WASHINGTON – Christian leaders have both supported and opposed President Bush’s stance on American involvement in Iraq, which he called an “ideological struggle” for freedom in his State of the Union Address this week.
Iraq was a key issue during Bush’s address on Tuesday, when he spent at least a third of his speech discussing the war against terrorism and why the United States is still involved in the Middle East nation nearly four years after the war began.
Bush, who is giving his next-to-last State of the Union Address, spoke about the importance of Americans helping people in the Middle East build free societies and achieve the liberty they desire.
“This war is more than a clash of arms – it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance,” said Bush.
“What every terrorist fears most is human freedom,” noted the president, “societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments.”
He argued that free people are less likely to be attracted to “violent and malignant ideologies,” but rather will choose a “better way” when given the opportunity.
Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, commended Bush’s speech.
“The president delivered an excellent speech, and I thought he made the case for his foreign policy eloquently, both on the war on terror in general and the confrontation in Iraq in particular,” said Land, according to the Baptist Press.
However, many Christian leaders have opposed Bush’s new Iraq strategies calling for sending more troops to Iraq. Groups such as Christian Peace Witness and the National Council of Churches are among the strong opponents of Bush’s current handling of Iraq.
“The growing violence in Iraq, the enormous suffering being experienced by the citizens of Iraq, and the anguish of countless American families who have lost beloved sons and daughters to death and horrific injury calls for profound lament and repentance, not for stubborn commitment to the unilateralism and militarism that has been the hallmark of our failed policy in Iraq,” said the Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, a NCC member church.
Other Christian leaders who have spoken out against U.S. Iraq policies include the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church and the Rev. Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.
Bush acknowledged during his address, however, that despite the nation’s “war on terrorism,” the dangers have not ended. Rather it will likely be a “generational struggle” that will continue long after he leaves office.
“This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in,” said Bush. “Everyone one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk”
Bush, who will complete his second term in office in January 2009, also spoke about economic reforms, healthcare, the environment, and religious freedom among other topics.
“Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth,” said Bush, echoing a verse in Luke 12:48, during his address, “To whom much is given, much is required.”