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Bush Support Eroding as Christians Condemn Iraq Involvement

Bush Support Eroding as Christians Condemn Iraq Involvement
September 12, 2005
the San Bernardino County Sun (California)

by Jano Gibson

With increasing frequency, Christians are condemning U.S. military involvement in Iraq.

And the growing unrest among Christians threatens to erode President Bush's most loyal base.

"We had no plan for making the peace. We continue as a superpower to be arrogant. . . . And we have acted as though all is well, when, in fact, daily we have reports of suicide bombings and more disruptions in Iraq," said the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, a coalition of mainline Protestant and Orthodox denominations.

"Just like with Hurricane Katrina, (Bush) doesn't want to hear people say `it didn't go well,' " said Edgar, a Democrat who was president of Claremont School of Theology from 1990 to 2000.

In the buildup to war, Bush told Americans that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The despot has been deposed, but WMDs have not been found. U.S. troops remain in Iraq while the fledging government adopts a constitution and trains its own security force.

"The president has said we will be in Iraq no longer than we are needed there," said White House spokesman Ken Lisaius.

Two months after Bush declared major combat in Iraq completed in May 2003, most Christians thought the United States had acted prudently, according to a poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Those agreeing with the military effort were 68 percent of white mainline Protestants, 74 percent of white Catholics and 79 percent of white evangelicals. Mainline denominations are those that originated in Europe and include Lutherans, Episcopalians and Methodists.

The survey numbers fell during the following two years.

A poll last July by the Pew Forum showed 56 percent o f white mainline Protestants and 54 percent o f white Catholics supported military involvement. Even among evangelicals, who helped Bush win re-election, support had fallen by 11 percentage points.

Richard Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, which did not publicly endorse the war but has been a Bush backer, seemed surprised Friday when he was told 68 percent of evangelicals still thought invading Iraq was the right thing to do.

"It's probably attributable to general support of the president," Cizik said.

Many, though, are growing tired of reports of U.S. casualties.

At the invitation of local anti-war activists, including Progressive Christians Uniting, Medea Benjamin is scheduled to speak this morning at Pilgrim Place, the Christian retirement community in Claremont. The 11 a.m. speech will be held in Decker Hall, 665 Avery Road.

The anti-war crusader, who is not religious, has worked for years with interfaith groups promoting peace.

"The teachings of all the major religions teach peace and tolerance, universal love. Unfortunately, we humans have strayed too much from those basic teachings, often in the name of those religions," said Benjamin, founding director of the human-rights group Global Exchange.

In San Bernardino, up to 20 people Jewish, Catholic, Quaker and Protestant have held a vigil each Wednesday for the past month on E Street, behind City Hall.

"From a religious perspective, this is not a just war," said the Rev. David Kalke of Central City Lutheran Mission in San Bernardino, a vigil organizer. "We haven't been attacked. The reason for going to war hasn't been substantiated. The lost of life has been tremendous on both sides."

Nearly 1,900 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since March 2003. Thousands of insurgents and Iraqi civilians have, too.

To be sure, many Christians opposed military action long before the conflict began. So changing attitudes shouldn't be attributed to new moral understandings, said John C. Green, a religion and politics expert at the University of Akron in Ohio.

But Green said the practical argument against war has become more persuasive: No sign of WMDs, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was an international embarrassment, states like Ohio and California are facing heavy casualties, and the Iraqi government is struggling to get off the ground.

Christians still favor how Bush is handling Iraq more than the general public, where only two of five agree with the president, recent surveys show. Last month, before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the president's job approval rating was 42 percent, according to an Associated Press/Ipsos poll.

"Regardless of polls, he is going to continue to do what is right for the American people," said Lisaius, the White House spokesman. "This is something that transcends politics. This is about the safety or our country and the safety of people around the world."

But Iraq also is another wedge issue for liberal and conservative Christians.

"Evangelicals want to support this president and want to believe this war, in the long run, is going to make a big difference on behalf of democracy and freedom of religion and civil rights in the whole region," said Cizik.

He does not believe Iraq is dividing Christians but said it eventually may.

"But if the (Iraqi) constitution doesn't guarantee those rights, it might shed whole new light on what we are fighting for and dying for there."

Copyright © 2005 Los Angeles Newspaper Group



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Have those good 'christians' been comatose for the last five years, or without electricity, or what? The light bulb moment realizing how bad Bu$h has been for this nation has been five years too late - (and thousands of lives and billions of dollars and rights lost) - now dawning in their brains....

Their god is going to have to forgive them. I won't.


I am a christian and I have despised Bush forever. Bush is closer to the devil than he is a christian. I have never understood why so many christians think a murdering liar is so wonderful? Open your eyes folks and see Bush for what he really is!

I would hope Christians would warn of the danger of arrogance, of believing that we are carrying out 'God's will'. All faiths recognise the danger of pride, the corrupting influence of power. The story of the temptation of Christ carries a message, he was offered the world but was not moved. We talk of universal love and universal rights but seem very quick to come to terms with our own failings to honour them. We denounce acts of brutality but gloss over our own.

The pro-war lobby are right to say that Saddam Hussein needed to be removed, right to point out the suffering inflicted on the people of Iraq. They must equally accept the right of others to question how this war was argued for and more importantly how it was waged. Could we have helped the Iraqis in a better way ? Could we have been more intelligent in our use of our armed forces ? Taken a route that brought on board as many ordinary Iraqis as possible - without 'Shock and Awe'. Could we in short have fought a more intelligent campaign against Saddam Hussein ? I think the rush to war looks very much like a necessity driven by the desire for control. The chaos that ensued providing the excuse for the permanent bases, occupation without end. The unemployment levels and hunger providing the Iraqis willing to joing forces with the Coalition. They paid very dear for all our 'mistakes', far too many people have died for our 'new Iraq'. If we step back and look at what has happened, do we really see well meaning but bungled responses, or are we ready to consider that sometimes there is a 'method to our madness' and it is not always with the most worthy of motives.

The Pentagon does not claim to be a 'humanitarian organisation' - it marketed 'shock and awe' with an intent to win control of Iraq. A policy for 'the hearts and minds' of a people requires a humanitarian instinct motivated by the desire to alleviate suffering - I opposed this war because 'it stank' - it cost too much in human lives and damage to the environment. Not all the biblical references uttered since time began would I believe have tempted Jesus to support it - it wasn't about being anti-american, or choosing to support Saddam Hussein's continued reign over Iraq - it was about being afraid of an unimaginative, very recognisable act of violence in pursuit of power. Whether that was intended by all who argued for it or not, to change it's outcome needs a world to be sickened by propaganda, cluster bombs, bombs, missiles, depleted uranium and broken hearts. I don't know it the worst will happen if we withdraw our troops, I just want to see some real honesty about what the Iraqi people have endured and are enduring and a good dose of commonsense about how to stop the killing.

All republican politicians have to do is mention "abortion" and "gay".

Probably as low as it can go. Bush would probably have to abort a fetus and eat it on national TV to lose more support.

Two Danish artists have decided on registering their opposition to the war in Iraq on the walls of Baghdad itself.

From Friday, over 1000 posters are to hit the most populous and important quarters of the capital, including the diplomatic Green Zone in the very heart of the city.

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