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2003 Letter to the Editor on War

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Bryan Times. Published January 3, 2003. I thought posting this letter here might help readers understand how much my religious and political views had changed by the early 2000s.

Dear Editor,

What a wonderful and beautiful Christmas Day! The ground is blanketed with six or so inches of snow and all is peaceful and quiet. There is nothing more beautiful than a crisp winter morning after an overnight snowfall. This wintry scene causes me to reflect on the glory of Christmas Day and its meaning. Christmas is about redemption. Christmas is about Jesus, the Son of God, taking on human flesh and being born of the virgin Mary in the city of Bethlehem. Jesus came into the world at the appointed time to bring redemption to all men. He came to proclaim peace and justice for all. He is called the Prince of Peace. Later in His life, Jesus would declare that peace and justice were to be character traits of those who profess to be followers of Him.

It is my thoughts of peace and justice that now begin to cloud my mind on this Christmas Day. Jesus came to bring peace, yet there is no peace. Jesus came to bring justice, yet there is no justice. Those who claim to be His followers show little concern for peace and justice. It seems they are all too busy with eating, drinking, and being merry to bother themselves with such weighty notions of peace and justice. But, concern ourselves with them we must.

I have been reading of late the Social Essays of the Catholic monk Thomas Merton. These essays were written at the height of the cold war and the Vietnam war. I am amazed at how timely Merton’s essays are for today, though they were written 40 years ago. In his time, Merton had to constantly battle censors within the Catholic Church who attempted to silence his anti-war message. Merton was quite creative in the ways he got his message to the public. His voice still speaks loudly today.

Merton’s essays on nuclear war, unilateralism, and preemptive war should be required reading for all Americans. Merton reminds us of the lunacy of the notion that a nuclear war can be fought and won. Once the buttons are pushed, the world as we know it ceases to exist.  Thoughts of non-defensive, unilateral, preemptive war, Merton reminds us, are immoral and should be condemned by all Christians.

Today, America sits on the precipice of nuclear world war. We have become the big bully who thinks he can get his way by bluffing and threatening. Every once in a while the bully even whips some weakling to show who is the toughest.  Such is the case with Iraq. But now we have added North Korea to our list of nations we are intent on bullying. Unfortunately, North Korea does not quiver and shake at our threatenings. They well remember an America who could not defeat them during the Korean War. Since then, the North Koreans have added nuclear and biological weapons to their arsenal. According to recent newspaper reports, the North Koreans are quite willing to use what weapons they have to defend themselves.

What troubles me the most in all of this is the silence emanating from the pulpits of America. It seems the only voices that are heard come from warmongers such as Jerry Falwell. Does he, and those of his ilk, speak for the rest of us? The German Church silently sat by while Hitler put into force the plans and programs that would later give us World War II and the Holocaust. Now the clergy of America sit by silently as George Bush and Company put into force programs such as the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act. George Bush threatens war and destruction on any nation that opposes him. Our insane notion of national superiority, coupled with immoral capitalistic greed, is leading us down a path that is certain to have catastrophic results, yet nary a word is heard from our pulpits.

The Scriptures are clear: Christians are called to be people of peace and justice. We are to be peacemakers. It is absurd to suggest, as George Bush does, that by waging war we will have peace. War always begets war and history bears this out. Only peace begets peace. It is time for all nations, including America, to lay aside and destroy ALL weapons of mass destruction. Our nation needs to repudiate its doctrine concerning preemptive first strikes against other nations. The world needs to know that America will be a peacemaking nation that desires peace and freedom for all men. While we must leave place for the need of defensive war or even what the theologians call “just war,” we must forsake attacking and killing others just because we do not like their government structure or way of life. Muslims have a right to live as they choose without America interfering in their affairs. It is time we stop exporting Western civilization as the answer to the world’s problems. Better for us to concern ourselves with our own moral, ethical, and civic failures than trying to fix the problems of the world.

