Clergy direct attention to current world affairs
March 31, 2003
As the U.S. began another week at war against the Iraqi regime, Karen and Gordon Lovett found peace at church on Sunday.
“… it’s ultimately in the hands of the Lord,” Gordon Lovett said as he left Sierra Community Church.
The Pleasanton couple visit their second home in South Lake Tahoe every other week, attending the house of worship on the Sundays they’re in town.
Among others, the Lovetts have noticed the war has become the main topic of discussion in the parking lot and inside the church.
The magnitude of the issue has spurred the Revs. Dan Wilvers and John Aldax to use the controversial topic in their sermons the last few weeks.
Wilvers’ war-related sermons have centered around the question: “Can a person who claims to know Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, serve in war?”
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He classified the differing sides as pacifists and just-war theorists. For the latter, Wilvers indicated that “justice sets the parameters of having to go to war.”
But there are valid viewpoints on both sides.
“The frequency of armed conflict and its relationship to the Christian faith and the church has been a troubling one from the beginning,” Wilvers said. “The bottom line is we have both (views) in our congregation.”
Aldax transported the congregation back in time Sunday to the creationists’ beginning of life to explain world views on conflict and the origin of evil. He used Adam and Eve to compare the biblical stance that considers humans as “inherently evil” with the secular humanist’s debate platform which defines mankind as “inherently good.”
Clergy and congregations throughout the South Shore prayed for world peace and for the safe return of American soldiers.
At Our Lady of Tahoe Catholic Church near Stateline, where prayer for world peace has become a part of Lent, parishioners are particularly concerned about Patrick Heeran of Zephyr Cove who is in the 82nd Airborne.
Father Richard DeMolen said Friday that the church bulletin carries an announcement asking parishioners to send the 20-year-old letters of support and encouragement.
“They are very concerned,” DeMolen said of the airman’s parents, John and Patrice Heeran. “We are supportive. We think Patrick is a hero who is defending the rights of others.”
South Shore clergy say there is an underlying somberness among their congregations, where people express their support for American troops but have anxiety about the length of the war.
Pastor Jerry Foster of Calvary Chapel of South Lake Tahoe said some members of his congregation are distraught over the possibility that it will be a long, drawn out war.
“In this time of grief, I think the most important thing to do is pray, regardless of what they feel about the war,” Foster said. “If they disagree with the president, they should pray for the president and pray that God directs his steps.”
Foster, who was a member of a team of clergymen for Billy Graham Ministries that was at Ground Zero in New York City, said his experience reaffirmed his belief that people need God in their lives.
“The response to 9-11 is that God and Jesus is available if people just turn to him,” Foster said.
Jews on the South Shore have also brought up the issue in study groups and with each other. Synagogue members expressed their concern over the war but their desire to see Saddam Hussein removed.
“Everyone is concerned about it. Sending Americans over there is like sending members of your own family,” said Temple Bat Yam member Mark Rowen. “Saddam Hussein is an evil person. The question before the war was how do you do away with him? Now that we are at war, we are praying that it ends quickly.”
For Ken Glenn, board member and past president of Temple Bat Yam, many members link the war with the terrorist attacks.
“The general consensus among our members is terrorism is a serious problem,” Glenn said. “We are the leading country in the world and we were attacked. While there is apprehension, generally speaking, it is our responsibility to support the president and the war.”
The Rev. Al Pennington of South Lake Tahoe Foursquare Church gave a sermon eight days ago on the issue of war and its biblical context. He said America’s support of Israel is, in the bigger picture, why America is hated in the Muslim world.
“The attack on 9-11 was an attack on America and its support of Israel,” Pennington said. “Americans see this theologically and spiritually. God has said he has a special purpose and destiny for the people of Israel. It is their will to exist and their right to exist. We are seeing terrorism against us because we support what God’s will is toward the Israeli people.”