Was Bush's Sept. 11 response un-Christian?

By RICHARD N. OSTLING AP Religion Writer Published:

The news media focuses on evangelical and Roman Catholic politicking, routinely ignoring such liberal Protestant activism as United Methodist Church officials onslaught against policies of George W. Bush, an adult convert to their denomination.

Underlying issues: Must Christians oppose the Iraq war? The war on terror? Warfare in general?

The Methodists chief social-issues spokesman, Jim Winkler, believes Congress should impeach President Bush. He proposed that during the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days, attended by 923 progressives, mostly from the National Council of Churches and member denominations (e.g., the United Methodists, Christian Church-Disciples of Christ, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ).

The House Judiciary Committees ranking Democrat had already submitted a bill authorizing investigation of impeachable offenses.

Winklers central complaint: The attack on Iraq was sold to our people on lies and the war itself was an illegal war of aggression that included things such as unconstitutional National Security Agency surveillance.

There was nothing Christian in (Bushs) response to Sept. 11, Winkler asserted. The war on terror is a war of terror. We have to stop it. Sounding rather like a religious-right preacher, Winkler said he advocated impeachment to advance the Kingdom of God.

Strict Christian pacifists such as Mennonites and Quakers resist all war-making and forbid believers to bear arms. They apply biblical teachings from Jesus and Paul about peacemaking not just to personal relations but to international affairs.

Winkler, who wants the U.S. defense budget slashed by 80 percent, could be considered a semi-pacifist. He said Jesus Christ, if not a pacifist himself, at least chose a nonviolent course of action. He also cited Paul: Do not repay anyone evil for evil. ... So far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves (Romans 12:17-19).

That reflects the Methodists official Social Principles: We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ and reject it as an instrument of national foreign policy.

That text also says many believe that in extreme situations when all alternatives fail and the need is clear beyond reasonable doubt, combat using international organizations may be a better option than allowing unchecked aggression, tyranny and genocide.

The Methodists are Americas third-largest religious body. The bishops of the largest, Roman Catholicism, said before the Iraq invasion that they questioned the morality of pre-emptive and unilateral action and saw no grave danger of Iraqi attacks or evidence that that nation was involved in Sept. 11.

Updating matters this year, the bishops international policy chairman rejected both cut and run and stay the course policies. He said that under current circumstances, America has moral responsibilities to help Iraqis secure and rebuild their country. U.S. troops should leave sooner rather than later but remain pending a responsible transition to provide security, stability and the rule of law.

Theres no hesitation with the hawkish Southern Baptist Convention, Americas second-largest denomination.

Last years annual Baptist meeting said Bush has shown courage and leadership in his valiant opposition to terrorism. ... We express deepest gratitude and respect for our president in light of the gravity of the decisions he must make and the leadership role he fills.

The Baptists found scriptural warrant in 1 Timothy 2:2, which commends prayer for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life. An earlier Baptist statement defending the war on terror said the Bible commands civil authorities to restrain evil and to punish evildoers through the power of the sword, citing Paul in Romans 13:1-5.

The National Association of Evangelicals includes pacifists, and its Call to Civic Responsibility last year said members disagree about use of the military to defend our homelands, rescue others from attack or liberate other people from oppression.

On the Net:

Methodist texts at

http://www.umc-gbcs.org/site/pp.asp?cfsJNK0PKJrH&b860371

Catholic texts at http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/mideastind.htm

Southern Baptist resolutions: http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/AMResSearch.asp

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