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Bishop Sprague, You DON'T Speak for Us

by  Donald G. Simpson, Elder

Bishop Sprague (and Conference):

Just yesterday morning I commented to some fellow Air Force Chaplain team members, as we sat together for breakfast at our undisclosed location in the war zone, how tired I was of politicians such as Mr. Dean using patriotic military men and women (who happen to all be volunteers) as a means to put down our involvement for peace.  Now I must add, once again, my own church leaders and Conferences to this list.

How precocious of you to speak for "me" when you say "We said . . ."

"We" may have said a few things, but that does not mean you spoke either for me or for a vast majority of United Methodists.  How can you be so full of your self-opinion as to speak for the "Christian opinion" without including mine and those like me -- those who are here fighting the war and those offering the gospels to our soldiers?

I would like to look at your points and share my opinion with you:

1:  ". . . cost of war in lives . . ."

The President said there would be a cost.  We knew it.  "We," in this case especially, being those who would be paying the cost.  So did the nation.  It was never hidden. War does not come without death -- even of some of our own.  But peace unprotected also comes with a cost -- as we have seen, sir.  It would almost seem to cheapen the lives of policemen and firemen to say there are many who die and get wounded each day in the line of duty to offer protection and safety in our own nation each day but you raise no such voice as this against there involvement.  Still they do what they do for us.  Should we be no less willing to accept the risk for peace and safety around the world?  (Peace is not the absence of struggle but the presence of hope even in the struggle.)

". . . viewed increasingly by the global community . . ."

Are you more concerned about how the world views us or how we stand in integrity with those in the world who need us?  Look in the eyes of those who have been set free; of those who have found the graves of their family members who were slaughtered by that regime and see if there is hatred for this new hope they now have in their lives.

There is an African nation who is hollering at us now for not getting involved to help bring peace as their president leaves the country.  Would you let their opinion of us draw us into another conflict -- because you are worried about what they think of us?

You have not allowed our opinion of you and your stance for homosexuality, against the virgin birth, the resurrection, etc. stop or intimidate you.  In fact, you seem to take it as a badge of honor.  But you and your Conference are worried about what the world thinks of us?  Please!  I am worried about what God would think of us -- if we walked on the other side of the road.  We who are here are willing to pay the price.  We are all volunteers -- even us chaplains.

2:  ". . . gross exaggerations . . . lies . . . weapons . . ."

You complain about misleading, exaggerated statements.  What gives you the right to proclaim such statements as fact?  Have you or your Conference done the research?  Are you privy to the secret information upon which the government is basing its decisions?  Do you have the facts already in hand?  I doubt that you know what the military intel is working on but that doesn't seem to stop you from pontificating as if this were gospel.

Perhaps you should read the article printed today that says:

Regime ordered chemical attack, investigator says
by Bryan Bender
Globe Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- A top Bush administration weapons investigator told Congress in closed testimony last week that he has uncovered solid information from interviews, documents, and physical evidence that Iraqi military forces were ordered to attack US troops with chemical weapons, but did not have the time or capability to follow through, according to senior defense and intelligence officials.

But, then again, facts will not get in the way of your preconceived notions of the truth.

We over here who see the truth of the issues daily; we over here who see the lives being changed; we over here who see our troops giving their all even though you seek to undermine their efforts; we really do understand the issues.  A simple short journey as was done by some well wishing "religious leaders and politicians" cannot give anyone the perspective like those who are seeing new hope come alive in person.

". . . precluding genuine, global, humanitarian outreach . . ."

And, how would you plan to get humanitarian outreach to the people who need it the most?  How would you reach the Kurds here; or the families whose sons were killed because a leader's son wanted their girlfriend for a day?  Would you only give aid to a people when it costs us nothing in effort?  Is that the Christian way?

You complain that we have somehow usurped what you think should be our humanitarian outreach; wasting the funds as we are in Iraq.  Then you complain about the cost of our "Marshall type plan."  This plan is one that is more than a hand out which makes people dependent on us.  It is one that sets people free in every aspect of their lives, politically, economically, etc.  One has only to look at Japan, Germany, etc.  Is this one wrong, this use of money and resources, simply because it doesn't fit your narrow definition of humanitarian outreach?

3:  ". . . misuse of sacred traditions . . . sell out . . ."

