Archive for Saturday, July 28, 2007

Faith forum: Should people of faith believe in ‘just war’?

July 28, 2007


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

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


mick 10 years, 10 months ago

If you want to see hate-mongering, fear-mongering and war-mongering done in the name of Christianity look up John Hagee on YouTube. Unbelievable.

Jamesaust 10 years, 10 months ago

All in all, a distinct improvement over the typical answers in this series (which typically substitute Bible quotes for reasoning).

While I don't agree with Gruber, at least he is well-explained and rational. He says: "there can be no rationalization that broken families, shattered economies ....." Well, except when war creates subsequent generations that know not broken families nor shattered economies. So far, at least, the 'fruits' of the largest mass bloodletting in human history (a/k/a, WWII) seems to have resulted in a massive amount of positive - even decadent - quantities of utilitarian, human achievement and happiness (at least by historic standards).

While Rev. DeSpain makes a brief summary of traditional Church thinking on the subject ("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."), I would note the difficulty of evaluation lies not in the "just" portion but in the "defensive" portion. As we easily see in the present conflict this Nation is engaged in in Iraq, almost any war can be "sold" as a defensive act. While the President correctly noted that a traditional marker separating "defensive" from "offensive" - an imminent threat, a part of the theory developed in a much slower, more limited world - no longer worked in a modern world where threats could materialize in seconds, it hardly holds that 'the baby' must 'be thrown out with the bathwater' or that 'a decent respect for the opinions of mankind' doesn't require something less than unilateral revision of ethics and law on the subject.

Mkh 10 years, 10 months ago

"There was never a good war, or a bad peace"

-- Ben Franklin

yourworstnightmare 10 years, 10 months ago

Experience shows that "people of faith" can rationalize any course of action using their religion and beliefs.

Religion, faith, and belief have little to do with ethical, moral behavior. For example, christianity (or any other religion) has been used as a justification for slavery and against slavery; for war and against war; for genoocide and against genocide.

There is something deeper in human behavior, distinct from religion and faith and belief, that is at the root of ethical, moral behavior.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years, 10 months ago

War is absolutely remind us of how stupid we are! We are deadly children that cannot get along. We create false gods to kill our siblings...for us. We are arrogant and ignorant, a dangerously selfish combination. We cheer for our team and believe in the power of our cheer to create victory and proof of the righteousness of our cause. Our fearful selves proclaim our bravery in the face of what frightens us. We give up rights in the name of preserving same. We kill children for the babies... from our sofas. Beautiful, man.

Is there a better way? How would we know? Believing in war should result in the death penalty. D'OH!~)

Ragingbear 10 years, 10 months ago

Spywell, you are either making stuff up or are just repeating something that somebody made up.

First of all, there are many more angels than the 3 you mentioned. You mentioned Michael, Gabrael , and misconstrued that Lucifer was an Archangel. He wasn't, he was a Cherub, which is a higher order of angels than Archangels (Ezekiel 28:14). Hence the reason why his name/title does not have the angelic "ael" tied to it. Other archangels that you failed to mention were Raphael (mentioned in the Apocrypha/Catholic text in the book of Tobit) and Uriel, the Archangel of Death. He is mentioned in the book of Hebrews, as well as many older text that are not considered canon by today's mainstream Christians. You also misunderstood this so-called "Fourth Angel" that you speak of, although it is not mentioned in any Christian text, it is located in many older Jewish text that include the Jewish Mystic branch known as Kaballa(sp?) and the lesser used Jewish text known as the Talmud. Even those texts, and the Jews themselves know that this is no fourth Angel, but the Messiah. The Son of God. Christians would call him Jesus. Jews claim that this "angel" had not yet assumed a body on earth, and exist still as a spiritual being that existed before it's body.

As for your comment about binding Satan to "The Pit". You make it seem as though men would have no hatred, malice or murderous intent in their hearts at all if it were not for the work of one being. A being that is using powers, experiences and abilities far beyond mortal men to not only influence us, but to cause us to do what is not otherwise possible. This ideology also applies to the other end of the spectrum, where "all good things" emanate from god. Thus making it so that men are incapable of neither good nor evil if it were not for a war that we have no part in. Therefore, humans are basically refugees from a war of Titans.

The entire thing is a metaphor. To believe otherwise is not only foolish, but also claiming that we truly have no free will at all, and thus are immune from sin. It reflects that within each person on Earth that there is an internal conflict raging from the moment we are born to the moment we die where our basic animal instincts fight with our higher brain functions of logic and reason.

Also, consider for a moment one thing. If mankind were to somehow achieve peace, then that would somehow make us better than both God and Satan, as we accomplished something that they could not. At that point, who would need God? Who would want to worship a lesser being as a god? That is why we fear such things so much. That is why religionists are pro-war, and not pro-peace. They know, deep within themselves that by achieving world peace, that we will disprove the existence of the God that they were taught and raised to believe in.

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

Me reading spywell's post.

Hmmm. . . okay, okay, not sure about accuracy but interesting. Yes, interesting. . . . hmmm, interesting. . . . . .

"Why not Mars? I wondered."

(sound of brakes squealing)

Errrr. . . . what?

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 10 months ago

75x55 noted "I don't understand the schizophrenic multiple 'my faiths' [that Charles Gruber referred to]"....

