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“Peacemaking” in the Terror War By: Mark Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, December 08, 2008

A new group of Evangelical Left elites are promoting U.S. disarmament and peacemaking, as the Gospels supposedly command. It is called “The Matthew 5:21-26 Project: Evangelicals for National Security through International Cooperation.”

The cited Scripture urges believers to reconcile quickly with adversaries before allowing disputes to simmer. In fact, Jesus gave this command to individuals, not national rulers. The Gospel commands individual believers to forgive enemies so as to model God’s love and safeguard their own souls. Exercising a different vocation in their statecraft, rulers are responsible for defending the lives and livelihoods of their citizenry. St. Paul, in Romans 13, famously described how Providence has ordained rulers to enact vengeance against evil doers. For rulers to shun their responsibility is not mercy but cruelty.

This traditional Christian distinction between the vocations of individuals and rulers is not overly complex. But liberal religionists sophistically often ignore Christian tradition while extracting isolated biblical verses to make trite political points. Many of the Mathew 5 Project’s peacemakers are associated with the once conservative National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which heeded their counsel last year to denounce “torture” by the U.S. Drafters of its new manifesto include Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, David Gushee of Mercer University, and Glenn Stassen of Fuller Seminary. Last October, at an NAE-sponsored “Global Leaders Forum,” the Matthew 5 Project presented a session called “Dialogue with Adversaries: Why Unilateralism Violates Biblical Text." In an email to NAE board members, the Matthew 5 Project thanked NAE participants for helping to refine its purpose statement.

That manifesto demands that the United States “oppose the rise in global terrorism by working for international justice and peacemaking.” It urges “diplomatic negotiations with allies and enemies alike,” especially in the pursuit of “verifiable international reduction” of nukes and other weapons of mass destruction.” It claims that North Korea, Libya and Iran were talked out of building nukes, showing “the realism in our context of Jesus’ command to go talk with an adversary to make peace while there’s time.”

How reassuring to learn from the Matthew 25 Project that North Korea and Iran have indeed disavowed their nuclear ambitions. And naturally there’s no mention of what persuaded Libya to abandon its weapon ambitions, i.e. the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The manifesto claims 16 nations have abandoned nuclear plans thanks to peacemaking diplomacy. In fact, almost all of them did so because they instead rely on U.S. nuclear protection or were pressured by the U.S. and its allies. The former South African Apartheid regime dismantled its nukes, not wanting to pass them along to the new black majority government.

But to hear the Matthew 25 Project, rogues states have voluntarily disarmed thanks to aggressive peacemaking ministries. Jimmy Carter’s infamous 1994 visit to North Korea is even credited. Supposed Biblical examples of such Carter-like ministry include St. Paul, the project insists, because the Apostle “made peace” with the Romans, Jews and Greeks who sought to persecute him. Actually, St. Paul’s preaching sometimes provoked riots, and his goal was conversions, not necessarily temporal peace. And obviously, he was acting as a soul-seeking evangelist, not an agent of the state, whose legitimate powers to coerce, arrest, prosecute and sometimes kill he never contested.

Christians who disagree with the saintly politics of the Mathew 25 Project are denying the Lordship of Christ, their manifesto strongly implies. But a “quiet Reformation” is breaking forth, they celebrate, when many are “growingly sincere about seeking to follow Jesus in all of life.” This Christian faithfulness mandates intense peacemaking with adversaries. Repeatedly, the manifesto fails to distinguish between individual Christians or The Church, and the responsibilities of the state. “Our worldwide witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ is truer and more persuasive when we are making a peacemaking witness than when we appear to stand for antagonism toward other nations,” it intones. Does “we” refer to The Church, to American Christians, or to the United States as a nation? The Matthew 25 Project seems to conflate all three.

“Many people confuse American policies with Christian faith,” the manifesto complains. “We do not want reactions against our witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Should the Unites States exercise its diplomatic and military powers only in a way that enhances the international reputations of liberal evangelicals?

Oddly, the Matthew 25 Project almost admits, briefly, that the “biggest factor” in persuading countries not to build nukes was “confidence in support from the United States or another major nation that makes acquiring a nuclear deterrent unnecessary, combined with awareness that neighbors would react negatively.” Naturally, the manifesto does not elaborate on whether the U.S. nuclear deterrent might actually be a force for good. And when discussing the U.S. expectation that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment before direct talks, the sensitive Matthew 5 Project worries that such a demand is “very difficult in a culture that values honor.” Would these peacemakers ever cede to the United States its own concept of “honor?”

“In light of Jesus’ teachings, we call on our nation to be willing to talk with and listen to antagonists,” the Matthew 25 Project pronounces, conveniently forgetting that Jesus never talked about the diplomatic or military policies of Rome’s rulers. Revealingly, the manifesto briefly cites Romans 13, but naturally omits any reference to St. Paul’s clear affirmation of state force. Instead, government is described as ordained for “good, for justice, for peace and reconciliation.”

The Matthew 25 Project wants “our government” to “oppose” global terrorism as a “threat to human rights and a violation of the sanctity of human life.” May that government use force in its “opposition” to terrorism? The peacemakers never admit it. Instead, they say the government should seek “international cooperation” in “finding terrorist networks, cutting of their funding, arresting them, and most importantly, creating a society and culture of justice and peacemaking in which potential recruits are discouraged rather than encouraged to become terrorists.”

What if all this frenzied love, justice, good will and activist peacemaking still does not deter the terrorists? What should governments do then? The Matthew 25 peacemakers would prefer not to say, instead emphasizing “international solutions” for “terrorist networks, global poverty and causes of global warming.” Such obfuscation ensures that the Matthew 25 Project’s appeal will largely remain confined to left-leaning academics and groups like the National Association of Evangelicals, which now prefers to speak for liberal elites rather than most evangelicals.

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

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