Sunday, April 13, 2003

Listen to Iraq


War proves religious leaders need more faith in America

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A Protestant pastor, a Baptist preacher and a Catholic priest are debating the war in Iraq.

The Protestant says, "We've done our best to avoid any controversy, and our church is still dying on the vine."

The preacher says, "I can't figure out which one is more like Hitler - Bush or Saddam?"

The priest says, "I usually disagree with the pope, but this time he's right. We're against it."

And then a crowd of cheering Muslims from Iraq bursts in and says, "We're pulling Saddam's head off. Will you help us?"

They all said no. And that's the joke.

In the past month, America has been looking through a rare window of moral clarity to witness a classic showdown of good and evil. And our religious leaders took a personal day.

The grueling road test of war has pushed our nation to the redline. We found out our military has the horsepower and performance to run the rest of the world off the track. "Pentagon" used to sound like "Edsel." Now it sounds like "Corvette."

The media have been all over the highway, sometimes leading the way, sometimes driving in circles looking for Vietnam.

Our intellectual and talent elites swerved left and crashed in a smoking pile of twisted logic.

And most religious leaders never even got their engines started.

Writing about religion is like running through a minefield in snowshoes. For the record, some pastors are courageous patriots. And I understand why some refuse to mix nitro politics with glycerine faith.

But that does not explain why so many moral beacons are dark while our nation is caught in a thick fog of antiwar moral confusion.

A poll by the Pew Forum, released March 19, surveyed Americans who attend church. Only a fifth said their clergy had taken any position on the war. And those who took sides were 2 to 1 against the war.

The percentages: Protestants, 7 to 1 opposed; black church leaders, 38 to 5 against; Catholics, zero support. Only evangelicals supported the war, 15 to 3.

Another Pew poll showed Jews lean more antiwar than most Americans. Author and Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Lapin says religious leaders who insist God only supports peace "are ignoring scripture and history."

Good point. Anyone who can't find evil in a monster who feeds living humans to shredding machines probably couldn't find evil with a flashlight and a map of Hell.

I hope the moral fence-straddlers saw those two Iraqis on TV, marching through Baghdad with a giant banner: "Go Home Human Shields, You U.S. Wankers."

(I think "wanker" is Iraqi slang for "Sean Penn.")

I hope they saw the story about the Iraqi who was asked what he expected from American liberation. "Democracy, whiskey, sexy," he shouted, dancing in the street on the grave of Saddam's empire of nightmares.

There it is. An Iraqi with a three-word supply of English has a better grip on the meaning of America than most citizens in Hollyweird or Wack Town, where Michael Moore lives.

Iraqi-born Adeed Dawisha, a political science professor at Miami University, told us there would be a dam-burst of liberation joy. "The only thing I underestimated was the absolute terror and fear of the Iraqi people," he said.

Before the war began, he predicted the Iraqis would welcome our soldiers. When I quoted him, his remarks were met with sporadic small-arms fire from stubborn pockets of the Elite Democratic Guard here in America. Wankers.

Dawisha has great confidence in America and a free Iraq.

"At one point my uncle called and said, 'Stop worrying. You guys are more worried than we are here.' "

As the cell-phone ad says, "Can you hear me now?"

Maybe some of America's religious leaders should dial up the Big Boss and ask for a little more faith in their own country.

E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.




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