Get Your Hands Dirty
A Baptist Declaration in Opposition to Present U.S. Policies in Iraq
We, in the United States, who are followers of Jesus and Baptist by conviction are perplexed by the spiritual conflict present between radically different visions for our nation, both at home and around the world. One is inspired by our interpretations and applications of the teachings of Jesus, while the other is based in a ruling ideology of the current administration and its supporters throughout government and society.
Jesus teaches that we should live with confidence and hope in a sovereign God who graciously makes it possible for us to return God’s love of us by being a loving neighbor to all of God’s creation, even those who are our enemies. For followers of Jesus, justice, reconciliation, and peace are based on the demanding commandment to love others.
In contrast, the government of the United States, in both its executive and legislative branches, including members of both political parties, has increasingly enacted policies that are based on fear and intimidation, hatred and manipulation. It has declared an elusive and unending war on terrorism to justify its own violent acts of retribution and to establish an American empire to be imposed upon the rest of the world.
Toward these ends, the government refused to delay hostilities until weapons inspectors in Iraq completed their work; it relied on discredited informants and distorted intelligence to build a case for war; it instituted preemptive military action that violated international law and the counsel of most nations, including longstanding allies; it pursued a military strategy of terror – of “shock and awe” – against Iraq, while failing to plan and provide adequately for the consequences of protracted war and the reconstruction of devastated land; it provoked insurgent activities with the rhetoric of bravado and policies of exclusion in the rebuilding of Iraq; it allowed or fostered a culture of abuse against prisoners that violated international conventions and our own nation’s fundamental values; it continues to demonize not just supposed enemies but nations who are perceived to be tolerant of those foes; it operates with a sense of America’s moral superiority while justifying its own crimes as necessary in an unbridled campaign against terrorism.
These national policies and practices based on fear and intimidation, hatred and manipulation, have brought devastating consequences. By conservative accounting, over 30,000 innocent Iraqi civilians have lost their lives, of which an estimated ten percent were children; untold thousands have been severely injured; and still more have suffered permanent impairment. Over 2,000 American soldiers have died and 15, 000 wounded. A military action to defeat terrorism on its “primary front” has drastically increased the number of insurgent terrorists in Iraq and networks of terrorism in other countries. The rebuilding of Iraq has slowed and civil war is an on-going threat in the near or long-term future. The United States is expending more than seven billion dollars per month on the Iraqi war and costs are expected to exceed $570 billion by 2010. National Guard and military reserves serving in Iraq are not available to assist in disaster relief at home. The vast appropriations for war are requiring cutbacks in domestic programs for those in need and limitations on aid that might otherwise be used to promote global well being and peace. The standing of the United States in the eyes of the world continues to deteriorate. The stance of the government is a cause of increasing division at home.
As Baptists in the United States, we have no desire to further the division in our nation or across the globe. But neither can we remain silent in the face of the policies and practices of our nation that are so diametrically opposed to our religious faith and what we understand to be the democratic values of the nation.
We ask, therefore, Baptists and all Christians, along with other citizens of good will, to join us in the following actions:
• Seek God’s forgiveness in private and public confession for our own complicity, through acts of commission and omission, in the unnecessary harm our nation is inflicting upon the people of Iraq and in the global war on terrorism. We encourage others, including religious and civic leaders, to make such private and public confessions. We trust this can occur in devotional life and public worship, as well as in civic forums.
• Protect the fundamental freedom to dissent and hold opinions contrary to the dominant culture and government policies. We believe that this can occur in private conversation, peaceful public demonstrations, and raising our voices through the media, internet blogs, and other means of communication.
• Expose, in whatever means and opportunities are available, the intimidating and manipulative appeals to fear and hatred to justify and foster practices of coercion and military aggression adopted by our government. We believe this can happen in educational settings and through the public media.
• Challenge in spoken and written word our fellow citizens and our public leaders to reflect on the foundations and consequences of our nation’s policies and practices and to recommend and actively support alternative policies and practices that promote diplomacy, human rights and development, and the protection and just distribution of the earth’s resources. We suggest this take place in sermons, newsletters, op-eds, letters-to-the-editor, and through other means of communication.
Furthermore, because it appears that President George W. Bush and members of his administration are, and will continue to be, indifferent and unresponsive to the widening public desire to end the American military presence in Iraq, we as Christians and people of civic good will must communicate regularly and energetically – through letters, telephone calls, and face-to-face visits – with our elected representatives in the United States Senate and House of Representatives for legislative actions that will:
• end the involvement of our nation in the Iraqi war;
• provide for means that will allow other nations and international bodies to seek and implement a peaceful end to the Iraqi conflict and the reconstruction of that country; and
• support programs that mandate diplomatic solutions to international conflicts and the use of war as a last resort.
If, as a follower of Jesus, you share our deep concern about the policies and practices of our nation, we invite you to join us in casting off the fear that has bound us. We ask that you endorse this statement on the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America website (www.bpfna.org) or convey it to the BPFNA office by mail (4800 Wedgewood Drive, Charlotte NC 28210 USA), fax (704.521.6053), or e-mail (email@example.com).
In the spirit of discipleship and Baptist freedom, we invite you to join in this endeavor.