Hauerwas on 9/11

by Kim on September 11, 2009

“American imperialism, often celebrated as the new globalism, is a frightening power. It is frightening not only because of the harm such power inflicts on the innocent, but because it is difficult to imagine alternatives. Pacifists are often challenged after an event like September 11 with the question, ‘Well, what alternative do you have to bombing Afghanistan?’ Such a question assumes that pacifists must have an alternative foreign policy. My response is I do not have a foreign policy. I have something much better - a church constituted by people who would rather die than kill.

“Indeed I fear that absent a countercommunity to challenge America, bin Laden has given Americans what they so desperately needed - a war without end. America is a country that lives off the moral capital of our wars. War names the time we send the youth to kill and die (maybe) in an effort to assure ourselves the lives we lead are worthy of such sacrifices. They kill and die to protect our ‘freedom.’ But what can freedom mean if the prime instance of the exercise of such freedom is to shop? The very fact that we can and do go to war is a moral necessity for a nation of consumers. War makes clear we must believe in something even if we are not sure what that something is, except that it has something to do with the ‘American way of life.’….

“Christians are not called to be heroes or shoppers. We are called to be holy. We do not think holiness is an individual achievement, but rather a set of practices to sustain a people who refuse to have their lives determined by the fear and denial of death. We believe by so living we offer our non-Christian brothers and sisters an alternative to all politics based on the denial of death. Christians are acutely aware that we are seldom faithful to the gifts God has given us, but we hope the confession of our sins is a sign of hope in a world without hope. This means pacifists do have a response to September 11, 2001. Our response is to continue living in a manner that witnesses to our belief that the world was not changed on September 11, 2001. The world was changed during the celebration of Passover in A.D. 33.”

Stanley Hauerwas, “September 11, 2001: A Pacifist Response”, in Stanley Hauerwas and Frank Lentricchis (eds.), Dissent from the Homeland: Essays after September 11 (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2003), pp. 186, 188.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Richard 09.12.09 at 11:16 am

“Our response is to continue living in a manner that witnesses to our belief that the world was not changed on September 11, 2001. The world was changed during the celebration of Passover in A.D. 33.”

What to say? Amen! is all that’s needed.

2

Tim Chesterton 09.12.09 at 3:04 pm

Indeed.

3

sally 09.16.09 at 9:57 am

…and amen…

4

DH 09.16.09 at 2:43 pm

Hauerwas, if your child was being physically attacked by an intruder would you physically attack the intruder to prevent your child from being hurt?

5

Tony Buglass 09.16.09 at 3:41 pm

Reminds me of the story I heard many years ago of the Quaker who heard noises downstairs, picked up his gun, and went to investigate and found a burglar busily emptying a cupboard. He cocked and pointed the gun, and said “Brother, I would do you no harm for the world, but you’re standing where I am about to shoot.” I thought it was great, until I asked myself what a Quaker was doing with a gun…

DH, if an intruder was attacking my wife or child, I’d make sure he stopped, and if that meant I had to stop him permanently, well, that’s his fault and his tough luck. And since I’m not a skilled fighter, I probably would kill him, because I’d hit him hard enough to make sure he stayed down first time.

However, I think there is a difference between principled pacifism and non-violent resistance on the one hand and the response of the individual caught up in a violent situation on the other. I’m not a pacifist, because I am not prepared to rule out the use of force or violence where appropriate. However, I do believe it should be a last resort; I’m not sure that the response to 9/11 was a last resort, or indeed proportionate.

6

DH 09.16.09 at 4:13 pm

“principled pacifism” sounds like an oxymoron. If one wants to claim being a “pacifist” then it sounds to me that if Haeweras’s answer is different than you “Tony’s” correct answer then to me his answer is incosistent and shows in relation to the many times inScripture where God had people and peoples defend themselves that it IS legitimate.

We can debate the Iraq war but I would say that no one should reject that the elimination of Al Quada is appropriate in light of the analogy and the further discussion.

I’m encouraged by your second paragraph and agree with this sentence “I’m not a pacifist, because I am not prepared to rule out the use of force or violence where appropriate.” I believe war can be a last resort and at the same time can be acceptable to prevent known future attacks as well when a Hitler or like is known to be accumulating weapons with regimes that are hostile to their own people and the world.

7

Tim Chesterton 09.16.09 at 10:44 pm

This is one of those occasions where we can say without hesitation that Jesus changed the teaching of the Old Testament. ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ was the plain teaching of scripture, but Jesus contradicted it; ‘you have heard that it was said… but I say to you, do not resist an evildoer’. The rest of the passage is of course well known and I don’t have to repeat it here (Matthew 5:38-48). Of course this is challenging and of course it’s not easy, but what did we think it meant when he told us to take up our cross and follow him? Giving up chocolate for Lent?

