The War on Terror, though never officially declared a war, has been raging for almost a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the core of this war is a simple, yet highly complex, issue. It is a disparity of wealth. The U.S., on one side, represents the power and wealth of a first world nation that has, through its political policy and also through the corporations that represent it, stepped on a few third world toes in its path to progress. On the other side are the impoverished members of developing world nations, who feel that they have no power negotiate with the more powerful nation, and so succumb to violent acts in order to express their anger, resentment and frustration. The events of 9/11 and the ensuing war on terror lie heavy in the hearts minds of Americans, especially Christians who struggle to understand the correct moral and ethical stance on this highly emotional issue. To understand whether the war is just, and the punishment fits the crime, it is imperative to turn to the Bible, and to the theologians who have devoted much time, study and prayer to understanding the value of war and its implications for the human soul.
War and the Quest for Peace
Jesus is often called by the title, the Prince of Peace. This is a title bestowed on him due to his devotion to love, peace and kindness. He called on his followers to look within themselves and understand what works were of the flesh (the sinful nature of man) and which were of the Spirit. Paul said, in Galatians 5:19-23, that it is “the works of the flesh” as “fortification, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and things like this.” In contrast, “the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” When applied to war, this philosophy embraces a pacifist stance, one that does not condone violence in any form, whether it be judged as just or unjust. Paul, in Romans 12:14-21, urged the Roman Christians, for example, to “bless those who persecute you” and not to “repay anyone evil for evil” and to “live peaceably with all” to forgo vengeance, and even to give food and drink to the enemy who needs them from. (Crook, p.90)
Yet there has always been a relationship between Christians and War. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the official view on Christianity and war was of whether or not the conflict was morally justifiable. It is a matter of perspective that denotes whether or not one believes the six standards that justify war have all been met in this war on terror. Surely America has been attacked by an enemy, but how does it become clear when the enemy has been punished enough? And is the punishment even effective in deterring other acts of terror, and how would we judge this? For these reasons, many Christians have chosen the stance of pacifism. Violence is the path of the terrorists, and like Jesus said, it is not God’s will that we meet violence with violence, but instead turn the other cheek, and treat others the way in which we want to be treated.
The Ethical Dilemma and Leadership Choices
The ethical dilemma for Christians in deciding what moral road to take in the war on terror is whether or not the war is just and whether or not it will create a safer and more peaceful world. As a nation, we rely on our leaders to make informed decisions, based on moral and ethical values, on issues such as war. Yet, with the advent of multinational corporations and special interests groups, we can no longer be satisfied that our leaders are in fact making a decision that is in the best interest of the people, and not in the best interest of special interest groups. Thus, it is important for Christians to look deeper into an issue and consult texts, their religious leaders and others who they feel make decisions based purely on moral and ethic in order to decide on a personal stance that is in line with their spiritual obligations.