With an attack on Iraq seeming imminent, Christian leaders are asking the obvious question: "Is such a war morally justified?" In a recent letter to George W. Bush, five prominent evangelicals, including Charles Colson and Bill Bright, gave their full approval to a war effort. To bolster their argument, they pointed to America's experience in World War II. "How different and how much safer would the history of the twentieth century have been had the allies confronted Hitler when he illegally reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936?"
On the other side of the fence, 70 American and British church leaders, including Ron Sider and Tony Campolo, recently signed a document declaring current plans to attack Iraq to be "illegal, unwise, and immoral." In a separate article, Sider wrote, "There are two options. We can use power unilaterally to promote the shorter-term economic and political self-interest of America. Or we can seek genuinely to implement the moral principles we claim to embrace and take the lead in creating a better world for all.
Sider sounds a chord that America's heard before. Samuel Moor Shoemaker, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York from 1925 to 1952, is remembered most for his social conscience. He helped formulate the Twelve Steps for Alcoholics Anonymous and transformed his church into a center for rehabilitation and rescue programs for down-and-outers. In the late 1930s, he also provided a home for what became the national headquarters for Moral Re-Armament, an organization that believed war and conflict could be averted if leaders accepted certain moral values.
Shoemaker carried these concerns into his sermons before and during America's involvement in World War II. On June 25, 1940, he gave a radio address ...1