Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Friday is for Friends

posted by xscot mcknight

Friends, it is sometimes said, don’t talk to one another about politics. I beg to differ, but I add a requirement: friends can talk about politics if they behave themselves, talk to one another with civility, and carry on their conversation to learen from one another. So, welcome to this new series on Wendell Berry, Citizenship Papers. Questions are included, and they are serious questions.
Berry’s first essay in this book is called “A Citizen’s Response to ‘The National Security Strategy of the United States of America’.” It concerns the response to 9/11. And it advocates a uniform questioning of international policy.
It suggests that the “we” in the “we will not hesitate to act alone” is not “we the people” but “we, the President and his closest advisors.” Was the American public sufficiently consulted?
Berry contends that the definition being used (at the time, and still today) concerned “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents.” He suggests this definition: “violence perpetrated unexpectedly without the authorization of a national government” (3). How do you define terrorism?
He contends the NSC has demonized the enemy and lionized the USA. We have plenty of our own evils to deal with.
More to the point, he thinks there are self-defeating contradictions: peace through war and advocacy of globalization of the economy while we isolate ourselves in war. Can a lasting peace be accomplished as a result of military action? Is it true to say that military action leads to more military actions? Does military action lead to confidence in military action?
He advocates charity, civility, independence, true patriotism, and lawfulness.
And he contends that standing with Christianity implies pursuing peace, pursuing forgiveness, and pursuing love.



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George Polcaster

posted October 27, 2006 at 7:02 am


Good to see a series on Wendell Berry! Reading him over the past year has given me fresh perspective on several key issues–the pacifist position being one. We need his prophetic voice in these times.



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RJS

posted October 27, 2006 at 7:15 am


“How do you define terrorism?”
Random acts of intentional violence calculated to unnerve and demoralize a population to attain a desired political, social, and/or religious end.
“Can a lasting peace be accomplished as a result of military action?”
Yes, but not without a great deal of pain and sacrifice, and only by intentionally and deliberately taking the moral “high road” in dealing with individuals, i.e. treating with respect, as well as pursuing peace, pursuing forgiveness, and pursuing love.



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L.L. Barkat

posted October 27, 2006 at 7:32 am


At some point, I finally engaged my father (who has very different political leanings than I) in purposeful discussion. I decided that, as an intelligent man, he must have his reasons for thinking as he does. The experience has been enlightening, though it is harder for me to define myself politically now! :)



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Andy Cornett

posted October 27, 2006 at 8:28 am


Two things about this chapter really got to me. The first was Berry’s point that terrorism as defined above (“premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents”) is really the same thing as any war perpetrated by any government (in that all wars have shown a willingness to tolerate the harming innocents.) What I like about his suggested definition is that it pinpoints the source: it doesn’t come from a government or nation. I’m with RJS that it is calculated to inflict pain and fear and make a larger point.
The second thing that really gave me pause in the chapter was his point that a government committed to a policy of preemption cannot be a government that can speak for peace (because it then “accepts war as a permanent condition”). Military action alone cannot secure a lasting peace unless additional attention is paid to the causes at the root of the problems.
grace and peace
Andy Cornett



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Scott Eaton

posted October 27, 2006 at 8:51 am


Andy,
I don’t believe that war and terrorism are the same thing. Wars target governments and the soldiers those governments place upon the battle field. Terrorism targets innocents who are unarmed, unable to fight, and not employed in battle. The unmitigated attack upon innocents on 9/11 was terrorism. Patton going after Rommel was war. See the difference?
In terrorism innocents are intentionally targeted. In war innocents are not targeted, though unfortunately are at times caught in the crossfire. This is one of the many tragedies of war.
But I reject the notion that war and terrorism are the same thing.



