Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Back to my pacifism post

posted by xscot mcknight

On a previous post I gave an outline of why I think the pacifist case deserves more hearing; it was hard to read, as some of you commented, because it was an outline and a series of questions. Someday I’ll fill it in. Last night I got home from LA to find this long comment on that post by Karen Spears Zacharias, whose book (Hero Mama) I have urged on others to read, and it is worth putting here:
Scot:
I have just returned from the Miami Book Fair and am taking the time to catch up on the blog posts. I knew the question of when is sacrifice worth it would be asked. Miami is a city filled with folks who value freedom in a passionate way. Freedoms they exercise. They read. They vote. And they think for themselves. Living under Castro as they did and as their families still do, they believe that freedom is something worth fighting for. So I was anticipating the remark of one Cuban man: “Sorry for your father’s death. But when do you think such a sacrifice is worth it? Or do you?”
Sitting next to me was my friend and fellow author Mirta Ojito, author of Findina Manana, an excellent book about her family’s move to the US during the 1980s boatlift. I know how precious Mirta’s freedom is to her. She was rescued from the waters by a Vietnam veteran. So that binds us even more.
But my answer was this: “Is it freedom if it is forced upon you? Doesn’t freedom have to be something you yourself are willing to die for?”
And of course the bigger issue is this: The war in Iraq was never about freedom.
It was sold to this nation on the basis of fear. We went to war because we were told that there were weapons of mass destruction that Saddam intended to use against us.That morphed into revenge for 9-11. When that water pail began to leak, then, and only then did the rhetoric take on this chest-beating bravado of providing freedom for all people. On Veterans Day I heard a mother of a soldier killed in action state that we have a moral obligation to bring freedom to all the oppressed people in the world. Well, where do we start? The streets of LA, Chicago, or the Sudan? What about China? And there’s still all those people in Cuba. We don’t have the manpower to take on every dictator. So where does our obligation end? And what sort of freedom do we owe others? Financial? Physical? Emotional? Spiritual?
As the daughter of a soldier killed in action, I can’t help but consider that while my father was out reportedly “freeing” the Vietnamese, his sacrifice propelled our family into a bondage that we could not escape without the Grace of God.
I read yesterday that the actor Bruce Willis intends to make a movie that will glorify the sacrifices of the Deuce Four unit in Iraq. I met Willis last month at the Deuce Four Military Ball in Tacoma. My nephew, David, named for my father, was part of that unit. They just returned from Mosul. I gave Willis a copy of HERO MAMA in hopes that he would read it and consider the cost of war on a family. Instead of reading something that might change his chestbeating war cries, Willis will make a movie that continues to perpetuate the myth that war is about men on the battlefield. When in truth, the real war takes place behind closed doors in America’s suburbs as spouses and children struggle to cope with their grief and war’s choatic aftermath.
We must remember that true and undefiled religion is to care for widows and children during their time of distress. That doesn’t mean the first six weeks. That means the years of loneliness and hardship that always follows a soldier’s death.
My friend Destre lost his father when he was 5. Destre sums it up this way: You think it’s only one person dying but if that person is part of your family, it’s really frustrating.
I’m not willing to say a soldier’s death is never worth the cost. But I am saying that this war in Iraq, like the one in Vietnam, was ill-conceived, and a shameful, immoral war. That doesn’t diminsh the value of the soldiers who have given their lives and limbs. They answered a call to duty with honor and devotion. But the question remains whether that call should have ever been placed.
Karen



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John Byron

posted November 30, 2005 at 10:34 am


While I agree that war is horrible and often ill conceived, I cannot help but notice that all of the discussion on whether or not this war or any other was moral rarely gives little if any consideration to the suffering of the Iraqi people under Hussein. I am not in favor of anyone dying. But what was our obligation to the Iraqi people prior to the war and what should we have done? What did we do? Where were the Christians prior to the invasion (I include myself here)? At what point do we stop protesting the acts of a brutal dictator and do something to remove the individual for the good of his victims? I realize that Bonhoeffer struggled with this and he too was not sure his decision was correct. Perhaps the problem is that we live in a fallen world and no decision is easy and without ill consequences. My intention is NOT to start a debate on this war. It is only to wonder out loud how long a lack of action can be touted as a Christian virtue.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 30, 2005 at 10:39 am


John,
I think you are wondering what we should have been doing prior to the war for the good of the Iraqi people and how it was that we could have brought about justice without resorting to war. Is that it?



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John Byron

posted November 30, 2005 at 10:47 am


Scot,
Yes that is it exactly. I wonder why it is that we as Christians said little if anything until after the invasion and things started going wrong. Yes many Christians raised important concerns about the war prior to the invasion, but many were in favor of the war. What were we doing before it ever reached that point?



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Scot McKnight

posted November 30, 2005 at 11:54 am


I don’t have international political experience, and I don’t have solutions to problems of this magnitude, but I do think we as a country (and Christians can agitate for a voice) could target a country (like Iraq was) and muster much more voice and action to establish civil rights. I see Jimmy Carter trying to do this sort of thing, but it needs an entire country that will muster other countries to fight for this sort of thing.
We’ve done this sort of thing in the past, and we can only do our part — but some part we should do.



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Tom Ward, Jr.

posted November 30, 2005 at 12:30 pm


Pacifism scares me. Maybe because I think or believe that I’m a pacifist in the Hauerwasian mode, or maybe just because I haven’t had to prove how much of a pacifist I really am. I’ve never been threatened with violence in such a way that I felt as though my life or, more importantly, the lives of my family were in danger, nor have I ever been an eyewitness to such life-threatening horror. Truthfully, I don’t know what I’d do.
With regards to war, and particularly the war in Iraq, I find myself agreeing more and more with this statement made by the late Howard Thurman: “During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable, even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.”



