An article entitled ‘Will the bombing bring peace?’ authored by Johann Christoph Arnold, appeared on the Plough publishing blog feed on the 11th of September 2014.
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.
No healthy individual or civilised community wants war. At the same time, Christians don’t have to walk around blindly ignoring the true nature of a clear and determined enemy, all in the name of peace. Particularly an enemy, such as I.S (Islamic State) who has already proven their hostile intentions towards Christians, Jews and the West in general.
Costello and Arnold’s historical comparisons are fair. However, I’m yet to see the same euphoria that was exhibited prior to World War one, in responses to the West’s involvement in this war against I.S.
What is of immediate concern is the shock and disillusionment at the continued allegiance of the pulpit with what can only be called a resurgence of ‘positive Christianity’. (Seen in the alignment of the pulpit with excessive political correctness, supported by a Gospel that has been emptied of its true content.)[i] Where Costello is wrong is not only in his assumptions about people celebrating war, but also his inability to see the compromise and surrender of theology into the service of ideology.
People aren’t celebrating the West going to War against I.S. In fact the biggest enemy at the moment is complacency and indifference in the face of a determined enemy. An enemy determined to make an enemy of the West and destroy all who show any form of dissent or opposition.
Warnings against complacency and indifference come at us from different historical voices. One of the strongest comes from pacifist and evolutionary biologist, Vernon Kellogg. His observations of the Germans and their adherence to ideology during World War One, demonstrates the need to take action in the face of a socio-political ideology determined to make itself lord of all:
‘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 [social 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).
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. They are then used by aggressors, and spectators alike, as evidence of a ‘disproportionate’, ‘inappropriate’ and unethical response.
Enablers, enable abuse. They do so by their silence and discounting of the severity of evidence before their eyes. Enablers don’t want to get involved, because they either have something to gain or something to lose. Fear of retribution or loss of something personally profitable, trumps standing up for the truth.
Instances include Israel’s recent response to ideological belligerents in Gaza and the West. Israel had two fronts, Gaza and the internet. 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 innocent civilians. Australian involvement is not to make war for the sake of war.
In answer to Tim Costello and Johann Christoph Arnold: nobody wants a war outside those bringing war to us (and perhaps some extremist fringe dwellers that see this as an opportunity to further their own self interests).
An abysmal situation cannot be held back by passivity, apathy, a will-to-power, appeasement or a poorly informed soft diplomacy.
Responsible action requires the restraint of faith in Christ, open communication, purpose, a unified team and the courage to dedicate a wide variety of resources to neutralise blatant threats to the innocent.
The old challenges of socialist-fascist imperialism, with its deification of men, society and sin, and the new masks it wears, must be answered. The end and actions must not be driven by an apathy, that thrives on the selective protests and permissions of the lords of neo-tolerance.
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 are expressed, in the often quoted statement made by Kennedy who said: ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’
The atmosphere which surrounds us, illustrates the need for a firm, restrained response. I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that the world is seeing the resurgence of fascism. When we witness mass rallies and violence under flags with White script on Black fabric in the East, and rainbow flags that are paraded, in the name of pride down main streets in the West, what we are witnessing is the rise of fascism proper.
Under one there is war, gaol for dissidents and beheadings. Under the other, there is indoctrination, re-education classes, and law suits against anyone who dare to stand by valid opposing view.
If, as Costello implies, there is any joy being taken in belligerency, we would do well to start our investigation there.
There is no doubt that the path ahead is treacherous. There is no room for belligerency from the pulpit, whether that be in support of Left or Right ideological platforms, but what cannot be forgotten is:
‘…personal safety should not excuse[s] timidity in the pulpit’ [or podium].
“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.”
(Paul Schneider) [ii]
If we completely follow along in agreement with Costello and Arnold, or with those who demand allegiance to their views without question, we, the Church may get to the point where laments like Schieder’s are common place once again.
It’s not at all that surprising to see parallels between the past and present.
The Abyss is opposed to love. Yet the Abyss and it’s agents frame themselves as being the very epitome of love.
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)
References (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
Photo credit: ‘Early 1960s. Before the construction of the Berlin Wall West German soldiers stare down the East after a young woman makes it across the line to the West.’ – Drive Thru History.
(Encore post. Originally posted Sep 21, 2014)