June 18, 2015

War is Not Hell

Last week I commented on the missed opportunity concerning the recent article on moral injury in Christianity Today to counter, or gesture to those who do, the position that war is morally injurious by its very nature. I argued that Christian pacifism, positioning itself against violence as malum in se, or morally evil in itself, is unable to allow for the critical observation that killing, because it comes in different moral kinds, is not necessarily a censorious act. Regarding moral injury, this deficiency is harmful because it does nothing to alleviate the clinical connection between killing in combat and soul wounds and, thereby, between killing in combat and suicide.

I also endeavored to stress that the descriptive work of the article, by bringing into public view the issue of moral injury and some of its primary clinical experts, is both crucial and excellently done. Moreover, the essay’s author and CT are to be lauded for calling the Church into action by cautioning Christians against reducing combat trauma to a mental-health issue best left only, or even primarily, in the hands of psychiatric professionals. The VA psychiatrist Jonathon Shay, credited with first articulating the moral injury construct, himself acknowledged that moral injury is ultimately alleviated not through the clinic but rather the community. Katelyn Beaty, CT’s Managing Editor, strikes a similar chord in her Editorial Note when she affirms “the community of Christ has a uniquely Christ-shaped role to play in healing the wounds of war”. While I believe this is clearly true, my critique hoped to also make clear that I do not believe this Christ-shape can be characterized by, nor frankly even include, the advocacy of pacifism.

Instead I gestured toward the intellectual and moral tradition of just war in which Christian theological ethical reflection has been grounded for two millennia and from which the best analysis of the psychological implications of war and killing in war can be derived and take their bearings. In my estimation, the particular Christ-shaped role the community of Church has in healing the wounds of war is grounded in a particular understanding of the nature of war itself. Contra Christian pacifism, the Christian ethicist Richard Miller has observed that viewed through the just war lens war, pace Sherman, is not in fact hell. War is tragic, awful, it may include evils, but the institution itself, the tradition goes, is a rule-governed activity – that is, there are legitimate moral expectations that surround political leaders and military personnel regarding decisions to enter war and how to then conduct the prosecution of that war. To this critical insight I would add that we know also that war is not hell because war, unlike hell, is a realm in which God can be both known and worshipped.

If this is right, then because war is a realm of moral expectation in which God can be known and worshipped, it is a realm necessarily, that is by definition, constituted by love. Among other things, the understanding of love governing the just war tradition is grounded in Jesus Christ as characterized by, rather than despite, his triune reality and, therefore, by the comprehensive testimony of the whole of scripture – as opposed to a truncated view leveraged from a rather sentimentalized reading of the red-letter bits alone. This love requires its manifestation by the Christian warfighter toward both the innocent neighbor under assault as well as the enemy-neighbor employed in the assailing. In its expression in St. Augustine, what this love necessitates is the formation within the just warrior of an abhorrence of the love of violence, revengeful cruelty, implacable enmity, and the lust for power and a clinging to a disposition characterized by a desire for peace, reluctance at the need to fight, and a lack of hatred. In part this means that the just warrior’s intention toward the enemy is only, in love, to restore justice by restraining him from doing evil, not, specifically, to kill him – even if the just warrior knows, with a practical certainty, that his actions will, in fact, be the death of him.

This is a view of love that, however provocative, is faithful to the scriptural witness. It recognizes the enemy as a neighbor for whom a responsible demonstration of love commands, among other things, that he be restrained from sinning; for, as Augustine has it, it is a kind severity to strip an enemy of lawlessness even if in the pursuit of this good his resistance leads, in the end, to his vanquishment. Augustine, of course, is simply channeling James who teaches that it is an expression of love to turn back a sinner from his sin and thereby save his soul. Just war truth is old truth.

In the context of my critique of the CT article, these brief observations on the disposition of the just warrior are important because of the article’s lingering impression that veterans need to lay down their arms before they can be of real service to the church. This impression seems strengthened by a companion piece in the same issue unfortunately titled “Jesus is Better than War.” As a summary statement of what is an otherwise fine essay seemingly intended only to remind us that our identity is rooted in Jesus Christ and not in lost dreams, the title is a non sequitur. However unintentionally, the unnecessarily obtuse heading, coupled with the original article’s suggestion that after having laid down their arms veterans can now repurpose their martially formed and oriented habits of service and sacrifice for now civilian acts of service through the Church, deepens the impression that a decision has to be made between Jesus and the vocation of soldiering. Excepting a few very particular historical contexts, the tradition of just war insists no such decision needs to be made. Warfighting can be a Christian vocation.

To extend Luther’s observation: soldiers need neither renounce soldiering before they, too, can be saved nor must they renounce the martial life before they, too, can serve the church. Uniquely, through faithfully carrying out their martial vocation, our military men and women as military men and women can, among much else, demonstrate how to simultaneously abhor evil while endeavoring to resist our enemies without malice; how to fight only when the necessity of peace, order, and justice demands, all the while preferring that our enemies might rather be restrained without violence; and how even as they bring the fight to the doorstep of the enemy, closing with and killing him, the justified war fought justly can be a means toward establishing the grounds for not only the cessation of hostilities and the rescue of the innocent but of peace, pardon, and reconciliation with the enemy as well. That’s the uniquely Christ-shaped role the Church, through the witness of its marital brothers and sisters, can play in not only the healing of moral injury but as witness to the greater community around us that is struggling to know how to be good in a world rushing its way toward hell and still get to heaven.

In light of the reality of human belligerence, the classic just war tradition is superior to Christian pacifism in approximating love. Indeed, given the conditions of this world and the human soul, pacifism in my estimation does not, and indeed cannot, exemplify the Christian life. While pacifism is, strictly speaking, a Christian option, it is an option only in a way broadly analogous to something like celibacy. That is, while it is an option it is an exceptional one, reserved only for those few possessed by a very particular divine call or for whom the conditions or circumstances of their existence render celibacy the best, that is to say most faithful, of available options. Another way to say this is this: it is the pacifist and not the soldier who is the exception to the Christian norm.

For those grappling with moral injury I hope this is received as manna. It is essential for our warfighters to know that war can, in the last resort, be a work of love. The imago Dei can walk the battlefield. God can be known and worshipped, even in the midst of the killing. Love can rule in the combat zone.

50 Responses to War is Not Hell

  1. MarcoPolo says:

    I dare not make any analogy of justifying abortion with this article’s intent, but there are parallels. It just depends upon who is being vanquished, and for what reason.

    • MLiVecche says:

      MarcoPolo, you’ve answered your own challenge. The reason you dare not use what I argue here to justify abortion is precisely because it does matter who is being vanquished and for what reason – this is what is meant by pointing out that killing comes in different moral kinds. The overwhelming majority of abortions are instantiations of that kind of killing which is always and only morally corrupt and ought never to be done: the willful slaughter of the innocent. As a just war advocate I am often asked how I can ever justify the killing of one made in the imago Dei. But the real question is what are we to do when one imago Dei is unjustifiably kicking in the face of another imago Dei? When lives are in mortal conflict, the just war position is that we are to prefer the life of the innocent over their assailant and if, in the last resort, the assailant can be stopped only by being killed then the act of doing so is not a moral evil. In those rare instances in which the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child are in mortal conflict questions regarding innocence do not, of course, apply. Here, rather, a tragic weighing must be made concerning which lives might be saved. When it is clear the child will be lost no matter what, then the doctrine of double-effect – a method of thinking through intention which helps inform just war reasoning – can apply to justifying medical procedures to save the life of the mother while also resulting in an abortion. But I suspect you believe the parallels are somehow broader than this narrow exception. I invite you to inform us of what you think they are. M.LiVecche

      • MarcoPolo says:

        Thanks in advance for such cogent conversation.

        I’m not sure what “instantiations” means, but that aside, I think I understand your distinction between War and Abortion. or at least as I have suggested their correlation.

        Initially you state that abortions should never be done.
        That really doesn’t come under your authority to decide.
        A woman who does not wish to go to term with a pregnancy is within her legal right to decide whether to have an abortion, or not. Regardless of what anybody else thinks or feels!

        I don’t share the same belief that Man is created in the image of God. Why? Are elephants less noble a creature than Man? Why should we place Man above all else? Dominion? …Balderdash!
        My Buddhist side is revealing itself, so I’ll move on.

        As for War, I understand, and agree that there are instances where military action is required. (Not in the case of Bush & Cheney’s invasion of Iraq), but there ARE times that call for intervention…ie: WW-II.

        If we lived in a “perfect” world there would be no need for War. But sadly, our current times find too many Industrial interests champing at the bit to enter any conflict that will bolster their coffers for products of destruction. Not to mention the greed factor of those seeking resources for profit or possession.

        Yes, I’m a Pacifist. I make no apology for that, as I’ve lived long enough to realize there are always situations that could be handled without confrontation.

        As an eighteen year old registered for the draft in 1973, I begged to have someone explain WHY we were in Vietnam. The reasons were as vague as some people provide today, but I knew that to justify a War, you must believe in it, to be in it!

        There is so much more to discuss, but I respect this thread’s column width and depth too much to go on any further.

        May you continue in good health!

  2. ken says:

    Many of us read, and were deeply influenced by John Howard Yoder’s book The Politics of Jesus. Yoder was a noted pacifist and made a pretty good case for Christian pacifism, but in the end we’re still stuck with the New Testament’s favorable treatment of soldiers, notably the centurion Cornelius in Acts. I respect pacifists and conscientious objectors, and I am thankful I have never been put in a position to take another person’s life, but any pacifist who claims that pacifism must be THE Christian position is not on solid ground. I know too many good Christian men who have served as soldiers and cops to write them off as bad examples of faith.

  3. Joseph M says:

    The Prince of Peace is also still the Lord of Hosts (armies)

  4. KentonS says:

    I Cor 13:4ff “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not brag, it kills its enemies, it…” – oh *there* it is. Yes, I knew it was in there.

    And from the epistle of Forrest Gump, “I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is.”

    • MLiVecche says:

      Chapter-and-versing doesn’t often lend itself to a clear argument; so it would have been a more valuable contribution, not to mention a more loving one, to engage specifically with what I wrote. All of us might then benefit.

      But let’s stick to your bit of scripture and ask some pertinent questions about a particular scenario. The scenario: Imagine a man walking along his way who stumbles upon a thug in the process of beating an innocent man to death. I suggest that in human conflict it is most often not possible to show love in quite the same way to both conflicting parties – particularly when one party is a wrongdoer hellbent on continuing an injustice against an innocent. Now the questions: what does your verse tell you about how to navigate such a terrible scenario? For me, stepping back, the whole testimony of scripture regarding the acts of God in history teaches us that it is not loving to allow a sinner to sin. Nor is it loving to allow the oppressed to remain oppressed. Your own verse instructs us that love is kind. Is it kind to allow the innocent to be savaged? Is it kind to allow an evildoer to indulge in his fell work? Your verse further reminds us that love is not easily angered – leaving plenty of room for the notion that there may well be a time for anger (as scripture elsewhere affirms) and that this anger might well signal the need to seek remedy – as the witness of scripture regarding the role of the government’s sword would suggest. Finally, your verse concludes that love does not rejoice in evil and, indeed, it always protects. Given that we cannot love contending parties in quite the same way we cannot presumably protect both in quite the same way either. So a part of Christian responsibility is to choose among real options – to identify where the greater good can be done given the conditions of the present moment. As my essay argues, love in the scenario mentioned might determine that we protect the innocent by restraining the evildoer from the doing of evil. Happily, in this way, we might well protect both for the future enjoyment of restored peace, order, and justice. These things are not available in the midst of conflict but can be found in reconciliation. I offer the historical examples of US relations with both Germany and Japan post-WWII.

      What do you think?

      • KentonS says:

        So God allows people to sin all the time. (If he didn’t there would be no sin.) Are you suggesting he is not loving when he does allow that?

        I look at how Jesus responds to sin. He doesn’t move us away from sin by use of violence or physical force. He incarnates into our flesh, he suffers violence at the hands of the oppressors, and by doing so it exposes the destruction of their sin and oppression.

        That’s what love does. That’s how love ends oppression. Not by retaliation, but by suffering alongside those who suffer. That’s how kindness is shown to both the oppressor and the oppressed.

        The word “easily” is not in the original text. It’s a translator’s addition. There is no room for wrath within love. The phrase “love always protects” is a poor translation as well. “Bears all things” would be more accurate.

        I’m completely with you when you say we should seek to love by restraining the evil. If we can restrain the evildoer without resorting to violent evil itself, we should by all means pursue that path.

        • Namyriah says:

          Yes, but we can’t restrain the evil without resorting to violence, that’s why we use violence.

          Don’t confuse Christianity with cowardice, they aren’t the same.

          • KentonS says:

            Standing up to violence without resorting to it is anything but cowardice.

          • Namyriah says:

            Is this the voice of experience, or mere theory? People who have actually encountered violence in their own lives tend NOT to be pacifists.

          • KentonS says:

            Sure, the natural response to violence it to retaliate. And yes, it is mere theory. Would I respond with violence if I were actually confronted with it? I honestly don’t know, and quite possibly I would. The civil rights protesters went through some intense training just so they wouldn’t retaliate. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-cIWfDpXMs) Non-violence requires that sort of development of character.

            I do know that if I did respond with violence, I wouldn’t be following Jesus.

          • Tom says:

            So in other words, there is no friend or principle you would not betray to avoid having to use violence to protect them? Is that what you’re really saying? Feel free to give up yourself to your enemies if you choose; you have no right to choose that for others.

          • KentonS says:

            Look, the whole “what would I do?” question is not the right question. I honestly don’t know what I would do. I can be a selfish jack@$$ at times and I betray the Jesus I claim to follow by my actions. (A particular incident this weekend comes to mind that I won’t elaborate on, but suffice to say, I’m still ashamed two days later.)

            What I am saying is that following Jesus means loving one’s enemy, and loving one’s enemy is not compatible with killing him. That *is* really what I’m saying.

          • Tom says:

            It’s not a question; it’s a statement. Your position means that there is no person and no cause you would not betray to preserve your stand. It means that if you could stop a murder-in-process by killing the aggressor but choose not to do so, you are guilty of allowing an injustice to occur, one that you had the power to stop, which means you are guilty of allowing injustice. Do you think that’s what Jesus meant?
            If an individual chooses passivism for himself, that is one thing; you have no right to choose it for others, which is what you are doing by saying you will not defend anyone or anything if doing so means having to kill.
            Another question: what precisely did Jesus mean by “love” your enemies, and which Greek word for “love” did he use there? Does it mean to have warm-fuzzies toward them and allow any and all indulgences. Could one not love his enemies by trying to stop them from engaging in evil acts (not just physical harm, but also sexual immorality, drug abuse, etc.)?
            One final question: why did Jesus command his disciples to sell their cloaks and buy swords (Luke 22:36) if self-defense (including killing) were out of his will?

          • KentonS says:

            As I alluded to above, I Cor 13 is a great place to start for a definition of love of both neighbor and enemy. There are plenty of ways to exercise love of enemy in keeping them from engaging in evil.

            Killing ain’t one of them.

            So in Jesus’ day, his cousin John had been imprisoned by Herod and was about to be executed. John sent a message along the lines of, “Hey, Messiah is supposed to be a David type warrior. Why don’t you bust me out of prison? Are you really Messiah, or should we stop wasting our time with you?” Jesus did not round up a few zealots to kill some guards and spring John. He let him die.

            “John doesn’t get it. And the least guy who gets it is greater than the best guy who doesn’t.”

            What happened in Luke 22? Well the text says that it was so that Jesus could be a criminal (v.37). I wonder if perhaps Jesus was tempted one last time to go the path of violence. Either way, Jesus was not planning on starting a violent revolution with just two swords. That’s a clear lack of fire power. Maybe it was to fulfill the prophecy, or maybe he snapped out of the temptation while he said “that’s enough! …That’s enough.”

          • Tom says:

            A magnificent dodge, but you haven’t answered a single question I asked.

          • KentonS says:

            Wow. Considering I answered the definition of love question and the Luke 22 question, I’d have to conclude that your inability to differentiate questions and statements is matched by your inability to count.

