By the Rev. William C. Turner's way of thinking, Americans are trapped in a culture that subsists on a lie. It's a big lie, based on violence, domination and conquest. And one day that lie is going to be revealed in all of its ugliness, possibly to our children.
"We better be careful, too," said Turner, a Duke Divinity School associate professor of homiletics. "We haven't even seen the ramifications of what we are doing. We don't even know which ones of our children are contemplating another allegiance, another loyalty and another faith. Just as we produce insurgents around the world, we can produce them in our own homes.
"What will our sons and daughters say when they wake up one day to find out that they have been fed a diet of lies?"
Turner made his comments Nov. 4 to an enthusiastic audience of about 100 people at "Seek Peace & Pursue It," a two-day peace conference held at Fayetteville's First Baptist Church and co-sponsored by the N.C. Council of Churches and Quaker House.
Turner, preaching out of his own Christian tradition, said, "No potential heresy is greater than the temptation to exchange conquering for peace. The way to follow our Lord is to make peace."
Citing the Beatitudes, Turner said "to be called children of God, you've got to make peace."
Peace, he said, requires hard work, because U.S. culture is steeped in war-making. Striving for peace often requires working "against ourselves" because of "the way we have been constituted by our culture," he said. "We've got to throw up the milk that we drink as infants in order to become peacemakers."
Young adults often join the military out of economic necessity, unaware of what they're getting into, Turner said.
"Our sons and daughters are just simply trying to live," he said. "They have no concept of the moral ambiguity into which they have been thrust."
Soldiers often return emotionally wounded from their war experiences and domestic violence can follow. "Some are killing their families," Turner said. "The best way to support them is to get 'em out of harm's way. Even if the cause were just, they need to know that war is evil. It's not a game. It's not just another job. It is the work of killing."
Americans "love to wave the flag, and sing 'God Bless America,'" Turner said, and "we stamp our money with the inscription, 'In God we trust.'
"What about praying 'God bless the world?' The only way we know how to pray is, 'God Bless America' and nobody else? Jesus said that's the way the heathens pray. He said when you pray, pray 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth--not as it is in America, but as it is where--in heaven."
Turner railed against U.S. consumerism that "we call our entitlement." Many generations of Americans have come to believe "they are entitled to a way of life that requires slavery, suffering, misery, poverty, starvation and destruction for the rest of the world. We should proclaim and identify the deeds that bring on death."
Turner said most Americans do not understand the passion that fuels anti-U.S. sentiment in the world. "We're not dealing with a handful of insurgents who are crazy," Turner shouted. "We're dealing with smart people. We're not dealing with people who hate America for no reason. We're dealing with people who have so much sense that we don't even know what they know.
"God loves the people of Iraq as much as the people of America. Every life is priceless."
U.S. officials talk of winning the war on terrorism, but "there's such a thing as losing by winning," Turner said. "I'd rather have a neighbor than a victory. You don't want to win every argument, because all you've got is a win. Sometimes you want to win come hell or high water, and that's what you get: hell and high water.
"Winning is not the best thing. Thank God for showing us how to love without winning, or to win by means of love. This is the way of our God. [Jesus] won by suffering. God won by loving. God won by wooing. God loves by giving."