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"Our heroes," "God bless Uncle Sam," "Thank God for America," the graffiti said, sprawled over the sunbaked walls.1 It was Grenada, and the people were glad we had come on October 25, 1983. On that day the United States destroyed a dictatorship and later arranged democratic elections, earning a lasting gratitude from the Grenadians. The last American soldiers, sixty of the 82nd Airborne, left the island twenty months later.
Nonetheless, most American denominations, the National and World Council of Churches, and a host of leftist organizations financed by the church began a deafening diatribe when the first soldiers landed. They called the invasion illegal and immoral. Included were the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the United Methodists, the president of the United Church of Christ and its Board of World Ministries. The churchmen and quasi-churchmen did not wait to see what the Grenadians themselves thought or to hear what Grenada's government had done to deserve American intervention. There was, at once, an absolute conviction that the United States was wrong.
Sadly, this is typical behavior by the Religious Left, which has apparently decided that the inequities it perceives in American society have put it into the oppressor category. Therefore, it seems to feel, since the United States is an oppressor, nothing it does to defend either itself or democratic values elsewhere in the world is morally justified. This is very unfortunate for both the churches and the United States. It is unfortunate for the church because that unreasonable attitude helps alienate Christians who do not agree; and the resulting alienation speeds the denominational decline. It is unfortunate because the Religious Left is using psuedo-Christianity as an excuse for political action. Doctrinal Christianity does not discourage self-defense. It is unfortunate for the country at large because there is a great need for military strength in this dangerous world.
The Religious Left, however, does not share the same viewpoint. It has spent much of its time and money campaigning against weapon and defense systems: the neutron bomb, the MX missile, the placement of Pershing missiles in Europe, and now the Strategic Defense Initiative. It has also spent vast resources of time and money in campaigning for a nuclear freeze or, one of its favorite tactics, "nuclear-free zones."
Typical of this type of activity was the $132,000 spent by the Presbyterian Church in 1981 for its "Peacemaking Project." The commission, which is still in existence, did every conceivable thing it could to influence Presbyterian membership to support the nuclear freeze movement. For example, it mailed a nuclear freeze resolution - which had been endorsed by the 1981 General Assembly - to every Presbyterian pastor, and five copies to every clerk of session, published a collection of eleven peacemaking sermons by Presbyterians and prepared a study guide on the freeze for congregations.
Campaigns of this type have been partially effective because they seem to represent the legitimate political and theological viewpoint of a large number of people. After all, church leaders and agencies represent their denominations. If Congress suspects that they represent only a minority of their membership, or that only a minority of their membership is malleable, church leadership still manages to help shape the debate by the virtue of its endless, shrill lobbying. If credible people shout murder long enough, they do get attention, at least to the point where someone is eventually forced to look into the matter or prove there has been a mistake. If Congress suspects that the Religious Left organizations represent a minority, they are still somewhat influenced by its constituencies.
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Types Of Disarmament Activists
Unfortunately for both the country whom it addresses, and for church membership which is both its captive audience and its pawn, the Religious Left has not forthrightly expressed the real reasons behind its hostility to national defense. It cloaks its real feelings in two primary rationalizations and thus can be classified in two categories. The first rationalization against direct military action and/or defense spending is that the United States is wrong in any given situation. It either denies that any regime in the world is a threat, claims that the United States government is actively persecuting those whom it foolishly considers a threat, or charges that the U.S. government is wrongfully attempting to control other countries.
Pacifists, who compose the second category, base their arguments on their interpretation of Scriptures. There are three main schools of pacifist thought. The first school seems to believe that God will take care of Christians and therefore there is no need for military defense. The second believes that God may not take care of believers physically, but pacifism is the "right" attitude despite any possible consequences to themselves or others. The third, the nuclear pacifists, sometimes believe in conventional defense, but believe nuclear war is too costly to indulge in for any reason. But instead of calling for a stronger deterrence, they call for disarmament.
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America The Victimizer
The invasion of Grenada is a perfect example of the first category. Outraged church leadership charged the Reagan Administration had no reason to take action against the island's Marxist-Leninist regime, was evil to do so, and that Grenada was no threat to the United States. "The United States is adopting the same immoral policy which Soviet Russia is following in Afghanistan and Poland," Dr. Alan Walker, director of world evangelism for the Methodist World Council, charged. The General Assembly Mission Board and the Program Agency of the Presbyterian Church said in a joint statement that they were "profoundly disturbed by the precedent-setting conception that the request of several neighbors can legitimate armed intervention by the United States in the affairs of another country. . . We call upon the American people to question the image of the powerful United States acting as judge, jury and enforcer in world events . . . and we call upon Presbyterians to hold constant in prayer those that have been victimized."2
After condemning the invasion as illegal, United Church of Christ officials said they affirmed their "solidarity with the people and churches of Grenada in this time of anguish and oppression."3 Most statements from religious groups accused the United States of violating international law. Not one, of course, mentioned that the Bishop regime had been forced on the Grenadian people against their will when Bishop led a coup against Sir Eric Gairy in 1979, nor that Bishop himself was murdered - and his government overthrown - by a rival (an even more extreme Marxist-Leninist) two weeks before the invasion.
