Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

CROSSROADS COMMENT -- With God On Our Side

Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side.

So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.

---Bob Dylan, "With God On Our Side"

Last Sunday in our Crossroads community U.S. Marine Col. J. Tyler Ryberg signed up his God for active duty. He gave a sermon at Good Shepherd Baptist Church’s Armed Forces Day. The Tribune Star reports that he brought the news, I won’t call it good news, that “God is a powerful soldier.” He also declared “the global war on terrorism was a ‘just war’ and a ‘God-ordained war.’”

I try not to get flip when people start quoting God to support their views on international politics. These people pray hard, they point to Bible passages, and they step forward to testify. It’s all sincere and heartfelt. But why is it so difficult for some to remember that many God-loving, God-fearing, church-going individuals regularly go through this same process and come to entirely different conclusions. So Col. J. Tyler Ryberg is welcome to the path his experience and faith leads him along–it’s just his crooked path and his misdirection.

On “just wars.” The Trib Star report (and perhaps Col. J. Tyler Ryberg) was not clear on whether or not this statement: “the global war on terrorism was a ‘just war’ and a ‘God-ordained war’” was meant to be applied specifically to the disaster in Iraq or only in general to an amorphous enemy, a “global war on terrorism.” I’ll assume that Col. Ryberg, along with the rest of the nation, has finally been convinced that there was absolutely no link, no dots to connect, no evidence whatsoever showing the terrorism of Saddam Hussein and the terrorism of Bin Laden to be in league in any way. 9/11 had absolutely nothing to do with Iraq–the Iraq fiasco has everything to do with bad policy decisions in the Bush war camp.

Iraq is not a ‘just-war” as the term is understood by most theologians. I quote at length from an article by Peter Steinfels the religion columnist of the New York Times. (Yes. The New York Times has a religion columnist and it provides coverage on a host of issues and events spiritual and church related.)

“Michael Walzer, [is] the political scientist whose book "Just and Unjust Wars" has become a classic in the field.

“[For those like Professor Walzer who value the just-war tradition] The criterion, these just-war theorists say, is essentially a prudential one. Establishing what is or is not a last resort is a matter not of abstract mathematical demonstration but of practical, concrete wisdom, acquired through experience and reflection.

“War must be the last resort, Professor Walzer writes, 'because of the unpredictable, unexpected, unintended and unavoidable horrors that it regularly brings.' As for the notion of lastness, it is essentially 'cautionary,' he states: 'look hard for alternatives before you let loose the dogs of war.'"

This definition and concern with what is and is not a ‘just-war” is one that I can live with and abide by. Iraq did not and does not meet this definition and concern. Tragically, Iraq does provide copious evidence of the “unexpected, unintended and unavoidable horrors” of a war taken up in the spirit of arrogance and the weakness of ignorance.

I thank Colonel Ryberg for his long service to this country in the military.

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