Hello, all! I’m Marcus.
Let me give you a bit of a background on myself, to flesh out the significance of this issue to me. I’m a Navy veteran. I joined in 2004 and left the Navy in 2009. I participated in some morally questionable missions, and did things and thought things which I’m very ashamed of. At that time, I was an atheist, and these experiences had a hand in shattering the faith I had in the “gods” I’d replaced God with at the time: freedom, justice, honor, money, myself, the United States - these were all my idols, my ultimate concerns which replaced God at the time.
I went through a very rough transition when I got out. At first, I turned to a kind of radical political activism and focused on the liberation oppressed people. It was all empty. None of it satisfied me, and the freedom I was looking for for myself and others wasn’t there. After I burnt out from that, I started praying to God, and the only things that have satisfied me in ways nothing else has has been Jesus Christ and loving others.
Now you can better understand the significance of the subject of Just War as an issue to me. I’ve been very concerned lately about the happenings in the Middle East, especially of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS/ISIL. I firmly believe that this state-like organization is fascist. That it meets all the criteria of fascism I can recall: that it’s pursuing with a redemptive (from their understanding) violence an internal purity (they’re purging Sunnis who aren’t working with them, slaughtering Shia, carrying out a campaign of genocide against Yazidis, and very prominently killing Christians as well) to return to an idealized past (Islamic Caliphate and enforcing the laws, norms, and mores they imagine with it) and violent expansion of territory (capturing Syrian and Iraqi territory, they’ve stated their ultimate goals as essentially world domination, which is of course ridiculous, but it’s their intent of relentless violent expansion that’s expressed here).
Their relative strength at the moment is, as far as I’m aware, weak in comparison to the manpower of the Kurds (lots of manpower but not much capability), or even the Iraqi military (lots of manpower, very little loyalty, horribly corrupt) but it’s strength lies in their physical assets, finances, experience in warfare, and frankly, their shocking brutality (I watched a video they’d recorded of them slaughtering old men and children inside a building, of them slaughtering 50-75 unarmed men in less than a minute, and footage from a killing field with at least several hundred bodies). I see them as an immediate threat to the people in Iraq and Syria, and if they’re not disbanded, I see them as gaining a lot of strength and territory, and a growing number of innocent victims, in the next three to five years and threatening a very large conflict in the Middle East.
That said, I’d like to get to Just War and the Gospel.
I’m familiar with the criteria of Just War, but I’m admittedly ignorant of the scriptural foundations of Just War. I’ve heard Luke 22:35-38 used as support of Just War, but the context of it doesn’t seem to me to be supportive of violence, even defensive violence. I see it more as a figurative expression of Jesus to expect conflict and crisis when a person is “sent forth” by Jesus, or as I read it, when a person follows Christ they should expect to be in conflict with this world - which to me also evokes a similar meaning to Matthew 10:34-36. Especially his exclamation of “It is enough!” seems to me to be a repudiation of violence, even that which could be thought of as defensive, like “Don’t you get it? You don’t actually need one or two literal swords! Two is two too many!”
Further, there’s so much about Jesus, not just His ministry, but His willingness to go to the cross without violent resistance against the Romans or Sanhedrin (and especially His stopping Peter from violently resisting His captors), that screams to me that even if Just War is justifiable through the Gospel (which I’m unsure that it is), that violent resistance against the aggressive violence of evil men isn’t what Christ calls us to do. I feel like Christ’s way is completely different to the world’s way, and that violence, and the acquisition of power even toward supposedly noble ends that leads us to violent conflict is the essence of the world’s way.
Is the Gospel truly compatible with Just War? Is it permissible, but not the supererogatory course? I also grapple with the question that even if Just War is in harmony with the Christ, has it ever in the history of humankind been adhered to by any belligerent throughout the course of an entire conflict? If we as a nation ever go to war Justly, can we trust ourselves to remain Just, and can we imagine terminating conflict if we discover we’re creating greater evil than would exist without violent conflict?
Finally, what specifically should we as the Church do? How do we love these enemies? How can we love our neighbors, and try to protect our neighbors under threat from these enemies without violence?