Bishop, among other things, had suspended the country's constitution, refused to hold early elections, and turned to "revolutionary democracy" with the help of nine hundred Cuban military advisors. Habeas corpus was also abolished for political detainees, and by 1982 there were about ninety-five political prisoners. Freedom of the press, of course, was abolished. There was no improvement by Bishop's successor.4
Afew days after the invasion a press conference was held in New York by the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Grenada (which had the same phone number as the Methodist Office for the United Nations); speakers included spokesmen from the National Council of Churches and various other church and "peace" groups. New York Daily News columnist Bill Reel, who covered the event, reported that the speakers refused to criticize the Marxists-Leninists who murdered Bishop. It was the U.S. who was accused of "butchery."5
It should not surprise anyone that the Solidarity Committee has also sponsored national campaigns to raise money for the MarxistLeninist guerrillas in El Salvador.6
Protest over the invasion was then included in the November 1983 march on Washington, sponsored by the most prominent radical leftist, religious, and quasi-religious organizations in the United States. Prior to the invasion, the main cause for the march had been dissatisfaction over the Reagan Administration's Central American policies.
The furor eventually died, but there has never been an apology or a retraction from U.S. churches for their stance on Grenada. That they have not done so makes it very clear they are more interested in political rhetoric than facts. If they had been interested in understanding what had happened on the island, they were welcome to read over twenty-five thousand documents captured by the U.S. Army and released to the public. They should have been interested. The documents proved that the Grenadian regime, with Cuba's help, had meant to destroy the Christian church.
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Christians Under Fire
In a memorandum drafted by the chief of the Grenadian security forces, Major Keith Roberts, dated July 12, 1983, Roberts said the Party must begin infiltrating the churches. He declared that they must be watched and that the government had to build up the Communist mass organizations as alternatives. Point 7 of the memorandum recommended the removal of all deeply religious head teachers from the primary schools and replacing them with more "progressive elements." It also called for eliminating religion from the media, beginning with the Sunday morning radio mass.7
Other plans called for bringing liberation theologians from Nicaragua to the island and creating "progressive churches." After the notation about starting progressive churches ("people's churches," apparently like those in Nicaragua which support the government and teach Marxist theory), Roberts wrote in parentheses, "Talk with Nacar . . . and Cubans." Several documents reveal that the government was very concerned that 4,365 copies of the Jerusalem Bible had been imported by the church. They were apparently worried the Bibles would influence the people.8
By the time American troops landed, the regime was in the first stages of its assault on Christianity. The government was taking the young people away on Sundays and placing them in work crews, and children were being taught to hate the church. Work crews would sometimes drive earth-moving machines close to the churches during Sunday services, apparently as a way to express the regime's hostility to Christianity. Cubans, it was later revealed, would gather near the entrances to churches on Sunday and create distractions.9
When the island was captured, American troops found almost nine hundred Cuban, Soviet, North Korean, Libyan, East German, and Bulgarian personnel, including military advisors. They found warehouses full of weapons, five secret military assistance agreements (three with the Soviet Union, one with North Korea, and one with Cuba), documents and notes proving an attempt to transform Grenada into an instrument for Cuban and Soviet objectives.10
American intelligence believes the Soviets wanted to control Grenada because of its strategic importance to the United States. More than half of all U.S. sea trade and oil imports pass through the Caribbean, and strategic planning for the navy requires free movement of ships and ports on the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, the Port Salinas airport was scheduled to open March 13, 1984. When the 9,700-foot airport runway became operational under Cuban-Soviet control, MIG-23s would have been able to cover the whole Caribbean.11
The runway could also have helped Cuba support its forty thousand to fifty thousand troops in Africa and assisted Libya and Soviet flights to Central America. According to the Pentagon, Libyan planes which were detained in Brazil in 1983, while taking military supplies to Nicaragua, could have refueled in Grenada instead.12
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There were obvious lessons to be learned from the Grenadian experience: that events proved the Reagan Administration had sufficient justification to take action; that sometimes populations do need help and welcome it when it comes; that physical force can lead to good ends when it is used wisely and for pure motives. But the leaders and activists in the mainline churches have rejected these lessons and instead stepped up their criticism of America's military and defense establishments. Corporations have been under increasing attack from denominations and Catholic orders which oppose defense contracts. In 1984, for example, twenty-six Catholic orders announced they would divest themselves of all General Electric stock due to the company's defense contracts. The Presbyterians announced in 1982 they would withdraw their stock from twenty-one defense-related companies, and the United Methodists in 1985 voted to limit their future investments to companies whose defense-related contract income does not exceed 15 percent. These are just a few of many examples. Church-related agencies and orders also use their privileges as investors to protest defense contracts through resolutions.
The disinvestment and resolutions have minimal effect on the defense industry. They do, however, have an effect on the American defense debate because they question the morality of those who produce weapons. By inference, it also questions the morality of those who approve the spending and the people from whom the money is obtained - that is, the American public. In other words, the implied culpability extends to most of the nation except those righteous who agree with the Religious Left.
