Just War Can be Impatient

Just War and Pacifism

While pacifism can be accused of dangerous idealism, within Christian moral theology it provides a very important balance to the just war tradition.

Interviewed in Plough, Ron Sider says adherents of the two perspectives must dialogue in cooperative friendship.

How might Just War adherents and pacifists work together?

Pacifists and Just War Christians need to assess each situation together. With some frequency, there will be situations where applying the Just War criteria will lead us to conclude, “This war should not be fought, this invasion should not take place. An alternative must be found.” There may be, however, other situations where Just War Christians will conclude that they must go to war.

But the Just War theory requires that war is a last resort, and until you’ve tried all reasonable nonviolent alternatives, war is not a last resort. Unless Just War Christians are ready to test all reasonable nonviolent alternatives, the Just War position has no integrity.

Likewise, pacifists have no moral right to pretend their way is better unless they are willing to run the same risks in a nonviolent struggle against evil as soldiers do in battle.

The context of the interview is the phenomena of ISIS, and whether or not their savagery demonstrates the folly of nonviolence.

Sider has long been a voice for pacifism, and relates that Christian Peacemaker Teams have had some success in transforming conflicts. It would have been nice if this interview presented ideas for the nonviolent defeat of ISIS, however preliminary in form and difficult to imagine.

But his statement puts the burden of proof on those who advocate military solutions. What alternatives have you tried first? What about second, or third?

Before supporting war, ask a pacifist if he or she has any ideas to offer. And pacifist, be creative and bold. The world has many problems you can speak to. If not, many others will rush to offer that which you can only criticize, from afar.



2 replies on “Just War Can be Impatient”

” It would have been nice if this interview presented ideas for the nonviolent defeat of ISIS,…”
As a Christian pacifist [ ] my view may be surprising. I think any such “ideas” would be Utopian. I view this situation in the context of Romans The role of the Christian is not the role of the Government.

That does not mean we should not seek peace and pursue it. We should strive to mitigate hate.

The ISIS question is much like the one that gets thrown at pacifists regarding Hitler. WWI prepared the seed bed. A line was crossed and we reap what we sow. If the U.S. had not invaded Iraq there would be no ISIS. The U.S. opened Pandora’s Box. And following the destruction of the governing authority in Iraq, Christian pacifists (there are many other varieties) have no business calling for their Government to abandon it. (“Bring the troops home.”)


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