Irenology: American War, Christian Conscience, and Building Peace with the Islamic World

Public domain image of Moses with the Ten Commandments by Rembrandt (1659) from Wikipedia.

I returned to a previous day’s writing today in response to a friend’s posting on Facebook of an article entitled “Republicans Have Strong Negative Views of Muslims, Arabs: Poll.”  I will continue to return and extends thoughts on this topic because it is important in the future.  As a Turkish-American I take particular interest in insuring a lasting peace exists between The United States of America and nations in the Middle East.  Resolving negative views of Muslims in The United States of America may help.  I wrote the following a couple of weeks ago after a long reflection with the state of American military presence in the Middle East.  Before you read it, I would like to preface that I am excited and very interested to learn about Just War Theory.  My feeling so far, is the global War on Terror is very far from a Just War.  Just War Theory sets up many important conditions about the nature of what makes a Just War.  There are very few Just Wars that have been fought in history.  Some would say none, I tend to float between none and few depending on the day.  I do not want to give the impression that I am not reasonable.  I do not take one position and without thinking, hold that position for eternity.  That said, it is important to hear a narrative like what follows because some times we are as a nation very far away from where we should be with respect to Biblical guidelines for ethical principles regarding military engagement.  To this end, I found a book called Heaven in the Midst of Hell: A Quaker Chaplain’s View of the War in Iraq that looks absolutely fascinating.  Quakers are typically conscientious objectors, so to hear an account of a Quaker military chaplain in Iraq sounds fascinating and important to study completely.

So without further ado, my cry for peace written a couple of weeks ago:

“The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.”

– Jimmy Carter, from “A Cruel and Unusual Record,” June 24, 2012, New York Times

I just discovered a class that is being taught next spring at Princeton Theological Seminary entitled “War and Christian Conscience.”  Here is the course description, “Theological reflection on the use of violent, coercive force. Special attention will be given to the historical development of Christian doctrine, the emergence of the just war tradition, the warrants for pacifism, and the differences that divide secular and theological accounts. The course will conclude by considering contemporary concerns: terrorism, torture, and irregular warfare.”  This course looks fascinating.  I wonder why the title of this course is not “Irenology” the scientific study of peace.  Does anybody know where I can find a university or seminary to study exclusively irenology?  I am not interested in just war theory.  In my opinion there is no such thing.  What part of “Thou shall not kill” is ambiguous in the Law of God?  That seems like a sound warrant for pacifism for the committed Christian.  I am not saying I am not a sinner.  Indeed, I am.  For a start, I am an American.  As a result, the blood of innocent civilians killed in American wars are on my hands.  Much of that blood is Muslim blood, the religion of one of my homelands Turkey.  Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, … the list goes on.  What I am saying is that in a theory course on the proper Christian response to war it would seem the only reasonable response is pacifism.  The American people have lost their mind since 9/11/2001.  Since that time, torture is authorized, targeted assassinations are permitted, drones bomb with machine precision, wars are declared unilaterally, and the public watches with no meaningful response.  There seems to be popular support for these actions of our country.  It is illogical to blame the government for these actions.  While the United States government is not a direct democracy, it is a democracy.  With enough public outcry, any political action can be accomplished.  It just has to be loud enough.  The government has enough popular support wage the global War on Terrorism.  A truly dark day is upon us as Americans.  It looks like this is the century of the fall of the American conscience.

It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.  It would be good to end this blog entry on a bright note, a quote from Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter, “As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.”  Perhaps Christians that freely worship with Muslims may lead the way.  I have worshiped for a time with Muslims at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC).

“The tears of the sinner can be more valuable than the arrogant smile of the pious. People need to appreciate the struggles of the sinner.”
– Sh. Suhaib Webb, Imam of ISBCC in Boston

The ISBCC has recently opened a religious school in Boston.  This is amazing, Islamic education in Boston.  Here is the description of the Ella Collins Institute “Our mission is to build the next generation Muslims. To establish a vibrant community built upon beneficial knowledge and meaningful action. We aim to bring forth the cultural relevance of Islam in America, and to develop the minds and hearts of the individuals in our communities. Our goal is to cultivate and produce carriers of transformative knowledge to bridge the gap between religious and secular knowledge. Through weekly courses, weekend seminars, and annual retreats, we aim to educate the Muslim, and non-Muslim, community in areas of traditional studies, liberal arts, and sciences. We will be learning classical and applicable knowledge to enlighten us intellectually, spiritually, and socially in a modern era to empower us to build a prosperous society. Ella Collins Institute hopes to create a Muslim community that takes the classical understanding of Islam with contemporary context to create a Muslim community that will become an integral facet of our society at large and bring about a positive change as our beloved Prophet did in his time.”

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About kayaerbil

I am a Berkeley educated chemistry Ph.D. who is moving into the area of working on developing appropriate technology for communities that are subjected to socio-economic oppression. The goal is to use simple and effective designs to empower people to live better lives. Currently, I am working with Native Americans on Pine Ridge, the Lakota reservation in South Dakota. I am working with a Native owned and run solar energy company. We are currently working on building a compressed earth block (CEB) house that showcases many of the technologies that the company has developed. The CEB house is made of locally derived resources, earth from the reservation. The blocks are naturally thermally insulating, keeping the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Eventually, a solar air heater and photovoltaic panels will be installed into the house to power the home and keep it warm, while preserving the house off the grid. A side project while in Pine Ridge is a solar computer. I hope to learn about blockchain encryption software for building microgrids. In addition, it is an immediate interest of mine to involve local youth in technology education.
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