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False Witness – An Excellent Christian Newspaper Suddenly Says NO to War
One wintry Sunday in 1993 I turned up, a stranger aged 44, at my local Baptist church. I had spiritual yearnings. I also felt I would like my children in Sunday School. My wife, already a Christian, and attending a Korean fellowship, had suggested we find a church where we could worship as a family.
A few days later the pastor arrived unannounced at our home with a pack of information about the church and a copy of the denominational newspaper, The Victorian Baptist Witness. “You’re a journalist,” he said (he had apparently found out a little about me). “You’ll like this newspaper.”
I did. As I progressed in my walk with the Lord, I came to look forward to the paper each month. Packed with news about Baptist churches and activities, it was a model of its kind, providing inspiration and sustenance.
So what a surprise in church this Sunday when I picked up the latest issue, to find it transformed. It had shrunk in size, and also in name, to Witness. But the most noticeable change was that it had become a mouthpiece for the anti-Iraq-war movement.
Instead of church news, the front page was dominated by a large photograph of former US President Jimmy Carter, and the quote: “We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.”
Inside, the Nobel Prize winner – described, strangely, as an “industrious, old sartorial soul” – was lauded for his work for peace. Fair enough. Jimmy Carter is a prominent Baptist, though an article intended to draw attention to his anti-war stance might have noted that some see the roots of the current North Korean nuclear crisis in the “promise” Carter proclaimed that he received in 1994 from “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung not to develop such weapons.
But also on the front page were punch points for four other articles, including this:
Anti-war sentiment builds as the people say NO to war.
Read that again. You would assume that it pointed to an article describing how anti-war sentiment is building, and that “the people” (whoever they are) are saying no, or rather, NO, to war.
Yet the relevant article says nothing of the kind. It is a report of an anti-war protest by religious leaders in Melbourne. No evidence is offered to suggest that anti-war sentiment is building, or that “the people” (other than those at the protest) are saying NO. That front-page sentence is false.
According to the anonymous author of the article: “A white coffin and a picture of a mutilated Iraqi child was [sic] displayed, showing the real impact of military action on Iraq.”
Why not a picture of the tens of thousands of bodies of Kurds who died in agony when Saddam Hussein gassed them? Or of the mutilated bodies of the tens of thousands of Shiites murdered on his orders, some of them buried alive under hot asphalt? Or of the bodies of some of the one million Iraqi soldiers killed in attacks launched by Saddam Hussein on Iran and Kuwait?
There are Christian arguments for a war that would liberate the long-suffering Iraqi people. Jesus, the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5) called for justice. In the face of Saddam Hussein’s continuing genocide would He have done nothing for years and years, then joined a silent protest vigil outside a church when a war to stop the genocide seemed imminent? That’s been the posture of some church leaders.
For that matter, what would He have done in World War II? Would He have been a conscientious objector? Or might He have joined Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer in trying to stop all the slaughter by assassinating Hitler?
Actually, we don’t know. Yet the Witness article seems to suggest that only those opposed to war are following Jesus. That to me is false witness.
February 10th, 2003