Killing Soleimani

January 7, 2020

Jesus & Killing Soleimani

There’s a schizophrenic Christian Left denunciation of killing Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, claiming it’s“murder” and violates the “teachings of Jesus.” It insists Jesus opposes killing anyone. But then it also tries to mobilize Just War doctrine, which is mainly about when it’s proper to kill people.

The declaration is just latest example of collapse in Christian public policy moral reasoning across the spectrum. Signers include pacifist activist Shane Claiborne, profiled yesterday in The Washington Post, liberal Baptist evangelist Tony Campolo, Rev. William Barber of “Moral Mondays,” Episcopal writer Diana Butler Bass, Emergent Church thinker Brian McLaren, and Kansas pastor/author Brian Zahnd. Interestingly, Jim Wallis of Sojourners isn’t included.

According to their decoration:

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.

So Christianity requires that nobody ever be killed? Here is the pacifist absolutist stance, supported by Claiborne and some but not all other signers. It effectively nullifies all governments, all of which are sustained with lethally armed police and militaries, without which they could not function. Incoherently, most of the signers, including Claiborne, advocate larger, more powerful government, with ever growing coercive power over the details of people’s lives, to implement the ostensible agenda of Jesus, who wants an expansive welfare and regulatory state.

As Jesus did not resist His enemies, preferring death on the cross, so this declaration strongly implies the U.S. government should prefer the death of its people and of other innocents over force against an assailant. Jesus never made this claim on governments, nor certainly did He regard governments as salvific, claiming that authority only for Himself. Of course, Jesus never disputed the vocation of soldiers He met. And certainly Jesus would have favored protecting the assaulted victim, whom the Good Samaritan rescued.

The pacifist Jesus preferred by this declaration is set aside briefly in favor of Just War teaching:

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.

There’s no further elaboration, and presumably this ad hoc reference to Just War teaching was to placate the several non pacifist signers like Campolo. Did the U.S. government lack competent authority to strike Soleimani? Was the strike disproportionate to the aggressions of Iran enacted through him? How much more strategic patience should the U.S. have exercised before acting against him? Was the intent not only vengeance but also deterrence? And aren’t states ordained towards some acts of vengeance in pursuit of justice?

Since this declaration isn’t really interested in the Just War teaching, it doesn’t try to answer any of these questions. Sometimes pacifists will deploy Just War in an effort to claim no forceful action can ever perfectly attain its standards, which is actually a rejection of the teaching’s purpose.

Note the declaration condemns killing Soleimani as “murder.” Pacifists essentially believe anyone killed by police or military in pursuit of their duties is “murdered” because no killing is ever morally justified. The declaration doesn’t mention Soleimani‘s or his regime’s many thousands of slain victims, whose sufferings apparently don’t merit concern. Nor does the declaration offer any counsel as to how the USA and others might rebut Iranian aggressions. Only perceived USA misdeed are apparently of concern to them. They lament Soleimani’s death as an “historic act of aggression,” which apparently exceeds all Iranian actions in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. And they speak repeatedly with certainty on behalf of Jesus:

“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.”

Presumably Jesus also cares about all the people Soleimani killed and was plotting to kill. Presumably Jesus prefers more than preening political declarations and desires policies that lead to peace and stability for the largest number of people. Presumably Jesus isn’t a big fan of Iranian backed militias that subvert other nations on behalf of the strategic goals of Iran’s theocratic theocracy. But these concerns of Jesus are not the concerns of these Christian Left activists.

These activists condemn “violence,” but if from America. Christian teaching offers no blanket condemnation of violence. It opposes wrongful violence, and distinguishes between aggression and just force. Often such judgments are not easy and require careful thinking. But there’s nothing careful in this declaration.

There are weighty arguments against killing Soleimani. Perhaps his death won’t deter further Iranian aggressions. Perhaps it will further destabilize Iraq. Perhaps the USA is unprepared for Iranian retaliation.

