Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Faith leaders, take a stand

Lawn Griffith is a columnist at The East Valley Tribune. His column focuses on all things spiritual and I like his columns. I am going to cut and paste this article I read about faith leaders and the war that I found to be very good. A lot of you probably won't agree, but we all have a right to our own opinions. Here is the link.

Faith leaders, take a stand
Lawn Griffiths, Tribune

I’ve seen folks ostentatiously get up in the middle of a sermon and walk out in disgust. Something offended them.

And I have listened to people stand up during church prayer time and speak, from their hearts, in outrage at world events and public policies that cause enormous death and suffering. They call for prayers to halt political leaders’ mayhem or for specific legislative remedies for social problems. Sincere as they are, they get rebuked by the purists in the congregation who want prayer time limited to the suffering and the ailments of members and their relatives.

Across faith communities, clergy are walking on eggshells as they safely address and pray over what’s happening in Iraq.

They can call for the dying to end, but they dare not condemn specific political leaders who drive the warring and prolong the dying.

In the four years of this war with no end, they have carefully maneuvered through land mines to avoid political statements while demonstrating religious and human compassion for the incalculable death and suffering. If clergy use pointed words suggesting the war is evil and obscene, they run the risk of offending parishioners with loved ones in uniform or with those passionately loyal to that cause.

Clergy, of course, risk alienation and loss of members by taking unpopular positions or goring people’s oxen on a wide range of issues.

Somehow, in this war, the faith community has been largely ineffectual. It seems neutered by threats of losing their federal tax exemption should they be found to have engaged in political activity. Never mind the grand, showy patriotic demonstrations in churches for the troops and national leaders as they wage the war.

But much of the hesitation and ambivalence about questioning the war surrounds deference for the troops themselves.

In January 2003, before the war began, Bishop Melvin Talbert, chief ecumenical officer of the United Methodist Church, spoke out in a 30-second paid commercial for the National Council of Churches: “Does the United States have the right to invade a country that’s done nothing to us? … No nation under God has that right. It violates international law, it violates God’s law and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Iraq hasn’t wronged us. War will only create more terrorists and a more dangerous world for our children.” Prophetic words more than four years later.

Clearly, some bad, bad things are happening on our watch.

I am constantly reminded of English philosopher Edmund Burke’s warning, “All evil needs to succeed is for good people to do nothing.”

In my work and community life, I know many people. And, with so many, I have listened to their unqualified support for the war, as well as those who saw the train wreck coming from the beginning. Now in 2007, the gung-ho gang doesn’t seem to have much to say.

It’s been more than 40 years since I read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” and the haunting story of Prospero and a thousand nobles cloistered inside an abbey, indifferent to the disease and suffering of the public at large beyond the walls. “The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think,” Poe wrote in the short story. “The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure.”

So the favored people partied and reveled inside the abbey, seemingly immune from the red death in the countryside, enjoying themselves at a ball where all wore masks. But death found its way in “and one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. … And darkness and decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”

Save for the news reports and the “red flags” telling us this war isn’t working, we go about our lives fairly normally.

Last weekend, we rented DVD films of “Bobby,” the last day in the life of Sen. Robert Kennedy, and “The Last King of Scotland,” for which Forest Whitaker won the best actor Oscar this year in his role as the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Each film, in its own way, was haunting. One troubled assassin ended a presidential hopeful who seemed primed to take America to a different kind of greatness and perhaps out of a faulty war sooner. In “The Last King,” a deeply flawed tyrant ruled like a thug over his tiny African nation until more than 300,000 died and throngs had been driven off as refugees, before he himself went into exile in 1979.

We question past generations that “allowed” wars and destruction. Somehow they chose monsters at the polls, failed to recognize despots until they gained too much power or were paralyzed or too weak to resist.

With eyes wide open, we are only the latest of a nation of people to have somehow let war happen.

With all our education, social skills and history’s lessons, we are impotent again. And the slaughter of the innocent just goes on and on. In the slow machinations of politicians and generals to design and carry out something workable, we are told to have patience. Such repeated statements across four years that “progress is being made” ring hollow.

Where is the outrage from the people who take religious vows and commit to work for peace and end suffering?

It’s just confounding.


Blogger Dave said...

I don't think I have a problem with faith leaders taking a political stand.

I do have a problem with political leaders taking a faith stand.

Once a "leader" takes the move to political leadership, be he or she an Obama, a Clinton, a Bush, there is an obligation not to promote a religion. First Amendment stuff.

As much as I have disagreed with the Falwells, Robertsons, Bakkers, to use an old example, I think they have every right to promote their versions of how people can, should, must live.

The limit to me is passing laws that make me follow their moral precepts.

As to Lawn Griffith, he needs to follow the courage of his convictions. If he or another religious leader loses followers because of the path that is preached, it says one of two things. The leader or the follower is wrong.

In a perfect world, I'd like to see less religion spill over to politics.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Keith said...


I appreciate your comment. And I especially agree with the part about the First Amendment stuff.

There will always be a law that is passed that someone doesn't agree with.

I myself am against abortion. Others aren't. I wish abortion was illegal but it is not. I know a lot of christians that will stand out in front of an abortion clinic and tell all of those girls that made a mistake that they are "going to rot in hell." You won't find me there, and I'm a christian.

I am also think homosexuality is wrong. But you won't find me gay bashing or picketing at the annual gay pride parade. You would more than likely find me out there handing out water to them if it was hot or maybe coffee and hot chocolate if it was cold.

I would also be against gay marriage. But if it were ever to become legal, I could have respect for that law but still think it is morally wrong.

All this to say that I pretty much agree with your comment and in the separation of church and state. But that I will stand on my beliefs and convictions, but can also respect others beliefs and convictions.

Be well!

8:41 PM  
Blogger friend said...

If you care about peace outside of your borders like we care about peace in our community - it means sending in police...peace is never free. It always costs the violent death of a son in a spiritual war - like God sending his son to a war where he knew he would die to set the prisoners free.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Keith said...


I appreciate your comment too. But where do we draw the line? We've been there for how many years now? And what's changed?

7:30 AM  
Blogger friend said...

It's kinda like Jesus - he came and still people reject him - but it doesn't mean he wouldn't come pay the price - there is still crime on the streets - but we have police - sometimes you just have to say there is a cost for maintaining order - and value other people's freedom and peace as much as our own...

9:16 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home