It is difficult to tell whether the above-mentioned denominations and orders are in the first category (who fight the good fight against America the aggressor) or the second (pacifism). Many of the church agencies who practice disinvestment and attack by resolution would probably agree that nations need some kind of defense; but they just have not found one they could support. On the other hand, pure pacifism has been given an effective voice by Protestant bishops and Catholic bishops and archbishops. Many of these admit this is a dangerous world, but base their resistance to defense on the premise that defense spending is just another way to cheat the poor. The Episcopal Bishop of Newark, John Spong, gave a good example of this type of thinking when he called for restraint in the arms race because the poor and needy were carrying "a disproportionate amount of the burden."13
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A second category of pacifists are more fragmented in their beliefs. They base their pacifism on their understanding of Scripture, but not all agree what Scripture says. As was already stated, some apparently believe that God takes care of those who have faith He will do so and some believe that enlightened Christians are pacifists no matter what is done to them (or others). Many bishops, the most prominent and influential of which are the Catholic, have now deviated from their traditional belief in the "just war" theory as regards nuclear weapons: they now believe that the United States should never use, or even threaten to use, nuclear weapons no matter what the situation.
Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle took the most extreme position in 1981 when he declared that "failure to achieve mutual disarmament leaves us with only one moral position in this tragic situation, the position of unilateral disarmament with trust and reliance on the Lord as our security." Hunthausen defended his position by stating, "I believe that a stand like mine reflects a love for our country because it reflects a belief that it is responsive to challenge for moral growth. In a question like the nuclear arms race, I believe it is God Almighty who is calling us to take such a stand." The bishop apparently did not want to concede anything to possible critics. He added that "any nation which makes as first priority the building up of armaments, and not the creative work of peace and disarmament, is immoral." The bishop added a suggestion - that as a means of "protesting the nuclear arms buildup individuals could withhold 50 percent of their taxes."14
That attitude has been carried one step further by bishops such as Catholic Bishop L. T. Matthiesen, who have urged their parishioners to quit jobs in the defense industry. Matthiesen suggested that Catholics who worked in a neutron bomb plant in Amarillo, Texas, stop doing so.15
Perhaps the ultimate in masochistic advice was offered by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, when he told an audience that they should "surrender to the invader. Let yourself be dominated." The use of force, in self-defense or in the defense of others, is "unChristlike. . . . We must defend against evil by goodness . . . if that seems contrary to human reasoning, reasoning has to go by the boards."16 Gumbleton, the auxiliary bishop of Detroit, is also the president of Pax Christi-U.S.A. and on the advisory committee of Witness for Peace, a pro-Sandinista lobby.
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The Bishops Assume Expert
Status On Weaponry
Bishops, obviously not satisfied to merely lead their flocks, have also claimed expertise on American weaponry. Some of the Catholic bishops involved in the 1983 pastoral letter on nuclear arms and defense told a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting in 1984 that they did not approve of the MX missile or the Strategic Defense Initiative. They maintained that the MX would not provide protection and the Strategic Defense Initiative would not work. Since trained scientists are still debating the merits of the Strategic Defense Initiative, it is strange that the bishops seem to have informed knowledge on this highly technical subject.
Still, they are taken seriously. Subcommittee Chairman Dante Fascell (D-Florida) said he agreed with the bishops and added that religious groups "have been doing the best job in peace making."17
Just the mere suggestion that the U.S. discard its nuclear weapons seems to put leaders of all denominations into a state of mind that allows clerical posturing to overcome orthodox Christian teaching. A United Methodist Council of Bishops meeting in 1981 was addressed by a former bishop to Bolivia, Mortimer Arias, who decried the "ideology of national security," After Arias's speech, Bishop William Cannon (of North Carolina) asked what would happen if the democratic countries succeeded in abolishing nuclear weapons but the "totalitarian nations" kept theirs.18
"Responded Dr. Arias: 'It is a call for a decision of faith. Somewhere we will have to make our own option.'19
"'I don't think the issue is unilateral disarmament,' said Bishop John B. Warman of the Harrisburg (Pa.) area. 'The issue is what weapons we choose. We can take the nuclear armor of Goliath. Or we can take the five smooth stones' of the gospel of peace. 'There are other ways to defeat Communism - to defeat evil. If anyone is to disintegrate the earth, let it be someone else.' Bishop Warman paused and then pleaded, 'Don't let it be us.'"20
True to their beliefs, the United Methodist Council of Bishops, in 1985, one day before the U.S. Senate vote on the MX missile, wrote a letter stating, "Chances for a nuclear war will be increased by the production and deployment of the MX missile." The letter was hand-delivered to senators."21
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They later wrote a poor imitation of the Catholic bishops' 1983 pastoral letter about defense, titled "The Nuclear Crisis and the Pursuit of Peace." In it the bishops, like the Catholic bishops, opposed not only the use of nuclear weapons, but also said even "nuclear deterrence" could not "receive the churches' blessing." The bishops did not even attempt to justify their positions with thoughtful, in-depth studies of theology, but largely depended on waving the concept of
"shalom" - which they misinterpreted as "harmony between humanity and all of God's creatures" on this earth - and using half-pietistic, half-trendy rhetoric. "But we write also in gratitude for the swelling chorus of those who cry No to nuclear weapons, No to poverty, No to racism, No to sexism - and Yes to the things that make for peace," the letter said. The study document also used the concept of "shalom."
