This is Part 3 of a series of post on Christians and war.
This time I want to take a look at two more just war criteria to show how they to can be used to restrain nearly all violence.
The Last Resort criteria states every possible means of peaceful resolution must be exhausted.
Sounds great. Sounds fair. It makes us feel better. But here is the rub. How do we as Christians know every attempt and idea has been tried? We don’t. Normally a dispute arises as nations jockey for their interests without true regard for stability. As this happens a crisis inevitably aries. We see a few rounds of talks, threats, maybe sanctions or embargoes, a last ditch negotiation, then war.
Where’s the creativity? Where’s the passion? Where are those who will let nothing stand in there way?
Most of them are preparing for war.
This is especially true because most wars are years, decades, even centuries in the making. Historical memories run long and deep in most the world. Osama bin Laden even talked about the Reconquista of Moorish Spain in a recent video before his death as reason to continue his jihad. The Moors were driven out of Spain in 1492.
Thus it’s an understatement to say animosity runs deep in many, many global disputes. Therefore, true peace takes sustained, sincere, sacrificial effort. It cannot be done from a place of unilateral power and pride. It takes training, patience, understanding, and openness. It also needs cultivation. It’s an exhausting tug of war testing loyalty, character, and resolve.
In sum, it takes commitment to peace.
Peace is only possible when both sides are convinced conflict is no longer in their self interests. When that happens even the most bitter of parties can reach a resolution. The situation in Northern Ireland is a prime example.
Where are we going to find people committed to this process? We need more from the people of God. Some are calling for Christian think tanks and training academies to do nothing but think of peaceful solutions to world conflicts. That’s a great start. War has much higher stakes for Christians who believe in eternity. When a Christian kills an enemy, one of two things happens, that enemy is a brother or sister in Christ or that enemy is destined for judgment without Christ. This added dimension ought to drive us to goad our leaders to the negotiating table time after time as many times as it takes. It ought to be driving Christians to seek to make those think tanks and training academies more than proposals. In virtually every conflict situation, there is always one more try that can be tested, one more stone unturned, one more aspect of common humanity appealed upon.
That’s why the Last Resort criteria serves to render unjust nearly every war if truly followed to its logical conclusion. War is never the last resort.
We must not let nations treat each other as means to selfish ends for years leading to the brink of war and then think they are fulfilling this criteria with a quick overture of peace without any real sacrifice or policy correction.
But it’s up to Christians to say so.
I could keep going. I could go through every criteria and demonstrate thoroughly that each could be used to either justify or render unjust virtually any world conflict. Most governments naturally prefer the leeway of the former interpretation in order to freely pursue security and economic self interests. It is up to those who follow the Prince of Peace to demand the latter interpretation. By doing so, we detail for a watching world the greater reality of the greater kingdom we serve. Economic self interests do not have the final word. Jesus Christ will have his peace. How can we as his people not work for it in the here and now? That is why pacifism per se is not an option. We cannot withdraw and leave an unredeemed world to its fate. We must involve ourselves.
In our engagement we must expose the hypocrisy of the principalities and powers by speaking truth. In international affairs, truth means a strict, narrow application of just war theory as described in this series of posts. While pacifism has a place as a witness to the kingdom, it is not workable because it has nothing to say about redeeming government and we must have government. Christians troubled by war can leave a narrow just war theory in place as a temporary stop gap measure. Allowing for just war in this way gives peace minded Christians a hearing and standing at the highest levels of military and foreign affairs where our voice of restraint is urgently needed. It allows us to claim and redeem those places and shape them with kingdom values. Through such a means, it is possible to shape foreign policy in a way that nations respect other nations large and small, and cooperation begins to replace mistrust and factionalism.
In sum, by pushing to continually narrow the definition of a just war, we make war increasingly costly, foolish, and simply pointless as a more equitable world emerges.
Nations must maintain armies just as cities must maintain police forces. Such is the dark reality of the our sin steeped planet. However, it just might be possible that most of those armies could be sitting around bored most of the time. Let that be our prayer.
Is it a pipe dream?
Possibly, but humor me for a moment. I mentioned Brazil earlier as an example of a peaceful nation with compulsory military service. In fact, Brazil boasts the largest army in all Latin America. The Brazilians though have not had a war in so long the army is bored to tears. They are so bored they are administering education and health care programs as well as constructing railroads, bridges, roads, even monitoring biodiversity in the Amazon.
Talk about beating swords into plowshares!
Why can the Brazilian model not be followed by all of us?
Well, anyway, that would be my suggestion if I was that pretend Christian at the pretend UN.
Do you have a better idea?