What Would Jesus
March 13, 2003
James Moran, an anti-war Democrat
from Virginia, is in a heap of trouble for saying, in response to a question
from a woman in the audience who identified herself as Jewish, If
it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war
in Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community
are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this
is going, and I think they should.
After being quoted in a local
paper, this created the biggest flap since Trent Lott said ... oh, you know
what he said. Moran has been accused of everything from just being his
usual offensive self to being an anti-Semite. We have heard the usual
sermons on how this sort of talk encourages conspiracy theories about
Jews, leading to persecution, et cetera. It has been pointed out that Jews
are no more pro-war than other Americans, which is more to the point.
But Moran wasnt talking
about all Jews. He was talking about a lobby whose power nobody in
Congress doubts. If he had referred to the religious right
instead of the Jewish community, nobody would have
blinked. It probably wouldnt even have been reported. As it was,
Moran wasnt attacking Jews in general. He was delivering a mild
rebuke to a particular group of Jews.
So where are the anti-war Jews?
Theyre out there. But they arent organized and powerful, nor
do they have much clout in the media; they are scattered individuals. Alas,
politicians dont care what Noam Chomsky says; they care what the
American-Israel Public Affairs Council says. You dont have to tell
your congressman what AIPAC stands for. He knows.
Its unfortunate that the
major Jewish organizations claim to speak for all Jews, thereby giving
rise to the illusion that Jews are monolithic, which some people are eager
to believe anyway. In the same way, the hawks in general claim to speak
for all Americans, as when they complain that our allies
arent supporting us us
meaning a war that hasnt even begun yet. The country is far from
united in favor of war, and foreigners have as much right to oppose it as
we Americans do. Nobody has a duty to support all the wars our
government gets into. Its hard enough keeping track of them.
Morans complaint might better have been directed at
certain well-known Christians. Chief among these is President Bush, who
says that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is the greatest influence in his life.
Mr. President, one
might ask, can you imagine Jesus Christ putting on a uniform and
shooting and bombing strangers because he was ordered to? That
question seems to me to get right to the point.
War, especially the kind of
preemptive war Bush has in mind, depends upon men being
willing to do just that: killing because they are commanded to kill. In war,
human commands supersede divine commandments. No matter how fancy
the rationale, thats what it comes down to.
Jesus was no utopian. He
predicted wars and rumors of wars. He warned that his
disciples would be persecuted for his names sake. He even
predicted his own death and resurrection. And he warned that those who
live by the sword will also die by the sword. He refused to fight back even
when threatened with death by torture.
True, human beings find it hard
to imitate his example, and Christian thinkers have generally allowed for
just war. But its conditions are strict, and few wars meet
them. The Catholic weekly The Wanderer quotes a prominent
Spanish theologian, Jose Alfredo Peris Cancio, who soberly views the
proposed war with Iraq as falling short of these conditions.
War must be against an
aggressor who inflicts harm that is lasting, grave, and
certain. There must be no other remedy available. There must be
serious prospects of success. Finally, The use of
arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be
eliminated. Bushs war fails these tests, except of course
that its success is assured.
Cancios view is carefully
balanced. He also deplores demagogic and unjust
anti-Americanism among some opponents of the war. Such is the
judgment of one impartial, humane, and serious Christian.
For Bush the question seems to
be not, What would Jesus do? but, Whom would