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Andy Cornett

posted October 27, 2006 at 9:16 am


Scott (#5), fair enough. I do not think the two can be equated either, and I was a bit careless with my words (whereas as Berry prods us to be careful with ours). What he wants to take to task is the first definition of terrorism, in that it is inadequate. His point: “The distinction between the intention to perpetrate violence against innocents, as in ‘terrorism,’ and the willingness to do so, as in ‘war,’ is not a source of much comfort.” (3). We can and should debate the distinctions of intentional targeting vs. the tragedy of being caught in the crossfire. But Berry says it is messy at best, and particularly so in an age of modern technological warfare.
For me, Berry has the uncanny ability to slice through my usual distinctions and make me take a long, hard look. that’s what this book is proving to do.
grace and peace,
Andy



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Ted Gossard

posted October 27, 2006 at 11:28 am


I hope Berry challenges possible underlying assumptions that our nation seems to have about our role in the world, and particularly many Republicans who are more “hawkish”.
Not only do we need to address root problems behind global terrorism and conflict, as Andy so well points out here. But we also need to examine our own presuppositions. Somehow we need a much wiser outlook and use of our military might. A use that will see military action as the very last resort, in pressing for solutions. Aside, of course, from the need of police action inclusive of stopping those committed to violence.



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r10b

posted October 27, 2006 at 11:29 am


A fine, old gentleman neighbor of mine has on his car a bumper sticker that reads, “America is the greatest country in the world, thanks to our veterans.” Am wrong to understand this to mean American is great because we are more effective killers? Even if, for arguments sake, we stipulated that the killing is justified? Is war really what has made America great? How does this fit into being a great nation in the eyes of God?



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Ted Gossard

posted October 27, 2006 at 11:29 am


And our reticence to military use needs to be evident to all, I believe.



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Dana Ames

posted October 27, 2006 at 11:42 am


I am very leery of declaring a “war on terror” the way our administration has. I studied in Germany in 1976-77, when Europe was suffering bombings, airplane hijackings, kidnappings, etc. Their governments stepped up internal security rather than going abroad with armies to smash what were even then the financiers/enablers of those attacks, and without the need for (or the technology to enable) severe restricting the freedom of those countries’ citizens and visitors with benign intentions. In spite of relatively easy access by those bent on terror, Europe has remained a reasonably safe place to be. I fear we have started down a very slippery slope.
Dana



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Rick in TX

posted October 27, 2006 at 1:15 pm


Ted in #8,
Unless you have asked the question of the gentleman, and have received his answer in the negative, the answer to your question must be “Yes, I am wrong”. That’s called “Giving others the benefit of the doubt”, or “Believing the best about others”.
Rick



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Rick in TX

posted October 27, 2006 at 1:16 pm


oops – That was for r10b, not Ted.



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Ted Gossard

posted October 27, 2006 at 1:44 pm


I’m afraid I was guilty of some stereotyping in #7. Though I have heard analysts refer to those advisers in President Bush’s administration who are hawkish.
What I mean by hawkish is language that speaks of military action and gives labels, such as “the axis of evil”. This talk is war-like in tone, and has to be followed through with like action.



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Ish Engle

posted October 27, 2006 at 2:17 pm


Andy #5
Dresden was full of innocents who were intentionally target. So was Hiroshima. The difference was that the US viewed itself at war with Germans and with Japanese, today we question if we are really at war with the Afghanis or the Iraqis.
The difference between war and terrorism is VERY small. If you had asked the “terrorist” who flew into the twin towers, they would have told you they were “at war with America”, and thus, soldiers, not terrorists.



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Ish Engle

posted October 27, 2006 at 2:22 pm


r10b #8
If we did not have more effective killers, we would be either: a British colony; or, a French colony; or conquered by the Japanese; or, conquered by the Germans. While Yoda was right (“Wars not make one great.”), we do owe our freedom to those who fought for their country. Patton was right, “No [body] ever won a war by dieing for their country. They won it, by making the other poor dumb [guys] die for their country.”
As for how it fits into being a great nation, that is an extremely wonderful question. Clearly, defeating Hitler was good thing. But what about fighting Ho Chi Minh? Good question. Does God necessarily bless ALL/ANY of our combat actions? Probably not.



