comments powered by Disqus
Mark Tooley May 16, 2012
The following article appeared on the FrontPage Magazine website and was reposted with permission.
The Religious Left seems unconcerned about Iran's nuclear dreams. (Photo credit: FAS.org)
Bipartisan resolutions proposed in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, equally backed by Republicans and Democrats, are urging the “President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”
So naturally the Religious Left is opposing these mostly symbolic statements, because largely pacifist prelates do not believe any situation, no matter how dire, ever merits even the implied contemplation of force. They also are more concerned about military force from the U.S. or Israel than they are about nuclear weapons in the hands of apocalyptic Iranian mullahs.
Complaining that the congressional resolutions would “undermine diplomatic efforts,” the leftist churchmen warn the statements would set a “dangerously low threshold for war” by “ruling out containment,” possibly even, by some interpretations endorsing “military force against Iran now.”
The ecumenical complaint to members of Congress was organized by the Presbyterian Church (USA) chief Capitol Hill lobbyist. It was signed by Quaker and Mennonite officials, a left-wing Catholic order, and the lobby offices of the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church.
Noting that Iran’s theocracy since at least the late 1980s has “engaged in a sustained and well-documented pattern of illicit and deceptive activities to acquire nuclear capability,” the congressional resolutions cite Iran as the “most active state sponsor of terrorism,” according to the U.S. State Department. They also recalled the U.S. Treasury Department’s finding last year that Iran had a “secret deal” to help al Qaeda. Of course they mentioned Iran’s genocidal threats against Israel. And they pointed at the Islamic Republic’s “serious human rights abuses,” according to the United Nations, including “torture, cruel and degrading treatment in detention, the targeting of human rights defenders, violence against women, and ‘the systematic and serious restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly’ as well as severe restrictions on the rights to ‘freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.’”
The Congressional resolutions, noting Iran’s continued failure to comply with international non-proliferation standards, urge continued diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran until it ends its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. It also commends the “universal rights and democratic aspirations of the Iranian people.”
Leftist prelates in the U.S. of course are not particularly interested in disarming or democratizing Iran. Instead, they complain the congressional resolutions are “undercutting” diplomacy, which “heightens the potential war.” They quote various critics claiming the resolutions resemble pre-2003 justifications for the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein Iraq. They insist Iran has not yet decided for nuclear weapons. And they reiterate: “Direct, sustained diplomacy remains the single most effective way to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and avert war. And they implore: “We urge you to support diplomacy, not war, with Iran, and to oppose” the congressional resolutions.
The Religious Left statement never mentions human rights in Iran. And it does not propose alternatives in case diplomacy continues to fail. Of course, it does not admit that potential threats of military force may strengthen diplomacy against Iranian mullahs not typically impressed by anything other than force.
Next month, the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly will consider a resolution opposing any even implied threats against Iran’s mullahs. It would place the 2 million member denomination on record opposing “preemptive military action by any nation against Iran.” And it calls for “direct, unconditional negotiations between the United States and Iran with the goal of… implementing a peaceful resolution.” The proposed resolution, coming from Atlanta area Presbyterians, declares the church is “not confident, judging from past experience, that the U.S.A. has given sufficient thought… to the consequences of such an attack in Iran itself and across the Middle East.”
The Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons composed his own Iran policy, telling President Obama earlier this year, according to Presbyterian News Service: “The Christian tradition we share urges us to seek limits to violence and, therefore, requires us to oppose any rush to initiate another war in the Middle East.” Parsons cited the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as reasons to be wary. And he opined: “Negotiations do work. Look at the North Korean decision to suspend their nuclear program.” Parsons also claimed that Just War teaching argues against any force against Iran. The largely pacifist Religious Left’s understanding of the Just War tradition is that absolutely no situation would ever meet its impossibly exacting standards.
None of these churchmen discussed how a nuclear armed Iran might affect the Middle East and the world. Nor did they even really express that much distress about Iranian nukes. In typical fashion, purported over reactions by the U.S. and Israel are the chief concerns.
The Religious Left does not have a very admirable history regarding Iran’s theocratic dictatorship. Although often recalling the reputed U.S. role in restoring the Shah to power in 1953 as one of the century’s supposed great crimes, religious leftists almost never comment on the far more murderously tyrannical regime that replaced the Shah. Even during the 1979-1980 hostage crisis, the U.S. National Council of Churches chastised the U.S. by praying America would “resume a more open views towards the needs and concerns of the Iranian people.”
The United Methodist Council of Bishops, at about the same time, confessed: “We have committed grave sins against the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” One bishop even visited Ayatollah Khomeini and afterwards pronounced that the “Islamic system is a democratic system founded on popular consensus.” An official from the church’s lobby office, called the Board of Church and Society, which has backed the recent letter against pressuring Iran, in 1980 even bailed out from jail and tried to provide bus transportation for pro-Khomeini Iranian student demonstrators in Washington, D.C. “I know there are individuals in the Iranian power structure who do trust The United Methodist church,” one bishop boasted in 1981. No doubt.
Churches are right to hope and pray for a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear situation. But the Religious Left once again demonstrates it has no moral authority when it villainizes the U.S. and Israel, while ignoring the Iranian theocracy’s over 3 decades of monstrous crimes, not to mention the nightmarish scenario of Iranian nukes. Members of Congress of both parties who live in the real world will rightly ignore the Religious Left’s foolish stance.
The Institute on Religion & Democracy
1023 15th Street NW, Suite 601, Washington, DC 20005-2601
P: (202) 682-4131 F: (202) 682-4136