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This month the President will receive reports from commanders in the field about whether the troop surge in Iraq is accomplishing its goals. Until now, he has resisted calls to reconsider his strategy or to begin a withdrawal, despite eroding public support for the war.

Such deep public distress about the war makes this a teachable moment for all of us, as Christians and as Americans. It's not enough to find a way out of this war honorably and soon. We have an opportunity to learn some deeper lessons so that we won't repeat our mistakes.

For evangelicals, one of the groups that strongly supported the war initially, one lesson is clear: We must become more discerning when our nation's leaders advocate a military solution. We have biblical resources for doing so, if we will draw upon them.

In fall 2002 and winter 2003, before the United States invasion, most evangelical Christians and their leaders joined other Americans in supporting the President, who argued that Saddam Hussein posed such a danger to America that war was necessary to dislodge him. Of course, it is the most natural thing in the world for loyal citizens to support their leaders and rally around the flag when war is imminent.

Furthermore, many Christians believe it's not just natural, but also biblical. Many a war has been supported based on a reading of Romans 13 that says God-appointed government leaders are authorized to use the "sword" of state violence. For believers who understand the passage this way, it means that we should trust and obey our leaders when they give the word.

Other Strands

But the events of the last several years can help us recognize that this strand of the biblical witness must be interwoven with other, equally important strands. Here are ...

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Do Likewise
David P. Gushee serves as Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, where he also chairs the Mercer Lyceum initiative on rebuilding democracy. His column ran from 2005 to 2007.
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September 2007

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