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted November 30, 2005 at 1:19 pm


Wow, very intense and excellent dialogue. Coming as a dual Canadian/American, living in the heart of a large Anabaptist region, I have to struggle for objectivity as times (though perhaps being objective is not always the best course).
Howere, as a missionary involved in a global missions agency, I think I will try to respond missiologically. I have many friends/colleagues who minister in nations under serious oppression and injustice. They provided me with perspective that I had not considered before.
While they believe that we need to be involved in prophetically challenging and engaging the powers of tyranny and injustice through advocacy, politics, etc., within the country, they realize that while these very complex issues play themselves out in the international political arena, real people need guidance now.
Therefore, they find that the spiritual and missional formation that they often focus on is teaching believers to embrace the freedom that no law can take away. This does not ignore the need for change here and now, but acknowledges government and economics can help to limit abuse, but they can never change the hearts of women and men to embrace the good. I immediately think of Martin Luther King jr. who stated that laws can desegregate the country, but they would never truly integrate it- only the transformation of hearts through the community of faith could make that happen.
While I by no means want to judge or take for granted the freedoms we enjoy here, I also know that we have to be careful not to equate mulitiplicity of economic options with freedom. We must acknowledge that democracy works when the hearts of men are right, but barring this, can also be a tool for the tyranny of the many. Again, I am not advocating an unjust world, but we must consider the state of the Church in nations where political, social and economic “freedom” is most limited, such as China. Why does the Church thrive in such situations?
And perhaps more provocative, why is there so much extreme poverty, moral depravity, socio-economic injustice, violent abuse and murder, etc. in countries that seem to most embrace the “freedom” being touted as the war-worthy cause?
War is an absolute wrong, BUT only insofar as it was not part of God intention for Creation. However, given the state of Creation and Humanity, I am not fully convinvced to go so far as to say that there is never a place where violence is necessary. I am just not sure.
That being said, war is far too “easy” a choice to make rather than engaging the difficult complexities that we are discussing here. So, while we continue to be a voice for change in foreign policy, etc. we also need to be examining how we our own nations/cultures need to embrace true freedom.
Sorry this is so long.
Peace,
Jamie



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Broken Messenger

posted November 30, 2005 at 1:36 pm


The war in Iraq was never about freedom.
Tell that to the now liberated 23 million Iraqis.
It was sold to this nation on the basis of fear. We went to war because we were told that there were weapons of mass destruction that Saddam intended to use against us.
So was World War II following the attack on Pear Habor. The question becomes: Was that threat real? Yes, though many dissented following our involvement then and history has proven them wrong.
Saddam had these weapons up until shortly before the war. The Clinton adminstration had direct evidence of this due to the several thousand Kurds who were gassed to death in late 90s. The finger pointing going on is purely hindsight and “arm chair quarterbacking.” To assert now that Saddam was some peacful, benevolant dictator that would have never used such weapons had he found a way to get a hold of them is absurd. To say that terrorism hasn’t been hampered by forcing terrorists to the defensive is also absurd.
But the question remains whether that call should have ever been placed.
If Karen is looking beyond the political this could be asked about any war. Wars are traditionally built on messy intelligence and moral justifications. And the axe that Karen grinds here is significant to consider as her assesment is decidedly one sided.
Is Iraq a mess? Yes. Was it the result of malice to further the agenda of our President? No, and I think its absurd to claim such things given zero hard evidence to support such a claim.
Brad



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Tom Ward, Jr.

posted November 30, 2005 at 2:03 pm


Brad, you sound like a FOX News analyst.
As far as Karen grinding her axe in a “decidely one sided” way, haven’t you just done the same thing? We usually grind the only axe we have, and the axe we usually have at hand is almost always one sided. We are not capable of objective analysis, especially regarding this particular war.



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John Byron

posted November 30, 2005 at 2:39 pm


I am sorry that I seem to have started a debate about the war. That was NOT my intention. Again, my question is what can we as Christians do to help prevent another war? What did we do to prevent this one? If we really believe in justice as described, for instance, by the Lukan Jesus, what can we now learn from our mistakes as Christians in regards to Iraq? This is not a political question but one that, I believe, goes to the heart of our theological claims.



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted November 30, 2005 at 2:43 pm


John,
I don’t think you need to apologize. Unless we are willing to engage these issues, which inevitably means some conflict/chaos, we won’t find good answers. I think this is a valuable dialogue. But it isn’t my call. What do you think, Scot?
Peace,
Jamie



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Scot McKnight

posted November 30, 2005 at 2:57 pm


I like to see this sort of thing discussed, so I’m happy to see it go forward.
But, John has a point: what can we do to help prevent these sorts of wars?



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Tom Ward, Jr.

posted November 30, 2005 at 3:08 pm


John, I agree with you that the issues surrounding war and violence go straight to the heart of our theological claims. Jamie, like you said, “…this is a valuable dialogue.”
Just before the Iraq War started, I heard Stanley Hauerwas giving a lecture in Washington, D.C. During a Q & A someone asked the fiesty Professor what the Christian alternative to going to war with Iraq should be, given the imminent threat of WMD. I’ll never forget his response: “Start churches.”



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Scot McKnight

posted November 30, 2005 at 3:42 pm


Tom,
Hauerwas got it right.



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Norm

posted November 30, 2005 at 4:18 pm


I begin with the confession that I’ve never had to prove my pacifist position in blood. However, it seems that after years of investing violent conflict with the expectation of creating peace, and failing to do so, we need to explore other alternatives.
What if the Christians of the world agreed that war must be the very last option and is always contrary to what God desires? What if we preceeded any war, not simply with negotiation or censure, but with investment? What if we agreed to invest as much money in justice-making and peace-building initiatives in a country as we are prepared to spend in war? Investment strategies could include the fields of medicine/healthcare, education, business development, agriculture, and resource development and should include personnel and finances. I’m optimistic enough to believe that maybe such investment and relationship building would reduce the potential for violent and armed conflict.