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kent

posted October 27, 2006 at 2:56 pm


Terrorism the is unprovoked act of horrific violence upon an unsuspecting populace to accoplimsh a politcal end. It can state sponsered or the act of a small cell. Those who commit such act are pathogens, they cannot be reasoned with and they do not respond to negotiations. They constantly invade the space of other people, are incapable of regulating themselves, and they do not learn from previous experience. They are no different than a cancer cell.
What are you supposed to do with them? To them forgiveness is irrelevant. They are not interested in anything but the advancement of their own cause. We can offer all the humanitarian aid possible, we can remove ourselves from the territory they claim, and give in their demands, and they still move forward with violence. What are you supposed to do with them?



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forestwalker

posted October 27, 2006 at 5:14 pm

Josh S.

posted October 27, 2006 at 5:27 pm


That’s great you are doing Berry now on Fridays. He’s one of my favorite writers.



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Scott M

posted October 27, 2006 at 5:39 pm


Ish,
There’s something I’ve been pondering these past few weeks. Over the course of a decade as a Christian, I had reached a fairly comfortable understanding that a strictly limited form of the Just War doctrine was essential in a fallen world. At times, evil means (and war is always evil) are necessary to resist worse evil. But then, while discussing another topic entirely, I mentioned that Mohandas Gandhi built his ideas on nonviolence in significant part from reading the gospels when he was in South Africa. He translated them into an Eastern framework, but they were themselves alien to that framework.
And then it struck me. This Hindu man had more confidence in what Jesus actually taught than all the nations supposedly filled with Christians since the time of Constantine. And when he put into radical practice those same tenets, they actually worked. Nonviolent resistance and revolution is not at all the same thing as passive resistance or submission. How powerful would it be in the world if the followers of Jesus actually followed his Way in deed, word, and thought?
Of course, over the first centuries, that’s exactly what Christians did in the face of a powerful and hostile pagan empire. But when that empire capitulated and turned to us, we seem to have stopped some of that which brought things to that point.
Patton’s comment is so obvious we don’t question it. But perhaps we should. You can’t win a battle that way, but clearly you can win a revolution. How did Jesus defeat evil? And how did he tell us to live? If we say we follow him, we must grapple at all times with that which he actually taught.
The actions of the Amish in light of their tragedy further highlighted that distinction for me.
I think my “comfortable” understanding has become much less so these days.



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forestwalker

posted October 27, 2006 at 5:40 pm


I love Berry. He’s the ghost of our pre-Modern past speaking into our post-Modern world. He’s often cranky and cantankerous but always bears hearing.
And this collection of essays, the first one in particular, is outstanding.
For those without a copy of Citizenship Papers, a slightly abridged version can be read on the Orion Magazine website.



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Shawn

posted October 27, 2006 at 6:28 pm


My response to his questions, and apologies for the longish post.
“Was the American public sufficiently consulted?”
Yes in general I think they were. It was clear to most Americans post 911 that the perpetrators were al-Qaeda and that al-Qaeda was a global terrorist organization headquartered in Afghanistan. Polls show that post 911 there was strong majority support for action against al-Qaeda.
“How do you define terrorism”
For a start I do not think that there is only a slim difference between terrorism and military action. Merely because the terrorists claim to be at war does not mean that our claim to be at war and theirs are morally equivalent.
Terrorism is not simply violence without government approval. Terrorism is the use of indiscriminate violence by illegal combatants, specifically, exclusively and intentionally targeted at civilians, with a desire to murder as many civilians as possible, and for the purpose of terrorizing a nation or community into surrendering to the terrorists will.
There is a wide gulf between that and just warfare.
“He contends the NSC has demonized the enemy and lionized the USA. We have plenty of our own evils to deal with.”
All countries and people have their own evils to deal with, thats entirely beside the point. The NSC has not demonized Islamic terrorists, they have demonized themselves by their actions.
“Can a lasting peace be accomplished as a result of military action?”
Yes. England and France have been at peace since a little after Joan of Arc turned the tide of the hundred years war. The US and Britain have been at peace since 1812. Spain and the US have been at peace since the Spanish-American war. Germany has been at peace with Europe and the world since 1946. And dittoe the US and Japan. I mean, who would have thought in 1941 that the US and Japan would not only have lasting peace between them but become close military allies and friends? Those are just a few examples but with all due respect to Berry this is a no-brainer. War can bring lasting peace between the antagonists.
“He advocates charity, civility, independence, true patriotism, and lawfulness.”
Which is nice but it is telling that he has nothing to say about exactly how to deal with the threat of Islamic terrorism. Anyone can mouth platitudes to sound like they have the moral high ground, but unless he has an actual strategy for dealing with al-Qaeda and Islamic terrorist groups they remain just empty platitudes.
“And he contends that standing with Christianity implies pursuing peace, pursuing forgiveness, and pursuing love.”
Yes, but it also implies pursuing justice, and pursuing justice sometimes requires the active defense of the common good against robbers, murderers, brigands, terrorists.