Both the letter and the study document which accompanied it assumed a moral equivalency between the United States and the Soviet Union. They suggested that the nuclear arms race is a disease which afflicts both countries. In doing so they totally ignored the differences in American and Soviet political systems, in effect putting totalitarianism and democracy, and American and Soviet foreign policy, on the same moral level.
The Presbyterians wrote similar statements in a 1982 resolution titled "Confronting Idolatry." The title itself is shrewd because it suggests that those who disagree with its viewpoint are guilty of a sin against God. The resolution stated that "the arms race" (known as our national defense in more rational circles) is a reflection of our disobedience to God because it places our security in weapons and not in God's hands.
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Christian Pacifism In History
These theologies of "peace" are particularly hard to counter since they are based on emotionalism, not logic. But they are old philosophies and have always had a pernicious effe on whomever they impressed. Pressure from the Christian church prior to World War II was one reason for the success enjoyed by pacifists who vehemently opposed American rearmament. Many of those clergy believed that it is not Christian to kill or to go to the defense of others, but resist passively. Others believed we should not interfere in European affairs and some even questioned whether the Nazis were, in fact, as bad as they were depicted.
French theologian Jacques Ellul wrote about the consequences of those beliefs in False Presence of the Kingdom. Christians should have been aware of the nature of Nazism before 1937. Yet they were not, and the results were disastrous. "That was when the clarity of vision was essential. After 1937 it was already too late. The fate of the world was already sealed for thirty years or more. But in those years the Christians, full of good intentions, were thinking only of peace and were loudly proclaiming pacifism. . . "22
Although America's lack of preparation for war cost the nation dearly in lives, there were very few churchmen who afterward admitted they had been wrong, despite even the clear object lesson provided by the Nazi death camps: unchecked evil has no limit on the destruction it can impose.
It is one thing piously to exclaim that we should use "five smooth stones." It is quite another thing to defend the notion that these platitudes will stop the bombs, tanks, and machine guns. God never promised to deliver us from evil in this world, but to judge it in the next. Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr agreed with this viewpoint and tried to stem the tide of Christian pacifism in 1940 with a book of essays called Christianity and Power Politics. In it Niebuhr said that Christian pacifism is an effort to make the Kingdom of God into a simple historic possibility, which Jesus never said it would be. He was to bring the Kingdom, not man.23
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God's Peace And Man's Peace
Dr. Allan Parrent, an associate dean of the Protestant Episcopal Theologian Seminary in Virginia, has pointed out that there are two ways of thinking about peace. One is pax, which is the peace of the well-ordered political community, and the other is shalom, the peace of God who is author of peace. Parrent interprets shalom as more than the absence of conflict; it is a "right relationship involving self, fellow creatures, the creation, and God . . . the establishment of peace in this full sense will coincide only with the realization of the messianic kingdom at the end of time."24
Parrent said the church often fails to make a distinction between the two kinds of peace, which leads to "confusion about the church's witness and to the undermining of its credibility in the public debate." While we can, and should, contribute to both pax and shalom, Parrent said, the fullness of shalom is a divine gift.25
Parrent also divides the duties of a Christian into God's alien work and God's proper work. The former is what Martin Luther termed "civil righteousness," maintaining peace, order, and justice. God's proper work (the morality of perfection) is self-giving to others and building the Kingdom of God. God has given us duties to perform within our society, Parrent said, which cannot be carried out solely in the grip of love because it involves maintaining order through force. "The morality of perfection is needed to keep us honest, and the morality of duty and station is needed to keep us alive . . . but one cannot be substituted for the other."26
Niebuhr, Parrent pointed out, said justice without love ceases to be justice, and degenerates into mere balance of power. Love without justice, however, ceases to be love and degenerates into vague sentimentality.27 Love is not the same thing as indulgence and does not require surrender in order to prove itself. Ellul pointed out that "To allow oneself to be damned out of love for the other person could eventually result in two damned people, never in one saved person!"28
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The State As God's Preserver
While it is true that the only ultimate security is in God, Parrent points out that God provides temporal security through the state. God sustains His creation by providing temporal security as part of His divine work in history. Christians who help with this task are cooperating in God's work of preservation and protection and are also being good stewards of a world which God placed under their dominion.29
While Parrent did not say Christians should avoid questions of national security, he did warn against ecclesiastical bodies overstepping the boundary between giving unambiguous direction to public policy and issuing precise directives for legislative and administrative action. "The institutional church must remember," he said, "that the more specific it becomes, the less can be its degree of certitude; the more its judgments are based on political prudence, the thinner will be the theological ice on which it can claim to stand, and the greater the probability will be of honest and legitimate disagreement within the church."30
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Most church leaders, like the United Methodist bishops, seem to believe that nuclear weapons complicate the defense debate, changing the rules that Christians have used about war for centuries. The Catholic bishops, in their pastoral letter on defense and nuclear war - titled "The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response" - argued just this point. The bishops did not demand unilateral disarmament, but came close when noting that not only is the use of nuclear arms and the "declared intent" to use them wrong, but the threat of attack as part of a strategy of deterrence is wrong. They based these arguments on the "just war" theory.