          • Tom says:

            No, you haven’t. Which form of “love” did Jesus use here, and what is its full meaning? You explanation of Luke 22 is, well, incoherent. First, that’s not what v. 37 means. It’s a direct allusion to the messianic prophesies of the Old Testament, specifically Isaiah 53, the greatest of those prophecies. And you still haven’t explained why, if all killing is wrong, that Jesus told his disciples to be sure to carry an instrument of death.

            Again, does defense of the innocent mean anything? If you could prevent an injustice (murder or rape) but the only way to do so was by killing the aggressor, would you just stand by and allow it to happen?

            How about self-defense, which is clearly the issue in Luke 22.

          • Tom says:

            No, you haven’t. Which form of “love” did Jesus use here, and what is its full meaning? You explanation of Luke 22 is, well, incoherent. First, that’s not what v. 37 means. It’s a direct allusion to the messianic prophesies of the Old Testament, specifically Isaiah 53, the greatest of those prophecies. And you still haven’t explained why, if all killing is wrong, that Jesus told his disciples to be sure to carry an instrument of death.

            Again, does defense of the innocent mean anything? If you could prevent an injustice (murder or rape) but the only way to do so was by killing the aggressor, would you just stand by and allow it to happen?

            How about self-defense, which is clearly the issue in Luke 22.

          • KentonS says:

            If the issue in Luke 22 is so clearly about self-defense, then why didn’t Jesus and apostles use their swords in self-defense? In just a few hours, Jesus is arrested in order to be tried and executed. If he’s so interested in self-defense that would be the time to defend himself. When he is arrested, he tells Peter to put his sword away saying that those who live by the sword will die by it. Shouldn’t he have said, “yes! Draw that sword! Kill these guards! Defend yourselves!”?

            And if you’re parsing the word love (agape) in Matt 5 hoping that it’s compatible with killing, that’s silly! That’s why I added the Forrest Gump quote at the top. You don’t have to be an intellectual giant to get what love is.

            It’s like the kid has already pointed out how the emperor is naked and you’re still jumping up and down saying that you do see the emperor’s fine clothes and that the rest of us just aren’t wise enough to see them. Give it a break already!

          • Tom says:

            Because when Jesus was arrested, it was to fulfill prophecy and was part of God’s plan. To try to stop it would be to thwart God’s will. Moreover, Peter was not being arrested, so self-defense wasn’t an issue; he struck the man to defend Jesus, but Jesus had chosen not to resist–again, to fulfill God’s plan.

            Which leaves the point, still not addressed, as to why Jesus told his disciples to make sure they had an instrument of death if all killing is foribidden? You haven’t answered the question.

            My point with agape is that it can indeed embrace killing, since we agree, I’m sure, that agape is the perfect embodiment of God’s love, yet he commanded the Israelites to kill and in fact helped them with the conquest of the Promised Land. If killing is forbidden, why did He require this? (Remember, King Saul was punished for not fulling carrying out God’s command to kill.)

            And you continue to dodge the question about what you would do if you had the power to stop an evil by killing an aggressor by killing him? It speaks volumes that you have repeatedly dodged this.

            Look, I appreciate your zeal and desire to live a righteous life. I’m not out to rag on you or put you down, but it seems to me that you are inexperienced in reading Scripture. (You didn’t recognize a classic messianic prophecy when you saw it and completely misunderstood what was being said as a result.) You woodenly apply an idea without understanding context and purpose. You need to read up on some basic principles of hermeneutics to help you with your study as well as some good commentaries. They will enrich your time in God’s Word.

          • KentonS says:

            The fact that you disagreed with my answer does not mean I didn’t answer your question. Jesus did not tell Peter, “Hey, I’m glad you got the self-defense lesson, but this one instance is about fulfilling prophesy, so wait until next time to use your sword.” No, he said that the one who lives by the sword will die by the sword. That’s completely contrary to “take up swords in self-defense.”.

            You brought up hermeneutics. I’ve read scripture through your hermeneutic lens, and I’ve found it faulty. There are more critical ways of reading scripture that make better sense of it. Indeed Jesus challenged scripture critically several times in his ministry. (Two examples: Luke 4 where he redacts “the day of vengeance”, John 8 where he negates the whole “stone the adulteress” stuff.)