It seems so ironic to me that people who insist on a literal interpretation of the biblical passages about homosexuality run a mile from the literal interpretation of Jesus’ teaching about war. And remember, the early Christians were almost unanimous in interpreting Jesus’ teaching as forbidding Christians from participation in war; I could cite reference after reference from the early church fathers on this subject. But let me hasten to add, the question is not ‘Should America have attacked Iraq or Afghanistan, or should Britain have fought Hitler?’ but rather, what ought the Christians in the USA and Britain (and Germany for that matter) have done? On that subject, the teaching of Jesus seems plain enough to me.

8

Tony Buglass 09.17.09 at 8:01 am

Which of course raises the whole issue of whether or not we follow Jesus’ teachings literally. Am I wrong to conduct the remarriage of divorced people? I believe not, on the grounds that I am practising a ministry of forgiveness and offering the fresh start which is at the heart of the gospel. But that means I must directly contradict Jesus’ explicit teachings on divorce.

Black and white approaches often miss the little grey bits in the middle, don’t they?

9

Kim 09.17.09 at 8:47 am

Except, Tony, that I don’t see any “little grey bits” in Jesus’ teaching and practice of nonviolence - nor did the church until its imperialisation under Constantine - even though on divorce, in the NT itself, we have Matthew’s exceptive clause (19:9) and Paul’s “however” (I Corinthians 7:15). In any case, post 9/11, only an idiot like DH could argue the case for a “just” war in Afghanistan or, a fortiori, in Iraq.

10

DH 09.17.09 at 3:53 pm

Tony, when one looks at the overthrowing of the moneychangers one can see that that IS in conjunction with “standing up for a child who is being violently attacked”. Tim with regard to first century church leaders forbiding war that doesn’t mean they were correct. Jesus never taught about war and in fact says there would be wars and rumors of wars. Just like I don’t believe Jesus would want us to sit back and not violently come to the aid of a child being violently attack so it is with regard to Hitler, Saddam and Al Quada. Literally Jesus never condemned war in all cases. The reason I supported America, UK going to war against Hitler, Saddam and Al Quada is NOT based on an “eye for an eye” but to protect the innocent from future attacks and to give people the opportunity to live under non-evil regimes which abuse their people. I would rather die than live in a regime like Saddam, Hitler or Al Quada. I also reckon that people who live or lived under those regimes would agree. If not then these evil people will continue to murder and subjugate for years to come. Look at Japan, Germany, S. Korea, etc post-WWII. People are living in Democratic nations with no evil regimes. The alternative if Mr. Chesterton would be Hitler and Hirohito regimes. I don’t believe Jesus would want the alternative and have Hirohito and Hitler to be in power. The same goes with Saddam and Al Quada.

Kim, could you refrain calling me an idiot. Remember Scripture says “Like firebrands, arrows and death is a man that says to his neighbor I am only joking.”

11

DH 09.17.09 at 3:58 pm

Guys I do support non-violence but I’m not ignorant to certain inevitables which are that without a response Hitler, Saddam, Al Quada and the Taliban will continue to hurt even more people than otherwise. These situations are “last resorts”. With regard to Tieneman Square, the fall of the Soviets those were things that I totally supported and were non-violent and we didn’t have to go to war to have happen. We did increase our military but no weapons had to be used and they also had a part to play in help removing the Soviet regime. With regard to Tieneman Square the Mao government has not been removed and it is still bad but it had a part to play in making it better than otherwise.

12

DH 09.17.09 at 4:06 pm

“We do not think holiness is an individual achievement..” What in response to “Be ye Holy even as your Father in heaven is Holy.”? Should individuals be Holy to the Lord and beyond just the dear and denial of death? It is BOTH individual and community with a community of Believers being the “Body of Christ”.

With regard to “heroes” what was the “Good Samaritan” or the passage “We press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward by Christ Jesus.” It seems to me “winning the prize” is being a “hero”.

13

Tony Buglass 09.17.09 at 10:53 pm

DH: ““We do not think holiness is an individual achievement..” What in response to “Be ye Holy even as your Father in heaven is Holy.”?”

I’d say holiness is a work of the Holy Spirit, not an individual’s achievement. Yes, I have to make the decision to be holy, and to co-operate wit the work of the Spirit, but I reckon he’s the one who actually does it for/with/through me.

14

Dh 09.18.09 at 3:08 am

How can it be all the holy spirit when one must allow the holy spirit to work? We must choose to allow the holy spirit to help us. It is a covenant

15

Tim Chesterton 09.18.09 at 4:39 am

Tim with regard to first century church leaders forbiding war that doesn’t mean they were correct.

I didn’t say that the early church fathers forbade war (they didn’t have the power to do that - they were members of a marginalised sect) - I said that they understood Jesus to mean that his followers were forbidden from participating in it. And I don’t automatically assume they were correct (although the fact that they were almost unanimous in this view speaks volumes to me about the worldview of the early church); I simply think that, since they lived much closer to Jesus’ time, I think their chances of getting a correct interpretation of his teaching were probably a little better than ours.

