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The Mullahs' Religious Left Allies By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Surprise, surprise. "Evangelical Left" leader Jim Wallis has joined National Council of Churches chief Bob Edgar and Islamic Society of North America Secretary General Sayyid M. Syeed to oppose any U.S. military action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Instead, they advocate "direct negotiations" with Iran.

Joining them in their call is "emerging church" leader Brian McLaren, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson of the Reformed Church in America, William Shaw of the National Baptist Convention, and Jewish studies professor Susannah Heschel at Dartmouth College.

It’s hardly surprising that a more prominent Jewish leader did not sign the statement, since the Iranian president has publicly announced his unpleasant plans for Israel.

Jim Wallis recounts in the current issue of his Sojourners magazine that he was in Australia during the "war of words in March between Washington and Tehran." In an interview with "one of Australia’s top political shows," he was asked whether a "standoff between the ‘two fundamentalists’ (meaning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and U.S. President George Bush), with nuclear weapons in the balance, should concern the world. I said yes."

In fact, a transcript shows it was Wallis and not the Australian reporter who referred to the two "fundamentalists." Here’s what Wallis actually said:

The picture of these two fundamentalist leaders squaring off with nuclear weapons in the balance is a frightening picture, indeed. The president is very theological about his foreign policy and so is the Iranian leader. So, I'm not - I'm concerned tonight about this possibility of a fundamentalist square-off with nuclear weapons really in the balance.

So Wallis is now intervening between the two "fundamentalists": One is a Shi'ite theocrat, a former hostage taker who presides over an Islamic police state and wants to annihilate the Jews. The other is a Methodist former baseball club owner and Yale graduate who was elected by the world’s oldest democratic republic. Both are equally dangerous? Wallis is determined to make both of them behave, though he’s seemingly more concerned about the Methodist than he is about the apocalyptic Shi'ite.

In a similar vein "Words, Not War, with Iran," signed by Wallis and the six others, equally laments Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions and U.S. desire to stop it, potentially with force. But Iran ends with the upper hand morally, as the statement suggests Iran could facilitate full U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the "renouncing of any proprietary American claims on Iraqi oil and reconstruction contracts." Wallis hopes altruistic Iran will act as a partner in reducing the profits of Halliburton.

And naturally, Wallis et al, while opposing a nuclearized Iran, are equally concerned about the nuclear capabilities of the U.S. and Israel.

Nuclear nonproliferation objectives in Iran should also be linked to broader denuclearization goals, including the creation of a Middle East zone free of Weapons of Mass Destruction. We believe that the U.S. and other nuclear weapons states would be in a stronger position to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons if they took the necessary steps toward eliminating their own nuclear arsenals—which our signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty commits us to but is a promise yet to be fulfilled."

In other words, if Tony Blair and Jacque Chirac give up their nuclear arsenals, maybe Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will follow their moral example. For this group of religious pontificators, there do not seem to be any moral distinctions among governments and their intentions. Indeed, they want the U.S. to negotiate with the Iranian regime without preconditions.

"While we welcome the U.S. willingness to join multilateral talks with Iran, we believe that a strategy of direct U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran without preconditions is the surest means of reducing the nuclear danger and enhancing security in the region," they write. To their credit, they do manage to mention that Americans "reject anti-Semitism and threats against Israel." But that’s about it in terms of any implied concerns or criticism about the character of the Iranian theocracy.

"We pray that our government will be guided by moral principles, political wisdom, and international legal standards and will step back from seeing military action as an option in this crisis." Wallis et al conclude. "We call on all our religious leaders, theologians, clergy, and laypersons to speak out against the option of war with Iran."

In his column for Sojourners magazine this month, Wallis explains that the real problem is America’s "hammer habit." Macho Americans, especially in the current administration, think diplomacy is "weak." So, they quickly resort to the hammer. "If we don’t know how to solve a problem, we just fight." The neo-conservatives are especially prone to this dangerous mindset. But "more frightening is how much their friends such as Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have the same strong preference for fighting over talking," Wallis writes. "If they had their way, we would have fought or would still be fighting several wars by now—all at the same time—in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Iran at least, and probably against North Korea too, if they thought we could win the war. They act as if talking and negotiating with potential adversaries is just a waste of time."

Wallis opines, "If America can resist its hammer habit with Iran, the world may be spared a nuclearized Iran and the disastrous consequences of another misguided military confrontation. The clear witness of America’s religious community and our wisest military and foreign policy leaders may be essential to prevent those twin disasters." By "America’s religious community," Wallis is referring to himself and the six others who signed his statement.

In his Australian television interview, Wallis explained that President Bush simplistically divides the world between the foreign "evil-doers" and the "righteous ones" in the U.S. "That bad theology I think leads to bad foreign policy and a dangerous confrontation perhaps now with Iran," he warned. Wallis shares that he had once hoped Bush would be a "social reform Methodist." But instead, Wallis deeply regrets that Bush has become a "kind of messianic American Calvinist."

In all if his theological dissection of Bush’s spiritual motivations, neither Wallis nor his fellow "religious leaders" had much to say about the theology of Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or his regime. While the Religious Left fantasizes about the imagined threat of American theocracy, it ignores the crimes of actual Islamic theocracies, like that of Iran’s despotic mullahs. An Iranian nuclear weapon, unlike British nuclear weapons, uniquely threatens the world because of the monstrous nature of Iran’s government. As the Iranian mullahs brutalize, oppress, murder, and imprison their own people because of twisted religious principles, so too would they murder and terrorize millions of others with a nuclear arsenal. They have already promised to wipe one entire nation off the map and have provided WMDs to Hezbollah terrorists. They pursue all of this destruction in the name of their god.

But do not expect Wallis, et. al., to express concern about the brutality of Iran’s clerical prison wardens. They are too busy arbitrating between the "two fundamentalists."

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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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