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The Sojourners' Moral Confusion By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, July 17, 2008

Evangelical Left activist Jim Wallis and his Sojourners group are urging their supporters to take "action" by demanding that the U.S. and Israel "stop playing war games with Iran." 

"War has increasingly become a first resort instead of the last resort in our militarized country," an email alert from the Sojourners team pronounces.  "But in a world with terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, alternatives to an endless cycle of violence are not just a nice idea - they are a matter of life and death."

In the wake of Iran's July 2 missile demonstration, Wallis et al are portraying Iran, the U.S. and Israel as three bad boys in the sand box whose knuckles need rapping.

As the conscience of the nation, who better to rap deserving knuckles than Jim Wallis and Sojourners? "Stop Playing War Games with Iran," demands the Sojourners headline on its website.  The call to action further explains:  "America, Iran, and Israel have been playing war games this summer: Showing off warships in the Persian Gulf, launching missiles, and testing aerial maneuvers – it is like watching a bad game of one-upmanship."

For Sojourners, there is no moral distinction between the Israeli Air Force's aerial maneuvers over the Mediterranean in June, which are widely perceived as a rehearsal for a potential strike against Iran's nuclear weapons program, the presence U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, and Iran's nuclear saber rattling and self-hyped missile demonstration on July 2.

Of course, the U.S. and Israel are seeking to deter Iran's Islamist theocracy from developing nuclear weapons.  Such weapons, if brandished by Iran's capricious mullahs, would hang like a sword of Damocles over the Middle East, especially but not exclusively Israel, about whose annihilation Iran's apocalypse-minded president has publicly fantasized.  

But it is the U.S. about which Sojourners is primarily distressed, followed by Israel, with Iran apparently only the third most sinister of the war-gamers.  "It’s not a game," fretted the Sojourners action alert.  "Once again, the talk of military action against Iran has reached a fever pitch, with demonstrations of force on all sides. But this saber-rattling is a dead-end street for the United States and the Middle East."

Neither the U.S. nor Israel has publicly speculated with delight about Iran's possible annihilation as a nation.  Neither the U.S. nor Israel is a repressive theocracy with clerical rulers who spiritually and physically horse whip their people.  Neither U.S. nor Israeli officials has publicly outlined apocalyptic scenarios drenched in blood.  But from the Sojourners perspective, the "fever pitch" of war comes from Iran's potential victims and critics, not Iran's despots.

"Another American-led or supported military attack in the Middle East would likely prove disastrous," Sojourners bemoans.  "While we support the elimination of all nuclear weapons, both existing and planned, Iran must be dealt with through diplomatic negotiations with real pressures and effective incentives – similar to negotiations with North Korea – rather than by threats of military attack."

Whether or not North Korea is dissuaded from its own nuclear weapons program is still an open question. But the communist tyranny of Kim Jong Il presides over a starving, under populated and impoverished wasteland, susceptible to external pressure, especially from its Chinese patron.  Iran is far more populous and sustained by oil wealth. It's hard fully to compare the sanity of the Iranian and North Korean heads of state.  But if there is any up side to North Korea's atheist tyrant, he at least does not claim that God is on his side, or that his messiah is waiting to emerge from a Korean well.

But for Sojourners, as for nearly all the Religious Left, judging the sordid motives and levels of repression of Islamist or communist regimes is never an issue.  Whatever their failures, these governments are portrayed as simply the victims of Western and specifically U.S. hegemony.  Diplomacy and potentially reparations are the only answers.  Even the implied threat of force is unacceptable to the largely pacifist Religious Left, and to the pacifist Jim Wallis, who often assumes that Christian Peacemaker Teams are the solution to every geopolitical conflict.

"Tell the United States, Israel and Iran to pursue diplomatic solutions, not military action, in the Middle East," Sojourners instructs its followers, who are told to contact Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, and Israeli official, or U.S. members of Congress.  Presumably, the Iranian ambassador will be the most appreciative of the Sojourners contacts.

The sample email for the Sojourners activists reads:  "As a person of faith, I support the elimination of all nuclear weapons, both existing and under development. But continuing threats of military action raise fear levels and do nothing to solve our problems. I want the voices of citizens in all three countries to be heeded in calls for peaceful solutions."

Seemingly, Sojourners does not perceive a nuclearized Iran as more uniquely dangerous than a nuclearized U.S.  Surprisingly, it does not, for now, urge Iran to rally international diplomatic support for disarming the U.S.    

"Please support all efforts to find diplomatic solutions between the United States, Israel, and Iran, and stop the endless war talk," Sojourners sample email concludes.  "A peaceful future is possible."

But neither the Scriptures nor history promise peace as the reward for self-delusion or naive accommodation.  And a refusal to distinguish between lawful rulers and lawless tyrants finds little credence in Christian tradition.  "Tell Iran, Israel and the U.S.:  Dialogue, not Destruction!" Sojourners demands of its fans.  But moral confusion can just as likely precipitate "destruction" and tragedy as "endless war talk."

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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