Skip to comments.Candidates say Scripture justifies war
Posted on 09/02/2007 5:04:30 AM PDT by Clear Rivers
If you happened to be in a crowded room at The Beacon Drive-In one Wednesday in late August, you would have heard a man in a suit reference Genesis Chapter 50, the book of Isaiah, and using two fish and five loaves of bread to feed thousands of people.
It wasn't a sermon.
It was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 presidential contender, during a stump speech in front of a room full of Republicans.
Using biblical references on the campaign trail isn't unusual, especially in the conservative core of South Carolina. Often, they can be heard when candidates spell out their positions on abortion or gay rights. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback regularly repeats "All for Jesus" when he's in front of a crowd, for instance.
"If you're a Republican candidate campaigning in Spartanburg ... right now, you have to do whatever ever it takes to stay alive, and that means courting a constituency that can help you," said Laura Olson, an expert in American religion and politics at Clemson University. "In the Republican primary in South Carolina, an absolute crucial constituency would be social conservatives, value voters, evangelical Protestants - call them whatever you want. Quoting scripture would be speaking their language.
"In a national sense, it could be a problem. But in Spartanburg, South Carolina, you're going to alienate fewer people than you're going to attract."
While many candidates are quick to cite the Bible when it comes to social issues (or, in the case of Huckabee's latest visit, the state of his campaign), they are much less likely to run to the Good Book when it comes to the ongoing war in the Middle East, which has left thousands of Iraqis dead.
In a series of interviews with top Republican candidates or members of their campaigns during the past month, the Herald-Journal asked how supporting such a war meshes with the most basic biblical teachings such as "love thy enemy" or "thou shall not kill." Most defended the war in Iraq as "just" - morally acceptable, despite the nature of warfare.
What they said
Huckabee, who calls the war against terror "World War III," is a Baptist preacher and pointed out that the literal translation of the Sixth Commandment is "Thou shall not do murder."
"The same Bible that says 'thou shall not kill' is filled with references to war," Huckabee said. "It's never an ideal. It always should be the last resort. But I don't think anybody would deny that war was a necessary action to stop Adolph Hitler, to stop the invasion of Japan in the United States, and to stop many evils that have happened throughout history. It's not something that you take lightly or enter into with a cavalier spirit, but sometimes it is the only way to put aside an evil that is determined to destroy others."
Arizona Sen. John McCain, an Episcopalian, cited a chapter in his latest book, "Hard Call," that focuses on American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.
"Niebuhr argued in his rejection of pacifism during World War II that man, self-interested by nature, cannot hope to replicate Christ's perfect love, but at best can hope to work in history to achieve a derivative of his love: justice," McCain said in a statement. "War, if it is waged in the cause of doing justice, may be morally acceptable to Christians, as long as - and this is important - we have the humility to accept that we are engaged in a morally hazardous action, and that our pride and self-interest, if we are not very careful, could subvert the very cause of justice we intended to serve."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, initially laughed at the question, and then pointed out that the issue had been debated for years by theologians and philosophers.
"Radical violent jihad is evil," Romney then said. "It is the same face that Hitler's holocaust camps showed the world during the second World War. And it is good and right to combat forces of evil, such as those represented by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas and other groups that preach terror and hate and destruction."
Brownback, who converted from Methodist to Catholic in 2002, pointed out that America's invasion of Iraq was closely on the heels of 9/11, and that his feeling was that Saddam Hussein had used gas against his own people and that U.S. intelligence showed that he had chemical weapons.
"I thought he would give them to terrorists to use against us, not al-Qaida, necessarily, but other terrorists that were operating on his soil," Brownback said. "I wasn't willing to let him kill our people, and I think that is a just war situation - that combination of what he had done to his own people and the very real threat I believed he was to our people."
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani perhaps least often uses biblical references to justify his positions - he's said on numerous occasions he likes to keep those feelings between himself and his Catholic priest.
Giuliani, in past interviews with the Herald-Journal and other papers, has pointed out on abortion, for instance, that his position rests in the Republican belief that government should not intrude into a person's life.
His campaign offered this excerpt from a speech Giuliani delivered at The Citadel in May: "Our ideas of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, respect for human life, and the rule of law ...