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barlow

posted November 30, 2005 at 5:42 pm


To assess “where we the prophetic voices before the war” – it is important to remember the pre-war situation. Iraq was under sanctions from the UN, there was a no-fly zone in many parts of Iraq that was designed to protect some of the ethnic / religious minorities from Baghdad. There were also economic sanctions that were imposed to keep Iraq from further developing its weapons, and by a compromise, some amount of oil was allowed to be sold with the ostensible purpose of feeding the populace, taking care of health, etc. The attention at that point, from many Christians, was focused upon an argued injustice of the sanctions. The argument was that the sanctions were hurting the populace, but not really hindering Hussein from pursuing his own aspirations militarily. Those of you on college campuses probably remember the stream of speakers pro and con on this issue – the injustice of sanctions was a big issue in the progressive community. One time I tried to compare the best available statistics on mortality with the claims about the number of Iraqi children who had allegedly died as a result of the sanctions, and I was not able to square the facts with the claims. But it was a hard issue, and something hard to interpret clearly.
Another thing to remember is that we uncovered a plot by Hussein to assasinate the elder Bush, and Clinton was forced to figure out how to deal justly with that revelation. Further, the no fly zones were constantly being tested – our airmen doing routine patrols were sometimes engaged by surface to air missles, or the radar threat of them.
No matter what course of action we chose to end the morrass we were in, it was pretty obvious that eventually we would have to do something. Bush’s pugilism did enable enough leverage for the restoration of UN inspections, and that was a slow process that was probably very frustrating for most in the intelligence agencies who believed that Iraq was hiding a lot of nasty technology that the inspection regime would be unequipped to uncover. We have since learned that some percentage of that intelligence was incorrect, but at the same time, many of Saddam’s military leaders believed the same facts to be true – in some sense Hussein wanted us and his regional enemies to believe that they still possessed the kinds of weapons they possessed before the incursion into Kuwait.
The complexity of that situation seems to me to be a good reason for a lot of humility on our part, as people of the church. It isn’t at all clear to me that there was one, right ethical response to the situation resulting from the sanctions. And second-guessing the situation itself really doesn’t get you anywhere in politics – it is like the book of Ecclesiastes – we’re always thrust into situations created by other chuckleheads, and whatever good things we do in our lives can be threatened by the chuckleheads who inherent our projects. And so, prior to the war, the ambiguities piled up enough to keep a lot of us silent. And even now, I’m left disappointed in the outcome, but not any more certain that we knew all we needed to know at the time about what to do. Bush took a morally agressive action that I probably would not have taken, but I think there are a lot of difficulties with completely condemning either the motives or the outcomes. The greatest danger is a kind of “Christ of Culture” jingoism, but an equally present threat is a paralyzing cynicism about power and its use between nation-states. If you’ve ever sympathized with the Corleones even a teensy bit, you know what I’m talking about.



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barlow

posted November 30, 2005 at 5:43 pm


Sorry, that should have been “where *were* the prophetic voices….” And pardon the length.



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tatiana

posted November 30, 2005 at 5:45 pm


“What if the Christians of the world agreed that war must be the very last option and is always contrary to what God desires?”
If war is always contrary to what God desires… and by the blood of Christ we are FREE to live in the Way of God… then war is not the last option, but no option. That… sounds pretty good to me.



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted November 30, 2005 at 7:01 pm


Tatiana,
I am not sure that stands up, as the Old Testament seems to suggest otherwise. I have always struggled with God & violence, but any theology that seems to deny God’s violence and prompting of violence has come off as inauthentic. Walter Bruggeman deals with this.
Tom,
I’m glad Hauwerhas can say simply what I was failing to say in my over long comments. Thanks!
Peace,
Jamie



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Scot McKnight

posted November 30, 2005 at 7:12 pm


Jamie and others,
There has always been an issue of how to understand the violence of the Old Testament, and esp whether it can be transported into the Christian era. Is the command of God (Bible is dismissed if seen any other way) for Israel analogous to what God commands nations today? What applies to a theocratic kingdom (or something of that order) may not be the same for a universal movement (Church) with no national locus.
My own view is that, while I like what Peter Craigie did in trying to distance God from the violence of the OT (Lind: Yahweh is the warrior), my own take is that the shift from a nation-covenant to a universal-covenant suspends the use of violence (harem warfare) to defend a nation and shifts the locus to a community of faith that is to live out the kingdom in this world.
There is nothing certain in all this, and that is why we don’t all agree.



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Shawn

posted November 30, 2005 at 7:31 pm


“And perhaps more provocative, why is there so much extreme poverty, moral depravity, socio-economic injustice, violent abuse and murder, etc. in countries that seem to most embrace the “freedom” being touted as the war-worthy cause?”
I dont think much of that statement is true. The “extreme poverty” argument, if we are talking of the West in general, does not suffer close scrutiny. There is far more genuine extreme poverty in countries that are either totalitarian in nature or that lack the basics of free societies such as a rule of law and property rights.
I suspect that you are talking about the US specifically, but the reality is that in terms of “socio-economic justice” the US stacks up far better than most countries. One only has to look at France, a nation that prides itself on socialist economics, but that produces 10-12% unemployment to see that the US compares well with much of the rest of the world.
During the period from the Revolution to the Depression, the time of America’s greatest levels of freedom, when it had only a small and very limited government, and very little economic regulation, the population in general was far more moral, self-reliant and responsible than todays average citizen. Crime, and notably gun crime, were lower during this period. Even in the days of the “wild west” crime in general was lower.
Then from the 1930’s to the 1970’s the US underwent the progressive New Deal and Great Society revolutions. Government expanded massively. Economic regulation increased dramatically. Large centralised welfare was created and programs to “help” the poor grew in leaps and bounds. Gun regulation spread.
The result? Crime skyrocketed. From the 1960’s moral depravity increased and became both the norm and socially acceptable. Poverty, the very thing progressivism was supposed to end also increased. Child poverty in particular increased to its highest levels ever in US history. The effrect of welfare on black families was especially destructive, creating millions of homes with no fathers, and the result of that was the growth in gang membership and gun crime. Across the board virtually every indicator of a healthy society got worse. Traditional vlaues began to wane. The influence of the Christian faith either whithered or was actively attacked. Gun crime went up, despite increasing levels of regulation.
There is a direct correlation between big government socialism, the welfare state, left-liberal social “values” and the very problems of violence, poverty and moral depravity you mention.
The answer to those problems is a return to traditional Protestant values of self-reliance, thrift, personal responsibility, and the end of big government and the welfare state.