Jesus never taught about war and in fact says there would be wars and rumors of wars
Jesus never taught about prostitution either - do you think that means he’s okay with it? He did however teach us to refrain from lust and fornication, so I think it’s a good bet that he’s not okay with prostitution, don’t you? And in the same way, since he taught us, his followers, not to resist evil people but to love our enemies, it’s not hard for me to figure out what his attitude might be to our participation in war. And just because he said there would be wars and rumours of ways doesn’t mean that he thought that was a good thing.

I don’t believe Jesus would want the alternative and have Hirohito and Hitler to be in power. The same goes with Saddam and Al Quada.
I’m not really that interested in what you think Jesus wants, I’m interested in the plain meaning of what he actually said. And you know what, Augustus and Nero and Herd and Pontius Pilate were pretty nasty characters too, but he didn’t tell his followers to become freedom fighters and overthrow the Roman and Jewish dictators - he told them to love their enemies and preach the gospel.

Once again, DH, I’m fascinated by how quickly you, the prolific quoter of scripture, abandon the plain teaching of scripture when it does against your culturally conditioned worldview.

16

DH 09.18.09 at 2:40 pm

Tim, the first century church thought that the resurrection from the dead would occuir in their time and they were wron.g The Apostle Paul mentions many a “false teaching” and “false doctrine” so for you to say they had “a greater chance of being wrong right might be a hasty generalization.

Scripture mentions specifically that prostitution is a sin and with Jesus being fully God and fully man then He also thought it was sin as well. Jesus never addresses self defense. Did you read my analogy of a parent comeing to the aid of a child being attacked? When one looks at Scripture God’s Word and with Jesus being God Jesus’s Word there are many times where God’s people and individuals where self defense and the prevention of potential future atrocities was called for by God and it doesn’t contradict what Jesus says in any way.

Jesus knew that the people of Israel were outnumbered and they were. Have you read history with regard to Masada? If Jesus asked the people of Israel to revolt it would have been suicide. I do love my enemies. Also I look at ALL of Scripture and with Jesus being fully God ALL of Scripture must be looked at. Also don’t get me wrong.

You need to answer the question: If you had a child being attacked by an intruder in a violent way against your child, do you believe it is wrong come at the intruder in a violent way to prevent your child from being hurt? Don’t you believe Jesus would think it would be wrong to just sit there? In the absolute sense “pushing” is violent or any physical action. If one looks at the overthrowing of the moneychangers one can see there were times where violence was required by Jesus. Even Jesus said “The Kingdom of God suffers violence and the violence take it by force.”

So with regard to coming to the aid of children being attacked violently so it it is in the same way with regard to Hitler, Saddam, etc. on a grander scale in that the Belgium, Czech, etc. were “children” in the sight of Hitler; the people of Korea, China and Burma were “children” in the sight of Hirohito; the people of Iraq were “children” in the sight of Saddam and the people in the NY towers were “children” in the sight of Al Quada; etc.

17

DH 09.18.09 at 2:41 pm

I’m fascinated how you don’t realize that the whole Bible is God’s Word and that Jesus being fully God the whole Word is His Words not just the Word’s He directly said while physically on this earth.

So again “You need to answer the question: If you had a child being attacked by an intruder in a violent way against your child, do you believe it is wrong come at the intruder in a violent way to prevent your child from being hurt?”

18

tortoise 09.18.09 at 4:46 pm

Jesus never addresses self defense.

“But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”

In what way is that not addressing self-defence?

19

Tim Chesterton 09.18.09 at 5:31 pm

I’m fascinated how you don’t realize that the whole Bible is God’s Word
The whole Bible is God’s word, and yet Jesus felt free to contradict it: “You have heard that it was said… but I say to you…” In fact, the Bible never uses the term ‘Word of God’ to describe itself. It’s used to describe the messages of the prophets, the preaching of the Gospel, and supremely to describe Jesus himself.

Tim, the first century church thought that the resurrection from the dead would occuir in their time and they were wron.g The Apostle Paul mentions many a “false teaching” and “false doctrine” so for you to say they had “a greater chance of being wrong right might be a hasty generalization.
Are you saying that Paul was wrong about the timing of the resurrection, DH? Would that be an error in the Bible? Anyway, you’d better hope that the early church fathers were wrong more often than they were right, since they were the ones who decided which books got into the Bible…!

You need to answer the question: If you had a child being attacked by an intruder in a violent way against your child, do you believe it is wrong come at the intruder in a violent way to prevent your child from being hurt?
I have read your question, DH, many times. You set up a false dichotomy there, giving me only two choices. In fact, there are not usually only two choices (non-resistance or deadly force) - there are many more in between. The issue is far too complicated for short blog responses, but John Howard Yoder wrote an excellent little book considering exactly this question. It is called, ‘What Would You Do?’, and I would urge you to read it and ponder it before posing this simplistic black or white choice to me again.

