Sunday, March 26, 2006

but I didn't speak out against the war because I didn't want anyone to be mad at me."

excerpt from opinion article in News-Leader.com, opinion section; Ozark Opinions
by Pastor Roger Ray of National Avenue Christian Church

title and link; Invasion of Iraq was without Justification

excerpt: And, sadly, we must recognize that in this chapter of world history the church, because of its ascent to war or its relative silence, was a partner to the murder of more than 100,000 innocent people.

In the months leading up to the war many pastors told one another that they were personally adamantly against the war but they said nothing publicly for fear of offending members of their church. I just wish that now they could tell the families who have lost fathers, sons, infant children, mothers and sisters, "I was against the war, but I didn't speak out against it because I didn't want anyone to be mad at me."

Or, in this season of Lent, to walk up to the foot of the cross and look up into the bloodied face of the crucified Christ and confess, "I knew the war was wrong, but I was afraid to say anything because my church wants me to always be a moderate on political issues......I hope you understand." end excerpt


I point to the above excerpt as it has been my own question when the community of churches and faith-base look back on their own positions regarding the Iraq war.

My own dismay with my local Episcopal church was the reticence and reluctance among our congregants to discuss the Iraq war. I began preparing my sermons to challenge the concept of war in Iraq in a faith-based context. While they tolerated my sermons as a lay-preacher (in training) in which I challenged the President's decision, the policies and politics that initiated a war and a faith-based response required our voices to speak out, they did not embrace such talk in church on Sundays. A catalyst moment came when Newshour with Jim Lehrer did a segment on military families speaking out. It was newsworthy at that time (Aug 2004) because the long-held tradition of military families is not one of speaking out publicily in what could be interpreted as disrespect; what could be construed as speaking against the Commander-in-Chief/President

I am both a lay-preacher and a military family. We live in a rural and somewhat remote area, off the grid towns and cities of I-5 in Western Washington. It's not a convenient drive for local newscasters and Newshour crew drove out here to film me giving such a sermon one Sunday in August 2004. The segment aired October 2004 and is still online at the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer website. Giving credit to our small, elderly congregants with traditional values that span generations of acculturation for them, I'd say they handled this highly unusual intrusion fairly well. However, for me, still in the training phase towards becoming a licensed Episcopal preacher (relevant in the Episcopal faith heirarchy to make this distinction) I was still in a 'discernment' process and seeking out my own 'calling'; my own 'ministry'. My struggle was with the reality of wearing two hats simultaneously; a military family with 2 loved ones deployed in war in Iraq and my training in faith ministry as a lay preacher.

My own faith and belief set calls out to speak in love for humanity while grappling with complex human realities of our time; not unlike Jesus did in his human-walk if one reads scripture as symbolic and interpretative rather than factually literal. I was very disturbed at the time that it seemed no Christian churches were weighing in with a public voice on war in Iraq/Afghanistan. I also saw for myself as a result of the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer segment there was a ministry calling me in a different direction speaking out to a wider listening audience as a faith-based military family than the small congregation of my church. I chose to follow that calling and that ministry, temporarily interrupting the traditional track for my training as an Episcopal lay preacher.

'Temporary interruption' because I believed at that time lending what influence I could lend to the public discussion of war in Iraq would help influence an early end to the war. 2004 - 2006 I have learned how to become an 'activist', and I'm still learning.

Not until mid to late 2005 did I begin to see some of the churches question their position of silence on war in Iraq. It is regrettable it took the faith community so long to recognize the incongruous position of silence in the face of war-time as inconsistent with Christian teachings; or at least inconsistent with what I have come to have as a personal faith in appreciating Jesus as an example and role model, along with Ghandi, along with Martin Luther King Jr.

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