More than 50 American Christian leaders have signed a letter to Congress expressing support for the diplomatic agreement with Iran that would limit that nation’s nuclear program.
These signatories include United Methodist Church bishops and other mainline Protestant judicatory heads, Catholic organizational leaders, the general secretaries for the Church of the Brethren and the National Council of Churches. Roy Medley, head of American Baptist Churches-USA, has added his name.
I’ve added my name as executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
As a deepwater Baptist, I know no Baptist speaks for other Baptists. I certainly don’t speak for the readers of EthicsDaily.com.
I have always spoken to Baptists and our readers. I have always clarified and emphasized when speaking to the press this treasured tradition among goodwill Baptists.
So, why did I sign the letter?
First, I agree with the letter because it underscores the need for Christians to speak for peace. Had I written the letter, I would have written some sections differently. Overall, however, I concur with the letter’s intent and content.
The document reads, “After decades of hostility, the international community has crafted a nuclear accord to limit Iran’s nuclear program and prevent the United States from moving closer toward another devastating war in the Middle East.”
It continues with a needed reminder that “As Christians, we feel called to speak out for the possibility of peace. …This historic accord moves us one small step closer to a world free of nuclear weapons.”
The public square needs a Christian sound for peacemaking. It already has enough voices that favor war-making.
A Christian voice is a countervailing force to the influential war-makers, munitions profiteers, political opportunists and others with a nationalistic agenda that stiff-arms peace.
Second, I’m struck by the rare and remarkable support for the agreement from nations that seldom have a shared agenda. Russia and China have agreed with the U.S., U.K., France and Germany in reining in Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
Given their different and often conflictual global agendas, these nations readily recognize the need for collaboration to reduce the possibility of nuclear conflict.
Such collaboration promises that lots of eyes will be watching Iran to make sure the agreement is honored.
Granted, Saudi Arabia and Israel oppose the agreement. One need not think long about their position.
Given their geographic location and relationship with Iran, one understands their situation. Yet they are driven more by their own national agendas than the welfare of the world community.
Third, the global community is better off with an agreement than without one.
What happens without an agreement? Israel goes to war with Iran with airstrikes that try to destroy nuclear plants? What does the U.S. do then? What happens to innocent civilians in Israel and Iran who become “collateral” damage of war? Does Israeli aggression trigger more support for ISIS, strengthen the hand of Islamic jihadists, weaken moderate Islamic governments?
With an agreement, economic sanctions on Iran are lifted, which is, in itself, a humanitarian action and an economic benefit to the global community.
One would hope that the agreement would improve relations between Iran’s Islamic leadership and Western nations. It will be hard to demonize the U.S. as “Satan,” if Iran shakes hands with U.S. leaders.
Fourth, I have an abiding distrust of those who campaigned for the needless invasion of Iraq and now oppose the Iran nuclear deal.
They hyped the bogus weapons of mass destruction myth and failed to interpret and use Just War Rules when considering war. The fact that they were badly wrong then makes one skeptical about their position now.
Drawing from Jesus’ abundant witness for peacemaking (see Matthew 5-7’s Sermon on the Mount), Paul called the minority Christians in pagan Rome to pursue what makes peace.
He wrote, “So let’s strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up” (Romans 14:19, Common English Bible).
Supporting the Iran nuclear deal is one way to strive for peace and mutual up-building.
If we, Christians, give a certain sound in urging Congress to back the agreement, it will give witness to our Islamic neighbors that we do practice the common word with them: love for neighbor.
As doubtful as I am that our readers will contact their elected representatives in Washington, I hope some will.
I hope others will share this editorial on Facebook, tweet about it, pass it out in Sunday school classes, talk with friends and pray that God’s will might be done.
A congressional vote is expected before Labor Day.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.