A Christian approach to war
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, September 18, 2008
I thoroughly appreciated the point of view that Jim Napier expressed in his letter, “Raytheon important aspect of national defense,” (Sept. 17) and I mean this without the usual would-be-satirical sarcasm that seems to be so in vogue for Viewpoint counterarguments.
However, just because I can appreciate and understand his point does not mean that I agree with him. While it may seem impossible that peace could be achieved without force and threat of violence, that is exactly what we as Christians (and a Catholic University) are called to believe and practice. Jesus’ teachings speak overwhelmingly against violence. During the Sermon on the Plain, He famously taught us to, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you … to the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well” (Luke 6:27,29).
I don’t believe that it is much of a stretch to say that “love your enemies” probably means not to kill them, or even to threaten to kill them, so that you can have your own way (even if your own way is such a noble thing as “liberty”). Turning the other cheek is Jesus’ proposition for how to deal with your enemies instead. By turning the other cheek, we can expose the greed of our enemies’ violence, looking them in the eye showing the world that we are brave enough to stand and courageous enough not to fight. By fighting back we only vindicate them and perpetuate the pattern of violence.
Still, it has become commonplace in American Christianity to tolerate militaries and threats in response to increasing patterns of violence as more and more people come to hold the same views as Napier: that these things are necessary to preserve peace.
But that is not the way of Christ himself. Christ was, after all, opposed to the Pax Romana and the rest of Rome precisely because its “backbone always consisted of its legions.” Instead, He taught non-violence and love of enemies as creative ways to disarm those who hate us.
To think that Jesus is being impractical, or that He just doesn’t know how the world works these days, is to lose faith, a faith that I have lost myself on occasion. But we must continue to believe that Christ knew what he was talking about. Contrary to what Napier seems to believe, peace will never be achieved through war and violence, only by defeating hate with love and greed with compassion.
That’s what Jesus would do.