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World Council of Churches Comes to U.S. Looking for "Violence" By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, October 01, 2007

The Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC), which has yet to recover from its 1970’s era infatuation with Liberation Theology, recently sent a solidarity delegation to the U.S. to investigate America’s “violence.” Predictably, the “violence” includes the lack of gun control, U.S. international arms sales, and the war in Iraq.

According to the pacifist assumptions of the Religious Left, all “violence” is equally reprehensible, but violence perpetrated by American injustices is among the most insidious.

This international ecumenical team was called “Living Letters” and was formed as part of the WCC’s “Decade to Overcome Violence,” a goal that evidently will be achieved in 2011. The 4-member team included a South African ecumenical official, a Lebanese hospital executive, a Brazilian ecumenist and a Pakistani human rights lawyer. They visited Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and New Orleans.

"We need your help," National Council of Churches President Michael Livingston implored of the WCC’s “Living Letters” team while they were in Washington, D.C. "We need your help to turn around this terrible situation we have." No doubt sincerely, he told the ecumenical group: "We want to learn from you, and from our own stories, to make this world a world of peace."

Mostly Livingston wanted the “Living Letters” to help advocate stricter gun control in the U.S. He was joined by Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, who bewailed: "We have a real pride in violence in our country." He likewise exclaimed, "We also profit from it,” fingering the U.S. films that “glorify violence and promote vigilante justice,” according to a WCC account.

More revealingly, Everitt insisted that “the government must have a monopoly on force,” according to an account by my assistant Rebekah Sharpe, who attended the meeting. He identified the obstacles to fuller gun control as “hardcore gun owners” who have a “profoundly, virulently anti-government attitude.” Many of these hardcore zealots adhere to the National Rifle Association’s ostensible belief that “if our government becomes tyrannical they have a right to take over that government, our democratically elected government!”

Apparently uninformed about the political thought behind America’s founding, Everitt cluelessly asked: “If we love to say that we’re the freest country, then why [do]… our elected representatives… talk about getting government out of people’s lives? If you’re so proud of democracy then acknowledge that government had some role in that.” Undoubtedly, the “Living Letters” must have been nodding their heads. The South Africa “Letter” responded: “Yes… the right wing out there wants to de-legitimize government… [If we give in to them] we are playing into the hands of the forces of chaos.”

NCC “peace” executive Antonios Kireopoulos boasted to the “Living Letters” of the NCC’s strong opposition to the U.S. led overthrow of Saddam Hussein. He admitted that members of the NCC’s denominations had not bee supportive of the NCC’s zealous anti-war stance, but he insisted that the NCC was obliged to “teach” and “speak prophetically.” While many church congregants “did support the war, that was because of the fear of 9/11; it was a manipulation of that fear by this government,” he explained.

NCC lobbyist Brenda Girton-Mitchell confessed to the “Living Letters” that the NCC is “viewed as more Democratic leaning,” while NCC President Michael Livingston chimed in “Well, it is what it is, and it’s that way in the Bible!” He tried to insist that the NCC is non-partisan. But joining the discussion was Democratic Faith Working Group staffer Acacia Salatti, who celebrated that “faith issues” such as fighting poverty and saving the environment were now working to the advantage of Democratic members of Congress.

At their Capitol Hill briefing, the “Living Letters” were told that an American dies every 17 minutes from a gun shot. Meanwhile, the U.S. refuses to sign international treaties about gun control. Afterwards, the “Letters” toured the U.S. Capitol, where the “contrast between the founding values of this nation and the policies of today were evident,” as the Brazilian acerbically noted, evidently unaware that America’s gun owning founders were not enthusiasts for internationally imposed gun control.

The “Living Letters” also toured Washington’s many presidential monuments and war memorials, where they found lots of glorification of “violence.” Naturally, they were very concerned and asked, “Victory and sacrifice are the only way to build a great nation?” They also wondered why the “cost of freedom is paid by so many human lives.” While visiting the recently built World War II Memorial, they realized to their horror that “these praises of violence and sacrifice are not only memories of humanity’s past but are very much present today, in times we as churches are called to be protagonists.”

Later, the “Living Letters” visited with Amish families in Pennsylvania who had endured the murder of five Amish girls and the wounding of five others. They were unavoidably inspired by the Amish community’s Christian response to the killing. The gunman had committed suicide, but the Amish provided aid to the gunman’s widow and children to show they bore them no ill will. Responded one WCC official: “We talk about forgiveness, but our countries’ national systems of punishment and persecuting offenders don’t generally make room for forgiveness.”

The Amish were probably too polite to point out to the WCC officials his theological confusion. Traditionally the Amish are separatists and pacifists. But they do not dispute the divinely ordained vocation of the civil state to punish wrongdoers. Christians traditionally are called to offer redemption and forgiveness to the wicked; governments are called to perform vengeance upon them. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive, but the “Living Letters” were too focused on their search for “violence” in the U.S. to worry about the details of theology.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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