputation on the world stage.
  11. Finally, Christians are under the command to “love our enemies.” I question whether all those we have killed in Iraq were genuine enemies, but I do grant that Iraq contains enemies of the U.S. I would like to suggest that the first step in loving these enemies would be to put forth a little more effort in understanding their grievances and their case against our domination and economic colonization of their country.
Johan Maurer
(no login)
Suggested minute April 20 2004, 11:03 AM 

A friend from Northwest Yearly Meeting gave me some frank feedback about the above - it's too long! I tried to mash it down into the length she suggested, one page, in the form of a draft minute; and I also followed her suggestion of adding a prayer.

Proposed minute on Iraq:

The Holy Spirit gives us the ability and responsibility to witness events in Iraq as ambassadors of Christ, not concealing our distress, our concern, even our tears. We search our hearts and the Scriptures, bearing in mind the Sermon on the Mount and Ephesians 6 on the true spiritual warfare; and as Friends we make the following statements:

The war in Iraq was begun and continues in unrighteousness. Political permission for this war was obtained through several layers of deceit:

Saddam Hussein and his associates were manifestations of a geopolitical situation which our country and its principal ally, the UK, helped to build, and the product of a culture which we do not understand. To use him as an all-purpose scapegoat is not truthful.

To build a case for war, our government asserted links between Iraq and September 11, 2001, that did not exist, exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq to other countries, imposed conditions for peace on Saddam Hussein that were intended to be impossible to meet, and exerted unethical pressures on other countries to support our position.

On this questionable basis, our country and the UK conducted its invasion contrary to international law. Anger and resistance was inevitable under such circumstances, but we have met such resistance with lethal force and have thereby alienated even more Iraqis. Our rebuilding programs, laudable in one sense, are now seen as ways of profiting from the exploitation of Iraqi distress, and making Western economic domination of the country permanent. Instead of modeling democracy, we have abandoned due process in our arrest and detention procedures, and have on occasion outrageously flouted normal police methods in the investigation of crimes against Americans. The gruesome murder of four contract security officers in Falluja was not investigated by normal police methods but by the brutal device of laying seige to the city and demanding the surrender of the guilty. The resulting carnage reveals both the unrighteousness and the futility of our policies.

The leaders of the two principal allies in this war, George Bush and Tony Blair, are both public Christians. George Bush has been quoted as giving the following explanation of our policies: “We’ve got tough work there because, you see, there are terrorists there who would rather kill innocent people than allow for the advance of freedom. That’s what you’re seeing going on. These people hate freedom. And we love freedom.” This is a woefully inadequate basis for a policy that results in hundreds and thousands of deaths, international outrage, and a loss of credibility for our nation and our faith. Such public statements betray no evidence of reflectiveness and self-criticism; no understanding that some of the resistance our forces have met is from those who did not agree to being invaded; no awareness that what we mean by “freedom” is seen by some of our Islamic enemies as freedom for pornography, vulgarity, the objectification of women, trespassing on Islamic holy lands, and approval of Israeli policies against Palestinians.

The New Testament command to “love our enemies” cannot mean less than the following: to repent of national arrogance in our treatment of Iraq; to distinguish the specific case of Iraq and the general problem of terrorism; to seek to understand the grievances held by those who consider themselves our enemies, both in Iraq and in radical Islamic movements, whether or not those grievances are valid, and then to confront our enemies with a genuine public challenge to debate our differences; and at all times to be truthful. We call ourselves and our leaders to these standards.

Prayer: Precious Lord, we pray that the Holy Spirit will accompany us in our statements and acts as citizens of this country. We ask for a spirit of wisdom and repentance to be in our churches and in the leadership councils of our country. We ask for discernment so that we can pray against our true Enemy and love our enemies in this world, according to your guidance. We pray for President Bush, for wisdom, protection, and refreshment. Give him knowledge of your perfect will for Iraq, and courage to set faithfulness above appearances, especially amidst the pressures of this political season. We pray for the Americans serving in Iraq, and those who serve with them from other countries. Please protect them, and give them eyes of love for the Iraqi people. We pray for our brothers and sisters in faith in Iraq; strengthen their witness. Help them to know through your Holy Spirit that we love them. For those in Iraq who do not know you, we pray that our witness, even our resistance to national arrogance and our raising up a higher standard of Christianity, might open their eyes to the freedom and salvation to be found in you.

Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages