There are many reasons to speak out against the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, a powerful leader in Iran who was killed in an airstrike by U.S. forces on January 3, 2020. Some will say that assassination is a war crime and violates international law. Some will say it is a betrayal of the Constitution, because President Trump did not get congressional approval before ordering an act of war. Others will say it is a bad political move that will only add fuel to the fire of resentment and hatred in the region. And they may be right.
But we speak because our faith compels us to speak, and our conscience will not permit us to be silent. While we stand alongside people from diverse faiths and different political convictions, we speak uniquely here as followers of Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they are the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
We Red Letter Christians, who go by this name because the teachings of Jesus in many Bibles are highlighted with red letters, believe the act of killing Qassem Soleimani is a direct contradiction to the core moral teachings of Jesus.
In the midst of one of the holiest seasons of the year when we remember the birth of Christ, “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), we are grieved by this recent act of violence and revenge.
Our faith teaches us that we are not to repay evil for evil, but we are to overcome evil with good (1 Peter 3:9, Romans 12:21).
Donald Trump has said his favorite Bible verse is an “eye for an eye.” And this recent act of violence confirms his commitment to seeking revenge. But a closer reading shows that the ancient law of an “eye for an eye” was meant to stop the spiral of violence, not escalate it. The intent was to limit violence, not give license to it.
Christ himself put it plainly: “You’ve heard it said ‘an eye for an eye’…But I tell you this, love your enemies…” (Matthew 5:38, 44). We believe that when Jesus said we are to love our enemies, at a minimum he meant we shouldn’t kill them. Anytime we rejoice in death, we betray the One who loved his enemies so much he died for them.
Not all Christians are pacifists and some adhere to the theology of “just war theory” popularized by Augustine in the fourth and fifth century. We invite all Christians to join us in denouncing this recent act of aggression by the Trump Administration.
We recognize that the murder of General Qassem Soleimani not only violates the teachings of Christ, but also violates the core principles of just war doctrine which includes last resort (all other peaceful means have been exhausted), right intention (not just revenge), just cause, proportionality (violence must be proportionate), and competent authority.
Violence does not quell the fires of hostility and hatred, it perpetuates them. This act of violence is a direct confrontation of the core teachings and example of Jesus.
Trump’s first public response to this historic act of aggression is likely to come at his “Evangelicals for Trump” coalition launch at a church in Miami, Florida today. We must not lend support to compromised evangelicals through our silence. We must not give religious cover and theological legitimacy to violence and war. History will remember this unholy collusion between white evangelicals and Trump. We must speak up.
We recognize that this moment requires more of us than a petition. We need to pray for peace. But we also need to act, and organize, and get in the streets. We do not know what the response of Iran will be or how the days ahead will unfold. But we know that we will stand on the side of love over fear and peace over war. Until the courage we have for peace matches the courage that others have for war, we cannot expect to find alternatives to violence.
Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of justice.
For the sake of our nation’s integrity and the most vulnerable in our society, we call on fellow Red Letter Christians to voice opposition to the recent killing of General Qassem Soleimani and the escalating violence in Iran and Iraq. And we continue to ask all people of conscience to support our call to remove Donald Trump from office.
TAKE ACTION: Join in a #PrayForPeace candlelight vigil happening nationwide on January 6th.
Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Christians
Tony Campolo, Red Letter Christians
Lisa Sharon Harper, FreedomRoad.us
Don Golden, Red Letter Christians
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, School for Conversion
Rev. Dr. William Barber, II, Repairers of the Breach
Rev. Jennifer Butler, Faith in Public Life
Rev. Dr. Peter Goodwin Heltzel, New York Theological Seminary
Rev. Kaji S. Dousa, Park Avenue Christian Church
Rev. Nathan Empsall, Faithful America
Dr. Sharon D. Welch, Meadville Lombard Theological School
Dr. William Stacy Johnson, Princeton Theological Seminary
Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, The Resistance Prays
Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Middle Collegiate Church
Rev. Amanda Hambrick Ashcraft, Middle Collegiate Church
Rev. Nathan Day Wilson, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Doug Pagitt, Vote Common Good
Rev. Carlos Malavé, Christian Churches Together
Rev. Brian Moll, The Choir Church
Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer, The Interfaith Center of New York
Britney Winn Lee, Red Letter Christians
Elaina Ramsey, Red Letter Christians
Brian McLaren, Author
Rev. Traci D. Blackmon, United Church of Christ
Pastor Michael McBride, The Way Church of Berkeley
Rev. Terry D. Williams, Orchard Hill United Church of Christ
Carlos A. Rodriguez, Happy Sonship
Rev. Vanessa Myers-Dudley, United Church of Christ
Rev. Dan Clark, Faith in Public Life & St. John’s United Church of Christ
Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Evangelicals for Social Action
John Pavlovitz, Pastor and Author
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey, Public Theologian
Alicia T. Crosby, Organizer & Activist
Abraham J. Bonowitz, Death Penalty Action
Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, Auburn Seminary
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith, Crazy Faith Ministries
Rev. Micah Bucey, Judson Memorial Church
Rev. Susan Chorley, Exhale
Pastor Jonny Rashid, Circle of Hope
Rev. Donna Schaper, Judson Memorial Church
Rev. Charles L. Howard, University of Pennsylvania
Leroy Barber, The Voices Project
Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, Author & Speaker
Rev. Clyde Kuemmerle, Ecclesia Ministries of New York
Rev. Stephanie Kendell, Park Avenue Christian Church
Rev. Dr. Robert L. Brashear, West Park Presbyterian Church
Dr. C. Robert Mesle, Graceland University
Steve Roach Knight, Transform Network
Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Union Theological Seminary
Dr. Hak Joon Lee, Fuller Theological Seminary
Rev. Frederick A. Davie, Union Theological Seminary
Diana Butler Bass, Author & Historian
Camilo Pérez-Bustillo, J.D., Stanford University
John J. Thatamanil, Union Theological Seminary
Rev. Michael Vanacore, Fort Washington Collegiate Church
Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre, Iliff School of Theology
Dr. Pamela R. Lightsey, Meadville Lombard Theological School
Shaun King, Activist & Organizer
Jon Huckins, Global Immersion Project
Dave Gibbons, Newsong Church
Rev. Dr. Drew G. I. Hart, Messiah College
Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler, Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Austin Channing Brown, Author & Speaker
Pastor Brian Zahnd, Word of Life Church
Micah Bournes, Poet & Musician
David E. Wilhite, George W. Truett Theological Seminary
James W. Perkinson, Ecumenical Theological Seminary
Robert Ellsberg, Author
Jarrod McKenna, Perth Anglican Diocese
Rex Harsin, Filmmaker
Kaeley McEvoy, Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ
Rev. Rob Schenck, The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute
Rev. Otis Moss III, Trinity United Church of Christ
Pastor Jonathan Brooks, Canaan Community Church
Sr. Simone Campbell, NETWORK
Andre Henry, Evangelicals for Social Action
Lydia Wylie-Kellerman, Geez
Fr. John Dear, Author & Activist
Kathy Khang, Author & Activist
Rev. William Critzman, West End Collegiate Church
Ronald J. Sider, Palmer Theological Seminary
Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lutheran Pastor & Public Theologian
Rev. Jes Kast, Faith United Church of Christ
Dominique Dubois Gilliard, Evangelical Covenant Church
Nikole Lim, Storyteller
Corey Leak, Social Activist
Rev. Ken Booker Langston, Disciples Justice Action Network