MOULTRIE -- Moultrie congregations believe prayers reach farther than missiles.
President Bush has given Saddam Hussein and his sons until tonight to leave Iraq or face war. To make sense of war, some local ministers of the Christian faith are comparing the pending U.S. invasion with St. Augustine's Just War Theory, which contains eight tenets that, if met, justify war. The ministers are looking the author of liberty -- as God is referred to in "My County, Tis of Thee" -- to guide America's decision-makers.
The Rev. Jim Soles of Memorial Baptist Church in Moultrie organized a patriotic rally held Tuesday night. Referring to scripture, Soles told the assembled that there is a time to kill and a time to heal.
"There comes a time for war and a time for peace, but I don't try to indoctrinate my people either way. They're free thinkers," Soles told the Observer after the rally. "I have been in the military, and if I was still that age, I would have gladly laid down my life for our freedom."
Response to the 9-11 attack on America is beginning, he said, and Saddam Hussein was a supporter of those terrorists, equating his money and power as a narcotic to Hussein.
"The more he gets, the more he wants, and with that kind of money, he wants to control the world, and he will control the world unless somebody stands up to him. ... Yes, I truly think it's justified, unfortunately. And for those who oppose it, thank God we live in a country where they can," he said.
The Rev. Michael Helms, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, said he can only agree with five out of the eight of St. Augustine's criteria, although his congregation overwhelmingly agrees with all.
"I struggle with this so much," Helms said. "Once fighting begins, I fully support our military and the president and pray that the quickest solution can be found with the least loss of life possible. I pray that our president is right that this war will make our world a more peaceful place, but I fear that it will bring more division than peace. It's already caused division among our allies. At least in the short term, the president expects more attacks on our people.
"I just believe that regardless of reservations you have, when young men and women are putting their lives on the line, you support them 100 percent," he said.
The Rev. Jimmy Boyles of First Baptist Church of Norman Park, one of whose flock was deployed to the Middle East in combat preparation, said now America's servicemen deserve prayer and support.
"I have done a good bit of thinking on it and believe that we are indeed in a just war -- that our intentions are right and it's not for us to profit by that," Boyles said.
The Rev. Loretta Boges-Simon of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church said she received word from God at the turn of the year that the U.S. was going to war with Iraq. She thinks a war with Iraq would be justified to halt the oppression, torture and power lust of Saddam Hussein.
"We're just living in a time that has been foretold in scripture. We see the signs over and over again. The word that we continue to send forth to our congregation and to the general public is to just trust God -- no matter what ... and to continue to be the Christians that we should be and to be examples and to know that we truly are a blessed nation, a blessed people. We should walk worthy of our blessings as much as possible," Boges-Simon said.
Father Michael Smith of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church stands by the pope's view that this would be an unjust and immoral war -- a failure to humanity. Smith also thinks America is stirring up a hornet's nest in a volatile region of the world and that Bush is fantasizing that democracy could be inserted instantly after a war.
"I feel sad. I feel like our nation is plunging into sin, contrary to the will of God," said the priest. "We're becoming an outlaw nation, ignoring the international human rights declaration. I think we are putting ourselves in the camps of outlaw nations just like the one we're attacking -- but I hope some good will come of it if it happens."
Smith did say that he supports the soldiers, but he does not support the President who sent them.
And though his congregation is overtly patriotic, the priest can't help but wonder why some people who are morally opposed to abortion can still support war.
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