We live in a world of armed conflict. Explain what differing Christian attitudes to armed conflict might be

There have been more than 127 wars since 1945. In some areas of today’s world, there is nothing but violence. The majority of the news on television is based on the events in Afghanistan and we will never forget the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C.

on the 11th of September 2001. Justice has to be sought and then peace and respect will come about. Every Christian should want peace and justice but many of these have different opinions and methods in how to achieve this.Christianity was founded on peace, emerging from it’s ethic of love. Jesus said to his apostles ‘Peace be with you’ and we must put his words into action. This peace must guide the destiny of humanity, if we do not find peace; destruction and evil will continue to spread. Pope Paul VI said, ‘Never again war! Peace must guide the destiny of the peoples and of all humanity’. The Gaudium et Spes issued by the Second Vatican Council in 1965 states, ‘There will never be a truly human world for everyone until all devote themselves to peace’.

The Catholic Church also teaches that because war is a matter of human freedom, it is a moral question; there are circumstances in which war can be justified, just as there are circumstances in which war cannot be justified. The decision about the justification of war is based on the basic principles of human dignity and respect for human life.These, taken together, offer the basis for what is known as the Just War teaching. Traditional Christian teaching presents these criteria for determining that entering a war is moral. Other criteria must be observed if carrying on the war is moral. What we do in the course of the war must be proportionate to the rights we are trying to defend.

This is the Just War Theory. This was an attempt developed by St. Augustine to articulate the right to self-defence and its aim was to limit the occasions of war and the effects of war once it started. Augustine distinguished between private morality, turning the other cheek, and social morality, protecting the common good. There are a number of principles effecting the decision to go to war; the Jus Ad Bellum. This is for the war to be a just cause and to confront a real and certain danger and not for gain or revenge.

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This means that the war must be for a just cause, not for greed, revenge or power. Our motivation at all times must be love. Those with responsibility for the public and authority must also declare the war.The war cannot be declared by private groups or individuals and the proper authorities must affirm it. During the conflict, the right intention must be acknowledged and this is the pursuit of peace and reconciliation, including avoiding unnecessarily destructive acts or imposing unconditional surrender.

For war to be justified, all peaceful alternatives must have been exhausted these include politics and sanctions. The probability of success must also be considered and this should prevent any irrational resort to force. However, even when you consider the doctrine of ‘The Just War’ we have to consider the consequences of war, some may be good, other will be bad. The good would be that the just cause will occur but the bad would more destruction, increased insecurity and a great death toll. St.

Augustine said ‘All war, even a just war, is the result of sin’, so even if the is some good achieved, there will always be sin. Augustine highlights the seriousness of war and even taking one life is serious.In 1992, the United Kingdom spent �23.5 billion on defence compared to �7.9 billion on education. Many Christians question the basis for these decisions when our aim is ultimately to achieve peace and justice. More money is spent on military weapons than on educating the future leaders of the world.

According to Tr�caire in their report on November 2001, $800 billion was spent in the year 2000 on the arms industry, while $9 billion could eliminate starvation and malnutrition. Many Christians find this shocking as the amount of money that could eliminate starvation and malnutrition was spent 90 times over on the arms industry. In the creation stories, we are told that all life is good and sacred; man is made in the image of God.

So, if we kill others, we will be punished. It is written in Genesis 9:5-6 ‘If anyone takes human life he will be punished. Man was made like God he will be punished.

Man was made like God, so whoever murders a man will himself be killed by his fellow man’. This is like Jesus teaching, is attitude is one of non-violence, he does not advocate violent protests against injustice, at Jesus’ arrest he says, ‘Put your sword back. Those who take up the sword will die by the sword’. So, if you wage war and become a murderer, you will in turn experience what you are doing and you will be killed. True justice cannot be achieved in this way. Not everything that is done in the pursuit of justice is automatically moral.

