The Just War

The Just War

The Just War.

Many of you know that I declared as a conscientious objector during the Viet Nam war. I was a pacifist, because I had a difficult time imagining myself aiming a gun at another human being and pulling the trigger, especially during an unjust. immoral war like Viet Nam. Through the years I have thought long and hard about this issue, and I have come to accept the idea that I would fight and kill if I had to for self defense and defense of my family.

I have come to believe, especially in this age of terrorism, that the Just War theory as explained by Christians through the ages seems right to me. Down through history Christians have been everything from fierce warriors to passive doves, from soldiers to pacifists. What does the Christian faith embrace when it comes to fighting a war?

Here are some quotes from G. K. Chesterton, from his book Orthodoxy. “Christianity had established a rule and order, but the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild. The crusaders were very fierce, and the saints were very meek. Love and wrath both burning. There was room for wrath and love to run wild. Both passions were free because both were kept in their place. It is true that the Church told some men to fight and others not to fight. And it is true that those who fought were like thunderbolts, and those who did not fight were like statues. They existed side by side. Pure gentleness and pure fierceness.”

So what in Church history has kept the fighters “in their place?” When was war acceptable in the eyes of the Christian faith? Passionate fighting could not run so wild that it was outside of Christianity’s “rule and order.” Sure enough, down through history, many thoughtful Christians have tried to give shape to this order, giving guidance to when war was unChristian. The term most often used is the “Just War theory.”

After researching many and various just war theories, the following limits were placed on war. These points outline when Christians could fight in good conscience, if the Lord was leading them to fight in the first place. If a particular war did not meet these conditions, the war was unjust and thus immoral. The following are the traditional Christian reasons for war and the methods of warfare:

  1. For national self-defense.
  2. As a last resort after all else fails.
  3. When formally declared, to give fair warning.
  4. To secure peace, not national honor or conquest.
  5. When bloodshed involves military only, not civilians.
  6. When all prisoners, and those who surrender, are spared.
  7. When fought to provide justice and protect the innocent.

All Christians should follow their own God-given conscience regarding war and fighting. But be thoughtful about it. I believe we should follow traditional Christian teaching on this topic.