Monday, October 17, 2005

Thinking About War, Part I 

If we're going to start doing some serious thinking here (about war), I think it best to proceed slowly. In case you don't know, let me say that I enter this conversation as a person who believes that war is an absolute last resort. I do not think I can any longer say I am totally against war in all circumstances; events that led to the second World War defeat every argument I have on that absolutist stance. Furthermore, and this deals more with violence in general and not specifically war, I cannot honestly say that if someone invaded my home and threatened my family that I would not use violence as a potential means of neutralizing the threat. I would hope it would not come to that ever, but in the event that it did, I think it a possibility that I would use violence.

And, if we're going to frame this discussion Biblically, we have to be prepared to accept the fact that war and violence is all over the Bible. (Scripture citations will usually represent pertinent examples and are not meant to be exhaustive.) From Genesis (4:8) through Revelation (12), war and violence are almost constant features. Ancient civilizations rose and fell by the (God-sanctioned) sword (Exo 12:29; Josh 6:17), indeed, God used war-faring civilizations as a weapon to punish the wayward Israelites (Isa 10:5-6); the final days of our earth will be accomplished through war (Rev 19:15). The Christ entered our world as Jesus in the middle of a war-torn time, and He Himself spoke in contradictory terms about war (Matt 10:34, Matt 26:52). I think that if you had to force a position on the Prince of Peace (a dangerous proposition anyway) that you would almost certainly have to come down on the side of preferring peace to war and violence.

So, where does that leave us? Looking at the history of the United States (my nation), and the world more broadly speaking, it leaves us confused. "Might is right" has served as the governing principle for millenia. If you don't agree with me and we are in a serious enough dispute, I can always solve it by kicking your ass - that sort of thinking. And, it cannot be denied, it has produced many of the things we enjoy today, like our own country, for one. Is that to say then, that it is acceptable to fight your way out from under an oppressive government, if you are able? I think that I cannot give any other answer than, yes, BUT, only if all other options had been tried, maybe twice. But that's part of what we're here to discuss. The act of taking the life of another is a graver thing than any one of us can consider, save those to whom that lot has fallen.

I'll leave off there for tonight, and we'll see what sort of conversation this generates. Hopefully, that will help direct me with where to go with my next posting on the subject. Thanks for the constant encouragment, all ye who have pestered me to start writing this!



Not sure I agree with your framing of the situation at all, Ryan. Remind me to kick your ass next time I'm in Chicago.

ZAX out,

By Blogger BrotherBeal, at 4:49 PM  

Thoughtful post. Two-part response:

I remember an Asimov character from the Foundation series (either Hober Mallow or Salvor Hardin) said, "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." I agree, in that a combination of foresight and action can prevent the need for violence. But, what if you just inherit somehow a ghastly situation (to an extent, to live at all is to inherit a ghastly situation).

As you say, the imperative to do justice prevents me from embracing radical pacifism. I think "turning the other cheek" is something that one can prescribe only for oneself, not for others (well, it's okay with me that Jesus prescribes it for others, but he has special priviledges...).

By Blogger G. Brooke, at 7:50 AM  

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