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barlow

posted November 30, 2005 at 7:45 pm


“my own take is that the shift from a nation-covenant to a universal-covenant suspends the use of violence (harem warfare) to defend a nation and shifts the locus to a community of faith that is to live out the kingdom in this world.”
I think it bears some thinking through our definitions of “violence,” “nation,” and “community of faith” as well. For instance, one might well agree that the people of God were called to use violence at some point (the nation-covenant) and now the people of God qua trans-national-church are now not supposed to use violence, but that as citizens or even leaders of modern city-states, violence, even defensively wielded, is unavoidable in a fallen world.



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Shawn

posted November 30, 2005 at 7:53 pm


Getting back to the issue at hand, a good question has been raised as to what we can possibly do to prevent wars in the first place. I’m not sure that total prevention is ever possible, but I do think the incidence of war could be seriously decreased, and large scale wars like the two world wars could perhaps be ended.
I am personally convinced that in the long run the spread of various forms of representative democratic government, and the sread of economic ties between all the nations of the world, would go a long way to decreasing the incidence of war. Democracies rarely if ever go to war with one another. Countries with interdependent economic ties are less likely to endanger economic well-being through war. In short, more democracy and more globalisation.
Now I am not talking about the spread of the kind of liberal majoritarian democracy we have in the West, and in fact I’m very critical of this form. But limited and conservative forms are possible, and in Muslim countries in particular would likely gain more support. At least part of this war (the wot in general) is fueled by Muslim fear of the spread of Western liberalism.
And while I support economic globalisation, we in the West, especially Christians, need to do far more to prophetically challenge those corporations and businesses that create and spread the kinds of moral filth that are, in part, driving the moral depravity that our societies suffer from, and that Muslims and others rightly fear. This does not mean government regulation, which does not solve the problem. It means shaming those businsesses publicly, it means fighting for a return to traditional values, it means treating the West as a mission field again and re-Christianising our societies, and it means challenging social liberalism. In short, engaging in the very culture war that at least some in the EC dont seem very keen on.



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Bill

posted November 30, 2005 at 8:24 pm


Scot,
When are you leaving for North Korea? I will be the first to support you finacially and with prayer. I am considering sponsoring Stanley as well.



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Bill

posted November 30, 2005 at 8:28 pm


Scot,
I had the opportunity to travel in Bosnia during the war and meet believers who were passivists and some who fought in the war. It made me very reluctant to make categorical statements about what is moral in every situation.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 30, 2005 at 8:59 pm


Bill, I’ll take #23 as a joke.
#24 is the heart of it all for me.



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Tommy Crawford

posted November 30, 2005 at 10:27 pm


Shawn, you sound like Ted Haggard. I vote all libertarian, but be careful about elevating the free market to the status of the gospel. Only the gospel will prevent future outbreaks of war.
On a slightly different note, what is our allegiance to churches in countries that we are at war with? I heard many people call for widespread catastrophic bombing early in the Iraq war. The “kill everyone and let God sort them out” attitude. I think even if that could have been in the best interests of keeping America’s army on the ground safer, I do think I could have supported it due to the likely deaths of many in the body of Christ. Any thoughts?



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Bill

posted November 30, 2005 at 10:28 pm


Scot,
You guessed right, sort of. #23 says something about the agitation that I feel when Stanley gives the impression that planting churches is the whole ball of wax. We should plant churches but that is not all we should do anymore than we should just stand by and watch a women who lives next door be beaten by her husband. Planting a church in the neighborhood would be part of what we could do for the neighborhood but calling the police would also be called for. It might even be the most just and merciful thing to become a policeman and risk my life. Although the comment was tongue and cheek I cannot help but be agitated by western academics who make simplistic comments when their suggestions cost them little. Perhaps Stanley Hauerwas made other comments in this interview. I know he has written and commented on his position at length.
I must say that I enjoyed the diversity of comments on this blog and I agree that we should struggle deeply with going to war. It appears to me that a persons perspective on how much interaction took place with Iraq prior to Bush depends a good deal on who you trust and how the story is told.



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Tommy Crawford

posted November 30, 2005 at 10:28 pm


edit – “do NOT think I could have supported it”



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Scot McKnight

posted November 30, 2005 at 10:50 pm


Tommy,
That’s a big “not.”
Render unto Caesar what is his and unto God what is His.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 30, 2005 at 10:52 pm


Bill,
To be sure, in a sense there is plenty of safety in the academic world in the West. But, as you well know, ideas have their impact.
My own view is not far from Hauerwas — our task is Kingdom (which is not to dismiss government, etc.). But there is a hierarchy of values at play.



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted November 30, 2005 at 10:59 pm


Shawn,
I have VERY serious issues with your interpretation of history, socio-economic, etc., but that is another post for another time.
Scot,
I hope you didn’t interpret my comments on God & violence as not recognizing the nation/universal movement. However, even with the change in dynamic, we cannot claim a quality of God to universal while ignore His relationship to humanity prior to Christ. As you say, there is very little certain in all this.
Jamie



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Ted Gossard,

posted November 30, 2005 at 11:16 pm


I am uneasy when there seems to be any influence on us as God’s people other than the kingdom of God revealed in Jesus and in Scripture. It seems that the influence of a certain kind of Americanism is prevalent among so many of us Christians here in the States.
I fear we’ve lost our edge in critiquing our world, because we buy into its agenda. Jesus’ kingdom is not of the kingdoms of this world, America included.
Having said that, I’m still not sure as to what we can or cannot do in rendering to “Caesar” what is his. But I think we can be sure, and try to focus on what clearly God reveals to us in Scripture and in Jesus as to our identity and with that, our activity.



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Ted Gossard,

posted November 30, 2005 at 11:20 pm


as to ALL we can or cannot do in rendering to Caesar- would be better, in my last comment. Some of that is clearly revealed in Scripture: like pray for leaders, pay taxes, respect, honor.



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Georges Boujakly

posted November 30, 2005 at 11:35 pm


Scot,
I grew up in the Middle East. Family left backhome has suffered much under Islamic causes. When I knew the war was going to happen, I thought to myself, “good, maybe America can show most Middle Eastern Countries that democracy is better.” I also thought, “if the USA can pull this off and create a democracy, militant Islam will be gone forever.” I also knew intuitively, feared so, and said so to my friends that the resistance movement will rise and be fierce. It is. But the price may be worth it if democracy can happen. I was hoping also that the movement will be vanquished within the first few days.
I no longer think this way. I no longer trust the motives. Someone said nations have no friends, just interests. It’s not bad to look after one’s interest but not at the cost of blood.



