Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Of War and Peace and Christianity

Every now and then, I see a bumper sticker that reads "peace is a moral value."

The bumper sticker references the 2004 elections, when a good chunk of voters said "moral values" (interepreted by pollsters as issues revolving around abortion and same-sex marriage) was their No. 1 concern. These voters helped push George W. Bush to his second presidential term.

But issues of war and peace have always been the most moral of issues, and the conflict in Iraq is an increasing point of debate among faith groups.

This weekend, a handful of faith-centric organizations, helped along by the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, will be holding events to commemorate -- and protest --the war's fourth anniversary. Several buddhist groups will hold a three-hour silent meditation at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Colorado College (write to for more information or to RSVP). First Congregational Church-United Church of Christ -- long one of Colorado Springs' most vocal liberal presences -- is sponsoring a prayer vigil for peace at noon Sunday on the front steps of their church at 20 E. St. Vrain St.

Advocating peace is in the very DNA of these groups, so none of this is too surprising.

More interesting -- at least to me -- is the fact that Focus on the Family has been vocally pro-war lately. James Dobson, the organization's founder and leader, has called Islamic terrorism a huge threat to the United States. The current war in Iraq is part of the effort to combat that terrorism, he believes, and he hammered at that point again and again in advance of last November's mid-term elections. Last week, Dobson hosted Newt Gingrich on his daily radio program, where Gingrich advocated suspending certain civil liberties if it would help the country combat terrorism. During the program, Dobson said many politicians -- Republican and Democrat -- need to "wake up" to the dangers of militant Islam.

Dobson's stance is particularly interesting because he's taken other evangelicals to task for trying to broaden their agenda to include issues such as the environment. He says that evangelicals need to be tightly focused on combatting abortion and same-sex marriage: Broadening the agenda, Dobson and other evangelicals have said, just dilutes the message and gets evangelicals off-point.

The war is, apparently, an exception. Why? Well, Focus on the Family is all about -- well, families -- and Dobson believes that militant Islam poses a huge risk to America and, consequently, to the American family.

While conservative Christians have been supportive of the war, there are indications that Dobson's push for continued support may run into problems. The National Association of Evangelicals recently issued a statement condemning torture, saying the U.S. treatment of suspected terrorists has gone beyond the "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible."

Dobson hasn't spoken specifically on torture, to my knowledge, but I think back Dobson's recent radio broadcast, where Gingrich insisted that a new set of rules will have to be drawn up to deal with terrorism: Could those new rules include torture?

Conservative evangelicals, according to one national writer, may be wavering in their support of the war itself.

"No polling data conclusively demonstrate that opinion among the broad national base of conservative evangelicals has shifted," writes Julie Sullivan for the Newhouse News service. "But some prominent national evangelical leaders say that debate about —and, in some cases, outright opposition to — the war is breaking out among Christian conservatives whose support was key to President Bush’s election victories. For those evangelicals, they say, frustration with Republicans’ failure to overturn abortionrights has fueled their skepticism. Others decry the war’s human toll and financial cost, and they’re concerned about any use of torture."

Sullivan's story appeared to be fairly anecdotal (I'd link to it, but it doesn't look like papers have had time to pick the story up off the wire yet), and I'd wager evangelicals still support the war in greater numbers than the population as a whole. But it will be interesting to watch.


Anonymous zen said...

Very, very good piece, Paul. Excellent information and insights.

I could write about this one for hours. But I'll spare the blog.


Well done, my man.

1:30 PM  

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