Leaders Wrestle with Faith and War

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President Bush’s decision to attack Iraq was not made without input from American religious leaders.

On January 16, when President Bush ordered the United States to lead the Allied air strike against Iraq, Billy Graham spent the night at the White House. The day before, as the United Nations’ deadline for Saddam Hussein expired, among the high-level phone calls coming in and out of the White House were two to religious leaders. The President spoke with Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson and Edmond Browning, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, George and Barbara Bush’s denomination.

According to Leigh Ann Metzger of the White House Office of Public Liaison, throughout the crisis, “the President has been in consultation and prayer with personal friends who are ministers and national religious leaders.” Metzger said her office has been keeping the President informed about the activities and opinions of religious groups surrounding the situation. At press time, the outcome of the Persian Gulf war remained uncertain. Reaction from mainline churches was generally critical of the use of force in Iraq, while evangelical leaders had a variety of comments on the situation.

Evangelist Billy Graham, a long-time personal friend of Bush, emphasized the complexity of the situation. “No sane person wants war. At the same time, it has well been said that there is an ethical responsibility that goes with power, and sometimes it becomes necessary to fight the strong in order to protect the weak,” he said. Whatever the final outcome of the hostilities, Graham said, God has ultimate control. Graham said the world will never be the same after this confrontation in the Middle East because of its strategic ...

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