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Georges Boujakly

posted November 30, 2005 at 11:40 pm


Scot,
One more thing. The Christians of the Middle East often wish and count on the USA to do something about their plight under oppressive regimes. What if God heard the cries of the Christians in Iraq and used even wrong motives to deliver them?



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Shawn

posted December 1, 2005 at 1:51 am


Jamie, feel free to email me if you need to.



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Karen Spears Zacharias

posted December 1, 2005 at 11:00 am


I love that I live in a country where war can be debated, at least somewhat publicily. I was beginning to wonder if that was the case after Cheney’s attack on Murtha in the Washington Post last week. It seems to me that we went into this war reluctant to debate its merits and have remained timid about that, yet another side effect of Vietnam era, I suspect.
Two things to add: What would happen if instead of marshalling our military and money delievering bombs, we used our patriotic fervor and considerable resources to give aid where needed, wanted and requested? Seems to me that the war in Iraq has squandered more than lives. It has squandered our respect in the world.
Second thing, I spent an hour yesterday talking with a 27-year-old widow, mother of a son, 2. Her husband was blown up by IED in September. Almost all the widows I deal with have lost their husbands via IEDs. I keep visualizing the dog that runs into the parked car over and over again. Shouldn’t the dog change it’s strategy, get a clue??
This widow, like so many I know, was shocked to learn that despite over 200 war deaths, her local military post has nothing in way of transistional services for surviving families. Her quote: “Even the chaplain doesn’t have anything to offer me. No books. Nothing.”
She did say, however, that her church family has stepped up to the plate on her behalf. “It’s my church familyt that has been there for me. Not the Army.”
This woman was a former soldier, so she’s more than shocked at how little support the military has in place for widows and children.
Good report on the church. And good opportunity to respond locally to a global issue.If your church is near a military base, is it prepared to minister to widows and children?



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John Frye

posted December 1, 2005 at 11:46 am


What should the USAmerican church done prior to or during the war? A friend of mine asked, “Instead of sending in two thousand young armed marines into a terrorist held region in Iraq, why didn’t we send in two thousand Christian young people armed with New Testaments? We’re willing to sacrifice other people’s kids, how about our own?



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tatiana

posted December 1, 2005 at 12:21 pm


Here’s sort of a random quote to throw into the mix…
“Finally, if we want to be at peace, we will have to waste less, spend less, use less, want less, need less. The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and less wasteful.” (from Wendell Berry)
I would posit (and I think Wendell is too) that avoiding war isn’t just about violence or non-violence… but about rejecting the entire lifestyle that we use violence to protect. What if we saw the world as God’s and our security as solely provided by Him? What then, would we be fighting for?



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Scot McKnight

posted December 1, 2005 at 2:42 pm


Tatiana,
Your good observation here is what the Stanley Hauerwas proposal is ultimately about, isn’t it?



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Shawn

posted December 1, 2005 at 3:33 pm


“. What if we saw the world as God’s and our security as solely provided by Him? What then, would we be fighting for?”
Well, for freedom. For protection against tyranny and agressors. To protect people from those who would do us harm. To protect the weak, the powerless and children from the depredations of evil men.
Wendell’s and Tatiana’s claim here is one of the standard leftist notions that war is a result of the lifestyle we live. But this does not stand close scrutiny. The US war of independence was not about protecting a modern consumerist lifestyle but about defending freedom. The civil war was primarily about ending slavery. WW2 about defending the world from a horrifying evil. The war on terror about defending the West and the world against Islamic jihad inspired terrorism.
Wars happen for all sorts of reasons, but its simply false to claim that its always about economics.
And what about our security coming solely from God?
Sure ok. So you want to do away with the police force, the fire service, ambulances, hospitals, doctors? Please be consistent. If we cannot use the military to defend ourselves from evil then neither should we use any of these others means for protecting and preserving life.
Now some may claim that I’m taking that too far but no, if pacifists are going to claim any kind of logical and moral consistency in their beliefs then there is not one valid reason not to extend their opposition to the military to every other means we have for the protection and preservation of life.
Yes our security comes from God, but God gave us hands and legs and bodies to help ourselves. I would oppose someone keeping their sick child away from a doctor for the same reason. Yes our health comes from God, but God gave us the ability to learn medicine and healing, God gives us people with a calling to be doctors and nurses, and letting a child die when that God given help is at hand is evil.
Just as evil as letting tyrants and agressors and bullies have free reign when God has given us the means to defend ourselves.



