What is the Church's Stand on War? "Is It Christian?"

Bonnie

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By Peter and Helen Evans (10/04/2006)

"The great discomfort among many secular Americans is that the religion that they have dismissed for the last half a century needs to be revisited because we are now being visited by religious fanatics. The fanatics sense that our secularism is a great weakness of character that makes us vulnerable to defeat – and they are correct." --Rev. Johannes L. Jacobse

We were asked why we are doing this series of articles. First of all we're not writing to convert you. It may happen, but we're not giving you enough information for conversion. You'll have to investigate further. We are giving you enough information so that you will not cast a vote for people or laws that are wrapping themselves in a pseudo-Christian disguise. We are a counter-force to those forces that want to re-define Christianity. Those who follow the traditional, dogmatic Church are now called fundamentalist Christians, or fanatics. You've heard anyone from Rosie O'Donnell to President Carter tell you that. This same group is trying to stretch and dilute the word Christian to include ideas that are not Christian, but sound like they may be. If you are one of the many in our country who want to be a good person but who doesn't necessarily have a firm grasp of Christian teachings, or if you believe you are spiritual but not necessarily religious, these articles will help clear the air. You won't find yourself being torn between supporting the war and being a good Christian; you won't find yourself feeling torn because you have a homosexual friend and have heard that the Church 'hates' them. We are bringing you the truth about Christianity so that you can make informed decisions, in this next election and in those to come. For we face another threat and that is the culture war; both within our borders and without. This is only part three of a long series of articles on this subject, we hope you enjoy them.

Peter: Father Hans, The Orthodox Church accepts war as self-defense. Is there anything in Christian teaching that would totally condemn a war in self defense?

Fr. Hans: I don't see it. When you look at the Orthodox tradition and see how the terminology of warfare is used, it seems to me that conflict is central to the Christian understanding about how human affairs really work. We talk about the Christian life as spiritual warfare for example. We say that the Word of God is a sword or that God himself is a shield, and so forth.

What happens to Christians is that we get caught up in the current culture that labels warfare as the greatest of all evils and so we reflexively renounce it. There certainly are times when war should be renounced, but a more sober understanding sees warfare as a part of life that you just can't wish away.

Helen: The current culture doesn't have a firm foundation in Christianity, hasn't studied it to really know what it's all about. They assume the Christmas card ideal of Christianity promoted by the media such as Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men is all a Christian can say about war.

Fr. Hans: That's right. Then the proclamation is interpreted through the dominant cultural paradigm, which means that pacifism becomes its fulfillment.

Helen: Isn't pacifism the highest good a person could attain when faced with evil?

Fr. Hans: No, I don't think so. Let's turn away from war and just look at crime for example. The man who confronts the evildoer with a threat of greater violence and causes that evildoer to submit to that threat has ended the cycle of violence. Here a greater force confronts a lesser force to stop the misuse of force.

Helen: Yes, that's right. So if someone breaks into a home and threatens your loved ones, should a Christian just sit back and think, "Christ said don't use violence"? By doing so, this Christian might let their family be killed. Then the evil would continue.

Fr. Hans: Yes. Someone who holds to the pacifist ideal in those circumstances leaves the innocent defenseless. Pacifism is a solitary and individual principle and not something you can impose on your neighbor. Sometimes your neighbor needs defending.

Helen: Can someone be a pacifist by not defending themselves, but ask someone else to use violence to defend them? Don't you also have to be a pacifist in your heart and mind and even if you were facing death, love your tormentor?

Fr. Hans: I have trouble with that too. Sometimes the scriptural injunction "love your enemies" is interpreted sentimentally. People mistakenly think it means that they have to muster good feelings about their enemy. It doesn't mean that at all. Loving your enemy means that you will act in truth towards them.

Helen: When you say, "act in truth," please explain that using the example of someone breaking into a home.

Fr. Hans: If someone breaks into your home, to act in truth is to stop his violence, to stop his crime, to stop his unrighteousness, and to stand up for the innocents who need your protection. Resisting the evil-doer defends yourself and others threatened by his evil. At the same time, you affirm his evil-doing is just that – evil. Defense here is a righteous act and affirms that the evil is unrighteous.

Looking at it a little deeper, loving your enemy means that your response to him will not be infected by his evil. The scripture is clear here as well when it says “do not return evil for evil.” Where the pacifist gets it wrong is that he assumes confronting the evil-doer with force is an evil in itself. It isn't.

Peter: Yes, just because you love your enemy doesn't mean you will confuse him with your friend.