Finally, let me point out what you are doing here. I have quoted you the plain teaching of Jesus, which is affirmed in the epistles (see Romans 12:14-21 and 1 Peter 2:21-23, for example) and was almost unanimously understood by the church fathers as forbidding Christians to participate in war. In response, you have quoted me an experiential question - ‘What would you do if your child was being attacked…’ In other words, you have sided with experience over the teaching of scripture.

Well, in response I would say to you, why won’t you allow that procedure over homosexuality? If you were to come to me with biblical texts purporting to condemn faithful monogamous same-sex unions, I could reply ‘But what if your daughter told you that she has always known she was a lesbian, and has prayed many times to God to take away her same-sex orientation, with no answer, and has finally found peace by accepting herself and committing herself in a faithful monogamous union with a same-sex partner’ (which, by the way, is a true account of my family). I’m sure you would immediately fire six rounds of scripture from the hip at that example!

So, tell me, why is the argument from experience allowed in the case of war and violence, but not allowed in the case of homosexuality? Inquiring minds want to know…

20

DH 09.18.09 at 7:36 pm

Tortoise, I never said that Jesus didn’t address self defense. I have no idea where you stated that quote toward me. What I’m saying is that there were times where Jesus came to the aid of the people by over-throwing the moneychangers. When one understands that Jesus is fully God and that at times God called God’s people and individuals to come to the aid of the innocent who were being violently attacked.

You still didn’t answer my question regarding the analogy I presented and to me God would not want us to sit there and not do things that would prevent a person from attacking an innocent third party as innocent as a child.

Tim with regard to your first paragraph that is YOUR interpretation. God’s Word is in reference to the Bible because it is “God inspired” which Scripture DOES say about itself. “All Scripture is given by inspiration from God….”

With regard to your second paragraph, the understanding that the resurrection from the dead would happen in their lifetime is not in Scripture it is extra-biblical and is thus not something that is “wrong from the Bible” itself. Also it was God who dictated to the people what books were part of “God’s Word”. They had clear standards that were God breathed to determine the books were in the Bible and were God’s Word.

Why won’t I use the same thing regardin homosexuality? because homosexuality is specifically condemned by God’s Word and war is not. Jesus nor in the Epistles is war specifically condemned in the absolute way as you suggest. Homosexuality IS ref. 1 Cor 6, Romans 1, Lev, etc. It isn’t experience but what the Word of God specifically says and it does not support your conclusion in that Jesus or in God’s Word does it say in every case that “war is wrong”. However, Scripture does state 1 Cor 6 which specifically mentions that homosexuality is a sin.

Tim I don’t believe it is a false dichotomy. If in the situation the person had a knife and is about to slash a girl I would consider it repulsive not to do something violent that would prevent the person from doing that.

Here is another one along those same lines. If a guy had a bomb and was about to blow up a public place would it be wrong for the police to kill the guy if the police had exhausted all other options?

I believe the Yoder guy’s view on the subject are repulsive. However, I do believe people should do things short of the war and violence first before responding that way. However, I believe it is wrong to say that violence is wrong or that war is wrong in the absolute sense when Scripture is clear on the subject. It isn’t from experience that I believe these things but what God’s Word says.

21

tortoise 09.18.09 at 8:33 pm

Tortoise, I never said that Jesus didn’t address self defense.

Er, yes, you did…

I have no idea where you stated that quote toward me.

… It’s right there in your comment marked # 16 in this thread, time-stamped 09.18.09 at 2:40 pm, the second sentence of the second paragraph.

If you didn’t mean to say it, then fair enough I suppose - although things do get a bit difficult in a conversation when people don’t mean what they say or say what they mean. Still, is there anything else in your comments that you’d like to disown, modify or otherwise back-pedal on?

22

PamBG 09.18.09 at 9:08 pm

Don’t you believe Jesus would think it would be wrong to just sit there?

You are confusing “pacifism” with “passivity”

“Pacifism” does not mean “You are not allowed to do anything to defend your family in heat of the moment”. (Although I still think that God would want me to ask for forgiveness if I ended up killing the person who was coming at my child.)

“Pacifism” means “You don’t plot and scheme to use force to get back at someone who has hurt you”.

23

Tim Chesterton 09.18.09 at 9:40 pm

I believe the Yoder guy’s view on the subject are repulsive

Without reading him? I find thatrepulsive!

By the way, ‘the Yoder guy’ was the most highly respected Mennonite theologian of the second half of the twentieth century - I think he deserves a slightly different description than ‘the Yoder guy’.

However, let me give you a taste. In his first chapter Yoder specifically addresses the question of whether there are only two options, non-resistance or lethal force. Here are the options as Yoder lists them (I summarise his descriptions here):

1. Tragedy - the attacker is able to carry out his lethal plan.

2. Martyrdom - Christian history has many instances of people giving their lives because they behaved in a Christian way in the face of evil. This could apply to either (a) the victim, or (b) the defender, who interjected himself in between the attacker and victim in such a way as to allow the victim to escape, but at the cost of his or her own life.

