Faith and War by Cindy Sheehan

The Real Cindy Sheehan
by Cindy Sheehan
Dandelion Salad
featured writer
Nov. 9, 2007

A friend of mine, who is Chair of the Economics Department, invited me to speak to the students and faculty at the University of Dallas (where the Veterans for Peace convention was that I spoke at the day before I went to Crawford on August 6th, 2005), which is a small, non-culturally or non-racially diverse, Catholic college.

Surprisingly, my friend Sam, received little protest over inviting me, but there was a “Support the Troops” rally in the room next to where I spoke. Some Camp Casey friends accidentally went into that room and only heard the speaker call me names like “scum” and he called the rest of the people at my event “peace fairies.”

I was heartened to find the first three rows of my speech were filled with young people who were smiling and vigorously nodding their heads at everything I said. Most of the audience clapped or laughed in the right places so I was feeling pretty good. However, I was a little sad when there were some snide snickers when I had the unmitigated gall to call Iraqis “human beings.”

During the “Q and A” part, the first question I received amazed me. Now, I was raised Protestant and received an excellent training in the Christian scriptures and I know after being a Catholic for 25 years and a Catholic youth minister for nine of those years, that the average Catholic does not know a great deal about the Bible as most of their religious training is in the tenets of the Catholic faith. Here’s how many Catholics quote scripture: “It’s somewhere in the Bible,” when, in my experience, many times they are actually quoting: “Poor Richard’s Almanac.”

An emphasis on the biblical support for the teachings of the church was never used as long as I taught in the church using the approved teaching materials of the church, but the depth of ignorance of Jesus of Nazareth exhibited in the first question still had the ability to astonish me.

The question printed neatly on a 3 by 5 index card was: “How do you reconcile your progressive ideals with your faith?” I answered the question that Jesus cared about the poor. He admonished us to “feed the hungry,” “clothe the naked,” “heal the sick,” and “visit those imprisoned.” Jesus performed a stunning feat of civil disobedience by over-turning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple and was subsequently executed by the Empire of his time. Jesus was the ultimate progressive radical. Jesus’ name is exploited by our materialistic society at Christmas time when he changes from the right-wing Christian warmonger to the “Prince of Peace.”

Jesus welcomed the “least of these” to his table. He didn’t exclude sinners, lepers or prostitutes who were the pariahs of his day. Today, I am convinced that if Jesus returned he would welcome gays and non-white people (even “illegal” immigrants) to commune with him. The only people I ever heard Jesus speak badly about were the “brood of vipers” (Mt 3:7) that were the Sadducees (Democrats?) and Pharisees (Republicans?) who in the parable, with hypocritical piety, walked right by the man who had been beaten, robbed and left by the side of the road to die without helping him and they turned his “Father’s” house (the Temple) into a “den of thieves.” (Mt. 21:12).

My question for the questioner was: “How do you reconcile your faith with supporting war and killing?”

If Jesus came back today and was a politician, I know, because of my faith in the inherent goodness of the Universe, that he would not be a “politician” but a public servant. Jesus would be in favor of single-payer health care, solar and wind energy, unions, free post-secondary education, Social Security, fair trade, free speech, civil rights, and human rights. Jesus would be against the death penalty, torture, extremist religions that exploit His Name for profit, extremist states that exploit His Name to kill innocent people, and the ultimate crime against humanity: war.

Whether one is a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or like me now – nothing, Jesus of Nazareth and his story is still worth studying and emulating. At the risk of sounding judgmental, I have a feeling that these reactionary Christian extremists are going to be shocked when they go to meet their maker and find out that Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9). The converse of that saying is: “Cursed are the warmakers for they are not the children of God.” There is a very relevant saying of Jesus in the Bible that these self-proclaimed “Christians” should also pay closer attention to:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:43)

Wise words for everybody to strive to live up to: From presidents to college students and everyone in between.

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan who was KIA in Iraq on 04/04/04. She is a co-founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace and the author of two books: Not One More Mother’s Child and Dear President Bush.

