Some Baptists promote peace
March 7 2003 by Rachel Gill , BR Correspondent

Some Baptists promote peace | Friday, March 7, 2003

Friday, March 7, 2003

Some Baptists promote peace

By Rachel Gill BR Correspondent

Stan Dotson and Kim Christman recently applied to be members of a Christian Peacemaker Team. They have learned that only medical personnel are now being accepted, but they were willing to pay their own way to Iraq as witnesses for peace, fully aware that they could be on the receiving end of U.S. bombs.

The decision to volunteer was made only after deep soul-searching and praying without ceasing. It was a gut-wrenching process. But the Baptist husband-and wife team from Fairview is convinced that a preemptive military strike is "wrong, immoral, unjust, un-Christian and un-American."

"President Bush swore to protect and defend U.S. citizens," Dotson said. "Bombing Iraq will do just the opposite. Terrorists around the world and in our own country could not design a better recruitment strategy to swell their ranks.

"We believe that peace, like war, is waged through deliberate and aggressive nonviolent action. This is not pie in the sky idealism; it is a tried and true strategy that has effected revolutionary change in places from Alabama to India," he added. "Some of this country's most brilliant minds are developing strategies of violence. Why not put our best minds to work in developing ways to bring about positive change through nonviolent means?"

In Durham, Watts Street Baptist Church pastor Mel Williams said "a war against Iraq will be a terrible mistake. The rush to war presents a moral and spiritual crisis. It cannot be justified. Despite the terrible tragedy of 9/11, we cannot justify bombing Iraq when there has been no direct provocation."

For many years, Williams added, the Christian church has brought modest restraints on the conduct of war by holding to the "just war" theory, insisting that a just war must be purely defensive, must be waged as a last resort after exhausting all other means, must strictly avoid civilian population centers, and must minimize violence to the degree possible. "On each of these counts, the war on Iraq would be unjust," he said.

Wesley Pike, director of missions for the French Broad Association, believes the U.S. should not act unilaterally. "I'm against going to war without sanction of the United Nations," said the veteran of 26 years in the military - six as an enlisted man and 20 as a chaplain. Pike said he believes in the possibility of a just war, but "I don't think Bush and his staff have adequately justified Iraq as a threat to the American people. If they did I'd be willing to put my uniform back on.

"I love my country," Pike continued. "What I want is for people who take a stand against the war, not take it out on our soldiers. That tears me up. They are serving their country. Many of them have mixed emotions (about the war). They need our support."

Keith Durso, adjunct professor of religion at Campbell University, presented his views to a group at Angier Baptist Church Feb. 26. "We already know what God's ultimate plan for us and our world is, and that's peace," he said, citing Micah 4.

Durso went on to present the criteria for a just war. Based on his analysis of the theory, Durso disagrees with the current U.S. position.

"I would have to say that this is just another war, not a just war," he said, citing his concerns that Bush has not made the case for an imminent attack from Iraq.

"These criteria ought to be followed," Durso said, "and not just swept away when it's no longer convenient."

Doubts about President Bush's rationale for war trouble many Baptists, but most are not comfortable expressing themselves in the public arena, said Bill Leonard, professor and dean of Wake Forest Divinity School. "It's easy for churches to become polarized over issues. Most pastors are hesitant to jump into the argument because they don't want to alienate members."

While many hesitate, Alan Gragg is unable to contain his opposition to war with Iraq. "The Bush doctrine of a preemptive, massive military strike against a potentially (but not proven) deadly enemy is a dangerously explosive example for our extremely complex world where many nations already possess weapons of mass destruction."

Gragg, a deacon at First Baptist Church, Asheville, voiced other practical and humanitarian concerns. "If for no other reason, we can't afford the $60 billion it will cost. And the thousands of innocent citizens who will be killed."

"People of faith cannot remain silent when our country is headed toward a war which could bring terrifying consequences for us and for our world," said Williams, who called on Christians to pray. "Prayer is one of our chief weapons for peace."

For Dotson and Christman, acting out of conscience follows family tradition. During the Civil War, Dotson's great-great grandfather disagreed with the position of the state government. He left his N.C. mountain farm, where the couple now lives, and walked hundreds of miles to join the Union Army. "He loved God and his country. For him, this was a faithful act and a patriotic act," said Dotson.

"We, too, love God and our country. But loving your enemy may mean to answer the call of duty and put your life on the line for the sake of God and country. There is a nonviolent way to be patriotic."

One of the couple's favorite gospel songs includes these lines: "How can I love someone who is my enemy? It's unlike me, but it's just like Him."

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Laura Rich contributed to this story.)

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3/7/2003 12:00:00 AM by Rachel Gill , BR Correspondent | with 0 comments
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