3. Another way out - possibilities include:
(a) The natural way - the defender might think of some way to disarm the attacker emotionally - a loving gesture, a display of moral authority, use of non-lethal force or a ruse of some kind. Instances like this are reported with striking frequency throughout religious biographical literature. They are, however, less common when the defender is armed.
(b) The providential way. God may in fact protect the victim and defender in a way that we cannot predict or control.

4. Attempted killing. This could lead to two options:
(a) Successful - as a defender I succeed in killing the attacker - which I do on no authority but my own, in the belief that a jury of my peers would justify my actions.
(b) Unsuccessful - I might try to defend the victim but fail, and thus make matters worse. I quote: ‘If the aggressor has superior force (likely, since he was prepared for the attack). if he has the unthinking drive of the perverted spirit which will not stop for fear or pain (also likely, if he is as inaccessible to reason as the stock argument assumes), or if he is a better shot than I, then my effort stop stop him with his kind of weapon may only make the matter worse…Not only will the victim be killed, but so will I, the defender.

Yoder then goes on in the chapter to address these options from the point of view of a follower of Jesus.

Finally, DH, let me give you a different ‘what if’. You are a bomb-aimer on a bomber in WW2, flying over a German city - the city of Dresden, on FEbruary 14th 1945. Your bomber is one of over a thousand, and the bombing is intended to set up a fire storm which will kill over 135,000 civilians over a three day period. Many of those civilians are women and children, some of them are helpless babies, and many of them are fellow-Christians of yours. You are the bomb-aimer. Now, DH, as a devout Christian, what would you do?

24

PamBG 09.18.09 at 11:16 pm

You are the bomb-aimer. Now, DH, as a devout Christian, what would you do?

Kill them because God is on America’s side.

I think (unless I missed it?) Yoder missed an option which Miroslav Volf and others have pointed out (this is my paraphrasing): the idea that God understands the concept of a “least worst option”. That it is always sinful to kill but if I am forced to kill in order to defend my own life or the life of a family member, I too can be forgiven. We “justify” violence - we try to think of situations when our violence will be “just” - because we don’t like to think of ourselves as sinning in such a difficult situation.

So the $64,000 question is: do we REALLY believe that we are all forgiven sinners?

25

Kevin Hargaden 09.19.09 at 9:13 am

Kill them because God is on America’s side

Very witty. :)

26

PamBG 09.19.09 at 7:07 pm

Yeah, it would be witty if it weren’t true, I suppose! :-0

27

Kevin Hargaden 09.19.09 at 10:03 pm

Why would God pick sides between states?

If we get to the nub of such issues, the non-violence problem might be easier to resolve…

28

Jonathan Marlowe 09.20.09 at 2:52 am

29

DH 09.21.09 at 4:47 pm

Well with regard to “side” one has to look at the ones who caused it in the first place and the people who are being abused by an evil dictator as well. For Kevin to suggest that both sides are wrong when innocent nations were attacked by Hitler to me is repulsive. With regard to “Yoder” the Christian response is to come to the defense of the child. The Christian thing to do is do everything to prevent the child from being killed with the progression being non-violence all the way up to the last resort if it is known that the child wil definitely be killed.

Pam, maybe I’m more of a “pascifist” then one realizes. With regard to using force to get back at someone. With regard to war eliminating a person who leads an evil regime is not “getting back at someone” but is coming to the aid of people who are being repressed and to prevent future repression.

With regard to Dresden one has to look at the intent and to what extent the intelligence of the situation. That includes how much of the military complex was in Dresden. Let me change the analogy to the situations in Japan. It is clearly evident that millions of lives were saved at the hand of the US. With two bombs a million lives were saved. Remember the US told Japan ahead of time to surrend or else. If I remember the same occurred in Dresden if my memory is correct.
It is clear that Hitler was fighting to the end the same with Imperial Japan. One must do actions which limit future years of war and thus limit future lives being lost.

Pam, I believe we are forgiven sinners if one has accepted Christ as their Savior and on a day to day basis asks forgiveness for Sanctification and closer relationship to God purpose. I don’t believe it is necessary to ask forgiveness if ones heart is right in the self defense of the child situation. It is not wrong to kill someone it is wrong to murder someone. Coming to the aid of a child or innocent nation or innocent people within a nation is not “murder”.

30

Tony Buglass 09.21.09 at 6:04 pm

” If I remember the same occurred in Dresden if my memory is correct.”

No, there was no invitation to surrender, or anything to spare the city.

The raid has often been condemned on the grounds that Dresden wasn’t a military or strategic target. That isn’t true - it was an industrial centre, and the industries there were producing aircraft instruments, optical and electrical tools, etc. So, insofar as there was a need to deal with German industry, Dresden was a legitimate target. However, the scale of the attack, 3 waves in less than 24 hours, each one of which along would have devastated the city, was over the top - completely disproportionate.

