Coalitions of Religious Organizations on War: Rationalized, Hypocrisized, and Compromised

National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
National Council of Churches of Christ in the US
National Council of Synagogues
Unitarian Universalist
US Council of Muslims
World Council of Churches
World Council of Independent Christian Churches

Were it not for its record of either engaging in war, promoting it or acquiescing to it, one would think organized religion would be a natural ally of and prominent activist for peace. There are, to be sure, some exceptions among the various denominations or religious sects (e.g., the Quakers and the Mennonites), and small religious, antiwar groups can be found protesting now and then, here and there. Overall, though, and throughout history organized religion has been an ally of war, not peace.

At the same time, however, there are coalitions of major organized religions that one might think because of their size if nothing else could conceivably mobilize and organize their members into launching a strategic confrontation of the political/military/war industrial triumvirate in America. With that thought in mind I wrote the leaders of the coalitions listed above. They provide overall leadership and guidance for religious organizations whose memberships total over 180 million Americans. If these leaders could persuade enough of their memberships to support the implementation of my proposal or some version of it America’s triumvirate would be seriously challenged to pacify America’s relationships with our global neighbors.

I told the leaders of the coalitions that any serious antiwar effort must be one of escalating confrontation of the leaders of war. Timidity, pleading, compromise or any of the other conciliatory and conventional approaches to ruling regimes will absolutely fail as they always have. Even mice know better than to sit down at the table with cats.

I also told them that the effort must focus first on the war and spy complex in the U.S. There clearly can be no world peace if militarism is not subdued in the nation that is perceived and correctly so by the rest of the world as the greatest threat to world peace.

I then suggested for their prayerful consideration the following outline for a strategy of escalating confrontation:

  1. Create an interreligious task force to plan in detail a strategy for peace, oriented first toward the U.S.
  2. Establish a steering council, pick leadership, obtain funding and recruit staff.
  3. Help unite the dozens of movements protesting all sorts of different injustices. Connect the dots for these people–no injustice can really end if war doesn’t end. Give the coalition an inspirational and galvanizing name.
  4. Warn the leaders of the warring and spying complex in America that the grand movement and its leaders are serious in their intent and actions and are not simply posturing.
  5. As an interreligious entity morally and publically condemn the current administration, Congress, the war and spy industries, the mass media, and Hollywood.
  6. Unleash a torrent of escalating litigation. The first would be a rehearsal in which a prestigious group of Americans conducts a Tribunal Court ending in the informal prosecution and conviction of all US international war criminals. Follow up by compelling the International Criminal Court to prosecute all U.S. international war criminals even though the U.S. regime refuses to join the ICC.
  7. Promote and engage in all forms of lawful civil resistance coupled with organized rallies of millions of protesters in the four regions of the US.
  8. Monitor progress. If there is little to none, don’t despair. Try a Plan B. We must be good and responsible ancestors of future generations. For their sake we must not fail.

What do you think was their response? Commitment to act? No. Non-committal and platitudinous? No. No reply or unmet promise to reply? Yes.

Was I surprised? Not really. I suspect these leaders and their organizations are rationalized, hypocricised, and compromised. If so, they are much like an unending history of leaders and institutions in the corporate and political sectors of America.

Rationalized

Religion is the art of “seeing what is believed,” not of “believing what is seen,” and beliefs, much more so than facts, are susceptible to moral rationalizations. The late psychologist Lawrence Kolhberg theorized that there are six levels of moral development and that by adulthood the person’s moral development would come to rest at one or the other of the levels.1 I have condensed his six levels into three and labeled them thusly:

  • Unconditional morality: “Wrongdoing is wrong, period.”
  • Conditional morality: “It depends.”
  • Unprincipled morality: “Do whatever is necessary.”

Only saints and maybe a few mortals are at the top of the three. I would argue that the religious and particularly the religiosity are at the two lower levels. Had the religious organizations on my list given me any explanations for not accepting my proposal, I imagine the explanations would have been in the form of excuses they had rationalized as morally justified. Since they are capable of rationalizing or ignoring the ghastly violence and death promoted by their spiritual leaders as illustrated in the three scriptures shown below they are very capable I am certain of doing the same for themselves.

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth:
I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am
come to set a man at variance against his father,
and the daughter against her mother, and the
daughter in law against her mother-in-law. And
a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
— Matthew 10:34-35

I will fill your mountains with the dead.
Your hills, your valleys, and your streams
will be filled with people slaughtered by the
sword. I will make you desolate forever.
Your cities will never be rebuilt. Then you
will know that I am God.
— Ezekiel 35:7-9 NLT

And when We wish to destroy a town,
We send Our commandment to the people
of it who lead easy lives, but they transgress
therein; thus the word proves true against it,
so We destroy it with utter destruction.
— Quran

Hypocricised

A hypocrite not only does not walk the talk but walks against it. A good epithet for religion, government and big business ought to be hypocrisy, for within the houses of worship, within the chambers of politics, and within the corner offices of corporations what is spoken and written are often the opposite of what is done. A classic example common to all three sources of deceitfulness is the claim that war is waged to defend freedom and democracy.

I will add a personal example. In the mainline church I attend (out of respect for my wife who is a PK, or preacher’s kid) a ritualistic saying after one of the prayers is “May the Peace of Christ be with you.”  But I have never heard a voice from the pulpit or from the congregation speaking out against America’s endless warring and spying. Oh, there are plenty of platitudes expressed but nothing more. I am increasingly finding the place repugnant.

Compromised

Organized religion depends on hand outs to keep going, two different hands as a matter of fact, and they compromise any tendency religious organizations might have to speak out meaningfully and concretely against war. These organizations are not going to bite the hands that feed them

One hand out comes voluntarily from givers within the organization. I doubt if there is any spiritual leader who dares alienate his or her flock that is either an accomplice (e.g., by being a silent bystander) or an agent (e.g., military members in the congregation). For instance, there was a backlash among affiliate churches when their federated body, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the US, took a strong stance against the Vietnam War.2

The other hand out is from government, both the source of war and the source of financial support. Religious organizations currently get government handouts of one form or another that amount to about 75 percent of their total annual revenue.3,4  Religious organizations are no different from corporations in the war and spy industries that milk the government and taxpayers dry.

In Closing

In my book, America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying, is a chapter entitled “Habit Helpers” because they help rather than hinder the political/military/war industrial triumvirate’s endless warring and spying addiction.5 Some of the “helpers” beside religious organizations I wrote about were education, science, think tanks, news media, the entertainment industry, and the public relations industry.

If there is a Hell, more so than any of the other “habit helpers” religious organizations deserve top priority in that place of gnashing teeth and fire. Why? No other non-military, non-political, non-industrial institution or organization in my opinion has been more hypocritical and more of a facilitator for America’s wars.

  1. Kohlberg, L. The Psychology of moral development: Essays on moral development. Vol. 2, Harper & Row, 1984. []
  2. Gill, J.K. Embattled ecumenism: The National Council of Churches, the Vietnam War, and the trials of the Protestant left. Northern Illinois University Press, 2011. []
  3. Mathews, D. “You give religions more than $82.5 billion a year.” The Washington Post, August 22, 2013 []
  4. IBIS World. “Religious organizations in the US: Market research report”,August, 2015. []
  5. Brumback, G.B. America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2015. []

Gary Brumback, PhD is a retired psychologist and Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. He is the author of The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch; and America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying. His most recent book is Corporate Reckoning Ahead. Gary can be reached at: democracypower@bellsouth.net. Read other articles by Gary, or visit Gary's website.