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God's Politics

In the cacophony of words and voices swirling around the president’s veto of the Iraq bill this week, two words stood out to me – “victory” and “defeat.”

Opponents of the bill call it a timetable for defeat and urge us to push on for victory.

A question that has long been troubling me whenever I hear these words in this context is, “What would victory look like?”

I never supported this war, so to me, we hit defeat the moment the first shots rang. The idea of “victory” in a war situation is elusive to me: We are all losers. We are, all of us – Americans and Iraqis alike – worse for the wear. Yet, I keep hearing these terms bandied about, and I would really like to understand – what would victory look like to those who speak of it? I have asked war supporters this question – none can answer. I have listened to the pundits and politicians – none of them offer a vision for victory. They simply reiterate, vociferously, how we must not give in to defeat.

What would victory look like? What are our leaders waiting for? Will they know it when they see it?

After reading the headlines and hearing these calls for victory and sneers about timetables for defeat again this morning, I turned again to the Bible, following a trail through Psalms and Matthew, landing in Isaiah 59, where the unmistakable answer is clear – God’s definition of “victory” is “justice”.

Not the human construct that equates justice with revenge and retribution. But the unearthly vision that justice is connected to mercy and grace and brings about peace.

And the definition of defeat? Isaiah 59 tells us that neither victory nor justice will be found as long as “truth stumbles in the public square.”

We must not allow our leaders to hide behind powerful words like “victory” and “defeat” while truth goes stumbling by.

What would victory look like? I am afraid that our leaders do not know – they cannot find their way. “They do not know the way of peace, and there is no justice in their tracks … Yes, truth is lacking.” (Isaiah 59:8 and 15).

As many voices, for and against, discuss the veto and its implications for victory, we need someone to be bold enough to bring a different “v” word into the conversation – “vision.” We need a vision for victory that is built on truth and leads to peace.


Susan H. Badeau is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Children’s Commission, a parent of 22 children by birth, foster care, and adoption, a life-long advocate and a Sojourners/Philadelphia volunteer.

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