Presumptions against War
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing a Christian is to negotiate a theologically honest faith-based participation in social affairs. Questions of power, politics and violence are foremost. Arguably the most basic of all Christian presumptions is one against war and war-fighting. But tensions between the church as it is and the church as it ought to be, between its theory and practice, have been part of Christianity since its earliest days. On one side stands a ‘counter-cultural’ position represented by ‘idealists’ who hold (however imprecisely) that threatening or waging war represents an unchristian militarism that must be rejected. Here an unbridled confidence in human creative action brings forward the desire to hold fast a Christ-like, pure politics. On the other side stands a ‘culture-making’ position best represented by ‘realists’ who maintain a qualified support for a state’s right to sometimes threaten or wage war. This opposing vision of a flawed and imperfect politics is based on the notion that in an unredeemed world moral failure is ascribed to natural human limitations. In short, the belief that deterrence as an instrument of policy must be renounced clashes with the reality that church teachings are in fact flexible. Such theoretical and practical oppositions bear witness to the church’s origins in the heart of the Greco-Roman world and together bring into focus the difficulties of precise sacred and secular markings regarding attitudes to war.
KeywordsPolitical Authority Political Violence Nuclear Deterrence Supreme Emergency Church Teaching
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