Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Texas Faith 3 - War and Faith

The third Texas Faith question is posted today. Here are some excerpts:

Texas Faith: War and Faith
Tue, Sep 09, 2008
William McKenzie

Texas Faith is a weekly online feature that draws upon the expertise of clergy, laity and academics in Texas to debate, discuss and define the intersection of religion, politics and culture.
This week, we asked panelists to step back from the heat of the fall campaign and think about what their religious traditions have to say about the ultimate decision presidents must make: whether to send soldiers into war.

Here's the question we asked the panel to consider:

All of the candidates on the GOP and Democratic tickets say their faith informs their views. They also agree that sending soldiers into war would be their most difficult decision. What does your faith tradition offer for guidance on that most difficult of decisions?

DARRELL BOCK, professor, Dallas Theological Seminary

Pursuing peace is a priority, but not peace at any price. The state can protect its people. War is always a last resort. This Christian tradition is called "just war." Here are the factors:(1) War must have a just cause, being fundamentally a defensive war.(2) It must have a just intention, to secure a fair peace for all parties. This excludes national revenge, economic exploitation, and ethnic cleansing. (3) It must be a last resort. All diplomatic efforts should be pursued and continue. (4) Properly constituted authorities declare it. War is the work of states. (5) It must have limited objectives, no annihilation of the enemy. (6) It must use proportionate means, sufficient to deter the aggression. The use of nuclear weapons becomes a real point of debate here.(7) It must respect non-combatant immunity, including wounded soldiers or prisoners of war. Weapons of indiscriminate mass destruction are immoral. (8) The more international recognition and support there is the better. Debated in just war theory is whether a preemptive strike is ever justified. Those who support it argue that an imminent self-defense is allowed. A recent example of just war is the Second World War, which halted the Holocaust and unprovoked aggression in Europe. These principles would guide me.

RIC DEXTER, Soka Gakkai International-USA, Dallas

We in America have fortunately faced for only moments the horror of attack on our homeland in recent history. In some places, children have never known a day without that horror. "Nothing is more barbarous than war. Nothing more cruel." With these words Daisaku Ikeda, President of SGI (our international Buddhist lay society), began his novel "The Human Revolution." It is a testament to the belief that the actions of a single person can change the course of history.

In the last couple of years, in over 30 ongoing conflicts, millions of people have lost their lives or families. Nichiren (founder, in the 13th century of Nichiren Buddhism) taught "If you care about the peace and security of your own land, should you not also be concerned with the peace and security of all the people of the world?" A decision to engage in war always denies that security to someone. As a young serviceman in the Vietnam theater, I attended my first Buddhist meeting. I asked how I should view my service in that war. The answer profoundly affected the rest of my life:

"More important than that question, you should dedicate the rest of your life toward creating a world where children are not sent to kill children." In my practice for over 40 years I have worked to fulfill that vow.

Again quoting Mr. Ikeda, "I firmly believe that the mission of religion in the 21st century must be to contribute concretely to the peaceful coexistence of humankind. Religious faith can do this by fostering a truly global consciousness and restoring the bonds between human hearts."A decision to go to war is the most difficult decision a president could make. A decision not to go to war would likely be the most courageous.

GEOFFREY DENNIS, rabbi, Congregation Kol Ami, Flower Mound and faculty member, University of North Texas

In Judaism, there are two types of wars, milchamah mitzvah and milchamah reshut (obligatory war and optional war). The former is a compulsory war that must be fought in defense of Israel or at God's direction through a prophet. An optional war is one in which the king (these rules far predate modern government theory) opts to fight for territorial gain or national prestige. No Jew is obligated to fight in an optional war. This traditional prophecy/monarchy-based war theory has limited application in our age of internationally defined nation-states, democratic decision-making and compulsory national service (though some may be reviving the notion of optional war in a new form - the "preventive war").

Perhaps more relevant to our own situation and the question posed, it is taught that a peaceful resolution must first be sought before any type of war is waged (Deut. 20:10). In fact, based on the emphatic instruction ...seek peace and pursue it (Ps. 34:14), Judaism teaches every avenue for a peaceful resolution must be explored both prior to and even during a conflict. This seems to me to be a sound principle for any government or any leader to use when faced with the prospect of war.

KATIE SHERROD, independent writer and producer, Fort Worth, and progressive Episcopalian laywoman

Early Christian leaders Ambrose and Augustine wrote about a concept called "just war," which essentially said that force was justified only to protect the innocent from attack. This concept became part of international law, which lists as the criteria for going to war just cause, just authority, right intention, last resort, public declaration, probability of success, and proportionality - i.e.: is the good we hope to achieve greater than the evil we will inflict and that those whom we attack will suffer, especially noncombatants? It is to this just war theory that the Episcopal Church turns in offering guidance to governments considering sending soldiers to war, although there are some in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion who espouse pacifism. They believe that modern warfare by its nature violates just war principles, especially that of proportionality.

In October 2001, the Episcopal House of Bishops approved a letter to be sent to all members of Congress, stating that "we do not believe that war with Iraq can be justified at this time." The statement also stressed the "unintended consequences" of war, including "unacceptable civilian casualties." The bishops concluded that they "do not support a decision to go to war without clear and convincing evidence of the need for us to defend ourselves against an imminent attack." The letter reminded people that "Christians are called by Jesus to regard all persons as neighbors, to reach out in mercy, and to pray for one another and for our enemies."

The bishops also acknowledged that many people of faith had different opinions about going to war, and invited all to pray for "all who [are] caught up in this conflict, our military personnel including [their] chaplains and their families, people who suffer for conscience's sake, Arab Americans of all faiths, followers of Islam around the world -- the great majority of whom share a longing for peace, and the people of Iraq, among whom are more than a million Christians."

Most Episcopal churches pray every Sunday as part of the Prayers of the People for our nation's leaders, for all the candidates, for our armed forces, and for all those killed and wounded, including our enemies.
There is much more good commentary on the blog.

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