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Andie Piehl

posted October 27, 2006 at 8:14 pm


This is certainly a topic that can clearly has the potential for polarizing people.
I appreciate the civility of discussions like this because it gives me the opportunity to consider views different from my own in a context that allows me to consider and evaluate my own understanding. When folks toss accusations back and forth and use labeling, I can just feel a wall coming up inside, and I find I begin labeling back. I wish I weren’t this way, but I am.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I really appreciate the content and tone of this discussion because it is so sensitive and many of us hold very deeply seated views on politics and on war and peace. Our discussion here has potential to produce more understanding between people and allow for the opportunity for genuine understanding.
Once again, Scot, thanks for being willing to bring these things to table for discussion.



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BeckyR

posted October 27, 2006 at 9:39 pm


Perhaps the first question to ask is “can a lasting peace be accomplished” period. Then go into if it can be done militarily. We can look at the local level to the international level and governments. Lasting peace? Well, if criminals can stop doing criminal things, there could be on a local level.
On questions like this I think it is very important to realize there can not be lasting peace outside every person with power (at varying levels) has a regenerated heart through Christ.
On the local level, I am confronted weekly, some times daily, with evil, and the necessity of behaving with evil by – the line is here and you may not step over it, and having to enforce it if they do step over. That’s the local level, but on international level, I think there are those to whom we have to say – you may not step over this line, and if they do, there must be some kind of enforcement so they don’t do so again. Perhaps because I have constant experiences with those who do evil, I can imagine what it must be internationally with those who want to step over lines.



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T

posted October 27, 2006 at 10:15 pm


“Can a lasting peace be accomplished as a result of military action? Is it true to say that military action leads to more military actions? Does military action lead to confidence in military action?”
One could use the same argument against the use of force (not just the death penalty, but force) for the restraint of criminal activity. Is there such thing as the ‘lawful’ use of force? I think there is. As long as there is evil in this world, there will be governments established by God to restrain evil in some capacity, by force if necessary.
Having said that, there are very good arguments about whether the U.S. and its allies have been too quick to use deadly force against Iraq. But even when a country over-reaches in this way, or when police over react against suspected criminals, that doesn’t bring me quite to the point of thinking that government ought not bear the sword at all, or that some peace is not maintained by force, both domestically and internationally.



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KJV

posted October 27, 2006 at 11:01 pm


There will never be real peace in the middle east until Christ returns.
Genesis 16:8-12
8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.



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Ish Engle

posted October 27, 2006 at 11:59 pm


Scott M #19
Even Gandi had questions about whether non-violent actions would work against Hitler. Non-violence works when there is a belief among the aggressors that their enemy is capable of moral action.
One could question if terrorist see their targets as capable of moral action. Just a thought.
PS — I actually agree with 99% of your post.



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Ish Engle

posted October 28, 2006 at 12:08 am


Shawn #21
You wrote, “Terrorism is the use of indiscriminate violence by illegal combatants, specifically, exclusively and intentionally targeted at civilians, with a desire to murder as many civilians as possible, and for the purpose of terrorizing a nation or community into surrendering to the terrorists will.”
So the USS Cole attack was NOT terrorism? What about attacks on US Marines, embassies, etc.?
The line between terrorism and war is, IMHO, a VERY thin one. War is declared by a government, against another group (traditionally against another government, though the “war on terror” is challenging that paradigm). Terrorism is declared by a group who believe in some purpose (an ideal, a religion, a self-perceived right that has been violated, etc.). The key difference is government sanctioning, which, traditionally, has carried moral weight. Terrorist also tend to seek to escalate to non-involved entities to draw attention to their cause, while most governments seek to keep wars one-on-one.
I know I’ve gotten windy, but I truly do not believe the line is as broad as you state it. I’m a veteran, I would gladly serve my country again if called, but I also understand that war is the “management of controlled violence” as my Military Art instructor said, and that means it can get ugly, quick.



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Shawn

posted October 28, 2006 at 12:36 am


Ish,
as I said one part of a reasonable definition of a terrorist group is that it is made up of illegal combatants. Thats not the only definition necessary, but its part of it.
Now, if a group that was made up of illegal combatants carried out a campaign of attacking only miltary targets I admit that this would be a difficult grey area. However in the case of the groups responsible for the attack on the Marines in Lebanon and the group responsible for the Cole attack (al-Qaeda) those groups are terrorists on the basis of the other actions they are also responsible for.
I respect you see only a thin line between just war and terrorism, and I respectively disagree. I am personally very wary of moral equivalency arguments.



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Ish Engle

posted October 28, 2006 at 7:34 am


Shawn, #28
I am not seeking to make a moral equivalency, rather a moral distinction. When I look at historical war I see massive acts of “terrorism”: read accounts of Sherman’s march to the sea through Georgia; Dresden, while having factories, had too few military personel to argue that the civilian population was not being targeted; My Lai; Napolean’s razing of the Russian plains in the Ukraine. The list could go on.
My question is, if in war the military can (and does) target civilian populations, and in terrorism, the terrorist can (and do) target military targets, how then are the two more than a thin line of difference? What, besides government sanctioning, makes war and terrorism different?
I enjoy your opinions, and Scot, thanks for this topic.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 28, 2006 at 8:47 am


Ish,
For me a defining element of acts of terrorism is covert presence: that is, folks dressed up in civlian clothing and setting off bombs; or folks doing things normal people do (drive boats near ships) and suddenly setting off a bomb.
One of the rules of engagement,as I understand them, is military clothing.
It is not simply unintentional/intentional deaths of civilians — what the military unacceptably calls “collateral damage” in order to evacuate humans from the description — but covert pretense.
And motive is central, too: desire to create fear so that people will interrupt the norms of life.
(Please know that I’m a pacifist, so I would take this much further for the Christian.)



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Ish Engle

posted October 28, 2006 at 10:45 am


Scot #30,
But what you have described could also be termed “covert operations” (like the TV show “The Unit”(not as far fetched as some might think)), or guerilla warfare. What made a Vietnamese woman a target? The fact that the last one the unit saw threw a handgrenade at them inside her hat!
I thought about uniform before, but there have always been “irregulars” in warfare: what defined the US Patriot?; the Huns were not truly uniformed; the Boers were not usually uniformed; the Confederate soldiers wore homespun, meaning something close to, but not truly uniform.
My point is that the difference between terrorism/war is smaller than most people give it credit. Besides government sanctions, I’m not sure that I can’t come up with an example of something of terror in war and war in terror.
Either way you slice it, it comes down to one group trying their best to use force to change the actions/thinking of another. If its government sanctioned, its war, if its a group of some sort, its terror.



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Ish Engle

posted October 28, 2006 at 10:50 am


Scot #30
Also, I think any Georgian in Savanah would argue that Sherman’s movements were designed to “create fear so that people will interrupt the norms of life.” Sherman’s troops would take railway rails and heat the center to soften them, they would then wrap them around trees (called Sherman bow-ties). The entire purpose was to interupt the norms of life for the CIVILIAN population of the Confederacy.
Today, we send in Special Forces to destroy key features to create chaos behind oppositional forces so as to weaken their infrastructure. A defeated civilian populace usually saps the will of any army.
Just some thoughts.