But this declaration singularly lamenting Soleimani’s death isn’t concerned with serious arguments. Sadly, neither is much of today’s Christian political discourse, which prefers trite claims about Jesus and truncated Scripture to substantive debate. How can we do better?


39 Responses to Jesus & Killing Soleimani

  1. John Kenyon says:

    Some good points, but you overstate the issue and weaken your arguement, Beav, by saying, “The declaration is just latest example of collapse in Christian public policy moral reasoning across the spectrum. “

    • Yes, but... says:

      I like your comment John, it does reflect some sober thinking. However, especially since 1973, or even earlier in the area of foreign relations, it is hard to dispute the author’s claim. For example, how about the justice of the United Methodist Church Board of Church and Society (now Christian and Social Witness) trumpeting the opening of a dialogue with the North Korean ‘church’ totally and completely run by the heirs to Stalinism.
      Or. much more recently, the UM church that put Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child in cages as a protest against free immigration for anyone into the US.
      There are hundreds of other examples where moral and ethical thinking in the church universal is anything but moral and ethical.

      • Yes, but... says:

        Sorry but I of course mistyped, the manger scene in cages was a protest against border enforcement, not against free immigration.

        My apologies.

  2. HK says:

    That is right Mark. As a Christian, I try to follow the word of Jesus as much as possible, but he did not command me to lay down my life in the face of the murderer who would take my life if an opportunity were given to such a person. I am a sinner, and I would hold malice toward the person who wants to kill me, and, subsequently, I do ask for the Lord’s forgiveness after I have sinned in that way. I repent of that sin, but I won’t forfeit my life literally in this situation. I will defend it. It is mine, given to me by the Lord, and our Lord also expects me to use it to the fullest. Throwing it away is not doing that. So yes, killing a terrorist in the course of our nation’s military strike against terrorism was right, just, and morally correct.

  3. Todd Collier says:

    but also violates the core principles of just war doctrine which includes:

    1. last resort (all other peaceful means have been exhausted), – After over 40 years of failed negotiations, including large gifts of cash, I would suggest more reasonable means had been exhausted.

    2. Right intention (not just revenge) – To sustain national sovereignty (the embassy) and prevent further attacks seems to satisfy intent. (Besides which, punishment for prior bad acts is a proper intent.)

    3. Just cause – Again, attacks were made on our embassy and this fellow was one of the ring leaders. He intended further attacks. This is just cause to act.

    4. Proportionality (violence must be proportionate) – This man had the blood of thousands if not tens of thousands on his hands. Scripture says it is appropriate for him to pay with this with his life.

    5. Competent authority – Mr. Trump is the President of the United States and is authorized to take actions, short of declaring war, which will protect American lives and secure the national interests. Further, any such actions in the Iraqi theater have already been given authority by congress, an authority that is almost 18 years old and has not been revoked.

    What really smells is that this president’s predecessor committed numerous similar acts without protest from these folks. Me thinks they have admixed their politics with their theology. (But what else is new? Nu?)

    • Dean says:

      “Admired politics”

      Ya think!!

      Leftist admix their politics in everything they do. You’ll never hear them condemn an action that is in line with their politics. They are splitting the UMC for their politics, I’m sure they have no problem condemning the US for killing one of their allies in their goal to destabilize and destroy the US Constitution and everything associated with Christianity.

  4. David says:

    “No one ought to shed a tear for Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was behind attacks and destabilizing efforts across the region. If there is one thing we have learned in our modern times about U.S. involvement abroad, it’s that when you don’t have a plan or know what you’re doing — when you act when there could have been another way — taking out a bad guy is not necessarily a good idea,” —Pete Buttigieg

  5. Ignacio Castuera says:

    The assassination of General Soleimani must be placed in a historical continuum which starts with the assassination of Mosadek with the full cooperation of Kermit Roosevelt who had befriended Mosadek.

    IRD members would benefit from reading Andre Giroux’s “The Violence of Organzed Forgetting.” History as a major in colleges is disappearing making many people think that the past begins with yesterday’s headlines.

