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Spokane County Commission candidate Rob Chase: 'I didn't see anything wrong' with Rep. Shea's 'Biblical Basis for War'

Whitworth professor of theology argues the document has nothing in common with the Old Testament or 'just war theory'

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Rep. Matt Shea has been distributing a document titled "Bibleical Basis for War." - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Rep. Matt Shea has been distributing a document titled "Bibleical Basis for War."

Since news broke that Rep. Matt Shea was distributing a document titled "Biblical Basis for War," donors and one-time allies of Shea have started to turn on him.

News of the four-page document has spread across the country, with national outlets like Vice News, The Hill, Fox News, New York Daily News and others covering the story. And the immense national pressure has resonated with some of Shea's donors: Avista, BNSF and Washington Realtors, the Spokesman-Review reports, are among those who are asking for their money back after donating to Shea's re-election campaign.

Rob Chase
  • Rob Chase
But Shea hasn't lost all his friends. Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase, a candidate for Spokane County commissioner, sees no problem with the document. In an interview with the Inlander, Chase defends the document, saying it simply contains notes from a sermon on the Old Testament and that it's about "just war theory," a philosophy some Christians use as a guide on how to handle war.

"It looks like it was a study he made on the biblical basis for 'just war theory' and I didn't see anything wrong with that," Chase says.

The document defines a tyrant as "someone who rules without God" and outlines when to rise up to a tyrannical government. It sets up an organizational structure and rules for war. Among those are a call for an end to abortion, same-sex marriage, idolatry and communism. It says, "If they do not yield — kill all males."

Chase, a Republican in the middle of a campaign against Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kuney, says he hadn't seen the document until yesterday but that it's consistent with conversations he's had with Shea in the past.

"I didn't know he was doing this and I don't even know how it got there," Chase says. "But I looked through it and I didn't see any problems."

In a statement Friday on Shea's Facebook page, Shea calls the idea that the document is a "manifesto," as it's been described by some media outlets, a "ridiculous smear designed as a desperate effort to derail my service to this community and this country."

Like Shea, Chase says everything from the document comes from the Old Testament. Chase says "'just war theory' is one of the pillars of civilization." It doesn't argue for aggression, he says, but for a defensive war.

And Chase says the document could apply to current events. It's a similar idea to that of the American Redoubt and prepper movement — a movement in which Shea is seen as a leader. The area east of the Cascades and into Montana, they argue, is a God-honored territory for like-minded Christians. They predict an impending disaster, perhaps a civil war caused by the left, and stock up on food, guns and ammunition to survive it.

"Lots of people are worried about what could happen," Chase says. He predicts a disaster if, say, "Trump was assassinated or Hillary was put in Guantanamo."

Maybe, Chase theorizes, Shea's document was answering questions for a potential disaster. 

"Things happen quickly sometimes," Chase says. "And you want to do the right thing."

Yet that kind of explanation makes little sense to James Edwards, a Bruner-Welch professor of theology at Whitworth University. The Old Testament's values share nothing in common with the "Biblical Basis for War" document, Edwards argues. And the document doesn't call for war as a defensive strategy, as "just war theory" calls for, but it instead encourages violence.

"This is far more developed than anything you see in the Old Testament and it's based on a value system that's foreign to the Old Testament," Edwards tells the Inlander.

Parts of the Old Testament may describe killing men during war. But communism? That, of course, is not mentioned in the Old Testament.

Just as troubling, Edwards says, is the document's definition of a tyrant as someone who rules without God. That, Edwards says, is "an impossible definition." Tyranny is defined as cruel and unjust use of power.

As for a section of the document calling for war over abortion, same-sex marriage or communism, Edwards says none of that comes from the Old Testament.

"The only one that might be in the Old Testament would be No. 3: idolatry," Edwards says. "No war in the Bible was waged over abortion or same-sex marriage or communism."

If the document is supposed to be a summary of the Old Testament, it contains fundamental misunderstandings, Edwards says. The Old Testament, he says, valued treating of foreigners and the poor with compassion.

"What we've done with immigrants in this country would have driven the Old Testament prophets crazy," he says.

And if the argument is that the document summarized "just war theory," then it's off base there too, he says. Edwards argues "just war theory" presents instructions on how to de-escalate conflict and deal with it in a peaceful manner. Its primary intention is to prevent war, not foster it. The theory says you must meet certain criteria: It must be a just cause, it must be sanctioned by a competent authority like a governing power, it must invoke comparative justice for the wrong it intends to correct, it must be pursued with the right intention and it must be the last resort, Edwards says.

The "just war theory" is preventative in nature. The "Biblical Basis for War" is prescriptive in how to initiate war, he says.

"[It] omits moral criteria, or when it includes them it reduces them to those advocated by a contemporary conservative agenda," he says. "It relegates initiation of war not to legitimate and competent authorities but essentially to the revelation of God's will to a charismatic leader."

"Those are the criteria of cult leaders and terrorist organizations, not of morally authorized leaders."

In speeches and rallies across the West, Shea regularly identifies what he calls the "enemies" of a Christian nation: Communists, the Muslim Brotherhood and foreign governments. He has called journalists "dirty, godless, hateful" people.

He's part of the Coalition of Western States, a group that wants public lands transferred back to states, and he visited the Bundys during the armed-takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon that ended with a man being killed by police.

He wants to turn Eastern Washington into a 51st state called "Liberty," which he describes as a haven for gun-owning Christians who are tired of Seattle politics ruling the state.

And Chase? He's mostly in line with Shea on these issues.

Chase, too, supports a 51st state. He supports the Bundys. As county treasurer, he's fighting the sale of Avista to a Canadian utility company because he fears a foreign entity controlling our utilities.

Chase is part of a segment of the Republican Party that Spokane Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has long feuded with. While Knezovich and Shea's spats have been more widely covered in the media, Chase has had his own issues with Knezovich. The sheriff slammed Chase for his involvement with Northwest Grassroots, a group that invited white supremacist James Allsup to speak at one of their events this summer. Chase was there for the event but tells the Inlander he didn't know anything about Allsup beforehand. Chase says he denounces white nationalism.

Still, Chase says he's not perfectly in line with Shea.

"Don't put a headline that says 'Rob Chase agrees 100 percent with all of Matt Shea's ideas,'" Chase says, noting that, for instance, he's always believed in talking to the press. "We have our differences too, but we're friends and we like talking about stuff."

Chase is trying to win a seat on the Spokane County Commission in a race that pits him against Mary Kuney, someone who's considered a more moderate Republican.

Kuney, when asked by the Inlander about Shea's "Biblical Basis for War" document, says she "couldn't even comprehend it."

"I find it very troubling that we've got a Republican that's doing stuff on the fringe," Kuney says.

Yet she says she had already voted before the document came out. And when asked who she voted for — Shea or his Democratic opponent, Ted Cummings —  she refuses to say.

"My vote is secret," Kuney says.