Many Americans learned of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s capture while attending or getting ready for church, and some spoke to reporters lurking near houses of worship to gauge reactions from people on the street.
“One of the most evil men on the face of this earth has been caught,” Pastor Perry Sanders told worshippers at First Baptist Church in Lafayette, La., according to the Lafayette Advertiser
“That’s a real comedown, to go from four or five palaces to a spider hole,” retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dave Pellow told the San Antonio Express-News as he headed for morning service at First Baptist Church.
But Tandy Sloan, an assistant minister at Cleveland’s Greater Friendship Baptist Church, whose son, Brandon, was one of the first casualties in Iraq, said he didn’t find much joy in Saddam’s downfall.
“The purpose and the reason why so many lives have been lost and why others are still in jeopardy was to secure the weapons of mass destruction,” Sloan told Cleveland TV station NewsChannel 5. “Saddam Hussein of himself is not a weapon of mass destruction.”
Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., a predominantly military congregation, welcomed the news as an early Christmas present. “It’s awesome,” Assistant Pastor Brian Nulf told the Fayetteville Observer. “It’s probably some of the best news to get before Christmas.”
In Baumholder, Germany, Lashundra Stephens had a hard time believing it when she learned of the capture while leaving Grace Baptist Church. “Maybe there will be some resolution and maybe our soldiers will be back safely sooner than expected!” said Stephens, whose husband, Sgt. Phil Stephens, is assigned to the Baumholder-based 1st Armored Division, according to Stars & Stripes.
Sally Frick of Marion, Ill., whose son, Billy, is stationed in Iraq in the Air Force, said she was relieved by the news. “I’m basically not a worrier, but anytime you have a child involved in a war, you’re concerned about his welfare,” she told the Southern Illinoisan. “I’m looking forward to when he gets to come home. It helps that we have such a strong church family at the Third Baptist Church in Marion. Everyone’s kept us in their prayers. We’ve mailed letters every week.”
Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson on Monday’s “700 Club” called the capture “a huge political coup” for President Bush. “It’s almost like heaven is smiling on him,” Robertson said of the capture, which comes on the heels of news of an improving economy. “This takes the wind out of the sails of those who have been opposed to him.”
Robertson’s son Gordon Robertson said, “We’re in a safer world as a result of the capture of Saddam Hussein,” which he said “wouldn’t have been possible without this war.”
“I think the presidential race is almost over at this point,” he said.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler called Saddam’s capture a “military victory” but added that bringing the deposed dictator to trial would represent a more significant “moral victory.”
Mohler criticized those calling for Saddam to be tried by an international court.
“An Iraqi trial of Saddam Hussein is a vital first step toward the rule of law throughout that war-torn country,” Mohler wrote in a Weblog on Crosswalk.com. “If Saddam Hussein can be brought to account for his crimes before a legitimate Iraqi court, the rule of law just might stand a chance. The Iraqi people deserve the chance to bring Saddam to justice.”
The Rev. John Rickenbacker, pastor at Northwoods Baptist Church in Leon County, Fla., said in the Tallahassee Democrat that he cautioned his congregation not to react the wrong way.
“I said we should be glad about that (Saddam’s capture) but not gleeful about it,” he said. “Glad that justice will be brought about on one who committed great evil and murder on innocent people, but remembering that God does not take delight in destruction of the wicked.”
John Fairless, senior pastor at the First Baptist Church in Gainesville, Fla., said he and the congregation have been praying not only for the troops but for peace. “I am going to pray that God’s peace will come to the world,” he said. “We will pray for wisdom for President Bush and for all leaders,” Fairless told the Gainesville Sun.
Pastor Cal Lord of the First Baptist Church in Norwich, Conn., said parishioners in his church were feeling “a sense of relief,” about the capture. “Hopefully, this is the first step in the peace process,” Lord told the Norwich Bulletin.
Steve Munson, 50, a military chaplain stationed in Iraq and senior pastor at Grace Fellowship Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, has been filing weekly dispatches for the Dallas Morning News.
“The moment we heard about the capture of Saddam, it began to transform the camp. At that instant, I realized how badly I had longed for his capture and even death,” Munson wrote in Sunday’s paper.
Munson said he found it ironic that Saddam, who often compared himself to Nebuchadnezzar, would be found in circumstances so similar to the Bible’s account of God driving the ancient Babylonian king mad and forcing him to live with animals for seven years.
“Saddam will be remembered as a coward who was driven by his own madness to live in the field with the beasts and hide in a hole like a rat,” Munson wrote. “His mottled hair and matted beard are the outward signs of his twisted mind–judged by God and forever caught by the lens of a camera.
“He is modern proof that God still does not tolerate pride and arrogance from leaders who should serve rather than be served. I pray for God to help America remember how Saddam ended, so we do not end up like a rat in a hole!”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.