    • LECollins says:

      Soleimani wasn’t assassinated. He was EXECUTED FOR CRIMES, both past and planned. The only cure for evil is it’s eradication. Jesus sent the demons into the swine and drown them.

  6. JR says:

    I think that it’s pretty clear that Jesus would speak against such an act.

    The counterpoint is that there seems to be an assumption that the US is a Christian nation. We are not in a theocracy nor do we wholly follow Biblical teachings.

    And that’s where you are trying to find the right steps – you don’t want to admit that the US is not beholden to the Bible (and particularly to Jesus), so you have to dance around the subject. So what would be a stately waltz of an article instead looks more like the Achy Breaky.

    • David Taylor says:

      The second paragraph is a non sequitur, or at least I think it is, but your argument is not very coherent. Could you clarify what you are trying to say?

    • Vance says:

      “I think that it’s pretty clear that Jesus would speak against such an act.” Do you mean the same Jesus who, upon His return, is going to “tread the winepress of the fierce wrath of God” (Rev 19). According to Romans 13, the God-appointed duty of governments is to protect their law-abiding citizens and punish the ungodly. Their law-enforcement and military officers are “ministers of God” who do not “bear the sword in vain.” I’m pretty sure Jesus fully approves of taking out this murderous monster!

  7. Donald Johnson says:

    Quote from those concerned: “We believe that when Jesus said we are to love our enemies, at a minimum he meant we shouldn’t kill them.”

    The above claim is false. A believer is to oppose evil and seek to preserve life. One can imagine situations where a person A that person B loves very much is actively engaging in evil and the way to preserve life is for person B to kill person A.

    • JR says:

      Judge not….

      Killing another is contrary to the teachings. You can play with the philosophy tests all you want, yet directly killing another does not fit.

      And that’s okay. God will forgive you.

      But don’t try to pass it off as ‘permission granted’.

      • Michael Moore says:

        Considering the number of times that God ordered His people to kill those of other nations in the Old Testament, I think Jesus would have nothing to say on the subject. After all, Paul is supposed to have said that the state does not bear the sword in vain. Also, if any man does not take care of his own, and especially those of his own household, he is considered worse than an infidel. The Sermon on the Mount was addressed to individuals, not to nations.

        • JR says:

          “A believer is to oppose evil and seek to preserve life. One can imagine situations where a person A that person B loves very much is actively engaging in evil and the way to preserve life is for person B to kill person A.”

          The prior comment was discussing individuals, not nations. Thanks for the supportive point.

          [I do agree that nations do have responsibilities to their people, to protect them from harm is one key responsibility. I also adhere to the point that the US is not a Christian nation, and thus the arguments against this killing fall flat on that point, and it’s no contest. I don’t agree with the killing on broader points, particularly the instability in the Middle East and the location chosen. I’m also not a big fan of drone warfare, no matter which administration is in charge.]

          • Rebecca says:

            So, in Iran ever since the Mullahs took over , when Jimmy Carter was president, we as Christians are to look at what they do and then do nothing. Soleimani was taken out in Iraq- not Iran, but in Iraq where our troops are, and where an American contractor was killed by a terrorist act. Soleimani was behind the American embassy riots in IRAQ and was plotting more terrorism… Because that is what he used to do for a living… And, his actions should be fine with Christians according to you, and should not have been stopped cold.

          • JR says:

            Hi Rebecca,

            Happy to have a discussion on this. Let’s set the record straight so we can speak accurately.

            An American contractor was killed. Not an active duty serviceman, but a contractor – an American citizen hired as a linguist.

            That does require a response, a proportional response. Instead, we killed 25 people via bombing strikes – in an era when we can use smartbombs to hit a single truck in a convoy and minimize collateral damage.

            I’m not saying we should have killed one (e.g. eye for an eye), but killing 25 escalated the situation. Forget about ‘turn the other cheek’.

            Then there was a response where our embassy was invaded. Body count? Zero. That did send a message that we can’t walk with reckless abandon there.

            And then we decided to escalate again, with an assassination.

