The Tao Te Ching, the ancient Chinese manual on the art of living, reads:
Weapons are the tools of fear... a decent person will avoid them except in the direst necessity and, if compelled, will use them only with the utmost restraint ....Our enemies are not demons but human beings like ourselves. The decent person doesn't wish them personal harm. Nor do they rejoice in victory. How could we rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of people? Enter a battle gravely, with sorrow and with great compassion, as if attending a funeral. (c. 550 B.C.E.)Everywhere I go these days, people talk about being confused. Let me see if I can get it straight: The government prepared the country for war with an "enemy" who never attacked us. And we allowed this, presumably, because someone else whom we cannot capture did attack us and the people we have decided to attack may attack us in the future. Right.So, how does the average Christian think about something like this: as a citizen or as a Christian? And if as a citizen, does it reflect the best ideals of this country? And if as a Christian, on what criteria shall we base our conclusions?The problem is not a new one. Over seven centuries ago, people began to recognize that war was an attack on the innocent by the ruthless for the sake of the privileged. They wanted it stopped. And if that was an unrealistic goal, given the thirst for power in the human condition and the absence of any overarching negotiating bodies, they at least wanted it regulated. They wanted the innocent protected. After all, the people were not fighting their neighbors. They wanted the defenseless made secure. After all, war meant that armies were to fight armies, not civilians. So they turned to the church, which, by threat of eternal punishment, might be able to bring sense to chaos.They popularized and developed the just war theory, first articulated by Augustine, and for a while it seemed to make sense. But over time everything has changed: the nature of the world, the nature of war, the nature of weapons, and the nature of nations themselves.Adults seem to have a problem understanding such things. Children see it clearly: Some second-graders asked their teacher what was going on between the United States and the place called Iraq. So the teacher said, "Well, think of it this way: Somebody in your neighborhood has a gun in her house. All the neighbors are afraid of it, and they go to Margaret, the owner of the gun, to ask her if she'll get rid of it.
War is not what happens in the military. It is what happens in the hearts of the rest of us who applaud it. Marianne Moore, the poet, wrote, "There never was a war that was / not inward; I must / fight till I have conquered in myself what / causes war, but I would not believe it."