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Peace and Justice The Christian Ethical Positions on War When Bob and I attended seminary we had the privilege of studying ethics under Dr. David P. Gushee. He is currently the Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. The following is a very brief outline taken from class notes and material from Kingdom Ethics by Glen H. Stassen and David P. Gushee. For a more complete discussion and further study you may order this book at a discounted price through Christian Book Distributors 1-800-247-4784. Just War Theory Developed in the 4th century AD, Just War Theory was first developed by Augustine and Ambrose. These are the criteria for determining if a war is just. All of these criteria must be met and followed. 1. Just Cause—The defense of one’s country, or “to stop a systematic or long-lasting violation of the rights of life, liberty and community of large numbers of people. 2. Just authority—War must be declared through a legal process, through open and honest means, by proper authorities as outlined by law—the government of a country or the United Nations. 3. Last Resort—Prevention, conflict resolution, peace initiatives, negotiation and all other reasonable and just means must be exhausted before war is declared. 4. Just Intention—The ultimate aim must be to bring justice, peace and security. Economic interests or gain, ideological positions, claims of racial or ethnic superiority, revenge, conquest are not ethical reasons for a war declaration. 5. Probability of Success—The enormous cost of human life and suffering cannot be justified if there is no possibility of success. 6. Proportionality of Cost—The principle is that the good achieved will outweigh the inevitable evil and suffering caused by war. 7. Clear Announcement. The government declaring war must announce their intention as well as giving criteria by which the opposing country may avoid this declaration. 8. Just Means—The war must be fought using just means. Civilians cannot be intentionally attacked, prisoners may not be killed or tortured. Nonviolence/Pacifism This was the position for the first 300 years of the church. The early Christians took Jesus’ command to love your enemy literally. You can’t love your neighbor and kill them. Jesus did not defend himself or retaliate against the Roman army which imprisoned, tortured and executed him. Pacifists believe Christians are to follow Jesus’ teaching and example through nonviolence. This tradition continues in the Anabaptists, Quakers, Brethren and other Christian groups. There are two strains of pacifism. 1. Strict Rule—Never make war or be violent. 2. Discipleship or Way of Life—“Committed not only to avoiding violence, but to practicing peace-making in a positive way in all relationships.” There are many variations of pacifism—some allowing police work. Just Peacemaking Theory Developed during the 1980’s in response to emerging situations not adequately addressed by either Just-War Theory or Pacifism. The Sermon on the Mount teaches the Christian to engage in “transforming initiatives,” which serves as the model for this approach. The ten practices of Just Peacemaking are: 1. Support nonviolent direct action—Such as Martin Luther King’s nonviolent demonstrations and work during the Civil Rights movement. 2. Take independent initiatives to reduce the threat. These are successive actions taken to increase trust and deescalate the situation 3. Use cooperative conflict resolution 4. Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice—seek repentance and forgiveness. Example: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa 5. Promote democracy, human rights, and religious liberty 6. Foster just and sustainable economic development (economic corruption, oppression and poverty lead to unstable governments and conflict) 7. Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system 8. Strengthen the United Nations and international organizations 9. Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade. 10. Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations.
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