The Iraq War
A Christian Perspective
by Pastor Steve Brown
Master of Divinity, Asbury Seminary
The biggest and most important question that the Iraq War forces people to ask is: was the war a just or unjust war? America is divided on the question. But it is one that all Americans must wrestle with and honestly seek the truthful answer to.
It is easy to get caught up in the deep and angry emotions of the attack of 9/11 on New York and the Pentagon that caused the deaths of over 3,000 Americans and the destruction of the World Trade Center. It was a new type of warfare with a new type of enemy - terrorists.
Because the enemy was hard to identify and even harder to strike back, it caused even greater frustration than if a nation had attacked us. Unlike Japan, who attacked Pearl Harbor, Bin Laden and his organization were elusive and hard to find. We attacked Afghanistan to find Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, but with very slow results. The Nation was frustrated and wanted a real war and a real country to attack; someone to pay for our loss. We were vulnerable and emotionally stressed when President Bush declared Saddam Hussein a terrorist, equal to Bin Laden and who even conspired with Bin Laden to attack us. Some questioned why we should declare war on Iraq. But too many of us were more than willing to support the war because of the frustration of 9/11.
But we must ask the question and find the right answer: was it a just war? To find the answer we must define what a just war is. Because our nation was founded on Christian principles, our traditions concerning law, morality, and just reasons for war are based on Christian theology and teachings.
What is the Christian theology of war? Christian beliefs concerning war have evolved adapting to the changing beliefs found in the government they lived under. The early church taught men it was sinful to be a soldier and you could not be a true Christian and serve in the Roman army. The reason was that a soldier had to worship Caesar as a god and burn incense to him. Christians only worship the one true God and his son Jesus. Also, Rome's reason for war was to aggressively destroy people for selfish gain and fueled malicious hatred for and lack of love for their neighbor. But when Constantinople declared Rome's main religion to be Christian, the beliefs change.
Augustine, an early church father, wrote new theology for war. Because the State was now Christian, Augustine taught it could only defend itself against violent aggression, that is, physical attack against the people and its country or empire. If a State defends itself and its innocent people from harm by going to war, then killing the enemy was self-defense and not murder. This was a just war. Christians could even serve in the army and fight and kill to defend the Christian State and their people and families. But if the State attacked another country or people without first being physically attacked and harmed, then the act was an unjust war and, in God's eyes, is just another form of murder and is evil.
Saddam Hussein was not responsible for 9/11. He and Iraq did not physically attack or harm America or its people. Bush told us that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and he and Iraq were an imminent threat to America's security. Yet Iraq had shown no hostile intent, not fired a missile or a gun at America, nor had any troops even come near our shore. Even if Saddam Hussein had mass destruction weapons, he had never made a hostile move in recent years toward America, nor had he even threatened us.
According to true Christian theology of a just war we did not have a just reason to attack and go to war with Iraq. In its history, America has never attacked another country or people unless an enemy first attacked either its people or an ally. Then and only then did we declare war on the enemy. All of our wars up until Vietnam have been just wars. The Iraq War broke with both our tradition and Christian theology of a just war. Some preachers, like (the late) Dr. James Kennedy, have tried to support Bush by changing the theology of just war by saying, "It is just to attack if we believe we are in imminent danger." But that is simply preachers playing politics and actually rejecting true Christian theology of a just war, which is self-defense.
Taking it to the personal level, if someone attacks and tries to kill me with a gun or knife I may defend myself even if I am forced to kill my enemy, only in self-defense. But if I were to attack someone and kill them first because I am suspicious that they have a machine gun and that they are going to use it to kill me, than I am a murderer according to the law.
The Iraq war is an unjust war and an evil war. We did not have the right before God to destroy Saddam Hussein and kill his people just because we suspected he might eventually attack the U.S. The pre-emptive strike policy Bush established in his foreign policy, as part of his war on terrorism, is both unholy and pagan. It is not new. Many pagan countries embrace it. It gives us the right to declare war on any nation or people simply because they may own weapons of mass destruction, and we suspect that nation or people may use those weapons to attack us. No aggression is necessary to declare war, only suspicion. This is not true self-defense. When we go to war under this policy we are the aggressor and murderers.
Also, we must ask this question, "Who made us the judge over other nations to decide which ruler needs to fall or who made us the policemen of the world?" This is an extremely arrogant policy, which sets us up above other nations. The more we will attack other nations under this policy, the more the wrath of the world's countries will be toward us. Also, God will not be pleased. In the end it may lead to a huge war where many counties will band together to attack the United States of America.
It is important that we do fight against terrorists that would destroy and kill innocent people. But we must not try to cut corners of righteousness to strike and kill and stop them. We must be guided by righteous principles in the way we stop them. We do not want to stop terrorists at all cost, not caring about the way we do it. The end (to destroy terrorists) does not justify the means (using evil ways to do it).
The pre-emptive strike policy of Bush is an evil short cut to fight and destroy terrorists. I am sure (the late) Bin Laden had the same pre-emptive strike policy that Bush had. He believed America was an imminent threat to the security of the Moslem States. That is why he attacked us first. Bin Laden was an evil man. If we continue to follow this pre-emptive strike policy started by Bush, we will become as evil as the terrorists we fight. In the end of this war on terrorism, with this policy, it will be very difficult to decide who are the good guys -- both sides will be evil.
This policy will definitely sink America into a new evil in foreign policy that will have dire consequences for us all. The Iraq War was an unjust and evil war. We attacked a county halfway around the world that was no threat to us. Bush persuaded Congress to declare war with false propaganda and we murdered Iraq's people and captured its ruler. We have justified this war by saying, "Saddam Hussein was an evil ruler" and "The people needed to be freed from oppression" and "Iraq was a threat to the U.S.," etc. The probable real reasons are even worse -- for oil and money, for a U.S. company. But whatever the reasons, they do not justify this war.
9/11 does not give us the right to attack and destroy nations just because we were attacked and are afraid to be attacked again. The Iraq War was evil and makes us no better than Saddam Hussein or Bin Laden.
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