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sonja

posted December 1, 2005 at 5:13 pm


I’d like to take this back to Karen’s original point. Here’s the thing, it’s a nice idea that we might go in and liberate the Iraqi people from a fiercesome dictator. That’s great. It’s another nice idea that we might go in and spread the flower of democracy throughout the Middle East. Those ideas make everyone feel really good. Those ideas are especially good for getting soldiers all pumped up and ready to fight.
However, what do we do with all of the other atrocities in the world? I find it ironic that we express this overwhelming concern with Iraq, yet stood by and did nothing when the massacres occurred in Rwanda. The same may be said of Sudan. The most President Bush has been able to muster have been anemic statements against the Khartoum government. But he was able to level our guns against Baghdad. I don’t think we can pick and choose, we cannot be the savior of some and not others. Who is most worthy? How about the way people are treated in North Korea? If we’re going to talk about human rights abuses against Christians, let’s look at the PR of China. The list is long of monsters in the world. If our criteria is humanitarian aid, my question is, where shall we point our guns next?
Put succinctly, humanitarian issues are a red herring that were and are used to divert our attention. I could make all sorts of suppositions of what is “really” going on in the halls of power and because I’m naturally a suspicious person I won’t do that. I have no evidence except what is out in public now that those who should have known better lied and manipulated evidence to ensure this war happened. Why they did so will probably always be a mystery.
While I agree that there is no requirement from Jesus to adopt a strictly pacifist nature in order to follow him, one cannot mistake His teachings on the issue. Beginning with the Great Commandments to love one another as He has loved us and the Great Commission and on down to the little teachings that filled his everyday ministry, his model was loving everyone even at great cost to his own life. We cannot mistake that. And He did not do it using weapons. He used open arms. It’s going to cost us a lot to follow Him and model His life to others. It’s not going to be easy. While not all Christians need be strict pacificists, I found the overwhleming outcry in favor of war among American Christians to be antithetical to the general teachings of the Saviour they claim. It’s difficult to reconcile the two without some fancy illogical footwork, because our interests as Christians are vastly different than the interests of the country (any country) we live in. We in the Church need to start being real and truthful about our stance. We need to own what we’re saying. And if the initial response to bad behavior is knee-jerk militaristism and more in line with the interests of the state then perhaps we’re really no longer Christian, despite all claims to the contrary.
Shawn, as a life long student of history (begun with my undergraduate degree in political science and international studies 25 years ago) I feel I must gently correct your sweeping statements about past wars. The Revolutionary War was fought over primarily taxation issues and we didn’t win so much as England lost, gave up and went home (in fact there are many parallels to the current conflict that we face in Iraq); the seeds of the Civil war were sown in Constitutional Convention of 1787 and it was fought over states rights i.e. whether or not the federal government had any say in the running of state affairs; you got WWII right but we were dragged into it kicking and screaming and then only because of Pearl Harbor; and the war on terror is akin to the war on drugs, it is unwinnable because the goal is undefined; it’s merely a good campaign slogan. I will leave your other interpretations of history and socio-economics alone, I will merely say that in your judgement, I hope that you have accounted for the fact that there were also no child labor laws, no minimum wage or hour laws, no oversight on the production of food or drugs, killing and maiming diseases such as measles, polio and small pox, just to name a few of the issues people faced. Ages past appear rosy from our vantage point, but have their own peculiar stain of reality. It would be nice to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
pax, sonja



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Ted Gossard,

posted December 1, 2005 at 5:44 pm


Sonja, thanks.
I wanted to say something like, regardless of our position as Christians on war, should not our salt and light point to what is right according to God’s kingdom? If that is so, then I think we would want to see violence and war held to a minimum. We need to not excuse the loss of human life due to collateral damage as something unavoidable in warfare. When I speak of “we” here, I’m talking about us Christians, who are the community of Jesus. I’m not talking about the republican right wing or any other part of the body politic.
People argue that wars are inevitable and even necessary until Jesus comes back and sets up God’s kingdom. After all Jesus predicts that there will be wars and rumors of wars. However that doesn’t justify all the violence. And we need to be true to the vision of God’s kingdom if we’re to speak prophetically to our nation. As it is now, we- at least as evangelicals (check out the resolution of the NAE supporting the war in Iraq!) seem to be known for being strong backers of war. Am I overstating this?
As I see it we are lacking in seeing Jesus’ kingdom vision. We need to live out and speak forth this vision. I think a reading of the Bible, especially the OT prophets with the message of Jesus will bear this out.
Sure, I think limited violence is surely necessary at times in this present age (what else does Paul in Romans 13 mean?). But as Christians surely we should be KNOWN as those who decry war if we’re to be faithful to Jesus’ kingdom vision.



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Ted Gossard,

posted December 1, 2005 at 5:48 pm


limited violence in stopping evildoers- according to Rom 13 (see also 1 Pe 2:13-14). (to finish a sentence in my last paragraph)



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barlow

posted December 1, 2005 at 7:31 pm


Sonja – your point about *which* dictators we unseat and *which* peoples we protect through military action is a great one. It is very hard sometimes to make those decisions, and the Rwanda thing, for instance, is atrocious and sad and infuriating all at the same time. But I am pretty unpersuaded that we invaded Iraq for mainly oil reasons as some have cynically concluded. I think oil heightens the stakes because a nation with a lot of oil has a lot of potential capital to fund weapons programs, etc. So oil played into it, sure, but not necessarily with respect to our wanting access to their oil market. I could be wrong. I am in awe that this conversation has retained a degree of charity – kudos to all of you who have participated kindly.



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Dana Ames

posted December 1, 2005 at 8:48 pm


Regarding OT bloodshed:
One thing that keeps coming back to me is that every time the people of God refused to trust God, ever-widening bloodshed followed. I have not done a thorough study yet, but here are some points that stand out to me:
-Adam & Eve did not trust God at the Tree-led to Cain & Abel.
-Israel did not trust Joshua & Caleb- they wandered for 40 years and then had to fight to claim the land. God said he would drive the inhabitants of Palestine out before the Israelites got there; I think they would have just packed up and left ahead of the reputation of Israel and Israel’s God. But no.
-Israel did not trust God to rule them but rather wanted a king like other nations- they got a king, and the other nations overran them and took away the kingdom. (I know other factors were involved.)
-Israel did not trust God that the way of release from Rome did not involve violent political means, but rather living the Kingdom kind of life Jesus talked about in the SOM- led to Jesus’ crucifixion and the carnage of AD 70. (This example is greatly influenced by Wright- it makes sense to me.)
I’m not going to debate the present policies of our government. I will only say what my father, a Marine of 9 years including service on Iwo Jima, Saipan, Tinian, Tarawa, Marshall Islands and Philippines in WWII, said to me during the Viet Nam years: “You can’t win a guerrilla war.”
Dana