            He affims much of scripture, but He Himself is the word of God (John 1). The word made flesh. The word lived among us. Not the word made ink and published among us. That’s my hermeneutic.

            In that light, the agape of Jesus does not command killing Canaanites. The children of Israel flat out missed the boat on that one. They wanted to kill the Canaanites so they formulated a command of God to excuse it. But that’s not the God revealed in Jesus.

            (And for the record, I don’t know why you thought I didn’t recognize the Isaiah prophecy. Seems like that accusation came out of left field, Tom.)

          • Tom says:

            So then Jesus contradicted himself, right? He tells the disciples to make sure they have sword because …? You haven’t answered this, merely changed the subject without understanding that you’ve also changed the context. Please answer the question without changing the subject: if all killing is wrong, why did Jesus command his disciples to make sure they had a sword?

            Jesus did not “redact” the day of vengeance in Luke 4; he stopped reading there because that was not being fulfilled in that day. He clearly stated elsewhere that God’s final judgment (the day of vengeance) is to come. And in John 8, he didn’t negate the Old Testament law; that was precisely the trap the pharisees had laid for him. He merely stated that anyone who was fit to judge was free to throw the first stone. The law still stood; the question was about who was the one to do the judging. Also, being God himself (you do believe that Jesus was God, don’t you?), he was in a position to judge and to forgive (since, according to Psalm 51, all sin is ultimately a sin against God). He said nothing about the law against adultery being null or “negated” in your words. He merely chose to forgive and then–this is important–told her to sin no more, meaning the law was still in effect.

            And your “hermeneutic” (if you want to call it that) means that God can contradict himself or change his Word. If you think the Israelites merely made up a command of God to kill the Caananites and then attributed it to God, that would be bearing false witness and blasphemy as well as taking the name of God in vain. Yet the OT not only tells us that God commanded it but was the source of their victories so long as they remained faithful. Are you saying that parts of the OT are merely made up or fables? Which parts? How do you know? What is your standard to judge by? If you reject the parts of the OT that you find inconvenient to your present “hermeneutic,” you reject the whole thing, including the parts the prophecy the coming messiah. Your entire “hermeneutic” falls apart, all to stay consistent with a wooden interpretation of one passage of scripture.

            And it’s clear you didn’t recognize the messianic prophecy alluded to in Luke 22 because, in your own words, it was “so that Jesus could be a criminal.” The prophecy has absolutely nothing to do with criminals but is a clear statement that the messiah would take on the sins of mankind (“the transgressors,” in Isaiah’s words) to pay the ultimate penalty himself.

            You can go on with your own personal hermeneutic that picks and chooses which parts of scripture to accept so that you can shoehorn it all into your personal believes, but whatever you call it, it is not Christian.

            And, finally, STILL no answer to a very simple question: if you had the power to stop a rape or murder by killing the aggressor and you chose not to do so, does that also make you responsible for the perpetration of evil?

          • KentonS says:

            Let’s cut to the chase and answer your simple question: There are abortion clinics within driving distance to me. I believe life begins at conception. So in my understanding there is murder happening around me everyday. I could legally obtain a weapon, drive to a clinic, find doctors in the act of murder and open fire on them. That would be killing aggressors to stop murder. That’s not just a hypothetical for me, that’s an actuality.

            I have that power.

            I choose not to do this.

            Now, are you gonna tell me that make me complicit in the perpetration of evil?

          • Tom says:

            And again you change the subject. What’s the point? You don’t answer direct questions. You slip and slide in and out of explanations, implicitly saying things such as God can contradict himself and change his Word that are thoroughly inconsistent with saying you are a Christian. Your explanations are, at best, preposterous, and your personal hermeneutic is one that you use to avoid having to think hard about hard issues. Just shoehorn everything into a wooden interpretation of one verse and all’s good. Good luck with that.

          • KentonS says:

            The point is that I’m answering the question you’ve been waiting for. Would I let evil happen when I have the power to stop it? I not only would, I gave you answer where I do!

            Now answer me: does my lack of deadly action in defense of the unborn make me complicit in evil?

          • KentonS says:

            Still waiting for a response, Tom.

            It’s a simple question: am I complicit in evil when I don’t go killing abortion doctors?