Which sacred traditions would you have us ignore?  Perhaps we should change the subject to the issue of the church's traditional stand on homosexuality?  Oh, wait, you chose to throw that one out with your modern thinking.  Perhaps we should discuss the virgin birth, the resurrection or . . . wait you threw those out already, too.  It seems the only sacred traditions you won't throw out are those that agree with your agenda.

Should we ask instead, "Please tell us your agenda so we will know what Christian tradition and part of the Bible we can stand on -- since all the rest falls away at the start for you?  There is the tradition of the Church supporting war when it is just -- and not just when you agree with it.  There is also the Biblical issue of standing in the gap for those who are weak, offering your life for your brother, being the power for the powerless, the voice for the voiceless and so on.  It doesn't speak of it in terms of standing on the sidelines as cheerleaders, either.

Perhaps you should have just gone over to Iraq and "lived the Gospel" to keep Saddam, his sons and the Baath party from maiming, torturing and raping the people.  Maybe simply standing there at his side explaining the Gospel as Saddam's son had the young man gutted and then put through the shredder (yes, he did this) would have eased the sufferer's pain or perhaps made him stop the torture?  But, then again, you would not have gotten that far because they would have shot you by then for simply raising your voice.  It is a sad truth that they could not hear your voice shouting from here because of the screams of their own pain as they waited for someone to be a savior and rescuer.  And then you complain about those willing to pay the price (us volunteers) to protect us even as we set them free.

4:  "The fourth estate . . . the public media . . . in this nation is an extension of the Bush Estate."

Isn't it strange how, when the press was pushing your issues on the left, they were absolutely "fair and unbiased" and now that they report issues more patriotic and on the right (according to your bias) they are a patsy for the state?  When "on your side" they were true journalists and now they do it only for the cash?  Chauvinistic blindness?  Isn't that really a definition of your myopic vision. "There are none so blind as they who will not see."  Perhaps what they are reporting is what you really need to hear -- even if it goes against your preconceived facts and truths.

5:  "The application of the seven criteria of the Just War Theory . . ."

Some in the leadership of those denominations decided it was unjust.  As we know in our denomination, too many of our leadership is way out of touch with most of the members.  All we have to do is look at you, Mr. Sprague, and see how far you have moved from the traditions of the church and the truths of the Bible (but, then again, the Bible really never says homosexuality is wrong, never reports a virgin birth or the resurrection or any of what you deny - does it!).

". . . exaggerated truth . . ."

Again, read the article in print today concerning the orders to use such weapons as we claim they have.  Perhaps we should have conducted the war in such a way as to allow them time and opportunity to kill thousands of our military men and women just to prove they did have them?  But then you would have complained about the waste of young lives, wouldn't you?

". . . a nation destroyed . . ."

I suppose we could liken this to destroying a Nazi Germany.  Then we rebuilt a free Germany for the Germans.  Today, we destroyed a cruel, vicious and inhumane regime with minimum damage to civilians.  Saddam is the one who has destroyed his economy and his society for decades.  Many [Iraqi people] are way ahead already compared to where they were at under his living conditions.

How dare you say "claiming daily the lives of U.S. soldiers who, innocently and naively, have sought only to serve this country."  You act as if we over here were sheep blindly led to the slaughter.  There is nothing na´ve about our service.  We are serving our country.  It was and is our duty.  We chose it.  We put to flesh what we felt in our hearts.  There are truths and realities worth dying for.  There are people worth saving -- even if "our neighbors" look different than us.  We have chosen not to walk on the other side.  We are here.  Did we know there would be danger and possible death?  Now you are the na´ve one to think we went into this blindly.

We are here because your way of standing on the sidelines for 12 years did not work.  We were strong enough to try it that way -- we are not war mongers -- but there comes a time when you must step in to stop what is wrong.  The Bible says in James 2 (if you believe in this part of that book, sir) "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, `Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."

And you would have us stand on the sidelines how long?  Are we war mongers?  No. I am a chaplain from the United Methodist Church who serve among people who simply want to help end the screams of innocent people.  Maybe then they will have a chance to hear the voice of the Gospel -- of true peace -- and not simply of surrender to terror and hatred out of fear.

God save us all from such terror and hatred.

God save us all from your type of peace.


Donald G. Simpson, Elder
Oklahoma United Methodist Conference
Ch, Lt Col, USAFR (on active duty at undisclosed site)



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