War Is Not the Will of God
BY JOHN DEAR
As the U.S. bombs Afghanistan and over seven million poverty-stricken refugees
flee to the freezing mountains, the U.S. Catholic bishops met in Washington,
D.C. and declared their support for war. At a special Mass for peace, they
welcomed one of the Pentagon's Admirals to read from the scriptures. Then
the outgoing Bishop who is the president of the Bishops' Conference read from
the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus' injunction not only not to kill, but not
to get angry with anyone. After reading the Gospel, he launched into a hymn
of praise for the U.S. war against Afghanistan. The next day, his successor,
the newly elected bishop president announced his support for war.
With that, the bishops have once again rejected the nonviolence of Jesus.
Recently, as we discussed the church's support for war, my friend Jesuit
Father Daniel Berrigan said simply, "The bishops have abandoned us." At a
lecture at a Catholic university the week before, he told the audience that
we should just burn our copies of the Gospels, process into our church sanctuaries
holding aloft the Air Force Rule Book, with its command to kill our enemies,
and incense that instead. At least that would be more honest. It would express
our fidelity to the gods of war, since we do not worship the God of peace.
Since the September 11th World Trade Center attacks, I have been working
nearly full time as a volunteer at the main New York Family Assistance Center,
as a coordinator for the Red Cross, helping to supervise over 500 chaplains
serving the grieving family members. I myself have counseled over 1500 family
members who lost loved ones, and spoken with hundreds of rescue workers and
fire fighters at Ground Zero. I have also accompanied dozens of family members
to Ground Zero and tried to console them as they bid farewell to their loved
"Every person in the United States should visit Ground Zero," one firefighter
said recently. "Then they would see for themselves the horror of war and be
against the bombing of Afghanistan."
As I stood at the ruins of the second tower, one Catholic mother who lost
her thirty year old son, said, "I have no room for anger. I feel only compassion
for the families of the hijackers and the people of Afghanistan. Bombing Afghanistan
will never heal my grief or bring my son back or protect us from further terrorist
attacks. It only increases my grief."
As a Christian, I have tried to offer compassion to those who have suffered
here at home, and to voice the Gospel message of compassion for all people
around the world, including the refugees of Afghanistan, the children of Iraq,
and the oppressed peoples of Palestine. The Gospel mandate is clear: we are
to love our neighbors and love our enemies, even if the bishops won't. Even
if they reject the Gospel, we are called to be faithful to the nonviolent
As I walk with the grieving here in New York City, I've been trying to speak
a simple word of peace: Stop the bombing, stop the war, stop killing people.
To my surprise, I find most people are in agreement. I think most Americans
see the futility of war. They recognize that killing thousands of Afghanis
is not going to stop further terrorist attacks, but only outrage more people
and insure future attacks.
Jesus calls us to proclaim his message of peace and nonviolence, whether
in times of war or not, to say in no uncertain terms: War is not the will
of God. War is not blessed by God. War is never justified. There is no such
thing as a just war. Violence in response to violence can only lead to further
violence. State-sanctioned terrorism will only lead to further terrorism.
You reap what you sow. Peaceful means are the only way to a peaceful future
and the God of peace.
There is no security or safety in war, nuclear weapons, bombing raids, missile
shields, or greed, only in nonviolence, love, justice, compassion and the
God of peace.
The time has come to dismantle every nuclear weapon and every weapon of mass
destruction and redirect those billions of dollars toward the hard work for
a lasting peace through international cooperation for nonviolent alternatives;
interfaith dialogue; feeding every child and refugee on the planet; lifting
the sanctions on Iraq and the international debt; supporting the Palestinian
people; joining the world court and international. law; ending poverty and
the destruction of the environment; closing our own terrorist training "School
of the Americas;" and showing compassion toward every human being on the planet.
Then we can begin the process of abolishing war itself, and converting our
culture of violence into a culture of nonviolence.
In this way, we Christians show the world that we are not a people who retaliate
or seek revenge. We are followers of the nonviolent Jesus, people who love
one another, love God and ourselves, and love our enemies.
Whether the bishops endorse Jesus or not, we are called to practice Gospel
Close this window.