Fifty or so years ago the phrase “better dead than Red” was coined. Unfortunately, that philosophy is still alive and well. The proponents of this notion believe it is better for us all to be dead than to have any other government or civilization than we have now. We had best think about the reality of such a notion because when the nuclear bombs start falling, it will be too late. The Reagan/Bush Star War notion of missile defense will not save us once the bombs begin to fall. It will only take a few bombs to render this world unlivable. Those who survive will wish that they had not.

It is not too late. Voices need to be raised in opposition and protest to the war policy of the Bush administration.  Protesters need to make their voices heard via letters and public protest. Conscientious men and women in the military need to say “I will not” to their leaders who want to slaughter them on the altar of political and economic gain. Politicians need to get some backbone and be willing to stand up to the war-mongering hawks on Capitol Hill. They have been raised up “for such a time as this!”

Time is running out.

Rev. Bruce Gerencser
Alvordton, Ohio

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    Danny Campbell

    Thanks for posting this. I’m not sure where you were in your own deconversion when this was written but your concern for HUMANity was evident with or without the backing of scripture.

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    I do not believe that the Christian message as you present it here is about peace at all. It is about adopting a fairy tale delusion, giving up reality and waiting for your favorite flavor of Koolaid. It is like the nonsense of trickle down benefit, that if we pour all our resources into big industry, then industry will care for us and peace will conquer war (even if the war machine is a significant part of our industry!)
    The whole Christian message, which is very much like the grand fantasy of peace with Islam, is bunk and harms our ability to tackle the troubles of our world.
    Over at Doug Wilson’s church in Idaho, a 13 year old is raped over a long period of time by a person a decade older who is training for Doug Wilson’s ministry. When the child garners enough strength to ask for help, she blamed and shamed and the pastor (sic) seems to side with the perpetrator even while admitting a crime has been committed. (He forgives the perp because the guy says sorry and lets him come back to church.) Meanwhile the victim suffers and Doug Wilson blames her father, her family situation and uses a legalistic term “commensurate” to refer to her responsibility. He says her responsibility is not commensurate with the rapists. This is active religion in the world. A rape victim at 13 years of age bears some responsibility for her rape, not as much as the rapist though. Christianity like this is sickening and demonstrates how utterly depraved it is in American patriarchy.
    That is one example of the trouble of Christianity in society now. How long will it take for Jesus to bring the peace? Never. It is all a bunch of woo-woo. Does it make you feel better, have hope? Well, good and fine: I support you unless you need to convince me to play your delusional game. If you believe I will suffer eternal damnation, fuck you, thank-you very much. It is none of your business. The Prince of Peace fantasy starts wars, is a structural foundation for Crusades and much harm.
    If Belief was evident as a factor that reduced delusion in hate in the world, I would be interested in carrying my ass to church. Instead Belief is a tool that is most important in the arsenal of warmakers and rich corporations. There may never be a President who clearly says that Atheism and humanism are the hope for humanity. Rich corporate greed will always use religious tactics to make more money. Perhaps the fear of God is the end of Wisdom and not the beginning. Can we even talk about it or does Doug Wilson loom over with his big teeth? Are Christian parents comfortable with their children saying no and why? No, religion reduces their tolerance in life. Why is it that we have to escape religion? Why can’t we say no and be respected? Why can’t Christians love their children first instead of magic?

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      Brian, that link you provide makes me almost physically sick. The incongruity between guns, and the bible, and Christian belief is, for me, blatantly obvious. Peaceful religions should have nothing to do with guns, and the idea that they are not only legal on campus but encouraged, is sickening to the point I despair of humanity. Then again, bible belief and reason are mutually exclusive.

  3. Avatar
    Neil Rickert

    I would have agreed with most of this. I left Christianity long before 2003, so I would not have included your first paragraph. But I agree with your humanism and your objection to war.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    Bruce, what I find so interesting (and wonderful) about the letter is that, save for the first paragraph, I can imagine the person you are now writing it. Given that so many Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians were among the war’s loudest supporters, I have to wonder how much flack you got for your letter.

  5. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    I am heartened by the human caring coming from the mouth of that delusional preacher. I wonder if it is that humanisn that brings some of us through the long dark night of belief and into the light, that natural and persistent inner heartbeat of being human, not fallen from grace by any means but surviving against all odds.

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