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Shawn

posted October 28, 2006 at 2:34 pm


Ish,
certainly individual acts by legal military can be acts of terrorism. However that does not make just war itself terrorism nor close to it. The historical acts you mentioned are not examples of just war conduct.
I do think your very close to making a moral equivalency argument. For example you say “My question is, if in war the military can (and does) target civilian populations, and in terrorism, the terrorist can (and do) target military targets”, this makes it sound like its almost a 50/50 deal, but in reality terrorist attacks against military targets are the exception not the norm. In fact over the last 20 years alone I can barely think of five attacks on military targets by known terrorist groups.
Let me put this another way. If one man uses violence to rob and murder a family, and another man uses violence to rescue a family from a murderer is there only a thin difference between the two acts because they both used violence? I think most people would say no, there is a wide gulf between them because of intention amongst other things. Some of the reasons why are obvious, as are some of the differences between terrorism and just war. But it also comes down I suspect to a matter of our gut sense of right and wrong. Its similar to the argument about what defines pornography. Thats not always easy to say in the theoretical abstract, but I know it when I see it.



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Shawn

posted October 28, 2006 at 2:41 pm


I agree that Sherman’s march was an act of terrorism, but then as a southerner I biased :)
However your example of special forces strikes me as wrong. They may target infrastructure and military elements to create chaos, but that rarely is a matter of the direct targeting of non-combatant civilians for the purpose of mass death. Remember that the intention of terrorism is not merely chaos, but mass death of as many civilians as possible. I watch The Unit as well, and I have not seen them engage in any action that could be defined as terrorism.



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Ish Engle

posted October 28, 2006 at 3:54 pm


Shawn,
I like your point about death for the sake of death (you actually said, “Remember that the intention of terrorism is not merely chaos, but mass death of as many civilians as possible.” but I read it as “terrorist seek death for the sake of death.”
I think that is a key distinction that has not been emphasized enough in this thread: Army’s (whether “regulars” or not) seek to minimize death (even when they seek to wreak havoc with everyday living) while terrorist seek to maximize death.
I also concur with your argument when the question is “Just Wars” vs terrorism. BUT, I was focusing on just WAR (not Just War). If the US had lost its war for independence, the history books would have labeled the colonists as villans. It was a just war, in the end, because we won. (Not just because we won, but I think history would NOT have been kind).
So the real issue then is when is war just?



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Shawn

posted October 28, 2006 at 5:17 pm


Well I guess as far as Church tradition goes we have a set of guidelines as to what constitutes the conduct of Just War but I think your asking a different question to which there may not be a simple answer. For me at least it comes down again to intentions. To use the US Civil War as an example, there were in many respects rights and wrongs on both sides, but the deciding factor for me, even as a born and bred Southerner, is that the intention of the Union was an end to slavery, the intention of the South was its continuance. For me that makes the Union’s side ultimately just and right, even if the Union’s conduct was not always just in specific actions. Another example would be the intentions of the Allies in WW2 vs the intentions of the Nazis.
Thats not a simple formula thats always going to be easy to apply, but its a starting place for thinking about the issue. I truly believe that intentions matter a great deal.



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Ish Engle

posted October 28, 2006 at 5:46 pm


This has been an interesting discussion. Thanks Scot. I have to say that I have discovered that the lines are blurrier (or thinner) between war and terror than I thought, and that intent and sanction both play a role. Fun!



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Shawn

posted October 28, 2006 at 7:33 pm


Good discussion. Its a blessing to be able to discuus these issues civiliy without the usual name-calling and over the top rhetoric.



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Shawn

posted October 29, 2006 at 4:25 am


I cannot think of a better response to Berry’s claims than this chilling article.
http://www.cruxproject.org/LibertyDeath.htm