            Certainly our American behavior doesn’t follow Christian principles. Not that it has to (as I’ve said, the US is not a Christian nation).

            But we shouldn’t lie to ourselves about it.

  8. R Henry says:

    If a Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or Joe Biden ordered the killing, these groups would not be complaining.

      • James H. says:

        It is entirely appropriate for a Christian community such as the Amish to bring to bear the teachings of Christ in the cause of reconciliation and peace toward those who have violently wronged it, as well as other churches, groups, and individuals in the Christian community owho have suffered in similar ways. These are the values the Kingdom of Heaven is to practice and reflect.

        Yet, God has instituted governments upon the earth as instruments of authority and power to bring justice to bear. The church is not the judicial, the military, or the executive. If it were, we would live in a theocracy. This is not to say the church as no voice with which to speak out to influence the values of those institutions.

        How many more lives are saved when evil is confronted and defeated. If the national security of the US was carried out like the Amish response to a single individual…it would not be long before we would all become extinct in the face of evil.

        Jesus also said: “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” -Matthew 7:6

        Unfortunately, sovereign governments cannot always deal with other nation states and their proxies in the same way the community of Christ is called to treat its oppressors. When the Boko Haram massacres hundreds of Christians in southern Sudan, their cry for justice must be executed by a proper authority welding force, and that isn’t be the church.

        I sleep just fine knowing the crys against the Hitlers, the Bin Ladens and the Soleimanis of the world eventually reach heaven and God acts…in one way or another.

        • JR says:

          Not arguing those points at all. I agree with them in most ways.

          But when the point is that ‘those liberals are just being political’, it’s nice to point out that they have a consistent moral point of view.

          • will says:

            Perhaps but most of those leftist ‘Christians’ also defend abortion. Killing millions of innocents for convenience seems OK with them but terminating a butcher like Soleimaini upsets them?

          • JR says:

            I love when someone questions my faith. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

            I can support the legalization of abortion, if only because I cannot support forcing everyone in this nation to have the same level or kind of faith as me.

            I can support the legalization of abortion, while supporting the elimination of root causes (like poverty, or teen pregnancy) that effect the rates of abortion.

            I can support the legalization of abortion with REASONABLE limits, while fighting against UNREASONABLE limits.

            I do not support American assassinating ANYONE on my behalf. Full stop. Were we to be at war with Iran, that would be a different situation. Declare a war, get that going, and I can accept that sometimes things I might not support otherwise have to happen for the greater good.

            I didn’t see a declaration of war. The General was an official of a recognized nation.

  9. Mike says:

    I’m always amazed at pacifists who pontificate from the safety of the United States – where they are protected by our military, police, and (to some extent these days) our national borders.

    Would they think (and speak) differently if they were living in one of the hell-holes around the world where this evil terrorist killed thousands?

    Not to mention that their calling Qassem Soleimani’s killing a “murder” makes light of – and even holds as of no value – the lives of all those he has brutally murdered over the years.

    They just don’t have a clue.

    • JR says:

      Legitimate point. I’d also add that geography is a big factor (having 2 oceans on our borders is a notable advantage).

      It’s equivalent to the criticisms of Libertarians who espouse no government, from the safety of a well regulated and safe society.

      It’s hard to say how one would react if they were in a different situation – but worthy of a discussion. Experience is a great teacher.

      I don’t know that “they don’t have a clue”, but it would be interesting to have a discussion on that point. I would guess that they have thought it through much more thoroughly than you give them credit for.

  10. Just war can only be determined by the biblical laws of warfare. In other words, a nation’s wars can only be justified when they’re biblical.

    Was Soleimani killed as a part of a just war? That’s debatable!