Fr. Hans. Absolutely. It’s great if you can make an enemy your friend, but the commandment doesn't presume this will happen and, frankly, usually it doesn't. So it must mean something more.

Peter: Our righteous resistance to the evil that is being attempted could be seen as instruction to the evil-doer that his attempts are not righteous.

Fr. Hans: Yes, and I've seen this approach create great good in the end. I've been in prisons and talked to prisoners who have come to Christ. Skeptics scoff at this but many jailhouse conversions are real. Would those conversions have occurred if someone did not stand in that man's way and say, "stop - you will not do this"?

Helen: So if I understand you correctly, secularists see violence as a thing in itself, they only see half of the battle, half of the truth. In their view, when people die, that's it, that's the end. In that worldview, if one faces violence and one of the possible outcomes is death, then no one wants to confront violence, it's the end of them. However, if you add the spiritual dimension to it... let's take one of our soldiers who is protecting us and is killed, or a police officer who is protecting us. What does Christianity have to say about them?

Fr. Hans: The Scripture says, "no greater love has a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend." When a soldier picks up arms and goes into battle to defend others, he lays his life on the line for someone else. If he's killed in battle, then his sacrifice may be the same sacrifice that Christ made when He laid down his life for us. The same goes for the police officer and any other public safety person. Look at the men and women who lost their lives saving others when the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11. According to scripture, their sacrifice is accounted as righteous – in obedience to the commandment of God to love the neighbor.

Helen: Let's move on to the commandments. We hear it over and over again, the commandment says, "thou shall not kill." How does that reconcile with war?

Fr. Hans: The commandment is "thou shall not murder."

Peter: What was the original language in which the commandments were written?

Fr. Hans: Hebrew. Some people use that as a blanket condemnation against killing. I don't see it. The murder of someone is not allowed, but sometimes killing someone is necessary and, I believe, even righteous. This raises the hackles of other Christians, so let me explain.

Everything must be done to lessen the loss of life. If you can talk the aggressor into surrendering his weapons, do it. But if innocent people are being killed and the only way to stop the carnage is to take out the shooter, then what other recourse do you have? Innocent people are being saved; the aggressor’s violence is stopped.

Is the police officer that shot the aggressor guilty of murder? No. He has acted to save the innocent. None of this occurs without a cost, including to the officer who stopped the cycle of violence. But it is a cost that must be borne given that evil really exists.

Peter: So, in determining how we should act in life, we should look to what God would want me to do in this situation. In other words, should I stop the guy or just say kum-by-yah and let him carry out his unrighteousness.

Fr. Hans: Well, I think the pacifist would say kum-by-yah. Or, if he couldn't live with the ramifications of his own pacifism, he would call someone else to confront the violence for him.

Helen: Is that a true pacifist; one who says I am pure of heart and clean of hands, but I still must call in the cops or the military to take care of the threat.

Fr. Hans: All he's doing is shifting the moral responsibility onto someone else.

Peter: That's right, in our analysis of the situation; if we stop with him we're being superficial. We have to go further if we're going to find the truth.

Fr. Hans: That's why the pacifist, in situations that involve other people, becomes functionally irrelevant.

Helen: Massad Ayoob, a police officer we've interviewed previously, responded in just the same way. Both of you have had first-hand experience with this issue. "http://peterandhelenevans.com/articles-lethal.html"

Peter: Repentance doesn't seem to happen by itself. It happens because you encounter an obstacle that makes you change your mind.

Christianity is a very realistic approach to life. While it does deal with the mystical and the invisible, the precepts of how to live a good life are time tested and we've seen what happens to cultures that abandoned it; for instance, Soviet Russia. It's taking them decades to weed out the corruption that festered without moral guidance. The good news is that it is coming back and one of the obstacles that provoked its 'repentance' was the United States. However, these precepts work on a local level too. For the past four decades we've had problems with the rehabilitation of our criminals. This report shows that counseling without repentance, if you will, does not work "http://peterandhelenevans.com/articles-farabee.html"

Fr. Hans: Yes, and this process is woven into the fabric of human experience. You cannot avoid or escape it. Life is full of conflict, obstacles, even of warfare. Life is a struggle between darkness and light. Sometimes it takes on a violent, physical manifestation, like between criminals and the police or wars between nations; sometimes it's emotional; sometimes intellectual. Conflict is endemic to life, and much of the conflict has a profound moral dimension.

Helen: This is in direct contradiction to the common idea which some think is Christian, that there is really no evil, just a distortion of the Truth. Movies such as the Lion King propose this idea. Is that Christian thinking?

Fr. Hans: No, that's not Christian at all. In fact, it leads to a denial of evil.

Helen: When people hold the life-is-harmony point of view, it's easy to see how they believe we can talk to the terrorists and just show them the light, bring them back to balance.

Fr. Hans: It's really the classic battle of our age. Solzhenitsyn says the line separating good and evil cuts right through the human heart. That's what the Christian believes. The heart is where the line resides and where the battle ultimately is won or lost. The other view is that the dividing line exists within the cultural structures and all we need to do is change the structures and that will change the man.

Peter: Oh yes, that sounds like the materialist, Marxist perspective.

Fr. Hans: Yes, it really is. It started with Rousseau when he rewrote Genesis and placed human society as the locus of the fall. Genesis says something different, that the locus of the fall is in the heart of man. It's in the heart of Adam. Of course, “Adam” in Hebrew means “man.” Adam represents all men.

Helen: We hear the phrase "those who live by the sword will die by the sword," and take it to mean "no war, no violence." Can you tell us the origin of that phrase and how we should interpret it in the modern world?

Fr. Hans: It's in Matthew 26. It's when Peter drew out his sword to attack one of the soldiers who came with the guard to arrest Jesus. Peter thought the resolution to the impending crucifixion was to attack one of the guards. Well, it wasn't. In Christ's case it was actually to let the violence play out. Even though the violence played out, Christ defeated death and imprisoned Satan.

Peter: Imprisoned Satan?

Fr. Hans: Yes, Christ took away the fear of death because, in the resurrection, death itself has been overcome and we need no longer fear it; nor the spiritual force (Satan) behind it. Now, getting back to living by the sword and dying by the sword; it means we look beyond the surface of things and we recognize the conflict in human existence has a moral component that cannot be separated from religion and God.

Helen: One of the minor feasts is about a great battle at Constantinople.

Fr. Hans: Yes. When we recognize the spiritual underpinnings of things, we can pray for the understanding to wage the war correctly. And the term “spiritual” here means the moral and religious dimension of life; the awareness that our moral decisions must draw from deeper resources than our own mind and that ultimately God will judge us for what we have done.

Helen: In Catholicism, they have the "just war" doctrine and it's always in self defense. However, there is no Christian tradition that says war is just when it's simply to rob another of property or gain territory or conquest. Self defense is clearly justified, but not conquest.

Fr. Hans: That is an important point. As Christians we must be especially vigilant because it's very easy to be corrupted by the evil of the evil-doer. It is very difficult to keep ourselves morally clear headed in the presence of real evil especially in the rush of conflict whether it is physical, emotional, or intellectual. Again, the Scripture says don't return evil for evil. That means we must understand the true nature of the conflict and respond appropriately. The key here, however, is to respond.
more :http://americandaily.com/article/15877
 

Hobbit

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To deny that the nature of this world is violence is the ultimate expression of naivete.

That being said, we are commanded to protect the weak and the innoncent and support all righteousness and combat evil. Sometimes it must come to force. When your enemy strikes you, turn the other cheek and invite him to do it again. If he does, then you are out of cheeks and your only recourse is to strike back. Even Jesus flipped over tables at the marketplace. War is a necessary, if brutal, part of life on this Earth. As long as there are evil men in the world, it will always be necessary for good men to fight them and, if necessary, kill them.
 
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Annie

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Just war justification, whoops, that's probably noahide? St. Augustine that neo-con!
 

Annie

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Hope they do. Bottom line Said, with assist from moi made it clear that nationalism is not good for a country. Patriotism is, which the US is good at. The RWA's and his ilk are not good for any country.
 

rtwngAvngr

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Hope they do. Bottom line Said, with assist from moi made it clear that nationalism is not good for a country. Patriotism is, which the US is good at. The RWA's and his ilk are not good for any country.
I think the thread made it clear that both of you suffer from a politically correct opinion of what nationalism is, one designed to promote globalism and the new world order. That is evident and undeniable. The negative associations you posit are clearly extra-definitional.
 

Joz

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To deny that the nature of this world is violence is the ultimate expression of naivete.

That being said, we are commanded to protect the weak and the innocent and support all righteousness and combat evil. Sometimes it must come to force. When your enemy strikes you, turn the other cheek and invite him to do it again. If he does, then you are out of cheeks and your only recourse is to strike back. Even Jesus flipped over tables at the marketplace. War is a necessary, if brutal, part of life on this Earth. As long as there are evil men in the world, it will always be necessary for good men to fight them and, if necessary, kill them.
Good answer, Hobbit.
 

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