The root problem as I read it is the brutalising effect of war. When the Allies first went to war, we were shocked at German bombing of cities. By the time the war had progressed a few years, we were bombing more than they ever achieved. In the ethics of that situation, there are no winners.

31

DH 09.21.09 at 7:43 pm

but Tony, if Germany wouldn’t have attacked innocent nations and innocent people within those nations then the need for a response would not be there. The winner IS the Allies by the very nature of how quickly Germany, Japan and other nations were able to rebuild to such a way as to be part of the democratic community. What would have happened if Germany, Japan and others were allowed to succeed? When one looks ta that one CAN see the “winners”.

32

Tony Buglass 09.21.09 at 8:43 pm

You miss the point, DH. Of course I think it is better that we won than the Axis. And, yes, I agree, they started it, and so carry a great deal of the responsibility for what happened.

However, as I suggested, we started off the war condemning them for what they did, and trying to do things differently. As the war progressed, we became more brutalised and ready to do as much damage as possible. I accept that bombing of German industry was necessary as part of neutralising the German war machine. I also know that for the first few years we were lucky to be able to hit a city, let alone an industrial estate. But the strategy became one of terror bombing, of deliberately targetting civilian populations en masse, and Dresden was the worst example of that. Even if we accept that it was a justifiable target, bombing it in such weight of numbers and with such severity, and then doing it again twice - well, it was unnecessary. The US B17s and B24s which went in the next morning simply unloaded their bombloads into an inferno; there was no target visible, because the city was literally ablaze from end to end, and nothing to bomb. So they bombed anyway.

In such a situation, the only thing I can say is it was unnecessary. In ethical terms, there were no winners, because we came down to their level, and did what we ourselves had earlier condemned. Broadening the argument into a justification of WW2 neither addresses nor satisfies that point.

33

Tim Chesterton 09.21.09 at 11:11 pm

DH, you have not answered my question. What would you have done if you were the bomb-aimer? you have told me that protecting the innocent little girl from the rapist or attacker who is about to kill her is a moral imperative for a Christian. Well, there were many such little girls in Dresden. And what about your fellow-Christians there? We are told that all will know that we are Jesus’ disciples if we have love for one another. How is this compatible with dropping the bombs that would kill your fellow-Christians?

34

Kevin Hargaden 09.22.09 at 9:16 am

“For Kevin to suggest that both sides are wrong when innocent nations were attacked by Hitler to me is repulsive.”

I have not actually suggested anything like it. I actually asked:
“Why would God pick sides between states? ”

God is not with America now and nor was he with them in World War II. God is with God. He is for us, but that means all of us. The SS as much as the Navy Seals.

The SS, by the way, wore belt buckles that read “Gott mit uns”. They were no more heretical in that than if my own Irish army, neutral as it is and engaged only in peacekeeping duties and civic emergencies, were to wear it.

It is fascinating that a conversation about non-violence can be railroaded so rapidly into discussions of the 2nd World War and the legitimacy of the Allies. We are convinced that that was our “good” war, our authentic fight against evil war. And maybe it was. But in fighting it, we still did things that left us looking far more evil than can be explained away by military strategy.

And more fundamentally again, we talk about World War II to avoid talking about Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands, Iraq I, Iraq II, Afghanistan and the countless other Allied/NATO wars of disputed legitimacy since then.

We are addicted to violence. May God be with us.

35

DH 09.22.09 at 4:18 pm

I don’t believe that God was for people who brutalized people and murdered innocent people and nations. When it comes to the defense of the innocent violence is sometimes violence is needed as a last resort to prevent future atrocities. God didn’t pick sides but was against any nation that intentionally murdered innocent people and innocent nations. The German did that. This response goes for in response to Tims comments as well.

Kevin was God with Pharoah at the time of Moses when he was the perpetrator of murder of the Israelite people? With regard to Korea the Chinese and the Communists perpetrated the murder, Vietnam the same thing, Falklands Argentina attacked the innocent colony of the Falklands, Iraq one Saddam attacked the innocent nations and people of Kuwait, Iraq II Saddam needed to be eliminated by him murdering his own people and his desire to do more violence in the future, etc. This isn’t an “addiction to violence” but something has to be done to prevent future atrocities from occurring.

With regard to the “question” I repeat Patrick Henry “Give me liberty or give me death.” I would rather die than live under Saddam, Hitler, etc. regimes. Look at Germans, Japanese, S. Koreans, etc. now. Don’t you think they are thankful for the sacrifices made for the freedom they experience? Don’t you believe that God is pleased that these nations are having the freedom they have?

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Kim 09.22.09 at 5:49 pm

I repeat Patrick Henry “Give me liberty or give me death.”