Gruber's poly-theistic approach descends from the Hicksite-Orthhodox separation in the Quaker denomination. The Oread Friends Meeting, of which Gruber is a member, is part of the Friends General Conference. This is the most theologically liberal of the Friends branches, with one result being that many of its members see no contradiction between Judaism, Sufiism, Buddhism, Christianity, etc. I know a Roman Catholic priest in North Carolina who attends an FGC meeting and considers himself both Catholic and Quaker, and neither he nor the others in his meeting see any disconnect in it.

The FGC approach is decidedly less theologically prescriptive than the Christ-Centered Friends United Meeting or the Evangelical Friends International positions.

Ragingbear 10 years, 10 months ago

Spywell must be a Republican. I called him on his BS and he responded with "I didn't say that.". Typical.

kugrad 10 years, 10 months ago

"Jesus don't like killin', no matter what the reason for, your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore." - John Prine

Tom McCune 10 years, 10 months ago

If anyone burns in Hell, it might be Spywell the Heretic for claiming Jesus was an angel. That is an absolute heresy in most of the mainstream Christian churches I can think of on short notice. The position of most churches I know is that Jesus was "of the same stuff as the Father." (They formalized that at Nicea 1,700 years ago.) In other words, Jesus is God according to them. God is God, not an angel.

Tom McCune 10 years, 10 months ago


I would never deny that God COULD do anything. I merely deny there any scriptural references in my Bible for your contention that Jesus was ever an angel. My Bible says in some places that Jesus is the son of God. In other places it says he is an incarnation of God. Go look up the Arian Controversy if you want to re-argue that one. It never says he is or was an angel.

Please provide specific scriptural citations for you position that Jesus was an angel.

My Bible only names two good angels by name: Michael and Gabriel, but I will also concede Raphael as noted above. It only mentions one angel with a specific job title: The Angel of Death. There are plenty of other generic references to angels, but without any specific identities.

Didn't this thread start about the question of just war?

matahari 10 years, 10 months ago

Soo..........what does his not so (GR) oovy and (UBER) faith tell him?

those not familiar with term/slang uber...I usually suggest bland, and vague, so I urge you to gander at urban dictionarys' many definitions.... uber

The ultimate, above all, the best, top, something that nothing is better than.

ndmoderate 10 years, 10 months ago

Bow before the Flying Spaghetti Monster! Behold His Noodly Appendage!

matahari 10 years, 10 months ago

haven't seen many references to the True Almighty 'MB' for ages! I wish you many forktwists and may parmasan be plentiful!

Tom McCune 10 years, 10 months ago


You did not answer my request for scriptural citations for your position that Jesus was an angel. You DID go off on a complete tangent about things I never expressed an opinion about.

Tom McCune 10 years, 10 months ago


You remind me of George Bush who once responded to the question "Who is your favorite philosopher?" with the answer "Christ." Of all the moronic things that have come out of GWB's mouth in his career, that one takes the cake. It reveals his own colossal ignorance of the religion he says he has given his life over to. Maybe Yeshua bar-Yusef was a philosopher but, if you accept a conventional interpretation of Christianity, Christ is the Messiah and God incarnate.

Why would GWB want to demote Christ to philosopher status? (Socrates was a philosopher.) Why would you want to "demote" Jesus to angel status?

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

Spywell: I have doubts as to Christ being the greatest of all teachers. He lived in an era before the onset of standardized testing, so we have no way of properly ascertaining his true tutorial abilities. Before I accept your dogma as truth, I'd really have to see the disciples' math and reading scores, and maybe a writing sample.

Jeff Barclay 10 years, 10 months ago

There was a rabbinic saying shared in the days before and after Christ's birth- If a father knew of someone wanting to kill him, as the family's breadwinner, the greater sin was not defending oneself. Also, the word "kill" in the Ten Commandments is better translated from the Hebrew as- "premeditated murder."

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years, 10 months ago

Yeah. Premeditated, government sanctioned killing is so much better than premeditated murder. A murder only provides one lousy death, or two if the premeditated murder of the killer is government sanctioned. Why settle for a couple of surgical strikes when you can have the horror and legacy of a bloody, buzz saw of a war. That's just crazy talk.

We need to get on the stick if we're going to make our latest deadline for Armageddon. I suggest doing our best to concentrate wealth by, and while, reducing the availability of usable resources to the lower classes (That's US!). Indoctrinating children into the lap of luxury lap dance way should also go a long way towards creating an inept and manipulable populace that might still be capable of exploding into a crazed lynch mob with nobody to hang but themselves. Go team!

yourworstnightmare 10 years, 10 months ago

What a load of horse-hockey this article and thread are.

Religion, faith, and belief have nothing to do with ethical, moral behavior. Indeed, ethics and morals often dictate how religious texts and beliefs are interpreted.

Religion, faith, and belief can be and have been used to justify opposite moral and ethical positions, such as those on slavery, war and genocide.

There is no doubt that religion, faith, and belief can be powerful motivators, but they do not set the moral and ethical agenda. A deeper common and evolving ethic in human nature does that.

letsgetwise 10 years, 10 months ago

My thought is a war is just if you are defending yourself. Albeit a person, group or country. With all the "rules" people want to throw around, it basically (in my opinion) comes down to...what started what, and who threw the first punch (so to speak). I tried to explain a similar position to a teacher once, saying that you can make all the rules you want. You can repeat them all you want. But, if there is someone who refuses to play by "the rules" what is the option for the party being picked on, bullied, hit, shot, raped etc., etc. There has to be an allowance for defense whether or not you personally are defending yourself, or you are defending someone who is unable to defend themselves. Who stands up for the defenseless? Sometimes, because of the world we live in, I believe war is a necessary evil.

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