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Scott M

posted October 29, 2006 at 8:49 am


Shawn,
I read the article you posted and the only thing chilling about it is the fact that we are headed in that direction. From a purely American standpoint, we cannot “save” America by becoming everything we have always stood against in principle despite our lapses. That’s what the last sentence would have us do in order to “survive”.
Further, the article is permeated with the language of fear and hatred. And as followers of Jesus Christ, neither is acceptable for us to hold. If he is in fact the risen Lord of the world, then the true reality is as he describes and his way is the only way to live as truly human people. We are not to live lives ruled by fear for we have confidence that our Lord is powerful. And we are not to respond to hatred in hatred ourselves. We are to respond, always, with love. That does not mean submission to others. And it does not mean we necessarily respond as they would wish. We are to discern, through the wisdom of the Spirit, how to respond in love and act accordingly.
Does that make sense? Not through any lens I can bring to bear on the world. And yet I am increasingly gripped with the certainty that all my lenses are clouded and cracked and I do not see the world as I should. But that at the same time I claim that Jesus is Truth, the one who stands to guide my steps as the Way, and ultimately my source of Life itself. Further, our claim as Christians is not only that but also that he is the Lord of all the world, even if his rule is not yet fully realized. And as Lord, he presents me with a choice. I can commit to become the sort of person who naturally responds to the distorted violence and evil we encounter in the manner that Jesus describes or I can reject his Way.
But if he is Lord, then his Way is the true description of reality, and the only path of Life. So now I am faced with the simple question, who will I trust? My own sensibility? Or the one I say is my Lord?
I’m increasingly gripped by the statement of Dr. Thomas Linacre when he finally had the opportunity to read the gospels (in Greek) as an old man. He handed them back and said:

Either these are not the gospels, or we are not Christians.

I read the broad scope of Jesus’ description of what it means to be a citizen of his Kingdom and a member of his family, and I am challenged to be the sort of person who would tend to respond naturally in that manner. I’m not. Not even close. But if that is not what it means to be “Christian”, then I’m not sure being “Christian” means very much at all.



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Shawn

posted October 29, 2006 at 2:42 pm


Scot,
the problem is that the threat we face is real, being honest about that is not fearful but responsible. US citizens have been largely shielded, in part by the mainstream media, about the nature and extent of the Islamic terrorist threat, and I think about the nature and threat of Islamic radicalism in general. Waking up to its reality is not about being fearful but an opportunity to courage.
I didn’t see any examples of “hatred” so I’m not sure what your getting at there.
Yes the Lord is powerful, but He did not stop 911 and gives us no assurance he will stop a much worst attack. He expects us to both have faith in him and to take appropriate steps to protect ourselves. That means being pro-active both in being honest about the threat and dealing with it in terms of national security.
I know your a pacifist and so we are going to have very different views on this, but I think I am as steeped in the Gospels as the next guy and I just don’t buy the pacifist argument. I don’t see it in the Gospels, and I don’t think Jesus meant us to take a weak approach to threats to the innocent and the common good. As the article says, an attack resulting in half a million deaths is far more possible than people realize, and one on a large scale is almost certain. God requires us to protect the innocent, children and the common good. Thats why the government has the right to wield the sword. Moreover, being a citizen of the Kingdom is not an excuse for failing to contribute to the protection of innocents and the common good, though I honestly believe that the “alien nation” pacifist approach does exactly that. It would turn us into little more than social parasites, happily receiving the benefits of life and liberty in what is still, however damaged, a largely Christian, nation but refusing to help defend them in time of need. This is why in part I strongly appose the ideology of Yoder/Hauerwas/.
The articles last sentence seems reasonable to me, but again I’m not a pacifist so I see things differently, and I don’t equate America with abstract principles. The US is not a “propositional” nation, despite liberals on both the right and left claiming so. The US is a distinct national/folk community rooted in Christian and European culture. We can only become what we truly are by turning to those roots, and back to the Lord of Hosts who is a mighty warrior.



