Updated: Mar 2
It’s not too often these days you can state a universally held belief. While there is much nuance with most conversations we have with each other, the statement that war should be avoided gets all of our heads moving in the same direction. Yes war is bad.
Age, political affiliation, race, church goer or not we all can draw the line in the sand with this statement. Yet once again the drumbeat of war rings in our national ears as we see and hear reports of a Russian invasion into neighboring Ukriane. Like spinning gears in a clockwork our attention and Facebook profile filters shift, our screens show us images of fearful people running to cover, expressways with bumper to bumper traffic filled with folks trying to get away from the madness they have be pushed into, hospital scenes with bloody rags and cries for help.
In seminary my Moral theology professor had us read “In Defence of War” by Nigel Biggar (https://www.amazon.com/Defence-War-Nigel-Biggar/dp/019967261X)
Full honesty from this pastor I didn’t read it closely, in part from some of my personal feeling about violence, but also I just didn’t see how Christian’s can justify war. Now I know I’m stepping a little father out on this branch, I can hear the creaking as I get into a more controversial zone. But, I have to say it, a “just war” is really a myth told to make us feel better. War in its most basic form is really a unresolved conflict between two (or a few more) people of great power, who use their influence and control of others to do their bidding. All parties involved feel justified, threatened, or angry enough to hit the big red button and suddenly human lives are now lost. Usually this is most felt by our young people. Drafted, shipped off, more fear, more worrying parents, sleepless nights wondering what tomorrow will bring. And I gotta ask, is it worth it? Is fighting a war due to the lack of conflict resolution worth it? I don’t think it is. War in any form tells me that the folks leading and making these choices really didn’t consider the impact of their choices. The moment that first rifle rings out or that first bomb is triggered a part of creation, God’s creation, dies. It’s life is cut short because two hot heads full of machismo and greed couldn’t see that what they have is already enough. And what is worse is that the folks who make these decisions don’t suffer the consequences. No world leader gets close to the fighting, they don’t see friends die or pull triggers to kill someone else. So why do we try to defend war? Last I checked none of us really have a beef big enough to kill someone over, let alone harm someone we don’t even know, but now as we fight for a war declared by someone other than us it’s somehow justified?
In scripture we get a multifaceted view of war and violence. The Old Testament God seems to use war as a way of working in the world, or at least many people assume this. Support is given to the side God is on and the battle is quickly won. Samson, David, Saul, the list goes on and on (Holy wars anyone?). We are taught that God chooses sides and aids in the destruction. So here is my question meant to tease out if this is really an attribute of God. Does God intentionally destroy what God created? Does God create us just to set us in war with each other and then doom 1/2 of the fighters because they just so happened to be on the wrong side? Now call me crazy but this seems just a bit over the top for God, who is in this role both creator and author of suffering for these unfortunate losing side folks. While some are fine placing God in such a role I believe in our ability to choose and therefore God’s inability ( or at least unexercised ability) to force us to die in such a way. And I don’t think it’s a bad place to land with all this, 10 commandments and all. God doesn’t delight in our destruction and neither should we. So take that understanding of a vengeful God, smiting and blood thirsty and maybe see how using God in such a way is an excuse, a way to justify the unjustifiable, a way to cover over and convince others to commit such actions.
After all God taught Moses to not kill another human being and Jesus told his disciple that if you live by the sword you will perish by the sword. Lets give them a chance for once, cause I can tell yah… war is bad.