The Public Square

Durl Kruse of Urbana onChristianity and Nonviolence


Hello, my name is Durl Kruse. I am a member of AWARE, the local anti war anti racism effort. I also have been a life long member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

Today it seems many Christian churches are failing to address a major moral and ethical challenge. Namely how to respond to our country's growing militarism, ongoing occupation of Iraq, and call for endless war? Clearly these are difficult and troublesome moral issues.

On Sunday, November 27, I stood in the rain with a small group of members of AWARE in front of St. John's Lutheran Church on Mattis Avenue holding signs proclaiming "Peace on Earth", "Say No to War" and "Blessed are the Peacemakers". Some people felt this church presence was bold, appropriate, and long over due. Others strongly opposed it. Regardless, our goal was not to offend but rather to inspire more thoughtful reflection and discussion about the morality and justification of our nation's war on terrorism, our country's ongoing occupation of Iraq, and our growing militarism in general within the Christian community.

In a recent phone conversation with the associate Pastor from St. John's, he stated that he was personally offended by our actions and that members of the congregation were likewise offended. In short he stated that I should make a personal public apology to him and the members of the congregation. Our presence that Sunday morning he stated was inferring St. John's was some how responsible for the war.

Maybe some questions rather than an apology might be more helpful in speaking to the difference of thought regarding this moral dilemma.

In a free and democracy society, are not citizens responsible for their government's actions and choices? Does that not make each of us at least partially responsible for the ongoing occupation of Iraq and our country's expanding militarism?

Considering that we now know that misleading and false information was used to justify going to war, should not the church be morally outraged?

Considering that we now know how the war and occupation has been mishandled and conducted: the use of torture, secret and illegal detentions, unlawful governmental spying, the curtailing of civil liberties, the untold deaths and injuries of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, the unfortunate deaths and injuries of American servicemen and women, and the extraordinary financial costs in the billions of dollars, should not the church be morally outraged?

Certainly the church ought to be able to envision and promote a more life affirming national policy that would reduce and end terrorism while leading to a more peaceful, safe and just world?

Where is the clear unequivocal gospel voice of Jesus proclaiming, "blessed are the peacemakers" and "love your enemies"? Where is the transforming message of love and compassion?

To the members of St. John's and other Christians who may be offended by a few people of conscience standing in front of their church, consider for a moment that Jesus challenged both the church and state of his day, called for nonviolence, preached a message of hope and life, and never apologized to either for his actions.

If the historical Jesus were alive today, where would he be standing? Inside the institutional church or outside challenging us to be people of peace and nonviolence.