Yes, the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. And yes, the rise of a stable, democratic Iraq would be a force for reform in the Middle East. But such benefits do not constitute a moral case for war. In the just war tradition, war is justifiable only as an emergency response undertaken in self-defense and as a last resort. Respect for the sovereignty of other states is a basic component of the international order. In other words, war is not an ordinary instrument for improving the world.
Media reports, ministerial gossip and congregational hand-wringing suggest that Christian denominations are constantly arguing over homosexuality. That is not the case. Roman Catholic theologian John Courtney Murray once said that a genuine argument is a moral achievement—it’s rare that people lay out arguments, listen to critiques and identify points of disagreement.
The Internal Revenue Service says that a sermon opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq preached at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, just prior to the 2004 presidential election may have violated IRS rules. The IRS prohibits churches and other nonprofit organizations from endorsing political candidates.
This year’s natural disasters—a tsunami in South Asia, a series of brutal hurricanes in the Gulf and a massive earthquake in Kashmir—are enough to make Left Behind enthusiasts see portents of the end times. The earthquake in Kashmir is perhaps the most devastating of all. It has already killed 80,000 people.
Calling for a new kind of politics, the Church of England has issued a 52-page letter in anticipation of the May general election in the United Kingdom. Exhorting Christians to engage in politics, it says the chief motivation should be to address the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Calling for an end to “retail politics” and a renewed focus on the common good, the letter suggests that voters should challenge political candidates on such issues as the accumulation of wealth by the few, the need for the participation of diverse communities, and the value of the weak, dependent, sick, and aging (Guardian, February 17).