9 thoughts on “Faith and War by Cindy Sheehan

  1. When Jesus said He was to bring the sword we first must ask ourselves, was Jesus a hypocrite or was He using metaphors like the mustard seed parable?

    If you look at Ephesians 6:17 AND Hebrews 4:12 you will find the the Word of God is like a sword.. This makes sense since ALL other lessons from Jesus as well as His actions speak to nonviolence.

    Jesus is NOT a hypocrite. Jesus is against war.

  2. What do you do with Jesus’ statement of himself found in both Matthew and Luke (I’ll include the Matthew reference here): “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34-36

    What do you think he meant by that?

    In my understanding of scripture, Jesus did not come to earth to be a politician, a public servant, to found an organization, as a progressive radical or to lead a nation. He came bringing the kingdom of God and to destroy the works of the devil. In both testaments the Bible describes warfare and conflict between nations, between individuals, between God and human beings and in the spiritual realm. Jesus described the kingdom of God advancing forcefully and being taken hold of by forceful (one translation uses the word, violent) people.

    So, what did Jesus mean by his statement that he came to bring a sword and not peace? Was he being inconsistent with his statements in Matthew 5, in Luke 6, in John 16:33, and with Isaiah’s prophecy?

    Or are we inconsistent in our reading and incomplete in our understanding, misusing scripture and missing the point?

  3. Pingback: Never Again by Cindy Sheehan « Dandelion Salad

  4. I have always enjoyed your site. Its articulateness, site structure and design, and attention to detail are really admirable. It’s fun just to come over and read.

    I read this speech by Ms. Sheehan out of respect for your site. I enjoy that unlike the main-stream media, you folks allow for putting it out and then…

    Therefore, if you don’t mind, here’s my take.

    “Jesus was the ultimate progressive radical. Jesus’ name is exploited by our materialistic society at Christmas time when he changes from the right-wing Christian warmonger to the “Prince of Peace.”

    The celebration bears His name, Christ, and is held at a time designed to be best for the celebration, when among other issues, there doesn’t exist a birth certificate or knowledge of the exact date of Christ’s birth date. In addition, Christ is named, “Prince of Peace” hundreds, if not thousands, of years before Christians in this “right-wing” even existed; as did Christmas, existed hundreds of years before the USA was a thought. Christmas in not an American invention.

    When one makes a statement such as “sinners, lepers, or prostitutes who were the pariahs” of his day were not included it only serves to annoy me in two ways: First, the person simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about; second, it is plain and painfully obvious that this is a great opportunity to show just how unknowledgeable this person is about the historic implications of who he did invite. Prior to this date Christ had already healed leapers; healed a prostitute, and had forgiven thousands of sinners. How else would he have received “radical” status?

    To suggest that what Matthew, by occupation was not a sinner, only supports the dismal lack of knowledge demonstrated by this person. I would suggest that Ms. Sheehan explore the “Historic Record” of Christ, maybe even some Theology courses.

    In finale, “If Jesus came back today and was a politician, I know, because of my faith in the inherent goodness of the Universe, (sure about that?) that he would not be a “politician” but a public servant.

    Politicians are public servants. Thank you again!


  5. If someone is indeed an enemy, Jesus tells us how to deal with them: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” Matthew 5:44-45. If we fail of this, we fail of being God’s children.

  6. Sorry to post twice, but I do have to say this—the one criticism I would make about her remarks is when she says “if Jesus returned he would welcome gays and non-white people (even “illegal” immigrants) to commune with him”.

    I agree with the sentiment here, but I find the way she expresses this to be extremely ironic. What so many white Protestant Americans are apt to forget is that Jesus was not “white” (and not Christian, either!) and in fact the Iraqis whose country we have destroyed look more like Jesus than the average white American, and their language is far closer to what Jesus spoke than English.

  7. This is an amazing article, thanks for posting it….regardless of how one feels about Ms. Sheehan’s actions, I think the way she links Christianity with progressive politics is far more sound than the way the “Christian” Right has shackled Christianity to war-mongering and oligarchy. Her question, “How do you reconcile your faith with supporting war and killing?” should be put to every self-proclaimed Christian politician who has voted in support of war, torture, and social inequality.

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