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Just War Theory
That theory was partially developed by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. In it he cited the three things that are required for any war to be just. The first was the authority of the "sovereign on whose command war is waged . . . Secondly a just cause is required . . . one that avenges wrongs when a nation or a state has to be punished either for refusing to make amends for outrages done by its subjects or to restore what has been seized injuriously . . . thirdly, the fight intention of those waging war is required . . . they must intend to promote the good and avoid evil." Aquinas concludes that a just war can never be waged for its own sake, but to bring peace.
Other theorists, such as Anglican theologian John Macquarrie, cite further conditions for a just war, some of which are the use of violence as the only means left for making change and a means, which must be appropriate to the end. The latter is usually referred to as the principle of "proportionality." The Catholic bishops used this point, noting that "A nuclear response to either a conventional or nuclear attack can cause destruction which goes far beyond 'legitimate defense.' . . . Such use of nuclear weapons would not be justified."
They also added probability of success - "its purpose is to prevent irrational resort to force or hopeless resistance when the outcome of either will clearly be disproportionate or futile."
As pious as a condemnation against nuclear weapons sounds, it is a sterile denunciaion when made in a reality-free vacumn. The bishops neglected to explore the very real dangers and options which face the United States today. Author George Weigel has pointed out that weapons have very little to do with war: war is caused by a strategy that either works or does not work. An arms race helped bring on World War I, but weakness in the face of a Germarn threat encouraged World War II.31
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The bishops stated that possession of nuclear weapons could be tolerated only if "meaningful" arms negotiations were in progress, but the church's attitude would have to shift to "uncompromising condemnation of both use and possession" if that hope were to disappear. The bishops obviously did not think this through. The logical end-result of this attitude would be unilateral nuclear disarmament in the face of evil. If the bishops did consider the possible results of their attitude, should anyone take it seriously, they apparently believe that the world is better off slave than dead, a "survivalist" attitude which Weigel calls "an abandonment of faith . . . it is acquiescence to neopaganism."32
It could also be argued that advocating defenselessness in the face of a great evil is, in itself, immoral. It is the "ethics of intention" as opposed to the "ethics of consequence."33 Evangelizing for a position which, if enacted, would adversely affect the lives of millions, without truly considering these consequences and explaining them to your audience, is highly irresponsible. It is one thing to persuade mankind to pledge its soul to righteousness and quite another to ask them to submit their physical beings to tyranny. Especially if you infer, as Hunthausen has done, that God will be a shield in this life.
Furthermore, prostrating before evil in order to escape harm is not a correct Christian attitude. That posture can only be justified by a non-Christian who does not believe in God's judgment and eternal life. Christianity teaches that this world is a battleground between God and Lucifer, and that survival is definitely not the greatest good. If it had been otherwise, Christians would not have willingly perished in Roman arenas, denoured by lions, all murdered for their faith.
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The Morality Of Defense
The bishops' view (and that of most of the Religious Left) suggests that we must not, under any conditions, become aggressors ourselves lest we lose our Christian principles. Noted Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer believed that it is "nothing less than lack of Christian love, to not do what can be done for those gripped in the power of those who automatically and logically oppress."34 He was not a pacifist, Schaeffer wrote, because pacifism in this fallen world means desertion of those people who need the greatest help. Unilateral disarmament, considering the Soviets' antipathy to God, would be "totally utopian and romantic and lead, as utopianisms always do in a fallen world, to disaster."35
One of the most practical arguments against Christian pacifism has been offered by Michael Novak. Novak, a lay Catholic theologian, has noted that Christ said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," not "Blessed are the peacesayers."36 U.S. disarmament would not necessarily deter nuclear war. If the world fell into the hands of MarxistLeninist factions, Novak said, there is still the possibility they would fight among themselves. Surrender to the Soviets would not encourage the kingdom of peace and love and those that desire it, "or with passionate intensity permit it, know not what they do . . ."37
Moreover, pacifism as church doctrine was firmly repudiated by Pope John Paul in 1983 when he said that a just Christian "has the courage to intercede for others who suffer and he refuses to surrender in the face of injustice, to compromise with it - and likewise, however paradoxical it may appear, the person who deeply desires peace rejects any kind of pacifism which is cowardice or the simple preservation of tranquility."38
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The Peace Churches
Of all the churches which insist on disarmament, the "peace" churches (such as the Mennonite Church and the Church of the Brethren) have been the most vocal. Like the United Methodists, the peace section of the Mennonite Central Committee has blamed America for the arms race, stating that people just do not understand or do not "take seriously" the historical and current perceptions and fears which the Soviets have of the U.S. The Mennonites seemingly doubt that the Soviets really want to dominate anybody else. They believe Soviet foreign policy and military decisions are simply the result of their fears.39
That very common viewpoint has no basis in reality. It is the product of a refusal to see things as they are. That refusal is often the result of a deep-seated reluctance to abandon the familiar, easy route and actually take action against an evil situation. This denial of reality both eases the mind and allows righteous inaction at the same time. It is easier to project evil on benevolence (the Mennonites have often blamed the arms race on America's alleged urge to dominate world affairs) than it is to face the danger of an uncontrollable system that threatens not only our lives, but civilization itself. Nonetheless, this sort of willing blindness is dangerous because it both distracts us from the real menace and saps our faith in our ability to do good.
