By Yonat Shimron, Raleigh News & Observer
And they bemoaned the many more deaths of American soldiers that would accrue before the phased withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014.
“We want to break the silence,” said Hall, associate professor of Christian ethics at the Duke Divinity School and one of the organizers of a project urging pastors to talk about the war Sunday. “We’re asking people to turn their eyes in this direction and not ignore the news.”
Hall and a few of her students, past and present, set up a website – http://proper29.wordpress.com – offering sermon ideas for pastors willing to engage their congregations in conversations about ways the war has failed to live up to Christian “just war” theories. The head of the N.C. Council of Churches, George Reed, supported the effort.
Many pastors, afraid of offending congregants who are divided on the war, avoid the subject altogether. They don’t want to be labeled “anti-war,” or worse, “anti-military.” Or, like many others, they find it easy to forget that the United States is still at war.
The Rev. Taylor Mills, pastor of Trinity United Methodist, acknowledged as much.
“I can too easily go about my life without a thought for the men, women and children in harm’s way on all sides,” he said Sunday. “Admitting my shortcomings, I nevertheless call on us all, as Christians, to confront the difficult questions: Who is the real king, the one with the biggest guns, or the Prince of Peace?”
The Rev. Isaac Villegas, pastor of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship, also preached on war Sunday. He said the classified reports released on the Wiki Leaks website and the disclosures in a new memoir by former President George W. Bush that he had authorized the use of waterboarding in interrogations of al-Qaida members, prompted him to speak out against such violence.
The special U.S. role
These Triangle pastors — there is no good figure on how many — were doubtless in the minority.
In a survey conducted after the midterm elections, 58 percent of Americans said they believed God has granted the U.S. a special role in human history. The survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that those same Americans also are significantly more likely to say military strength rather than diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace and that torture can be justified. A total of 1,494 people were interviewed for the telephone poll that took place Nov. 3 to Nov. 7.
Yet the old-timers in Hall’s Sunday school class, many of whom fought in World War II, had another perspective.
“Every time I see the list of kids killed, my heart aches,” said Ed Rodgers, 88, of Durham, who served in the Navy. “In three more years there will be another 5,000 that don’t need to be killed. I say fill up those drones with medicine, food and clothes.”
Not all those Sunday school members are pacifists. But they shared an understanding that war is best avoided and that this particular war was proving costly, financially and morally.
“It’s not that we’re clean and they’re bloody,” Hall said. “We’re in this together. We need to pray and preach and struggle with this together.”