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Shawn

posted December 2, 2005 at 1:14 am


Sonja;
“Put succinctly, humanitarian issues are a red herring that were and are used to divert our attention.”
I disagree. For a start humanitarian issues were not put to the front as the reason for invading Iraq in the first place, the issue of the potential dangers of Saddams pursuit of WMD’s and his support for terrorism were. These were and still are valid reasons.
Also, the issues of other regimes like China is the real red hearing. On Sept.11 the US was attacked by Islamic terrorists. Since then virtually all other terrorist attacks against the West have been carried out by Islamic terrorists. It is therefore Islamic terrorism and its state sponsers that we need to respond to militarily. The twin motivations of such terrorism are Arab nationalism and Islamic extreme fundamentalism. Saddam’s regime was Arab nationalist in nature, was financially supporting terrorists, and was training such terrorists in aircraft highjacking strategies at the Salman Pak traning centre. Plus Saddam was in gross and repeated violation of the ceasefire treaty that he entered into after the invasion of Kuwait. So attempting to make moral equivalency arguments between Iraq and China or other countries strikes me as facile.
I dont allow the Left and its allies in the MSM to do my thinking for me. I put a lot of personal time and effort into researching the issue of Saddam’s regime and on the basis of all the evidence and research I have seen I think the reasons for invading Iraq were perfectly valid. I strongly believe that anyone with an open mind and a willingness to put the time in to find out for themselves would come to the same conclusion.
“I have no evidence except what is out in public now that those who should have known better lied and manipulated evidence to ensure this war happened. Why they did so will probably always be a mystery.”
I think this claim is false. The mainstream media and the left has tried to say that Bush and Blair lied, but the reality is that neither did and as you rightly there say there is no evidence to prove such a claim. All claims of “doctored” evidence have been refuted. That these claims are made by members of the Democratic Party and the far left undermines their credibility, as does the lack of proof and evidence.
Norman Podhoretz totally shreds this claim about Bush lying or misleading the US into war in his latest article:
http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110007540
We could debate the issue of past wars ad infinitum. I am a life long student of history myself and I stand by my claims about the wars I mentioned. The Revolutionary war may have been sparked into action by tax, but long standing issues of liberty and rights were behind that.
The US may well have been dragged into WW2 by Pearl, but thats beside the point. I defy anyone to claim that removing Hitler was the wrong thing to do regardless of the political issues in the US at the time.
“and the war on terror is akin to the war on drugs, it is unwinnable because the goal is undefined;”
I disagree. The goal is to end Islamic terrorism. Thats perfectly defined as far as I can see. And it is winnable because terrorism is a losing strategy IF it is confronted forcefully.
“I will merely say that in your judgement, I hope that you have accounted for the fact that there were also no child labor laws, no minimum wage or hour laws, no oversight on the production of food or drugs, killing and maiming diseases such as measles, polio and small pox, just to name a few of the issues people faced.”
Every system has its trade offs. The past was not perfect nor rosy, but in terms of actual widespread poverty the present is much worse. I’m personally opposed to minimum wage laws anyway.
Our own society has welfare dependency, massive drug addiction amongst the youth, abortion on a genocidal scale, aids and booming child prostitution and pornography, all the result of the mix of a failed welfare state and liberal ultra tolerance. I dont think we should simply go back to the 19th century, but I think we should stop fooling ourselves that liberal-left progressivism has resulted in any actual progress or improvement in peoples lives.



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Ted Gossard,

posted December 2, 2005 at 6:46 am


Shawn, I’m afraid when we make such a big deal out of the Left or the Right that we are falling into the same kind of thinking as the one or the other. And when we try to defend one economic philosophy over another, or one interpretation of history over another, etc.
Instead we need to see all through the lense of God’s kingdom as revealed in Jesus and in Scripture.
When we do that I can’t help but think that we’re going to have trouble on every side, as well as finding some good on every side. But our answer ought to transcend either.



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ted gossard

posted December 2, 2005 at 11:38 am


I should say on my last paragraph: When we attempt to do that… for we all carry baggage along into our view of things.



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ted gossard

posted December 2, 2005 at 11:39 am


but we must attempt to do so!



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Bill

posted December 2, 2005 at 11:58 am


Actually the fact that we cannot clean up all the empires we think are evil so therefore we should not clean up any is not a sound arguement. Just because I cannot stop all wife-beaters does not mean I should not stop some. The difficulty of determining which ones we should use our limited resources to stop does not mean that we should not stop some either. The enforcement of law is messy business whether in our local neighborhood or across the water. Perhaps Iraq was a bad decision of the use of resouces and bad strategy but even if it is that does not prove that it is never appropriate or moral to use force.



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Ross

posted December 2, 2005 at 8:40 pm


I don’t think that Sonja ever said that we shouldn’t clean up any evil empires (unless I misread her post), I believe that the spirit of her comment was that it’s suspicious when we choose to use the humanitarian trump card as a reason to liberate some people (who happen to live in a strategically important area), but leave others (who live in arid scub) to wither away. If humanitarian relief is a valid “Christian” reason to invade soverign countries, we ought to at least ask Congress to prioritze the suffering and work our way down the list. Otherwise, call it what it is; an occupation/stabilization of a strategically important area, then liberate the good citizens on the side, and move on. But don’t use try to sell us “peacekeeping” as our foreign policy imperative, when we’re clearly involved in straight-up imperialism.
im·pe·ri·al·ism (?m-pîr’?-?-l?z’?m) n.
The policy of extending a nation’s authority by territorial acquisition or by the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other nations.



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sonja

posted December 2, 2005 at 10:05 pm


Actually, what I said was, humanitarian issues are and were a red herring.
A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of “reasoning” has the following form:
Topic A is under discussion.
Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).
Topic A is abandoned.
It worked for the administration during the ramp up for the war, and it’s still working because no one here can drop it.
My point was NOT that we shouldn’t unseat horrible dictators. It was that our government should be truthful with its citizens.



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tatiana

posted December 4, 2005 at 3:17 pm


“Yes our security comes from God, but God gave us hands and legs and bodies to help ourselves.”
Jesus died for our freedom. He never told us to fight for it. Your argument feels very… humanistic to me.
Also, do not assume that I am being inconsistent by renouncing military. I would consider myself somewhat of an anarchist and have some “radical” ideas about the things you mentioned… police, hospitals, etc. I don’t expect that you would agree with them, but saying that my pacifist stance is inconsistent is simply not accurate.
I suppose I could bring a lot of this discussion down to one point. Can we actually say that it is possible to love our neighbor (or our enemy) and kill them at the same time? If I believe that Jesus is the WORD, the logos, the divine logic of existence… then I must believe that His law of love is truth. Which means love ALWAYS prevails, is always victorious. If we can love and kill at the same time, maybe there is a biblical support for war. But I do not see it.