To inflict injustice in order to defend justice is irrational.This is the view of pacifists. Pacifists today say violence is never acceptable, they say it breaks the fifth commandment, ‘Thou shall not kill’. It is totally against the Christian idea of love. ‘Love thy neighbour as thy self, and also love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’. (Luke 6:27-36, Matt 5:43-48).

The Quakers are people who take the biblical ethic of love literally and, they do not take up arms against anyone. In 1660, a declaration given by the Quakers to King Charles II read, ‘We utterly deny all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatever; this is our testimony to the whole world.’ This is what the pacifists believe and this is their declaration to what they consider to be right.

Pacifists follow Jesus’ example and they believe that violence cannot be solved by violence. He says, ‘if someone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap you on the left cheek as well’, don’t make sin worse by repeating the offence and do not retaliate. These Christians think that war in itself is a wrong action, it is unchristian and we should never resort to violence. Martin Luther King was a pacifist and his attitude to achieving justice was that you do not need to use violent means to achieve justice. He said, ‘I now believe that the destructiveness of modern weapons totally rules out the possibility of war ever again achieving a negative good’.

War has always been a feature in religious history and many Christians have justified wars by claiming it is the will of God. A crusade is a ‘Holy War’. The crusades were a series of wars undertaken by Christians in the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries. They mainly centred on the Holy Land of Palestine. Most Christians today deeply regret these wars in the name of Christ as they regret their treatment of the Jews and Muslims at this time. There are four beliefs behind these crusades, the reason for the war is a holy one, God will guide and lead the armies, the crusades are on God’s side: the enemies are against God, and finally, the war must be carried on to the bitter end.

All the crusades think that God was on their side and the Jews were expecting a ‘Holy War’ when they were expecting a ‘Military Messiah’. However, they did not get this fighting leader; instead they got a peaceful and loving leader who did not resort to violence. Jesus rejected violence and he taught that we should ‘love our neighbour’. He said that God loves everyone, he does not hate the enemies and he taught us to love our enemies.Some Christians think that war is acceptable because it is our duty to defend the innocent and the most vulnerable. On many occasions Jesus defends the vulnerable because of their faith in God. He cured the woman with a haemorrhage, Jairus’ daughter, the man with the withered hand and the epileptic boy because of their faith. Jesus also healed these because they were all innocent and Jesus felt compassion and sympathy for them.

These Christians who think that it is our duty to defend the innocent believe that if the innocent and vulnerable are killed or hurt in war that justice should be sought and sometimes these Christians think that the only way that justice can come about is to go into war. They choose this as the lesser of two evils. They believe that every person has a right to self-defence. These Christians also think that leaders like Hitler should be brought to justice and they feel that they should intervene when there are acts of injustice. Bonhoeffer was one of these Christians.

Many Christians think that the aftermath of war is never justified, the ‘peace’ obtained after war is not true peace. People will be weary of one another; there will not be any trust, as the old enemies will be living together. Fear and hatred will rule and evil will continue to spread. There is mass devastation and destruction and it is not necessarily a real victory.

The environment is ruined and people’s culture and backgrounds are destroyed. War can do much more harm than good; in fact it may bring more evil than it does good. However good can be achieved through war. Evil dictators like Hitler can be overpowered and defeated through war, not through killing him but by making him concede the war. So, the aftermath of war has its good and bad points.Saint James says that there should never be a war, and we can avoid armed conflict by looking at the causes of war. He thinks that if the causes are rooted out then there will never be any wars.

This is an extremely valuable teaching for all. ‘The causes of war must be rooted out. These include injustice (especially when the poor are exploited by the rich and the powerful), the desire for power, contempt for others, envy, distrust, pride and selfishness.’Taking all of these Christian perspectives into consideration I believe that they all have their Christian morals but they have different attitudes to war and different ways of achieving justice. Oscar Romero believed that the innocent should be defended and he wanted peace.

He said, ‘Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.

Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty.’ Everyone wants peace and justice, but can this be achieved through violence and war?Can nuclear war ever be justified for a Christian?Many Christians also have differing opinions on this controversial issue. Everyone knows of the tragic Hiroshima bombing and if another atomic or nuclear bomb is dropped there would be severe and extreme consequences. We have to ask ourselves, can a nuclear war ever be justified for a Christian?Some Christians think that nuclear war cannot be justified.

If a nuclear war broke out, millions of people and perhaps the whole population of the planet would die. Any war in which nuclear weapons are used could easily become an all-out war. Many Christians think that this would be undoing God’s work as he created the world and us. The effects are disturbing and devastating, thousands of innocent people are killed, lives are ruined, the environment is ruined and future generations would be at risk from the lethal gamma rays and future attacks. These Christians also think that nuclear weapons are so evil that we must disarm them and it is evil even to possess them.

‘The Church condemns total warfare by the use of weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons. Destroying whole cities or vast areas of land is a crime against God and against humanity, which deserves absolute condemnation.’ The Catholic Church is against all nuclear war.

A report from “The Church and the Bomb” in 1982 said, ‘The evils caused by this method of making war are greater than any conceivable evil which the war is intended to prevent’. This supports the argument that that you cannot achieve good by evil means.Furthermore, if we have nuclear weapons, we would be a target in a nuclear war. The enemies would want to strike first to destroy our nuclear weapons. Then, we would no longer be a threat to them. Nuclear weapons do not defend you against a nuclear attack.

There was no defence against that. In Hiroshima, the Americans wanted unconditional surrender through the nuclear warheads and this is also against the Just War theory. However, before the B-29s took off, William Downey, a recognised Chaplain said, ‘Killing is the name of the game; those who don’t accept that have to be prepared to accept the alternative – Defeat.’ This can be taken as a reason which justifies war, but it is not a view of all Christians.Even in warfare there has to be Christian morals and limitations.

Many Christians think that the excessiveness is not necessary; bombs should be aimed at military camps, not at civilian areas. A survivor of Hiroshima said, ‘All the skin came off my face and then all the skin on my arms and hands fell off. The sky was black as night.’ Many people were blinded and houses were demolished.

No one will ever know exactly how many people were killed in Hiroshima. It is said that about 80,000 people died; either of the immediate effects or of exposure to gamma radiation, which killed victims in 20 to 30 days. The Hiroshima city government said that the true death toll was 140,000 by the end of 1945. The Official US Strategic Bombing survey believed that ‘probably more people lost their lives by fire at Tokyo in a 6 hour period than at any time in the history of man.’ This is shocking and it shows the dramatic and horrendous effects of a nuclear bomb. There are enough nuclear weapons to wipe out all life on earth. If there was 7/8 of a reduction in the world’s nuclear weapons, there would still be enough to obliterate humanity.

This illustrates how much nuclear weapons the world has and how much destruction a percentage of it can cause.However, there are some Christians who think that nuclear war can be justified. There are also many arguments in favour of nuclear war. Firstly, many Christians think that the ends justify the means, peace can be achieved by nuclear war but we must make sure that this is genuine peace, not peace of a threatening nature.

By using nuclear weapons in war, lives can be saved. After the Hiroshima bombing Stimson said that there would have been more lives lost if there was a long war and what they did saved lives. Nuclear war is quick and effective.Also, there have been no world wars since nuclear bombs were invented, this could be because they are scared to fire at each other in case they miss or because some peace has been found. If there is a war and you break the enemies will to fight, the war would be over and fewer lives would be lost.

Taking all of these Christian views into consideration, I think that there are more valid arguments against nuclear war than there are for nuclear war. Even taking one life is serious, so, if a nuclear weapon can kill thousands and thousands of people this is horrific. War is never good; even if it is made shorter it is just as bad as you are doing an act of evil.

However, the world will continue to hold nuclear weapons and the supply will continue to build up. We just have to hope that none need to be fired.


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