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Scott M

posted October 29, 2006 at 3:34 pm


Shawn,
You’re confusing me with Scot McKnight. Other people have done it, though I’m not sure why. I think our style and tone is pretty different. But anyway, I always use “Scott M” and he always signs “Scot McKnight”. I’ve never been a pacifist. Sometime after my journey of conversion to Christianity, I found that my views on war were forced to shift. (Actually a lot of my views and understandings had to change, but this was a major one for me. I’m also a peacetime veteran.) Through a lot of study, ranging from church history starting with Augustine through the present and including things like papers published by the Army War College, I came to accept a strict construction of the Just War doctrine as the only apparent option for preserving order and good in a fallen world. (Note I did not include scripture in my list. The NT is pretty unequivocal on the standard and the Just War doctrine is nowhere in it nor in the first centuries of the church. Just War is an attempt to understand how to live as citizens’ of Jesus kingdom now in a world where it is certainly in place, but not yet fully realized.)
I was comfortable for years within that perspective. These past few weeks, in part because of comments I myself made in a discussion (without working our their implications), I have suddenly found myself much less comfortable with it. For if what Jesus said was true, and a true statement both for the whole world and of what it means to truly live as a human being, then it would be true for everyone, whether they recognize it or not. And that begins to remove the struts of rationalization required to support the idea of “Just War”.
Certainly there are people who wish to kill us or others. And it would not be at all loving to allow them to act in such an inhuman way. At the same time, if we adopt their methods, then as Christians we abandon the teaching of how to be human. And we profoundly disobey the one we call Lord. It’s not that he gave us a list of unattainable new rules like ‘do good for those who hurt you’ and the like. Rather, as we follow him we are to become the sort of people who naturally respond that way because it is unthinkable to respond in any other way.
And I’ve studied war. It is innately inhuman, dehumanizing, and evil. Never forget that. The question is not whether or not it is evil, but whether or not in a fallen world it is ever truly necessary. “Just War Doctrine” outlines circumstances where it appears to be a worse evil to turn from war. I’m at a point now where, as comfortable and “reasonable” as it may be, I’m questioning the truth of the doctrine. Does it accurately describe reality? Or does Jesus accurately describe reality for those who follow him today?
And no, I find nothing particularly frightening about the fact that a few thousand extremists hate us. There have always been people hating people. Europe has dealt with much worse for centuries and finally is moving past some of it. Sure, the attacks five years ago were horrible, but we have now killed many times that number who were just as innocent. An eye for an eye is ultimately a no-win situation.
As far as I could tell, the sole purpose of the document you posted a link to was to sow fear in order to reap violence and oppression. Neither of those strike me as compatible with the Christian perspective.



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Shawn

posted October 29, 2006 at 4:18 pm


Oops, sorry for the confusion! Never post before the first cup of coffee :)
“As far as I could tell, the sole purpose of the document you posted a link to was to sow fear in order to reap violence and oppression.”
I didn’t see any evidence of that. The purpose was to discuss serious and real threats to the lives of people. If open discussion of the real nature of the threat is “fear mongering” then any serious adult discussion of the issue becomes impossible. Interestingly, concerns about the Nazi treatment of the Jews and fears of a possible genocide in the late 1930’s were dismissed as fear mongering by anti-war proponents, including many in the Churches in England and the US. Big mistake.
“At the same time, if we adopt their methods, then as Christians we abandon the teaching of how to be human. ”
But the article does not advocate adopting terrorism. It advocates a vigilant national security stance, not suicide bombing. Do you think Islamic radicals in the US who openly advocate and support terrorism should be allowed to do so? Is deporting or arresting them really adopting the methods of the terrorists? Lets get real here, the article simply says we should closely monitor Islamic radicals who advocate violence and deport them if necessary. Is that really the same thing as suicide bombing or flying aircraft loaded with women and children into buildings? Are we really becoming inhuman in doing that?
“And no, I find nothing particularly frightening about the fact that a few thousand extremists hate us. There have always been people hating people. Europe has dealt with much worse for centuries and finally is moving past some of it.”
Europe has never dealt with this at all. The issue is not a “few thousand” people who simply hate. The issue is hundreds of thousands, probably millions, including entire nations like Iran armed with vast oil wealth, who are prepared to use chemical and nuclear weapons to attempt to annihilate America, Israel and the West. Nobody has ever dealt with a threat on that scale before and if you don’t find the prospect concerning, with all due respect I think you have your head in the sand, as far too many people do.
Have you read ‘The Virtue of War’? It radically transformed my thinking on the issue from a strictly narrow definition and understanding of Just War.
http://www.reginaorthodoxpress.com/viofwaalfwea.html



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