Arecent survey offers evidence that American churchgoers and clergy recognize the complexities and ambiguities of the war in Iraq.

While 57 percent of those who attend church at least once per month say they are hearing about the war from their clergy, only 21 percent said their clergy have communicated a position for or against the war—7 percent said their clergy had spoken in favor of the war, while 14 percent said their clergy were against the war. Some 37 percent had spoken about the war without taking a position, and 41 percent had not mentioned it at all.

The survey, conducted March 13-16 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, was completed before the hostilities began last week. Undoubtedly more clergy spoke about the war last Sunday, since it was by then a current reality.

But the nation's clergy have clearly changed since the days of the Vietnam War when voices of "My country right or wrong" clashed with voices of "War—what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!"

Today, most clergy are more nuanced in their positions.

The survey shows that only a small minority (15 percent) of Americans believe that war is never justified. The question for the 85 percent: Is this war justified?

There has clearly been a reluctance to label this "a holy war" or to claim that "God is on our side" and against the Iraqi people. Neither President Bush nor the nation's clergy are presuming God's preference for one nation over another.

In fact, many clergy have not felt the obligation to pronounce this war justified or unjustified. The war is now simply a tragic fact, and a reason to pray.

Pastor Doug Osness of Centennial Community Church in Denver, Colorado, was no doubt representative of many U.S. clergy yesterday, when he invited the congregation ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.