          • Tom says:

            By your ethic, yes. All killing is wrong, and you stand by and do nothing about unjust killing, so you’re complicit.

          • KentonS says:

            🙂 By my ethic, Tom??? 🙂 By my ethic??? 🙂

            Let’s see, based on comments you made here, it appears that you too hold a belief that life begins at conception, am I right?

            So perhaps it’s more properly our ethic, yes?

            So… are you wielding the sword in defense of the unborn that are unjustly killed?

            Or are you unable to obtain a weapon?

            Or are there no facilities accessible to where you are where abortions are performed?

            Or… are you also complicit in the same evil?

          • Tom says:

            Yes indeed, I’m pro-life. But because I don’t hold a wooden view of “do not kill” I understand that not every situation is the same. I hold to the Just War Theory, support capital punishment in theory (although it should be used only rarely), and believe we are sometimes justified in killing, although again, that should be done rarely.

            Two situations: I see a rapist about to slit the woman’s throat. By shooting him, I stop the injustice right there.

            I see the abortionist from the clinic down the street. I could shoot him and MAYBE stop the abortion he is about to perform, but maybe not. Moreover, I will not have stopped abortion in the next clinic in town or the town after that, etc. I also have other options to stop abortion, including political means and moral suasion. I don’t mean to oversimplify the issue, as it is very difficult, but in my ethic (and that of the Catholic Church and many other Christians), killing the abortionist is an unjust act that will not accomplish its intended goal, unlike shooting the rapist in the act.

          • Tom says:

            I was also yanking your chain a bit, which was unfair. Sorry.

          • KentonS says:

            You know what, I think we went from 20 paces apart to just 19. With that, I’m ready to throw in the towel. You put up a good fight, Tom. Grace to you today.

        • Tom says:

          So in other words, there is no friend or principle you would not betray to avoid having to use violence to protect them? Is that what you’re saying? Feel free to give up yourself to your enemies if you choose; you have no right to choose that for others.

    • Namyriah says:

      “Love” meaning “let you and the people you love be conquered”? I don’t think so.

      • KentonS says:

        Well, if we believe in resurrection, then death does not have the last word. What Jesus models for us is humility by becoming obedient to the point of death. Even death on a cross.

        • Namyriah says:

          Jesus died on the cross, so we must be pacifists?

          Non sequitur

          • KentonS says:

            Jesus modeled non-violence. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. If anyone would follow after him he should deny himself and take up his cross.

            Are 1 Peter 2 and Luke 9 also non-sequiturs?

          • Arbuthnaught says:

            Christ modeled the role of the Pascal Lamb, or Theanthropos, a role you and I do not have. We are not to let evil doers slaughter inocents. We may voluntarily, on our own behalf, sacrifice ourselves for nonviolence, but we can not make that decision for others. Any political movement that attempts to make that choice on behalf of others is also wrong.

          • KentonS says:

            That sounds to me like jumping through some logical and rhetorical hoops to – in effect – negate the verse in Luke. Yes, Jesus’ role as Paschal lamb is unique, but there is no ambiguity in that quote.

            I understand where you’re coming from. I really do, and to a certain degree I’m with you. I also know that when been political movements attempt to stop evil by force they become evil themselves. (The Russian and Cuban revolutions are two examples that immediately come to mind.) That’s why the example of Jesus is so extraordinary. He lived in the same kind of political tinderbox that a violent revolt could have easily been ignited. Indeed the Messianic prophecies were all about a son of David (the warrior King) re-establishing the throne. And everyone was thinking Jesus was that guy.

            But Jesus refused to play along. And I just wonder how can we claim to be his followers when we get to a point where violence is the solution.

            As I type this, I realize how ridiculously idealist it all sounds. I don’t know that I could really live that out. But again, when I feel violence is the answer even in the defense of someone else, I know that that’s not denying myself taking up a cross and following him.

            Grace and peace to you, Arbuthnaught.

          • Arbuthnaught says:

            You are a gentleman and a scholar for writing back to me. One thing I sometimes think about is Neibuhr’s concept of Suprapersonal forces of evil like the Soviet government etc. Nonviolence has its limits. In the context of Ghandi and MLK, nonviolence was not used against a totalitarian regime but against the British and American Publics. Those publics had a conscience that could be pricked and so in that limited context non-violence worked. Outside that context, against totalitarian regimes, non-violence just gets you killed.

