Opinion

The Theological Truth We Must Press During War

I am ordained, but I do not pastor a church. Still, I am often invited to be a guest speaker or lecturer in congregations and universities. Lately, when people ask me questions afterward, they want to know my opinion about the war between Israel and Hamas. I am happy to answer them. Members of the clergy aren’t shut off from the world, and I don’t think our words should be either — we can be a force for good.

The United States is a better nation because of the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement. Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s resistance to apartheid helped transform South Africa.

The church has also known deep failure. Christianity’s dark history of antisemitism spanned centuries. And my family has personal experience with a different strain of evil, as I am a descendant of enslaved persons owned by Christian ministers.

And yet, history unfolds before us, giving properly humbled churches chances to begin again. We are at such a moment with the war in Gaza. So if our congregants want to know what we think about the war that began with Hamas’s terrorist attacks, what is the appropriate response? How might churches engage with a complex history that has so many competing claims?

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