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Shawn

posted December 4, 2005 at 7:13 pm


Tatiana:
“Jesus died for our freedom. He never told us to fight for it. Your argument feels very… humanistic to me.”
He never told us NOT to fight for it, nor not to fight for the defense of others. He didint tell us to use our hands to build shelter either. He didint need to because it is obvious that God gave us the ability to help ourselves.
My argument is not humanistic, it is imo very Biblical.
“Can we actually say that it is possible to love our neighbor (or our enemy) and kill them at the same time?”
Yes sometimes we can, becuse sometimes we have no choice, or at least little choice that is morally black and white in this world.
Example. A man has broken into your home. He is in your childs room and pointing a gun at your childs head. You have entered behind him and are also holding a gun, at his head. He’s going to pull the trigger and you have to make a choice. What do you do? Both he and your child are your “neighbour”. Both are God’s children. But you have to make a choice, and both choices will end up in the taking of a life.
“Also, do not assume that I am being inconsistent by renouncing military. I would consider myself somewhat of an anarchist”
Now to be blunt I find this ammusing, that you claim my argument sounds humanist, then you advance a human ideology that is directly contrary to Scripture (Romans 13, Jesus’ render unto Caeser). So to what degree have you settled on a humanistic ideology and are trying to make the Faith fit that?
Sonja:
“It worked for the administration during the ramp up for the war, and it’s still working because no one here can drop it. My point was NOT that we shouldn’t unseat horrible dictators. It was that our government should be truthful with its citizens. ”
As I said, the government never made the claims your claiming, the Admin’s claim was about the issue of WMD’s and terrorism, not humanitarian issues.
The reason some people here are bringing humanitarian issues up is because they are a valid reason to support the invasion, regardless of what you think the Admin’s reasons were. Many people I know have said they arent clear about the Admins motivations but that they supported the action anyway for humanitarians reasons. Thats a valid stance and I think its wrong to dismiss that. Its not a red herring. It is relevant to the topic because as I said its a valid reason for some people to support the action. Its only a red herring to you and the Left because it introduces a difficult and uncomfortable issue that you cannot deal with.
Simple fact. That Saddamite regime had special childrens prisons in which they were tortued and raped, sometimes in front of their parents to force those parents to give up dissidents. The US shut those prisons down. IF they had not invaded they would still be operating.
Far from being a red herring, pointing this fact out is holding the pacifist and anti-war folks to moral account for what the results of their stance would have been.
Pacifists llike to talk about loving our neighbour. So how loving is it to leave children in such a situation? Not at all.
Should the West be more consistent in applying its opposition to tyranny around the world? Absolutely. But that does not mean it should therefore never act, and it does not mean that those of us who do support those actions are being inconsistent.
Ross:
“when we’re clearly involved in straight-up imperialism.”
Except were not. We are invlolved in straight-up war against Islamic terrorism and Arab fascism. That invlolves, just as WW2 invlolved the temporary invasion of other countries. Imperialism is the invasion of other countries for the sole reason of establishing permanent rule over those countries. Thats not what is hapenning in Iraq. We removed a dangerous regime that was part of a network of nations and groups involved in the export of terrorism and are preparing the new democratic regime for self-government. Thats not imperialism.



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Scot McKnight

posted December 4, 2005 at 7:27 pm


Shawn,
In all your discussions on this site you’ve rarely advanced a biblical argument, and the one that most of us are waiting for is something biblical that justifies taking the life of another in war from the teachings of Jesus or the NT.



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Scot McKnight

posted December 4, 2005 at 7:32 pm


Shawn,
And it won’t suffice to say we live in a fallen world, for that is not an issue: the issue is how to live in a fallen world.
Nor does it suffice to appeal to “realism” for “realism” needs justification outside of itself for you to justify it as a Christian.
Nor does it do to appeal to the Christian pacifist view as either unrealistic or utopian — for it needs to be demonstrated that “unrealism” and “utopianism” are inconsistent with Jesus and early Christian thinking.
Nor will it do to appeal just to the OT for the sense of discontinuity on this one, witness the Sermon on the Mount and the very crucifixion of Jesus who neither appealed to justice nor did he fight back, is more remarkable than on most issues when it comes to the relationship of OT to NT.
Sorry to be so direct, but the constant appeal to realism as “the only option” (not a quote from you) is inconsistent with the stance that many of us hold today, namely a Christian pacifism.



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tatiana

posted December 5, 2005 at 1:35 am


“Now to be blunt I find this ammusing, that you claim my argument sounds humanist, then you advance a human ideology that is directly contrary to Scripture (Romans 13, Jesus’ render unto Caeser).”
I have come to anarchist beliefs solely through my faith in Jesus. If you would like more information/expansion upon ideas of Christian anarchism, visit http://www.jesusradicals.org. There is a LOT of literature posted on their site. Jacques Ellul is a good source, also John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, and Wendell Berry have had some impact on forming my political theology. Mostly it’s just been Jesus though.



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tatiana

posted December 5, 2005 at 1:37 am


P.S. I am not sure I have much more effort to put towards intellectually convincing someone of the merits of non-violence. I mostly would just hope that your heart breaks at the thought of killing as much as mine does, and that you might find truth in the midst of that anguish.



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sonja

posted December 5, 2005 at 6:26 pm


I would go a step further and say this, that the command of Jesus is to love God and love others as ourselves. Since under most circumstances, we would not kill ourselves (even in self-defense), violence seems to be an option that has to come off the table. We have to separate our interests from the interests of the state in which we live. If you cannot do that, then I think you need to question where your primary allegiance truly lies.
Shawn,
Batting around theories about how we might behave in various scenarios is fun for the classroom and even here, but it has limited value. In real life not one of us knows how we would react in those situations, unless we’ve really been there. God willing, none of us will be. And appealing to one’s emotional core is another method of distracting the audience when the argument is not going in one’s favor. It works in much the same manner as the red herring.
I might add here that ad hominem attacks about my political and/or religious leanings are not appreciated and they add nothing to your arguments. No one here has made any denigrating comments about your leanings. Nor have they made any correlations between your leanings and your comments.
One would hope that your arguments could stand on their merit and would not need to be buttressed with emotional content and vituperative attack. It is the goal of gentle argument and debate to be able to accomplish this. Here is a website where you may read about the various sorts of argument and fallacy that are common when using arguments such as you have used: http://www.fallacyfiles.org/index.html
It may help you to build a stronger, less emotional case in the future.
pax, sonja



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