          • Arbuthnaught says:

            “Violence is the solution….” I think that “violence” is not the solution. I think there must be a distinction between the lawful and just application of “force,” always with the object of protecting the innocent as opposed to unqualified “violence”

          • KentonS says:

            Yes. Jesus would be the prime example of non-violence used within and against a totalitarian regime, and it got him killed. And if death has the last word then “we are of all men [and women] most to be pitied.”

            I do think one of the things Jesus’ death accomplishes is the spark of conscience you mention. Before Jesus it was always assumed that the scapegoat was guilty and deserved punishment. Killing or exiling the scapegoat brought order. (Oedipus is exiled from Thebes and the plague is lifted. Romulus kills Remus and Rome is established.)

            But because Jesus is innocent, his death exposes a hidden truth: we humans will scapegoat those that do not deserve it. And once that truth is exposed it creates a subtle conscience that opposes the tendency to scapegoat our enemies.

          • Whatever says:

            You’re quoting passages directed at individuals, not nations. You do understand that the New Testament is not a guide to international relations, right?

          • KentonS says:

            Yeah, sure. I get that. It’s less about what the state does and more about how we as individuals (or perhaps communities called by his name) follow Jesus as citizens/subjects of the state. How should we respond when the state goes to war? Do we sanctify it? Justify it? Speak for it? Speak against it? Volunteer for it? Resist it?

            Do we kill our enemy in it when Jesus commands us to love our enemy? Do we kill our enemy when Jesus’ example was suffering and dying at the hands of the enemy when he could have led a revolt? I get that when we’re subjects of the state, the state may call us to go to war and kill our enemies. That’s what kingdoms of this world do. I just think at that point we have to decide where our loyalties lie. Are we subjects of kingdoms of this world, or of a kingdom not of this world?

            I can respect the idea that says, “Sorry, Jesus. Your way is not the way I’m going to follow. I am loyal to the state first. I am going to go kill my enemies. ” I can respect the idea that says, “I am a follower of Jesus who commands me to love my enemies. That means I cannot kill him.” But the idea that says, “I will love my enemies by killing them” makes no sense.

    • Arbuthnaught says:

      I Cor 13 is about relationships between individuals not between nations. I think we must have a balanced view of the nature of God. The same God that erased Sodom and Gomorrah, is also the same God who sent His Son to die on the cross. I can find no scriptural warrant for the idea that the nation state or “Ceasar”, is to “wield the sword vainly.” Indeed, in the reformed tradition, the “Civil Magistrate…… God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, has ordained civil
      magistrates, to be, under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the
      public good: and, to this end, has armed them with the power of the sword, for
      the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of
      evil doers.”

      • KentonS says:

        I Cor 13 is about love. If you want to say nations, powers and principalities are to be governed outside the command to love one’s enemy, then we have a different conversation happening. Wherever that conversation would lead, we should at least start by having the intellectual honesty to call it what it is. But don’t call it loving to kill one’s enemy. That’s my issue with the post, and that emperor ain’t got no clothes.

        I don’t identify as reformed, so I don’t consider the Westminster confession to be authoritative. It was adopted during war time when the state and the church were one and the same. When you consider that, it should not be surprising that it would justify the state going to war.

        • Arbuthnaught says:

          1 Cor 13 – I did not imply or say we were not to love other nations. I do not believe that the bible teaches that individuals and states are governed in the same way. You are indeed a gentleman and a scholar for recognizing a quote from the Westminster Confession. If you look at chapter 23, the Doctrine of the Civil Magistrate is quite general, something a majority of denominations could affirm and something in keeping with historic orthodox doctrine. I did not imply that we should love killing in war. I have known lots of military people and not one has ever loved killing in war. No propper, disciplined soldier does.

  5. cken says:

    To equate moral injury and PTSD is shallow and disingenuous. I was shot in a civil setting and suffered PTSD and I can assure it is entirely different from a moral injury. This article would have had more gravitas and credibility had the author been able to name even one war throughout history that was just.

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