Mis­sion Ac­com­plished

The Church of England - - LEADER & COMMENT - Alan Storkey

On 1 May it will be 10 years since Ge­orge Bush landed on USS Abra­ham Lin­coln and an­nounced “In the bat­tle of Iraq, the United States and our al­lies (Tony Blair and us) have pre­vailed.” Above him on the great air­craft car­rier was the ban­ner say­ing, “Mis­sion Ac­com­plished” in case peo­ple did not get the mes­sage. In fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion Bush put his thumb up. But he was wrong.

He was wrong be­cause the trust in the great Amer­i­can war ma­chine, the most pow­er­ful the world has known, was false. If we trust and wor­ship th­ese things our hands have made, rather than the true God, we wor­ship a lie. The idol did not work. The war did not fin­ish then, be­cause there are two sides in a war and it is still go­ing on.

He also had not heeded Christ’s words, “Those who take the sword, die by the sword”, words Peter, who first heard them, must have seen more deeply as he too faced a vi­o­lent death. Sadly, they have again proved true, as if Viet­nam was not warn­ing enough. Since Bush pro­claimed vic­tory, some 4,600 body bags have come back, and 32,000 more Al­lied troops have ma­jor in­juries – am­pu­ta­tions and the like - al­most cer­tainly a big un­der­es­ti­mate.

It was also wrong be­cause this war of “lib­er­a­tion” has re­sulted in some­thing be­tween 150,000 and a mil­lion vi­o­lent Iraqi deaths, and a na­tion, a pre­cious and honourable na­tion, be­ing con­vulsed in civil war, for wars cause civil wars among the de­feated. That is the way the Nazis were born. We, the Al­lies, have dev­as­tated a na­tion, at­tack­ing a dis­armed na­tion, il­le­gally on the ba­sis of a lie. How can a war, de­stroy­ing peo­ple and prop­erty, do­ing evil, pro­duce what is good? It can­not.

And so, 10 years later, this hor­ren­dous er­ror ap­pears be­fore us. We can learn from his­tory and wars are wrong. They fail. They have no point. They are not fit for pur­pose.

We, Chris­tians, should know this from Christ, es­pe­cially at Easter. Three times he warned Jerusalem and the dis­ci­ples about war, thought­less for him­self. First he wept over the city when the peo­ple were look­ing for tri­umph. “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace” and warned them of the slaugh­ter to come.

Then as Je­sus left the Tem­ple he warned the dis­ci­ples that not one stone will be left on an­other and that the time would come when those in Judea should flee to the moun­tains. Quite de­lib­er­ately he said: “See I have warned you ahead of time.”

Then, fi­nally, carr ying his cross with Simon of Cyrene, in an awe­some act of self­less­ness he turned to the mourn­ing women and sug­gested they think about mourn­ing for them­selves and their chil­dren. He in­sisted they would even mourn that their chil­dren had been born.

He then quoted the calami­ties de­scribed in Hosea 10, which fur­ther says, “You have eaten

de­cep­tion. Be­cause you have de­pended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of bat­tle will rise against your peo­ple, so that all your fortresses will be dev­as­tated.” Then there is the preg­nant sen­tence, “If they do th­ese things (the cru­ci­fix­ion) when the tree is green, what will hap­pen when it is dry?” The mean­ing is clear. The Ro­man hor­ror will come, and it is the chil­dren of the mourn­ing women who will be crushed and burned to death.

And so it was. Jose­phus re­ports that a mil­lion peo­ple died in Jerusalem in AD70 and the tight streets ran so thick with blood that the blood put out fires. It was the abom­i­na­tion of war, the aw­ful war, that Je­sus had pressed so dra­mat­i­cally on his hear­ers. His pur­pose, as we know from John 17, was that not one of the dis­ci­ples would be lost. When Je­sus sees war with such clar­ity, why should we not?

The time has come for Chris­tians to stand in and pro­claim the peace they have re­ceived from Christ. It is far fuller than we of­ten al­low. Je­sus did not say, Blessed are those who wage just wars, for they will be chil­dren of God. Just War The­ory was born of com­pro­mise with em­per­ors, holy and un­holy. Peace­mak­ing de­con­structs mil­i­tarism. It dis­al­lows both Iraq wars and the sell­ing of the arms that pre­cip­i­tated them, for the West sold the weapons that it then at­tacked. It dis­al­lows faith in arms and mil­i­tarism, and it fol­lows the depths of the Prince of Peace in un­fold­ing the Gospel Good News to all na­tions.

Chris­tians world­wide, in­clud­ing Angli­cans, can fol­low Christ in peace-mak­ing, in work­ing for full mul­ti­lat­eral world dis­ar­ma­ment, where all swords are beaten into ploughshares, and the good news of the gen­tle king­dom of peace will reign over the earth, and the lamb is recog­nised as rightly on the throne. Now, that will be Mis­sion Ac­com­plished.

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