    What is *claimed* to have been an act of defense may appear biblically justified, but what made Soeimani America’s enemy in the first place may not have been:

    “…The power to declare war is a serious responsibility. Why were the framers so vague in defining the parameters of war and the conditions under which it could be declared? Section 8, Clause 11 is the only place of significance where warfare is mentioned in the Constitution. Little wonder this power has been abused. Luther Martin [one of Maryland’s delegates to the Constitutional Convention] protested:

    ‘…the congress have also a power given them to raise and support armies, without any limitation as to numbers, and without any restriction in time of peace. Thus, sir, this plan of government, instead of guarding against a standing army, that engine of arbitrary power, which has so often and so successfully been used for the subversion of freedom, has in its formation given it an express and constitutional sanction….’40

    “John Quincy Adams [prophetically] predicted the consequences of America’s international military entanglements:

    ‘America … has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when the conflict has been for principles to which she clings…. Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.… She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors, and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force; the frontlet on her brow would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished luster, the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.’41

    Because the framers provided no Biblical parameters, unbiblical warfare has been the rule ever since. Following is a list of the countries bombed by the United States since World War II:…

    “From 1945 to the present, the United States has bombed nineteen different countries under the guise of defending America’s sovereignty and promoting democracy. But America is none the better for it, and not one of these countries has become a legitimate democracy – not that this would be anything to celebrate. Something is amiss. Wars fought for political gain or financial profit can only be classified as ungodly acts of aggression….”

    For more, see online Chapter 4 “Article 1: Legislative Usurpation” of “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective” at http://www dot bibleversusconstitution dot org/BlvcOnline/biblelaw-constitutionalism-pt4 dot html

    • Donald says:

      “But America is none the better for it.” Really? REALLY?? Ask the people of South Vietnam who managed to emigrate here and have contributed immensely to the social, economic and theological well-being of this nation. Or perhaps you didn’t have to exhume the bodies from the mass graves in Hue of people who were executed because they wore glasses, or were physicians, teachers, or just because the NVA didn’t like their smile.

  11. Richard Harris says:

    Soleimani was an enemy combatant in a third country, directing military operations. He was a legitimate target. But God says thou shalt not kill. Each Christian has to make their own mind up on this without criticism.

    The real sin is to accuse fellow brothers and sisters as the, “latest example of collapse in Christian public policy moral reasoning across the spectrum”; for their views. Where is democracy in that?

  12. Gwenda says:

    On a totally separate note, I’d like to comment that being a pacifist does not equate to having schizophrenia. As a person with a family member who has such a diagnosis, and on behalf of the 1% of the population that lives with the terrible illness schizophrenia, I’d just like to point out that assigning such language in our casual comments adds to the stigmatism these people and their families face. I know no harm was intended, but I am using this opportunity to bring attention to the matter. If you want to learn more about serious mental illness, I suggest the non-profit NAMI.org.

  13. Michael Giere says:

    God made sheep and also sheepdogs. We are called as believers to protect the innocent and resist evil. This specific president has been far more reluctant than Obama or Bush to use force, and even called off a planned attack last year when he asked how many civilians were in harms way. This attack was moral and proper and the radicals opposition merely political.

  14. How interesting. These are the same leftists who fail to preach about Christ and His Gospel from the pulpit on Sunday mornings and then only talk about His sacrifice on the Cross when they are trying to make a political point. At least half of them probably don’t even believe in the Atonement! They only talk about it when it suits their purposes. Sad, to say the least.

    • Donald says:

      The rest of the year their theology tends to view his death on the Atoning Cross only as a ‘political execution’ rather than the act of unfathomable love. Perhaps only when these individuals have someone actually sacrifice themselves for their miserable carcass will the reality of Christ’s effort on Golgotha begin to penetrate their pride.

  15. Paul Rudolph says:

    There is no such thing as the “Christian left”. There are Christians and there is the left.

  16. Donald says:

    I was part of a large operation in Vietnam during 1969 which attempted to track the flight of General Ngo Giap, North Vietnam. Unfortunately he was able to elude our network and the war dragged on for another four years. While a shortened war would have doubtless saved American lives, his death would have saved even more Vietnamese lives, both North and South.
    I have never regretted being a part of that attempt and I applaud the crew of that Predator Drone whose accuracy indeed saved numerous American, Iranian and other civilian lives throughout the Middle East.

Leave a Reply to Michael Giere Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *