An article entitled ‘Will the bombing bring peace?’ authored by Johann Christoph Arnold, appeared on the Plough publishing blog feed on the 11th of this month.
Not long after that, Tim Costello, Uniting Church minister and CEO of World Vision Australia, authored a piece headlined: ‘Going to war no time for joy’
The general flow of both articles advocates a caveat that falls just short of a protest in favour of non-involvement in military action against the self-proclaimed and militaristic ‘Islamic State movement’.
I appreciated the authors caution and respect the underlying pacifism expressed by their concerns.
However, I found both articles disappointing to read.
Whilst written well, they seem reactionary, unnecessary and out of touch with what the majority really think about this subject. At least Costello rests his concerns on experience when he points out the devastating aftermath of war.
Still, no healthy individual or civilized community wants conflict. Neither do Christians, in the name of peace, have to walk blindly around propagating an ignorance about the true nature of a clear and determined enemy; particularly one that has already proven their hostile intentions towards Christians, Jews and the West in general.
Costello and Arnold’s historical comparisons are fair. However, I am yet to see the euphoria over the West’s involvement in this war, especially to the degree of enthusiasm that was on display in World War One.
What I do see constantly though is shock and disillusionment at the continued allegiance of the pulpit with ‘positive Christianity’ (those things which don’t offend or directly challenge left/right ideologies), and the alignment of the pulpit with the politically correct preaching of a Gospel emptied of its true content.[i]
To even suggest, something Costello seems to do, that people are celebrating the West going to War, is to overlook certain facts. First, there is a difference between a nation who enters a conflict boisterously and imperialistically, and a nation who enters a conflict in order to take action so as to assist others in a time of need.
Second, pacifist and evolutionary biologist, Vernon Kellogg, in his observation of Germans and their adherence to ideology in World War One demonstrates point one:
‘For their point of view does not permit of a live-and-let-live kind of carrying on. It is a point of view that justifies itself by a whole-hearted acceptance of the worst of Neo-Darwinism, the Allmacht of natural selection applied rigorously to human life and society and Kultur…I was never convinced. That is, never convinced that for the good of the world the Germans should win this war, completely and terribly.And this conviction, thus gained, meant the conversion of a pacifist to an ardent supporter, not of War, but of this war; of fighting this war to a definitive end.’
(Headquarters Nights (1917:23).
Third, we only need to look as far as the parable of the Good Samaritan and his choice to reasonably protect and provide, when and where he could (Luke 10:25) with complete disregard for his own personal approval ratings.
Finally, when conflict is imposed on us, a good percentage of the time it will mean being drawn into a position where most just “push backs” are twisted and used by aggressors, and spectators alike, as evidence of a ‘disproportionate’, ‘inappropriate’ and unethical response.
For example: it is well-known that loving enablers enable abuse. They do this through discounting the severity of evidence before their eyes, because they don’t want to get involved, have something to gain or fear retribution if they do.
In answer to Tim Costello and Johann Christoph Arnold: nobody wants a war outside those bringing war to us, and perhaps some fringe dwellers that see an opportunity to further their own ends.
Instances include Israel’s recent response to ideological belligerents in Gaza and the West. Israel had two fronts, Gaza and the internet, where the Israeli defence force had to fight off a constant stream of misleading information that was circulating on social media.
In the case of Australia, our involvement, as the Prime Minister has made clear, is to assist in the defence and provision of humanitarian aid to innocents. It is not to make war for the sake of war, or slyly create a police state while everybody’s distracted with petty first-world problems, such as how to remove a new free U2 album from an ipod et.al.
In response to Johann Christoph Arnold:
The abyss is opposed to love, yet frames itself as being the very epitome of love.
An abysmal situation cannot be held back by passivity, apathy, a will-to-power, appeasement or a poorly informed soft diplomacy.
Responsible action here requires faith, open communication, purpose, a unified team and the courage to dedicate a wide variety of resources to neutralize it.
That is love speaking in truth; proclaiming just mercy and merciful justice in word, deed and attitude.
When it comes to the old challenges of fascist imperialism, with its deification of society and sin, and the new masks it wears, we cannot apply the brilliant words of Martin Luther King Jnr without falling in servitude to an ideologically driven apathy, that thrives on the selective protests and permissions of the lords of neo-tolerance.
Like being unable to completely apply the exceptional content of John F. Kennedy’s June 10 speech in 1963, where he calls the world away from believing in a “Pax Americana” towards striving for a peace-for-all, understanding and mutual respect.The West must be willing to recognize that the current context is different. We cannot so easily reconcile it with Kennedy or even with King’s protest “for a revolution of values that reconciles with wisdom, justice and love.” (‘Beyond Vietnam’, Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967)
With regards to the crisis in Iraq and Syria, “just war” advocates do not have to dig very deep to make their case.
The basics of which could be expressed, ironically, from the often quoted statement made by Kennedy who said: ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’
Considering the atmosphere which surrounds us, illustrated as it is by flags of White script on Black fabric that march in the East, and the lined, multi-coloured flags that parade, in the name of pride down main streets in the West – where under one there is war and beheadings, under the other court rulings and re-education classes, I do not think that it is a stretch to say that the world is seeing the resurgence of fascism.
If, as Costello implies, there is any joy being taken in belligerency, we would do well to start our investigation there.
The path ahead is treacherous, but:
‘Not even personal safety excuse[s] timidity in the pulpit’ [or podium] [ii]
May we not get to the point where we hear the laments like this:
“It is not that I and all the rest of us have said too much in our sermons, but rather that we have said far too little.” (ibid)
It is not at all that surprising to see parallels between the now and the then. There is also some comfort in the fact that we can stand on the shoulders of Christian brothers and sisters, who out of the past speak to us and who, out of their mistakes, teach us to do better.
So we stand in agreement with Ezekiel, Clement of Rome and Ambrose of Milan:
‘As I live, says the Lord, I take not pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather [his correction]; that he should turn from his way and live’
But in doing so we also hear and act on the clear challenge of Clement:
‘Let us cleave, to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it.’
(Clement, First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter XV)
Sources (not otherwise linked):
[i] I am paraphrasing a statement made by Dean Stroud in ‘Preaching in the Shadow of Hitler’ (2013, p.8).
[ii] ‘Paul Schneider, the 1st Pastor to die in a Concentration camp, in a letter to his wife from his jail cell on Nov. 14, 1937 on Preaching in Nazi Germany’ – Stroud, D. 2013 Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow: Sermons of Resistance, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p.47