Friday, June 24, 2005

Mad Farmer Wendell on Christianity and War

Wendell Berry in A Citizen's Response to "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America" published in Orion Magazine in March, 2003 and republished in the amazing Citizenship Papers, essays that reveal and incredibly profound understanding of the Christian faith and patriotism, writes this;

The present administration has adopted a sort of official Christianity, and it obviously wishes to be regarded as Christian. But "Christian" war has always been a problem, best solved by avoiding any attempt to reconcile policies of national or imperial militarism with anything Christ said or did. The Christian gospel is a summons to peace, calling for justice beyond anger, mercy beyond justice, forgiveness beyond mercy. love beyond forgiveness. It would require a most agile interpreter to justify hatred and war by means of the Gospels, in which we are bidden to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who despise and persecute us. (pg. 14)

1 comment:

DAVID C. PRICE said...

I agree with you, Rick, that Christ does call us to love, forgiveness, respect, and peace. I don't think we are called to peace at all costs, though. Pacifism doesn't always equate nor lead to peace, especially as it relates to government, but not exclusively.

I find it important to differentiate, though not exclusively, between what Scripture teaches the individual and the different role that government is often called to. Government is called on to care for and guard the well-being of it's people. This can often lead to the necessity of warfare as I think the general "war on terror" is justified after the attacks of 9-11. As far as world governments are concerned, pacifism usually leads to the domination of power-hungry maniacs who take advantage of the pacifists, often leading to the torture and killing of the weak. I would hardly call that peace.

Often, there were directives given to "government" in the Old Testament (same God as in the New) which required times when people were put to death through what we call capital punishment. These same directives were unlawful for the individual to carry out. Further, there were many times that God commanded His people as a "nation," to go to war, though the individuals within that body were prohibited from doing so (i.e. taking matters of justice into their own, individual hands).

So, though I respect Berry's point of view, I think it fails to take the whole story into account, especially as it fails to differentiate between the role and responsibility of government and the limitations and responsibilities of individuals. Having said that, I think there is plenty of room for debate on whether a particular government, including this one, has over-stepped its justifiable actions regarding warfare. That, to me, is a different discussion.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post.