That’ll be a real winner for the Brits on this blog! And is that the same Patrick Henry who used propaganda, whipping up fears of native American and slave rebellions, to manipulate folk into taking up arms against the British? The same Patrick Henry, the Anti-Federalist, who opposed the US Constitution? And the same Patrick Henry who resisted Jefferson’s Bill on Religious Freedom in the Virginia Assembly in 1779? Besides, didn’t he steal that line from Jesus before Pilate - “Give me liberty or give me death”? Oops, on second thought, that was Barabbas, the notorious terrorist.

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DH 09.22.09 at 6:42 pm

He resisted Jeffrerson’s “seperation of church and state” because he understood the misunderstanding people could have toward Jefferson when Jefferson meant “not to have a state religion” as opposed to the atheists and agnostics who strive to take religion out of the state all together. Fear against the British at that was legitimate. Also one needs to recognize that there was stong battle between “states-rights” vs. Federalism. Thank God parts of both were worked into the law having the perfect systems of “balance of power” and “checks and balances”. With regard to Barabbas he stole as well as murdered. To me the analogy you are using is inadequate.

P.S. I didn’t state the “line” to incite hostility. We all can learn from the attitude in the face of atrocities from Henry. I have the utmost respect for the British people but the fact remains that during the War of Indpendence time it was a difficult time in British and American history respectively.

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PamBG 09.22.09 at 10:24 pm

I don’t believe that God was for people who brutalized people and murdered innocent people and nations.

Well, that is not a theology of grace.

And, since it needs repeating: 6 month old German babies in Dresden didn’t brutalize or murder innocent anyones.

You are all for “individuality” when it comes to yourself and to Americans. But now those six-month old babies who died in Dresden don’t get to be individuals because they were part of The Evil Empire? Is that how it works: a theology of grace for the Good Guys and a theology of retribution for the Bad Guys?

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Tim Chesterton 09.22.09 at 10:26 pm

I repeat my last post:

DH, you have not answered my question. What would you have done if you were the bomb-aimer? you have told me that protecting the innocent little girl from the rapist or attacker who is about to kill her is a moral imperative for a Christian. Well, there were many such little girls in Dresden. And what about your fellow-Christians there? We are told that all will know that we are Jesus’ disciples if we have love for one another. How is this compatible with dropping the bombs that would kill your fellow-Christians?

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DH 09.23.09 at 3:43 pm

Tim, I believe I answered your question but if you think I haven’t fine. I believe you didn’t answer my question in the first place by saying “it is a false dichotomy” when in fact it is not. The difficult thing is that the Nazi’s hid their complex around the innocent and the only way to remove their complex, shortening the war and thus saving thousands of lives was to remove it. One could bring up Japan at the end and those things were necessary in that Imperial Japan was fighting to the last man and to remove the regime without what happened would have cost over 1/2 million lives and that is conservative figures. When one looks at post-WWII Germany and Japan one only has to ask the residents how things have been over the past 40 years and they will be thankful for the freedom and the lack of hostile regimes they are experiencing.

These things I’m saying is not in support of retribution for that is not the reasons for going to War in WWII but to eliminate evil regimes from doing terrible things in the future.

Tim, I answered your question and I will make a statement putting myself as a Christian in Dresden. If I were a Christian in Dresden and the choice was to die in the bombing or have the Nazi regime be in power for a decade I would rather die. Again I mentioned Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death.” If the choice was to die under Hitler or live under Hitler I would rather die. I would rather die fighting against Hitler and those type of regimes than to live not fight against Hitler type regimes. “Greater love have no man than this than a man lay down his life for his friends.”

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Tim Chesterton 09.23.09 at 4:16 pm

If I were a Christian in Dresden and the choice was to die in the bombing or have the Nazi regime be in power for a decade I would rather die.
That’s very noble of you DH, but do you have the right to make that decision for someone else? Jesus said “Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends”, not “Greater love has no man than this, that he give his life through no decision of his own, because someone else decides that his death is necessary”. Where, oh where, is the teaching of Jesus in any of this?

The difficult thing is that the Nazi’s hid their complex around the innocent and the only way to remove their complex, shortening the war and thus saving thousands of lives was to remove it.
Well, you still haven’t given me a straight answer, but I think what you’re saying is that if you were the bomb-aimer you would go ahead and kill the innocent children, and also the innocent Christian brothers and sisters, because your philosophy is that the end justifies the means.

So, in your philosophical system many thousands of innocent people get killed because the end justifies the means. There is absolutely no doubt that this philosophical system kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people every year around the world today. In my philosophical system (which, unlike yours, is based on the actual words of Jesus), in the very rare hypothetical case you have set out for me, where no other means of deterring the attacker works, I would choose not to use lethal force on the attacker because Jesus forbids this. My obedience to Jesus might lead to my own death and it might lead to the death of the victim as well. But I think that as long as you are ready to kill the innocent yourself in time of war, your criticism of my decision here is rather hypocritical.