"These are the principles that the human heart and the human soul yearn for. These are gifts that are given to us, not by government, not by men or women - these are gifts that are given to us by God."
What it means
The idea of a "just" war goes back hundreds of years - St. Thomas Aquinas defined it in the 1200s, and even he was referencing St. Augustine's works from the 4th century. But the idea still guides politicians today: President Bush first used the term "evildoers" on Sept. 14, 2001, and has used it repeatedly since.
Clemson University political science professor Dave Woodard pointed out that just war theory was debated often during World War II, Vietnam and the first Gulf War. In Vietnam, for instance, America decided it would be immoral to bomb dikes and flood civilians. President George H.W. Bush faced the same questions during his term.
"The purpose of war is to bring about peace," Woodard said. "Morally, he thought we were slaughtering them, and he wanted to end the conflict.
It turned out, when it was over, we weren't doing as well as it seemed we did in the pictures. So, he left Saddam Hussein in power and pulled out."
In his "Summa Theologiae," Aquinas argued that there are three conditions for a just war - that the ruler for whom the war is fought must have the authority to do so; that a just cause is required, so that those upon whom war is waged "deserve" such a response; and that the war is conducted to achieve good or avoid evil. Citing Augustine, he states, "For the true followers of God, even wars are peaceful if they are waged not out of greed or cruelty, but for the sake of peace, to restrain the evildoers and assist the good," according to one translation.
In modern terms, that means asking whether a war is justifiable or whether the ends justify the means, Olson said.
"Most social conservatives would say yes, because they tie it to 9/11 and other things tied to 9/11," she said.
But it's a fine line the candidates must walk.
The last thing any of them wants to do is tie their morals or values regarding the war directly to Christianity, because then the debate turns into one of Christianity versus Islam, Olson said.
"The war is very controversial," she said.
"And the war itself doesn't inspire quite as much agreement among social conservatives as gay rights and abortion would. It's certainly true that a majority of social conservatives would support the war, at least to some extent. But you want to find ways of attracting people, keeping them on the same stage. It's one thing to try to mobilize social conservative voters by talking about homosexuality, abortion ... but the war is a whole different can of worms to open.
"Not that abortion and homosexuality aren't controversial - they are. But ... the war is a messier issue for this audience."
Like that's a bad thing.
More bias, word for word, than even the NYT dares to print. And though he can’t spell Adolf, he attempts to bring a historical perspective (with a selection of comments, as if quotation marks are magic talismans against any suspicion of bias).
Close the borders and fight to win, that is the candidate I will support.
See my tagline...Only one out of the bunch that is action, not talk!
“Close the borders and fight to win”? Then you want Duncan Hunter. These two issues are central themes of his campaign.
Oh, now it’s evil for Western Civilization to defend itself. Not PC. (Pardon me while I throw up in the waste basket.)
Like that's a bad thing.
Yes it is! Why how would you like Muslems invoking their God for say a "jihad" against western civilization??? We need to leave them alone to peacefully practice their form of worship with car bombs and suicide bombers!
I do not like war anymore than anyone else. However, this commandment Huckabee uses is specific to premeditated homicide.... laying in wait .... with 'evil' intent.... say like rape.... robbery... etc.
The facts regarding this particular war, that the leftist keep trying to recreate into their last war they pulled the plug, was started by these global terrorists premeditated killers. It is a national duty Biblically speaking to defend and protect civilizations against the viral spreading of premeditated killers whether said virus is called a religion or by some other name.
Wonder does the Bible say anything about waring in say Iraq and neighborhoods...
I believe the correct translation is "murder", not "kill". Totally different animals.
Yes it is like SUPER ULTIMATE politically incorrect.
Yes, reason why I put the specific meaning of "murder" premeditated with evil intent. The Bible goes into detail about loss of life, from accidental to premeditated. Even tells what the penalty required in prevention of further 'crime'. Sadly those 'standards' are not seen as fit in much of secularism and even some religions.
There were even sanctuary cities where the 'perp' could be safe from the mad family and friends.
...and nary a mention of a single dimocRAT’s views.
Very insightful for sheepherders, seemed to work every time it was tried.
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