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Ignoring Soviet Fruits
It is this inability to forthrightly evaluate and discuss the nature of Soviet totalitarianism which is the greatest weakness of the religious "peace" lobby. It is not just the Mennonites who have this weakness. It is common. The Catholic bishops urged mutual trust between the United States and the Soviet Union, a statement which infers that the Soviet system poses no real clause of alarm. The United Methodists made similar statements in their pastoral letter. But Christ gave wise advice in evaluating the human heart, an injunction which is just as sound when dealing with governments; "By their fruits, ye shall know them." That advice is usually ignored by peace activists, although Soviet fruits are so publicly bitter that it takes a real strength of will not to notice.
One of the most prominent Soviet fruits has been its deception concerning "peace." It is an idea that they incessantly promote. But it is also an idea they only want discussed in the West - which makes them both liars and cynics. Soon after independent peace activist Oleg Radzinsky began his work, he was arrested by the KGB. When Alexander Shatravka and Vladimir Mishchenko marched for peace, they were arrested, tried, and sentenced to hard labor in Siberia.40
Documents from the official legal examination have made their way to the West. According to emigré Sergei Batovrin, once an independent Russian peace activist himself, the "representatives of Soviet political science" gave their official evaluation of the "crimes against the State." The commission took the view that the very idea of a citizen's struggle for peace, independent of the government, is a crime.41
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Soviet Peace Activists Persecuted
Batovrin noted that the two accused had not sat on railroad tracks to block trains carrying radioactive materials, or gone out in boats to try to stop the progress of nuclear submarines, as has been done in the West. "In the U.S.S.R., a train carrying nuclear materials would simply run over any demonstrators who happened to get in its way . . . the civil disobedience of the imprisoned Soviet peace activists in the U.S.S.R. is the very fact of their independence . . . they did not want to play a game where posters scream that 'the struggle for peace is everyone's business,' but where, in reality, people only have the choice of saying yes. . . "42
Facts about Soviet attitudes, however, are ignored by Western peace groups (which include a large segment of the Religious Left). In May 1983 the Institute for Policy Studies sponsored a "U.S.-USSR Bilateral Exchange Conference," which was to have focused on disarmament. Twenty-seven Soviets and a larger group of Americans, leaders of peace and disarmament groups, attended.
The Soviet delegates consisted of a Russian Orthodox priest who said that freedom of religion was in the Soviet constitution, a teacher who stated the Soviet educational system was better than that of the U.S., "journalists" who insisted that Soviet citizens were better informed than Americans, and academics who study the U.S. American delegates were largely anti-U.S. government and included Episcopal Bishop Paul Moore, William Sloane Coffin, Cora Weiss, Policy Studies officials, and various other radicals.43
Peace is the goal of all their people, the Soviets insisted. Izvestia columnist Vikenty Matveev maintained that millions of Soviets participate in independent peace committees. But citizens who had launched a nongovernmental peace group and were subsequently sent to labor camps were dismissed as a group of young people who wanted to emigrate to Israel. Matveev said their names had been forgotten in the Soviet Union. "They cease, so to speak, to exist."44
Young martyrs for peace got no help from the clergymen present. When supporters of Jewish "refuseniks" and Soviet and Eastern European emigrés asked hard questions about human rights at a public forum, then jeered at Soviet answers, the Soviets (and the American apologists) were furious. Bishop Moore said he was "deeply ashamed" and "deeply humiliated." Sloane Coffin, whose Riverside Church leads the most radical disarmament and anti-American campaigns of any American religious body, said when there were restrictions in armaments, dissidents in the Soviet Union would fare better because the Soviet Union would feel "less threatened."45
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A View From The Top
A far more sober picture of Soviet leadership has been drawn by defector Arcady Shevehenko. The former diplomat, the highest ranking Soviet to defect since World War II, was privileged to observe the Politburo firsthand. In his best-selling memoirs Shevchenko wrote, "I saw how easily they called vice virtue, and just as easily reversed the words again. How their hypocrisy and corruption had penetrated their lives, how isolated they were from the population they ruled. (Andre) Gromyko had not set foot in the streets of Moscow for almost 40 years. Almost all the others were no different.
