On Friday, I shared a preview of my speech for the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq. Here is the full text of my message at the National Cathedral, where I and other religious leaders spoke to a capacity crowd before processing to the White House.
Four years ago today, my son Jack was born – two days before the war began. I always know how long this awful war has gone on.
The war in Iraq is personal for me. It’s personal for you too, or you wouldn’t be here tonight.
It’s personal for the families and loved ones of the more than 3,200 American soldiers who have lost the precious gift of life. The stories I hear every day on the radio and TV break my heart. They are so young to die, and it is so unnecessary. When I look at my son and celebrate his birthday, I think of all the children whose fathers or mothers won’t be coming back from the war to celebrate theirs.
It’s personal for the tens of thousands of service men and women who have lost their limbs or their mental and emotional health, and who now feel abandoned and mistreated.
It’s personal for all the Iraqis who have lost their loved ones, as many as hundreds of thousands. What would it be like to wait in line at morgues to check dead bodies, desperately hoping that you don’t recognize someone you love? I can only imagine. And when I look at my son, I think of all the Iraqi children who will never celebrate another birthday.
This isn’t just political; it’s personal for millions of us now. And for all of us here tonight, the war in Iraq is actually more than personal – it has become a matter of faith.
By our deepest convictions about Christian standards and teaching, the war in Iraq was not just a well-intended mistake or only mismanaged. This war, from a Christian point of view, is morally wrong – and was from the very start. It cannot be justified with either the teaching of Jesus Christ or the criteria of St. Augustine’s just war. It simply doesn’t pass either test, and did not from its beginning. This war is not just an offense against the young Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice or the Iraqis who have paid such a horrible price. This war is not only an offense to the poor at home and around the world who have paid the price of misdirected resources and priorities – this war is also an offense against God.
And so we are here tonight, very simply and resolutely, to begin to end the war in Iraq – not by anger, though we are angry; not just by politics, though it will take political courage; but by faith, because we are people of faith.
This service and procession are not just another political protest, but an act of faith, an act of prayer, an act of non-violent witness. Politics led us into this war, and politics is unlikely to save us by itself. The American people have voted against the war in Iraq, but political proposals keep failing one after the other.
I believe it will take faith to end this war. It will take prayer to end it. It will take a mobilization of the faith community to end it – to change the political climate, to change the wind. It will take a revolution of love to end it, because this endless war in Iraq is based ultimately on fear, and Jesus says that only perfect love will cast out fear.
So tonight we say, as people of faith, as followers of Jesus, that the deep fear that has paralyzed the conscience of this nation, which has caused us to become the kind of people that we are not called to be, that has allowed us to tolerate violations of our most basic values, and that has perpetuated an endless cycle of violence and counter-violence must be exorcised as the demon it is – this fear must be cast out!
And to cast out that fear, we must act in faith, in prayer, in love, and in hope – so we might help to heal the fears that keep this war going. Tonight we march not in belligerence, or to attack individuals (even those leaders directly responsible for the war), or to use human suffering for partisan political purposes. Rather, we process to the White House tonight as an act of faith, believing that only faith can save us now.
Ironically, this war has often been cloaked in the name and symbols of our faith, confused American imperial designs with God’s purposes, and tragically discredited Christian faith around the world, having so tied it to flawed American behavior and agendas. Millions of people around the world sadly believe this is a Christian war. So as people of faith, let us say tonight to our brothers and sisters around the world, and as clearly as we can – America is not the hope of the earth and the light of the world, Jesus Christ is! And it is his way that we follow, and not the flawed path of our nation’s leaders who prosecute this war. As an evangelical Christian, I must say that the war in Iraq has hindered the cause of Christ and, in this season of Lent, we must repent of this war!
So let us march tonight, believing that faith is stronger than fear;
Let us march tonight, believing that hope is stronger than hate;
Let us march tonight, believing that perfect love can cast out both hate and fear.
And let us march tonight, believing that the peace of Christ is stronger than the ways of war;
Let us march tonight, to say to a nation still captive to fear but weary of war, “May the peace of Christ be with you!”
Let’s march tonight, as Dr. Martin Luther King told us in another magnificent house of worship 40 years ago this spring, to “rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter-but beautiful-struggle for a new world.”
And then let us return to our homes from the 48 states represented here tonight and generate a flood of public pressure that can wash away the blind intransigence of our White House and the cautious procrastination of our divided Congress. Your letters, phone calls, lobby visits, and actions at home will put a megaphone behind the sound of your feet today.
And all of this must be wrapped in the power of prayer. Because we believe that God can still work miracles in and through our prayers – and that prayer followed by action can turn valleys of despair into mountains of hope. God has acted before in history and we believe that God will act again through us. Tonight we leave this Cathedral humbly hoping to be God’s instruments of peace and the earthly agents of the kingdom of God.
It sometimes appears that the light of peace has almost gone out in America, but tonight we re-light the candle and take the light of peace to the White House!
Tonight, by faith, we begin to end the war in Iraq!
The peace of Christ be with you!