It's an oxymoron, to say the least
Charles Gruber, member, Oread Friends Meeting, 1146 Ore., and student of several religions:
My Quaker faith suggests that war is not the answer. To anything. Ever.
My Buddhist faith suggests that the object of life is to wake up, not to cause more suffering.
My Sufi faith suggests that the only appropriate war is the battle within myself between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.
My Jewish faith stipulates "that thou shalt not kill." Not "thou shalt not kill unless it suits you." Not "thou shalt not kill unless it is economically advantageous." Not "thou shalt not kill unless you don't like the politics, skin color, religion or economic policies of someone."
The idea of a "just war" is, in my opinion, oxymoronic. We've all seen the oxymoron list: jumbo shrimp, military intelligence, acute apathy, gourmet pizza, harmless lie, justifiable genocide, planned spontaneity. Having read the ancient basis for just war theory, and having cleaned up the mess I made when I could not stomach the thinking of certain philosophers, I remain convinced that there can be no rationalization that broken families, shattered economies, exploded dreams and rent body parts are somehow "justified."
The point is that the idea of a "just" war is not only oxymoronic, it is intensely moronic. The good news is that people of faith (and I wonder what the qualifications for that title are), of course, can believe what they choose to believe. I choose to finally lay down my sword and shield, and I choose to study war no more.
- Send e-mail to Charles Gruber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Defense or aggression makes the difference
The Rev. Ira DeSpain, campus minister, Baker University:
"Should people of faith believe there is such a thing as a 'just war'"?
I answer as a Christian. If you are a person of faith from another faith, please consult the tenets of your faith or discuss this with your spiritual leader to decide if it is possible for you to believe there is such a thing as a just war.
The short answer is, "Yes, it is possible for Christians to believe in a just war." In fact, the just war theory was first outlined by St. Augustine, and later endorsed by Thomas Aquinas, both Christian leaders. In short, the just war theory allows for war if the war is for defensive purposes only. This theory holds that wars of aggression are never just.
As is often the case, Christians differ in their beliefs on war and peace. We often find Jesus' advice confusing. On the one hand, he tells us to "turn the other cheek," (Matthew 5:39; Luke 6:29) yet also warns his disciples that they should not "suppose that I came to bring peace on earth. Not peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34).
God gives different hearts to different people, and the faith is enriched by diverse expressions. The faithful Christian witness of the Amish of Nickel Mines, Pa., who forgave the perpetrator of violence, was an inspiration. The Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was arrested and hanged for participating in a plot to assassinate Hitler. That also was an inspiring and faithful witness.
My son and I are both faithful Christians. I am a clergyman; he is a police officer and recently discharged Marine. We both believe that God's call is that we are to make the lives of people better. I thank God for the varieties of Christian witnesses who make us whole.
- Send e-mail to Ira DeSpain at email@example.com.