"The falsity of these men was everywhere, from their personal lives to their grand political designs. I watched them playing with détente. I saw them building military strength far beyond the needs of defense and security, at the expense of the Soviet people. I heard them express with cynical jokes, their willingness to suppress freedom among their allies. I witnessed their duplicity with those who follow the Soviet line in the West or in the Third World, extending even to participation in conspiracies to kill 'unsuitable' political figures of other countries. They avidly sought hegemony and were infected with the imperialistic sickness of which they accused others."46
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The Slaughter In Afghanistan
Afghanistan is the best example of the Soviets' real nature. The Soviet army invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and is still busy slaughtering peasants, freedom-fighters, and children while talking about peace in Moscow. As of 1985, 40 percent of the Afghan population has beer murdered or is in exile. One out of two refugees on this planet is an Afghan.47
According to Soviet soldiers who have defected to the Mujahedin, Soviet atrocities have been so horrible they have decided to fight against their own people: chemical weapons are used, they said; retaliation against civilian populations is doctrine; they air-drop boobytrapped toys that maim children, use saturation bombing of villages, and violently torture those suspected of guerrilla activities.48
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The Soviet Use Of Fire
In order to get an idea of the barbarity inflicted on the Afghans, we will examine just one method of atrocity - burning. "They (the Soviets) burn people easier than wood."49
- A Paris Match reporter saw 153 Hazari tribesmen bound back-to-back thrown from a truck on the outskirts of Kabul and set ablaze with gasoline. The atrocity was repeated a few minutes later when another truck arrived with human cargo. There is no doubt that this story is true because an Afghan photographer took pictures of the bodies. The next day the scene was put on the front page of The New Times, the English-language Afghan government newspaper. The caption said the victims were rebels who had committed brutalities.50
- Soviet soldiers fighting for the Mujahedin have testified that Afghans have been burned to death with flame-throwers.51
- The U.S. Helsinki Watch Committee reported the case of a twelve-year-old whose right arm was so badly burned he could hardly move it. The doctor in charge of the case said, "They told me that Russian soldiers came to their village and held their son's arm over a fire while they asked about the Mujahedin. . . "52
- Mike Hoover, a CBS television producer, said he had filmed an interview with an Afghan who had formerly worked as a translator for the Soviet army. "He was extremely disturbed," Hoover said. "He told how he translated questions the Russians were asking about the Mujahedin while they held a child over a fire."53
- A French doctor tells how the Soviets punished an entire village after some Afghan troops defected: "They tied them up and piled gasoline over them and burned them alive. They were old and young, men, women, and children. Many, many people were telling this story. They all said forty people had been killed . . . Another such report says, "My name is Shir Dal, I am from the Kats area. . . . When the Russians came, the children were hiding in a cave. One Parchami Communist man was with them, and helped bring the children out, and they burned them to death. . . The children who were killed, their parents could not recognize them, because they were burned. They made fires with wood, and put the children in them or put kerosene on children and burned them. Sometimes they killed children and burned them and sometimes they burned children alive. They were taking children out to the fields and burning them alive, and they put them in the rushes and burned them alive. Burned alive."54
- In May of 1985 freelance journalist Rob Schultheis interviewed survivors of an atrocity campaign carried out by Russian troops in the Laghman Valley in Eastern Afghanistan. In a single district, he found nearly eight hundred people were killed, from pregnant women and newborns to the elderly. They had been shot, burned alive, hanged, bayoneted, tortured to death, killed with grenades, decapitated and beaten to death. The Schultheis interviews were carried on public radio in June 1985.55
Meanwhile, in the cities the Khad (the secret police) are in firm control. There are branches of the Communist party in every neighborhood, office, and school. Thousands of children, as young as five and six, have been sent to the Soviet Union for a proper ideological education; twelve thousand Afghans are now studying at Russian universities.56 Thousands more children have been sent to the Soviet Union, not only for a proper ideological education, but for intense training as guerrillas and terrorists. According to children who have received this training, they were to have become the Soviets' best antifreedom-fighters in Afghanistan and were to have also been sent to other countries to cmmit terrorist acts.57
These are some of the Soviet fruits which Christians, no matter how sincere, ignore at great peril both to themselves and others.
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Anabaptists And Pacifism
Finally, there is a newly influential pacifism. It is a kind of theology of the radical reformation, and it is now being touted by the Sojourners community in Washington, D.C., and its publication, Sojourners magazine. These modern Anabaptists not only believe that no defense is permissible for a Christian, they advocate refusing to pay taxes in order to protest American defense. They frequently demonstrate against American foreign policy, using civil disobedience to gain attention.
Sojourners magazine - which has a readership of about sixty thousand, a great many of whom are Catholics - is widely read on college campuses. The community of about fifty members, including children, live and work with the poor in Washington's inner city. Those wishing to join must spend a year as novices, then must donate all their property to the community and share expenses. They live on about $5,000 a year each.
It is difficult to argue with Sojourners on subjects such as whether it is Christian or unchristian to pay taxes, because the community's reasoning is based on ambiguous Scripture. For instance, the traditional call for Christians to pay taxes, Mark 12:13-17 (Christ said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's"), has been interpreted by Sojourners to have the opposite meaning.
It is not difficult to argue with, however, or understand such statements as "The Reagan Administration remains the chief obstacle to the first step in stopping the arms race." Or, "For us, nuclear weapons are an intolerable evil, and as Christians we cannot tolerate their production or use. . . . We are the new abolitionists." Or, "It is sometimes difficult to remember how the Russians became our enemy. . . . At each step in the cold war, the U.S. was presented with a choice between very different but equally plausible interpretations of Soviet intentions, each of which would have led to very different responses. At every turn U.S. policy makers have chosen to assume the very worst about their Soviet counterparts."58
It might be easier to understand these statements if we know that Richard Barnet, of the Institute for Policy Studies (see Appendix), is a contributing editor. Barnet once wrote an article for Sojourners which strived to "demythologize" the Russian threat. It was titled, "Lies Clearer than Truth."
