A year ago, I was attending a Christmas church service while visiting my brother and his family in Dallas. In the middle of that service, the minister asked the congregation to close their eyes for a couple of minutes to pray for the troops in Iraq.
This year, I attended the same church service. Interestingly, this time the minister made absolutely no mention of the troops in Iraq.
I couldn’t help but wonder about the reason for the change. Could it be that he simply forgot? Could it be that he knows that most Americans now realize what a mistake it was for the U.S. government to invade Iraq? Could it be possible that the minister has come to the realization that it is sinful for U.S. soldiers, as part of an aggressor force, to be killing people who never attacked the United States?
During my own Sunday church service here in Virginia, in the early years of the Iraq invasion and occupation there was a regular call to pray for the troops in Iraq. During the past year, the call has changed to pray for people serving in the U.S. military forces, especially those “in harm’s way.”
It is difficult for me to understand the import of the “in harm’s way” prayer because it seems to ignore a critical issue: why the troops are in harm’s way in the first place.
Suppose U.S. soldiers in Iraq were helping commit abortions and that Iraqis were trying to kill them because of it. Would church ministers be calling on their parishioners to pray for the troops “in harm’s way”? I don’t think so. Wouldn’t they instead be condemning the troops for committing abortions and calling on them to stop?
Well, what’s the difference in principle between committing abortions in Iraq and killing born people in Iraq? Aren’t the victims equally innocent, whether they are born or unborn? Why don’t born Iraqis have just as much right to life as unborn Iraqis?
The “in harm’s way” prayer also ignores the fact that the troops have knowingly and deliberately placed themselves “in harm’s way.” Suppose a person decides to walk into a bed of rattlesnakes. One might ask people to pray for the person who has placed himself “in harm’s way.” But doesn’t God help those who help themselves? If someone is concerned about the safety of someone who is choosing to do something that is really stupid, wouldn’t it be better to counsel the person to get out of the rattlesnake bed rather than spend time asking God to protect him from rattlesnake bites?
Don’t church ministers owe it to themselves, their parishioners, the troops, and, most of all God, to come to grips with the truth about Iraq? Neither the Iraqi people nor their government participated in the 9/11 attacks or ever attacked the United States. The U.S. government is the aggressor and occupying nation in Iraq and Iraq is the defending and occupied nation. Under international law and under fundamental rules of morality, the Iraqi people have the right to oust their country of an aggressor and occupier. As part of a force that has aggressed against a nation that never attacked the United States, U.S. soldiers have no right under the laws of God or man to kill any Iraqi.