Email about War – Peter Storey

I was rumaging through some old files and I found this word document. It was a saved email from Peter Storey. When the war in Iraq started I was in England and it was a different perspective on what was happening. There protests were happening (I participated in one) and everyone I came in contact with asked me why MY country is doing this. I was wrestling hard with my patriotism and my views on war in general. I decided to email Peter Storey, a past professor of mine at Duke and an ex-bishop of the Methodist Church in South Africa. He is one of the most genuine, wise, and dedicated follower of Christ I know. As I read his email, 5 years later, I still found it moving and dead on. I thought I would share his wisdom with my two dedicated readers…enjoy

Dear Jim, Thank you so much for your e-mail and for raising your dilemma with me. You are right: it is not that simple. It is in fact quite absurd to say “I oppose this war with all my might, but now that they are fighting, I must support the troops (she probably means ‘our’ troops). A response is surely: it all depends on what you mean by ‘support’. That word can have many meanings, ranging from lifting them to God in prayer for their safety (in which case you owe a similar prayer to those unfortunates who oppose them, who are mainly conscripts who would rather we doing anything than trying to fight this powerful invasion force)- OR it could mean that you now are backing their aims, their war aims, which must be a contradiction or a 180 degree turn from your earlier opposition. If this war was wrong before it
started (and most Brits believe that), it remains wrong now that it is actually
killing people. A true patriot will continue to confront his/her government with
that conviction, and doing so is in no way a lack of patriotism. True patriotism
is loving our country so much that we will insist on holding our nation to the
highest demands of the Gospel, rather than descend to a shallow “My country,
right or wrong” jingoism.

HOWEVER: Christian concern will lead us to pray for ALL those who are in harm’s way because of this war. We will remember the troops we have sent there because of our common failure to search sufficiently for alternatives to war, we will remember their bodies, in danger of death and mutilation, and their souls, in even more danger if they kill. We will pray with equal fervor for the Iraqis who also fear death and are also engaged in killing. We will pray most of all for the unarmed, vulnerable, old
and very young, women and children, of the civilian population, who are already
being killed by those who claim to be liberating them.

AND: We will pray for mercy. No outcome of war is ever what God wants, because evil means can never produce outcomes that are entirely just. We perhaps need to pray most of all for forgiveness and mercy, because of the failure of the Christian Church over 1700 of its 2000 years, to live by the nonviolence of Jesus and instill it in the cultures we live among.

FINALLY: I think we can pray that God will overrule what we are doing,
and out of even this tragic breakdown in obedience, will bring something new
which rises above all our aims. I rejoice in the experience you are having, which, although painful, must be a very growing one. I am grateful to God that you are wrestling with these issues, Jim, because so many of your colleagues back home here are not. Strength to you in your ministry.

– Peter Storey