Sojourners' real position can be better understood as pacifism at home and revolution abroad. Although editor Jim Wallis touts himself as a pacifist, he has allowed CISPES (the public relations arm of the Marxist guerrillas in El Salvador) to participate in many Sojourners activities, such as the "pledge of resistance," a threatened occupation of American public buildings in case of military invasion of Nicaragua.
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A Sojourner Returns
Clark Vinnock, Canadian theologian and a former Sojourners contributing editor, explains the Anabaptist perspective as one in which you "couldn't be a Christian simply by being a citizen of the state. Being a Christian puts you over against the power. The Anabaptist theology has a sharply drawn dualism of the light and dark in the moral realm. Counterculturalism is basic Anabaptist thinking about the world." Pinnock went on to say, however, that Sojourners has broken with historic Anabaptism on pacifism.59
In the early days of Vietnam Sojourners was opposed to the war on the grounds of pacifism, that any war is unjust. But Pinnock said Sojourners soon moved away from expressing a general distaste for violence and began to believe there "was a just cause and it was not ours. They were really hoping that the Vietcong were going to win, to beat the might of American imperialism. When Saigon fell there was great rejoicing. Normally a pacifist wouldn't rejoice in a victory as bloody as that one . . ."60
Nicaragua is one example, Pinnock said, of Sojourners' peculiar mixture of utopian idealism and hypocrisy. The Sojourners community believes the Sandinistas are reformers because they were "100 percent in favor of the Nicaraguan revolution," and because "they hope it is true."61
Pinnock explained the Sojourners follower as one who was deeply alienated from American reality on issues like Vietnam, the alleged plastic character of modern life, and racism and sexism in America. These causes made them feel America was a very evil place, Pinnock said, engendering sympathy in them for revolutionary governments which claimed they were making efforts to do away with "these deficiencies."62
Sojourners has been given a voice in the left-liberal mainline church, Pinnock said, because Sojourners says the same thing as the Left, but by way of a "hermeneutical ventriloquism. . . . When they are feminists, the Bible has to be feminist or they can't be feminist. They have to think the Bible says it, even if it is necessary to make the Bible say it by way of ventriloquism."63
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More worrisome than the evangelical leftists are antidefense programs obstensibly emanating from a Christian church (as opposed to organizations financed by the church), but which are, in reality, cynically using the church for political purposes - such as Riverside Church of New York City. Riverside officials are so blatantly leftist and have erected such secular, ideoloical, anti-American programs that the church cannot be properly considered simply a church anymore.
Although Riverside sponsors many special projects, such as the war crimes trial that put the United States in the dock (see Appendix), its major project is the "Riverside Church Disarmament Program." The project presents conferences on disarmament (with seminar titles such as "teaching disarmament," "economics of militarism," "mobilizing the religious community"), coordinates demonstrations around Washington, and gives extreme leftists - including Richard Barnet and many associates of the Institute for Policy Studies - a platform at, various functions. The disarmament program director is Cora Weiss.
Weiss, wife of Peter Weiss (see Appendix), has come very close to openly treasonous activities. During the Vietnam War she was a leading member of Women Strike for Peace, which a Congressional study termed "a pro-Hanoi organization," which from its inception "has enjoyed the complete support of the Communist Party." During the actual fighting, Weiss traveled to Hanoi and Paris to meet with North Vietnamese. Those activities culminated in her organization of the victory celebration of Vietnam's 1977 admission to the United Nations. After the war she became a director of Friendshipment, an organization that was established to coordinate aid (much of it provided by the church) to Vietnam.64
Pacifists are obviously of several different stripes. Most of them do not operate from the same premise. Yet they affect American opinion and national defense in much the same way. The public is influenced to believe that national defense is either not necessary or less necessary than the facts warrant. A guilt complex regarding the possession of nuclear weapons is also insinuated into the public's consciousness. Thus America's strategic planners have a much harder time obtaining the weapons and consensus they need to protect the nation.
The impression pacifism makes on enemies of democracy is probably just as similar. "Their conquerors," Michael Novak wrote, "will not overlook the fact that such brave persons failed to lift a finger to help the five million persons now in the Gulag Archipelago; that such persons bowed docilely to 'the tide of history,' and that such persons abandoned their Christian obligation to come to the defense of innocent peoples already suffering from unjust aggression. Faced with the naked power of the executioner, what further principles will they now betray? Will they not assist the authorities in urging the captive population to remain non-violent? . . .65
"Those brave pacifists who counsel surrender and imagine giolious martyrdom do not imagine themselves as quislings. No one does. Confident in their own virtue, they betray not only their own country but their Christian faith. It is nowhere commanded that Christians must join in complicity with Pilate's armies in crucifying Christ."66
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The Betrayal of the Church Copyright © 1986 by Edmund W. Robb and Julia Robb. Published by Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Westchester, Illinois 60153
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