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DH 09.23.09 at 4:41 pm

So Tim, you would rather have people be forced to live under evil regimes and have hundreds of thousands of people murdered?

How about this question. If you were in Cambodia where Pol Pot murdered 6 million people and lets say in 1973 people had an opportunity to assasinate him would it be considered acceptable when 6 million people lives would not have been killed? We could say this during Hitler’s time. We could say this regarding Osama Bin Laden.

Tim your statement here: “That’s very noble of you DH, but do you have the right to make that decision for someone else?” Is why people are forced to live under evil regimes unecessarily.

With regard to Jesus’s teaching or what Scripture says because what is in the rest of SCripture is just as much Jesus’s teaching in that Jesus is fully God. Scripture doesn’t say “war is wrong” in the absolute sense. In fact Jesus never addressed war as being wrong specifically. Scripture does say homosexuality specifically is wrong and is even in the NT in 1 Cor 6 and Romans 1.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” - Edmond Burke

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Tim Chesterton 09.23.09 at 5:42 pm

So Tim, you would rather have people be forced to live under evil regimes and have hundreds of thousands of people murdered?

The question is not what I would rather have, but what God would rather have. And the Bible makes it plain that it is in Jesus that we see the highest revelation of God’s will for us. Colossians says that he is ‘the image of the invisible God’, and Hebrews says that he brought a better covenant than the old covenant. He and his followers felt quite free to set aside the plain teaching of the Old Testament with regard to observation of food laws and circumcision, and also with regard to war. Jesus said, ‘love your enemies and pray for those who hate you’. How much plainer than that do you want, DH? ‘Enemies’ in his day meant the Roman army that was oppressing the people of Israel, but Jesus refused to take the role of the conquering Messiah (which everyone expected), leading Israel’s armies, but chose instead to love his enemies and accept death at their hands. Paul tells us in Romans 12:9-21 to bless our persecutors, to not repay anyone evil for evil, to turn away from vengeance, to give our enemies food and drink; ‘Do not be overcome by evil’ (meaning, in context, violence) but overcome evil with good’. And in 1 Peter 2:21-25 we are specifically called to follow the example of Jesus by refusing to return evil for evil and abuse for abuse. This, in fact, is what it means for us to take up our cross and follow Jesus.

And by the way, who is talking about ‘doing nothing’? Pacifism is not passivism. Paul talks about actively doing good to your enemies. WW2 would never have happened if the Allies had not felt the need to exact revenge on Germany for WW1. Your president, Woodrow Wilson, wanted a fourteen point peace plan which would indeed have sought to do good to the German people, just as your Marshall Plan did after WW2. But never mind secular governments; the people of God (meaning the church) are called to reach out in love to all people rather than reaching out in war, helping the needy and working for reconciliation everywhere. I think it’s the height of ignorance for you to accuse us pacifists of being ‘good men doing nothing’. The historic peace churches (Mennonites and Quakers) have had an effect on the world far beyond their numbers because of how active they are in works of compassion around the world. To you, ‘doing nothing’ means ‘fighting no-one’; if good men aren’t fighting, they’re obviously ‘doing nothing’. But I would suggest to you that Jesus might have a different view on that subject!

Anyway, I’m done. I’ve said my piece; I think what you are advocating here is plain faithlessness to the teaching of Jesus, his apostles, and the first three Christian centuries. But I know I am not going to convince you (and i know that in future you are again going to accuse us pacifists of being the ones who are unfaithful to God), so I will give you the last word.

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Kim 09.23.09 at 6:00 pm

Tim, talking to DH - well, put it like this: if the Chinese ever decide to give the Great Wall a makeover … Mind, DH is a very nice wall.

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DH 09.23.09 at 8:42 pm

Tim, was it violent for Jesus to use a whip to overthrow the moneychangers? I agree it isn’t what I want but God that is why God doesn’t desire people to live under evil regimes and for dictators to murder their own people. That is why God told the Israelities to destroy the “ites” when they were murdering their own people and were worshiping false gods in such a way that was murdering people.

You mention this “WW2 would never have happened if the Allies had not felt the need to exact revenge on Germany for WW1.” I disagree. The Germans were the agressors in WWI and it was right for the Allies to limit the military of the Germans being they were the agressors. It was the Allies pre-WWII that were wimps and didn’t stand by as German was building a complex that destroyed Europe during WWII. We had your great PM Chamberlain believing that Hitler would never lie by saying “peace in our time” when at the hand of that did his destruction.

You say it is the height of argoance to being up the quote by Burke. I say it is the height of ignorance that believes that there aren’t some leaders (I say some not all) who no amount of negotiations work for them to where their agression is inevitable aka Hitler, Al Quada, etc. When an agressor is going to commit inevitable agressive acts then those agressors must be eliminated or else the inevitable will happen. It is the height of ignorance to believe that some agressors are agressors inevitably.

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