War and ethics: Was "Is the Hubbert curve a f.."

From: Joel Cannon (jcannon@washjeff.edu)
Date: Mon Feb 24 2003 - 17:07:22 EST

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    Hello everyone:

    Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. I clearly did not count the
    cost before putting my hand to the plow. I can't keep up. But I want to
    make a few points.

    First, I have always found WWJD superficial (including here), but
    think that if there is any time to ask the question, the act of taking
    someone's life ought to be it. And I do think that the fact that God
    has established his kingdom through Jesus, and that we are
    representatives of that kingdom, and of God, should inform our ethics,
    and how we think of big things like war (we do not move immediately
    move on to philosophical questions as if Jesus had never come to
    earth). I asked the question WWJD in response to another post. Holding
    my fire may have been advisable.

    I agree that "What would Jesus have us do?" is a better way to ask it,
    and I accept that it can also be asked about Normandy, and assume that
    it can also can, in principle, lead to Just War Theory (or Just War
    Doctrine). In this situation, which is quite different than Normandy,
    I am not convinced my particular phrasing was inappropriate.

     I am someone who used to affirm just war but is increasingly
    uncomfortable with the position on theological grounds (I resist
    saying "biblical grounds" because I think that term does not do
    justice to the struggles we all face in understanding and interpreting
    the bible and I don't want to trivialize other views). At heart, it
    seems to me that the Sermon on the Mount seems to make the most sense
    and be most coherent within the Anabaptist tradition. See for
    example, Chap. 2 of John Howard Yoder's The Original Revolution and
    the Beatitudes (newly reprinted---available at Amazon). Reading this
    after I had been a Christian for 20+ years, I felt that it was the
    first thing I had read on the Sermon on the Mount that actually made
    sense and was honest with the text.

    Sometimes it seems to me that the reason the words, "Love your
    enemies!" and "Bless those who persecute you!" are not taken to mean
    real enemies who actually mean to dominate us and do us harm is the
    feeling that "Jesus couldn't possibly have meant what he said." I have
    that sense from some of the recent posts. I have to admit that I
    share that skeptical feeling, but I lean towards thinking that it may
    be part of my "fleshly nature" that is to be grown out of. In
    fact, Jesus's words are likely to have meant just that. They were
    delivered to a religious people in Palestine who were occupied and
    dominated by a ruthless and much larger military power. The
    Palestinians to whom Jesus spoke those words were violent. Between 60
    B.C. and 125 ADThere were violent periods and the buildup to violent
    periods. (at least 12 times in 190 years the Romans had to send in
    troops to put down violent rebellions--my references are at home--See
    N.T. Wright, New Testament and the People of God to catch any errors
    here). There seems to be no doubt what they would have understood the
    word "enemies" to mean. Christians up to the time of Constantine
    understood them to mean real enemies, and that that meant military
    service was precluded (I have read hints that the situation my have
    been slightly more complex, involving the idolatry associated with
    serving in the Roman military). The challenge is to be faithful, and
    that may not be synonomous with success or survival. Early Christians
    accept that (I hope I can to when called to do so).

    In fact, I originally posed my posts in terms of just war doctrine. My
    first response to Glenn was that his reason for supporting war was
    inconsistent with just war theory as presented by George. Glenn's
    response, and several of those that followed seem to indicate to that
    we may be controled by fear, and that theological reflection is
    irrelevant, a distraction thrown at people from a perceived leftist
    (some of my friends would be entertained by that characterization of
    me). Just what theology drives support of a war that will cause
    untold civilian deaths and, when the perceived
    possible threat is speculative and years away?

    One problem I see with just war doctrine (other than it is ethics as
    if Jesus has never visited the earth) is that it is not lived up to,
    and often is only an excuse to go to war. The Yoder book which George
    cited when he posted just war criteria had a subtitle something like,
    "Facing up to just war theory." From having heard Yoder talk, I am
    confidant that his point is that problem. What cases can we cite where
    a significant religious body stood up and opposed war? Rather more
    often, the churches have blessed bad wars. The British Empire (or the
    United States particularly in its wars with the Indians)

    A second problem that I perceive in applying just war theory (and
    which I sense here) is the ubiquitousness of
    self-deception. Nationalism, may have positive features, but one of
    them does not seem to be the capacity for honest self-reflection. On
    an individual level, individuals answer overwhelmingly that they are
    "more ethical than the average person," From a Christian standpoint,
    we recognize this phenomenon as a consequence of sin, even as we think
    ourselves to be more ethical than our neighbor. Similarly, nations in
    general, and we in particular, seem to be singularly convinced of our
    own virtue. Is it possible, that we are self-deceived or to be more
    blunt, deluded about our essential virtue? Might there be deeper
    issues that we have overlooked.

    I conclude by saying blessings,

    I ignoring the discussion oil (and even revenge), not because I find
    them be irrelevant but because I find them less relevevant and it
    seems not to be constructive at the moment.

    So much for getting next week's talk ready.

    Joel W. Cannon | (724)223-6146
    Physics Department | jcannon@washjeff.edu
    Washington and Jefferson College |
    Washington, PA 15301 |

    If Iraq's main export was Broccoli, there would not be a war in Iraq.

    (At least temporarily modified in response to George-- I am somewhat
    uncomfortable but not completely repentent with my old banner).

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