The Bible and War: Providence Contributors Participate in Museum of the Bible Event
On Veterans Day earlier this month, the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, hosted an event that addressed how the Bible relates to war. In addition to Mark Tooley, Providence’s co-editor, contributing editors Joseph Capizzi and Eric Patterson participated. Below is an unedited transcript of their remarks and a video of the event.
Seth Pollinger is currently director of museum curatorial at Museum of the Bible. He directs the coordination of the exhibit designers as well as curatorial, academic and cultural advisors for the museum in Washington, DC. Before joining the team at Museum of the Bible, he earned his PhD in biblical interpretation, specializing in functional grammar (linguistics), the history of New Testament interpretation, and the Gospel of John.
Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy and co-editor of Providence.
Joe Capizzi is executive director of the Institute for Human Ecology, an ordinary professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of America, and a contributing editor of Providence.
Eric Patterson is a professor at and the former dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University. His research and teaching focus on religion and politics, ethics and international affairs, and just war theory in the context of contemporary conflict. He is also a contributing editor of Providence.
Drew Christiansen is a Jesuit priest, Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Global Human Development at Georgetown University, and a senior research fellow at the university’s Berkley Center for Religion, Ethics and World Affairs. As director of the US Catholic Conference’s Office of International Justice and Peace, he worked on armed conflict and humanitarian protection in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Central America. He was the chief staff consultant on the US bishops’ 1993 peace statement, “The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace,” and a member of the first International Mennonite-Catholic Dialogue, which issued the statement “Called Together to Be Peacemakers.” Since 2013 he has worked directly with the Holy See on nuclear disarmament. He serves on the coordinating committee of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network. He is a consultant to the Holy See Observer Mission to the United Nations on international security, and in that capacity was a member of the delegation that negotiated the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons in 2017.
Seth Pollinger: …of our veterans and the very complex issues that surround these situations about war and peace—and even as we discuss how the Bible relates to those topics. I was even reminded of that yesterday. I spent my day taking the kids down to the memorials. And, you know, when we stopped by Lincoln’s memorial—and reading the second inaugural address with my kids, I was surprised—my oldest daughter—what she kind of latched onto most and she was kind of curious was his comment, “both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish.”
You know, and from there, you know, obviously there’s a lot there, you know, we can have fun talking about and, you know, deep, complex issues that I think as the young kids are starting to realize, “well, what is this world that we live in, and how do we think through it?” And then we went over to the Vietnam Memorial, and then spent a little time with the park service volunteers, you know—able to hear some specific stories from their, you know, time over in Vietnam. And then was able to go over to Dr. King’s Memorial, and finish up, sort of, our time. And my oldest daughter—what caught her attention again there was—most of all on this trip—was his statement, “it’s not enough to say, ‘we must not wage war.’ We must concentrate not merely on negative expulsion of war but on the positive affirmation of peace.” And, you know, great learning opportunity to be able to talk together of, you know, what did Dr. King mean by that statement, and how does that relate to some of these different memorials we just viewed?
And I think the point is that the motivations, experience, and outcomes of war and making peace are something we have to discuss today, as the next generation prepares to really make important decisions that are going to affect society as we know it. And certainly that’s the gravity of—the significance of—what we’re even talking about today. And I just want to thank—and, you know, kind of, call out that—this great partnership with the Institute of Religion and Democracy—we as the Museum of the Bible today are honored to convene this important and relevant discussion. And we appreciate what you’re going to bring to it just in the interaction. And it’s enlightening to understand various ways the Bible has influenced the way people think about war and peace and justice. And I think that, as the Museum, we’re hoping that by learning from each other, we can find new ways to even act together. And that’s a terrific outcome for the day, as well as, you know, continuing discussions as time goes on.
Today we’re going to have a panel discussion among several distinguished professors, which we’ve asked Mark Tooley with the—to moderate this discussion, and also the interaction with you a little later. Mark is the President of the Institute of Religion and Democracy and also the editor of the journal Providence: a Journal of Christianity and American Foreign Policy. So I want to turn it over to Mark Tooley as he is going to host our and facilitate our discussion today.
Mark Tooley: Thank you, Seth, and thank you for your wonderful hospitality from you, and the Museum of the Bible, and this really incredible facility. It’s an honor to be here, and we thank all of you who are here physically and those of you who are watching online no less so. We appreciate your interest in this very important topic, most appropriately, on Veterans Day.
So we have three wonderful panelists who will address us. And coincidentally they all happen to be friends of mine, so introducing them is a special pleasure. Two of them are Just War scholars, and the third of them is a scholar on the church’s vocation for peacemaking. So it will be a very comprehensive and stimulating conversation.
Our first speaker, Eric Patterson: from Regent University, a Just War scholar, the author of many books, himself a military veteran. And we thank him for his service on this day. And his latest book literally has just rolled off the presses—just handed to me: Just American Wars: Ethical Dilemmas in U.S. Military History. So I haven’t yet read it, having just received it, but nonetheless I commend it to you because I know it’s excellent. So we’re delighted that Eric can be with us.
Our second Just War scholar, Joseph Capizzi: philosopher, theologian from Catholic University here in town. Both he and Eric are contributing editors to Providence: A Journal of Christianity and American Foreign Policy, so you can easily look up their articles for us.
And then finally, Father Drew Christiansen: a Jesuit priest, philosopher, and theologian, Georgetown University, quite renowned all across the decades for his writing and direct involvement in peacemaking on behalf of various Catholic entities, including the Catholic Bishops here in the U.S. and the Vatican itself, and himself a prolific author. So three very distinguished people.
Each panelist will present for about ten minutes, taking up the first half hour, and then the next twenty minutes, we hope, will be interaction among the three of them, and then the final leg of our time together will be questions and comments from you all. So we appreciate your attention, and save up all your very provocative and intelligent questions, and we’ll start off with Eric Patterson.
And I think, for the introductions, if each panelist would come forward to the podium for that, and then we’ll remain seated for our interactions afterwards.
Eric Patterson: Again, my name is Eric Patterson. I’m a professor at Regent University in Virginia Beach and a research fellow at the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University. It’s a delight to be with you, and I think it’s particularly important that we have these types of conversations about citizenship and statecraft, because I’m increasingly finding students who say to me, you know, “I think that the political world has gotten to be so dirty I don’t know that I could ever serve in public life. I don’t think I’d ever run for office; it seems conflictual.” Young people say to me, “I don’t know that I could ever serve in law enforcement or in the military; wouldn’t that make me a sinner in some way?” And so for Christians in particular, these types of questions are very, very important. The church’s legacy for 2,000 years has been one of social involvement across all sectors, and this conversation today is an important part of reminding people of their duties as citizens.
So that being said, what does the Bible have to say about war? Well in the Old Testament, we see quite a bit of war, and, in most cases, it’s in the context of statesmanship. What we see in the Old Testament is an emphasis on political order, and we see an emphasis on justice, and we see an emphasis on stewardship. And I’d like to tease those out over a bit. But if you think about Nehemiah or Joshua or Moses or David or Hezekiah—and the list goes on and on and on—national security issues are a part of a much wider set of issues about what does it mean to be a citizen in society, and how do leaders institute justice and promote order in a political society. And those things don’t change. Those are recurring themes from the beginning of the Bible all the way to our time today.
Now I will note that, in the book of Judges, we have a special, narrow period. People often ask, “well, what to make of the time when Israel entered the Promised Land after leaving Egypt?” And clearly Christian theology says that, for a very narrow window, God gave the children of Israel a command to impose his justice on the idolaters in what we would call Canaan, and to clear the land and to move in there. We don’t see that type of command from David onward. Christians don’t believe that that type of command ever happened in the New Testament, but in a very, very unique case, there was holy war in the Old Testament—in other words, divinely sanctioned, divinely commanded activity in that one case. But that’s not normative. That was an exceptional case, which in a lot of ways proves the norm, that political leaders have a responsibility to provide order and to provide justice.
And so in the New Testament, in Romans 13, we get a very crystallized statement, in verses 1-7, about what the role of political leaders are. Remember it says, Paul writes that the purpose of political leaders is in part to use the sword on behalf of justice. And the principle there is that political authorities are the ones who are supposed to protect the weak and punish wrongdoers. And that theme goes throughout Christian teaching for the last 2,000 years.
Now, you might say, what else does the New Testament have to say, or not say, about force? And that word, “force,” is important. There’s a difference between force and violence in the way Christians think about issues of war and peace. Force is restrained. Force is lawful. Force happens under authority. Violence, in contrast, is unrestrained. It’s unlawful. It is at the hands of those who are not in authority. So, we can tell the difference, right, between a gentle, loving, but firm spanking by a parent and a beating, right? We can tell the difference between police brutality on the one hand, and exercise of restrained, legitimate, even lethal force by law enforcement. We can tell the difference between the use of force that’s restrained by the military versus obliteration bombing or the raping of civilians and things. And so there really is a stark contrast—it’s not just semantic—to think about that there’s a difference between lawful, restrained force and unrestrained, unlawful violence.
Now in the New Testament, Paul and Peter both tell us in their epistles to pray for those in authority. And we have no examples in the New Testament of people in the military or in public life being told to lay down their weapons. So think for a second: John the Baptist. The soldiers come to him and what does he tell them? Don’t oppress the people; be content with your wages. Jesus in his ministry seems to say similar things, as far as we can tell, to the Romans and to others. Indeed, he said that a Roman centurion had more faith than anyone else that he met in Israel. And throughout the Apostolic Era in the New Testament, similar things seem to happen. We see that members of Caesar’s household, for instance, are commended for their faith. The first gentile who comes to faith under Peter’s ministry is a Roman centurion. So, we don’t have a prescription against serving in the police, or serving in the military, or serving in public life in the New Testament. And that seems to extend into the New Testament era in which we live today.
Now, what about Jesus saying, “Turn the other cheek?” And Martin Luther, and C.S. Lewis later, both said, commenting on that, none of the people who were sitting on the hillside listening to Jesus give the Sermon on the Mount, thought that what he meant was that we ought to step aside and let a homicidal maniac attack a child. No one would have thought that, right? And the reason is because what Jesus was talking about was our own pride, our own ego that’s easily hurt, and that we ought to, in humility, turn the other cheek in interpersonal relationships. But that’s quite different from a person whose vocation, say a policeman or a soldier, is to protect the weak, to protect the vulnerable, to institute justice. And just as a parent has to protect their children, and a citizen as a bystander has a responsibility to protect another citizen, even more importantly we have—there’s a role for police and for civil magistrates and for soldiers. And so, one can imagine that a military officer on the battlefield has a vocation to fight, and when he’s home on leave mowing his lawn, he ought to turn the other cheek with his neighbor, right? That’s a Christian, adult type of ethics.
Well, what has happened over time is that Christians have put—have thought deeply on these issues for 2,000 years and developed what we call Christian Just War theory, or Christian Just War thinking. And you’ll hear more about this as we go on. But at its basis, there’s two questions. One is, when is it moral to exercise force; and the second is, how can war be fought ethically?
And the preeminent answer to that first question, when is it just to go to war, as ascertained by Thomas Aquinas and distilled by St. Augustine in the 4th Century where it’s just to go to war when you have a legitimate authority acting on a just cause with right intention. And over time they’ve added some prudential criteria then. But just—“a legitimate authority:” political authority, a king, an emperor, governor, etc. “Acting on a just cause.” Well, what’s a just cause? Augustine said preventing wrong, righting past wrongs, preventing future wrongdoing would be examples of just causes.
And “With right intention.” And this, of course, is an important contribution of Christianity to this thinking. We’re told from the Old Testament through the New that God looks on the heart, that he can tell our intentions, that he can tell our motivations, that that’s important to him. And so, Augustine wrote, it wouldn’t be right to go to war for greed or lust, hatred, envy, but that neighbor love—and other things, but love of one’s neighbor—protection, justice—that these could be right intentions.
And of course, that’s the way we would like war to be fought. We would like for it to be under authority, we’d like for it to be for self-defense or to protect the weak. We’d like for it to bring wrongdoers to justice. And we’d like to do it with right intentions: love of country, love of fellow man, love of what’s right, versus hatred, greed, the chance for rapine or plunder.
Well there’s a lot more that can be said, but that’s a basic foundation from how Christians have looked at the Old Testament, how they’ve looked at the New Testament, and how they’ve assembled a way of thinking about issues of war and peace that we use to this day. I look forward to our conversations as we go forward. Thank you.
Drew Christiansen: I want to thank you all for coming out on this wonderful afternoon to do honor to our veterans and to mark the centennial of the end of the Great War with a museum who’s very thoughtfully put this program together today. I want to thank particularly Seth and his coworkers for what they’ve done and Mark for his agreeing to help us come together.
I thought it’d be useful just to say a bit and let my talk be guided by the way the Catholic Church reads the Bible because that will be unfamiliar to many people in differing traditions of reading the Bible. So that’s where I begin.
“The Bible is the Church’s book.” That maxim explains the Catholic approach to the Bible. As the Church’s book, Catholic readings of the Bible involve reading the text in dialogue with the living tradition of the Church. That living tradition includes the history of Biblical interpretation, not only by today’s Scriptural scholars, but also by spiritual masters, by bishops in their teaching, and by reception of Scripture in various religious movements.
In reading the Bible, as Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote, it becomes essential to grasp the passage from letter to spirit. “To be the living word of God for us, the Scripture must be read according to the Spirit,” Pope Benedict wrote, “by virtue of full engagement in the life of the church today.” Under the inspiration of the Spirit, he wrote, “the word of faith we hear in the Scriptures become the living word of God as it converges with the experience of faith as we live it in our present world.”
So when it comes to peace and war, what constitutes Catholic experience of faith with respect to war and peace today? The primary experience of Catholics is the experience of war itself in the 20th and 21st Centuries and a reflection on it. The reading of the signs of the times following World War II suggested to the Second Vatican Council that it could draw a number of lessons, above all the need to evaluate war with an entirely new attitude. The particular lessons it drew were condemnation of total war, condemnation of genocide and of counter-population warfare, approval of non-violent resistance, disapproval of blind obedience, and endorsement of conscientious objection. The Biblical rubric for this period might be said to be the classic line from Romans, “the ruler is God’s servant for your good, to execute God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”
In Vietnam, the church was forced to reaffirm its injunctions on noncombatant immunity and non-conflict. They came to affirm support for selective conscientious objection as a necessary corollary of a Just War, pleading for legal recognition of military personnel and citizens to object to participation in particular wars. In the Cold War, the church came to condemn nuclear warfighting and gave only strict, conditional acceptance to nuclear deterrence. With its growing set of constraints on war, the rubric for Vietnam and the Cold War may be found in Jeremiah 22:3, “Do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood.”
Beginning in the 1980s in Poland, Catholicism became increasingly concerned with nonviolence, beginning with the struggle for worker rights and Polish independence. In 1991, Pope John Paul II, now St. John Paul, contributed to the defeat of Communism in Eastern Europe—I’m sorry, he attributed the defeat of Communism in Eastern Europe to nonviolent activism. Two years later, the U.S. bishops, viewing a wave of nonviolent revolutions around the world, identified a new premise in responding to conflict and the risk of war. “In situations of conflict, Christians’ constant commitment ought to be, as far as possible, to strive for justice through nonviolent means,” they wrote. They made Just War a true last resort, after sustained attempts at nonviolent action fail.
A deeper engagement with the Biblical thought on war and nonviolence came, however, as a result of ecumenical engagement, especially with the Mennonites. After five years of dialogue, the Vatican’s Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Mennonite World Conference agreed to declare their common vocation to peacemaking. Catholics learned from Methodists [sic], read the Scripture with an eye to nonviolence and with greater attention to the example of the historical Jesus, God’s meek and humble one. Among their convergences, we find this affirmation: “We understand peace through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. His mission of reconciliation remained faithful unto death on the cross, and his fidelity was confirmed by his resurrection.” Together, the two declared, “We hold that the church founded by Christ is called to be a living sign and an effective instrument of peace.” This last period, Catholics meditate with Mennonites on the prophecy, “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer, he is silent.”
The most recent turn in Catholic thinking is a result of internal Catholic dialogue between Pax Christi International, the Catholic peace movement, and the Vatican on Just Peace, a practical approach to peacemaking pioneered by the late Baptist theologian, Glen Stassen. It expands the option for nonviolent intervention in conflict, delaying the recourse to war, and hopefully preventing it altogether. It includes steps like nonviolent direct action, cooperative conflict resolution, an acknowledgment of past offenses, and forgiveness. Pope Francis, in responding to a 2016 Pax Christi initiative announced that, to be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. He cited Pope Emeritus Benedict, “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behavior, but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with weapons of love and truth.”
Pax Christi recently completed a series of intercontinental discussions on Just Peace. After they meet again with Vatican officials, they are hoping that Pope Francis will give Just Peace approval as the articulation of Catholic teaching on war in the 21st Century. Just Peace is not pacifist. It permits Just War at the margins, but it makes a preferential option for nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution—resolution and transformation. Today, for the period of Just Peace, the political maxim I suggest is “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Thank you very much.
Joseph Capizzi: Thanks for coming out. I’m Joe Capizzi. As was said earlier, I teach moral theology at Catholic University. I’m also the director of something called the Institute for Human Ecology there. And that’s an old picture of me, so I apologize for that. That’s some sort of falsehood in advertising.
Anyway, so I think we’re at more or less an agreement about a lot of things up here. I hope you guys can catch us in some places where there might be some tensions because that’s always is a little bit more fun—to see people disagree a little bit. I’m talking about the means of war, and I’m only going to sort of hint at that conversation. I think it’s a conversation that is better drawn out in question-and-answer, as you’re going to ask questions about Hiroshima, for instance. And I think it’s important for us to discuss something like that rather than just me sort of tell you my take on it.
But I just want to begin with a couple of things, sort of responding, in a way, to some of the things that we heard, or maybe filling in some of the gaps to what Father Drew and Eric added. The first thing is— and I think we’re all probably in agreement on this—you’ve heard the language of force distinguished from violence already, and we’ve heard a couple of times some stuff about peace, and perhaps we’ve not yet put together the relationship between those things. I know I think—and I think Father Drew and Eric think this probably as well, although if they don’t we can discuss it—that the Just War ethic is best conceived of as an ethic of peacemaking. It’s not something that’s contrary to peace necessarily to determine that you have to go resort to the use of force. And remember, Eric rightly distinguished the use of force from the use of violence. Violence is sort of, by definition, something that would be illicit from this perspective.
But once you have determined that these certain kind of conditions obtain, the use of force can, in fact, itself be an instrument of peacemaking. So good politics—and this is really what this is all about; this is about politics—is itself peacemaking. Politics is ordered towards real human goods; it’s ordered towards conceptually what we would describe as peace. Eric began to, sort of, articulate what peace means. It means some kind of relationship of order and justice. And there are times when order and justice—or order or justice—are so threatened that the response of peacemaking, in fact, is to use force, to use power expressing itself as force, for the good of peace, of reestablishing some order, or of obtaining to a greater amount of justice than otherwise obtains.
This is, as Father Drew said—I’m a Catholic as well, right?—this is how we approach this question as Catholics. We—what’d you call it? it was a—the Bible is the Church’s book. We think through the Bible—and you know, somewhat, you know, stereotypically on—not primarily by citing Scripture, but by drawing on the theological tradition that tries to make sense of what Scripture is claiming. And the theological tradition to which we’re all indebted, really—you know, Eric did kind of a very fine, quick job of sort of sketching us through that—the tradition to which we’re all indebted has always seen the use of—it’s called the sword, right, in theology and in Scripture—the use of the sword as sanctioned by God for the good of the political community.
The issues that Christians have faced is, what is our relationship to that use of the sword? I saw earlier, as I was waiting for you guys to arrive, some Mennonites walked past. Mennonites agree that the use of the sword by government serves God’s purpose—you know, the purpose of some kind of civil peace. They, however, say we are not to make use of that instrument. The traditions that Eric and Father Drew and I represent, on the other hand, have said, “no, as”—you know, “Christians are in fact called to be peacemakers who are willing and ready to make use of the instrument of the sword, again, given that certain conditions obtain. So, I think it’s very important to—for us to get just out there that—I think we’re all claiming that the use of force, even to the point of war, can itself be an instrument of peacemaking. It’s not opposed to the good of peace. We’re not departing from what we all as Christians agree is the call to peace.
Now where there may be a little bit of disagreement—and I’m not sure if this disagreement is among us here on the panel, but there has been among Christians who agree about our posture towards the use of force—is how this actually limits the kinds of activity now that we can do in the course of war. From the perspective as I understand it, and I think as Father Drew probably understands it as well, and I think Eric hinted at this, war serves certain, very concrete goods when it’s used for the pursuit of peace. More or less, there are three of those. One is: it is a response to wrongdoing. And that is captured in the language of just cause, right? It is—there has to be some wrong that is committed. And obviously is has to be a grave wrong because war is such—itself is such a blunt instrument, right, as a response to some wrong. So at first it sort of responds or reacts against some grave wrong.
The second is that it is a defense of the weak, and Eric brought this point out a couple of times. It is, in fact, itself understood not primarily as a defense of myself because the defense of self in the Christian tradition has actually been really kind of problematized by St. Augustine and others who, you know, wonder whether, as Eric said, we’re really called to, when it’s an attack on ourselves, to non-resistance, right, non-reaction, right, not to defend ourselves with violence. So it’s not so much a defense of ourselves, but a defense of the weak. And when you’re in a position of authority, the weak are those for whom you are in a position of authority—who your authority serves.
And then the final end—and this is the end—or the purpose, in essence—is something that Father Drew mentioned; that’s reconciliation, or the end of the restoration of justice, even including a reconciliation and a restoration of justice that also involves your enemy. The people against whom you are fighting you are inviting to become members of a more peaceful community than existed prior to the use of violence.
So what this has meant for the tradition on Just War theory is, when you move to what are called in bello concerns—how are we going to fight, now that the conditions of war-waging have been met—we fight by making a fundamental distinction between those who are actually materially committing the wrong, right, or threatening the weak, and those who are not, even on the other side. We recognize that there are people who are vulnerable and weak in the other side, and they are protected against the use of force by us, just as we assume our own weak are necessarily being defended by our use of force. We cannot directly target the “innocents” —the language calls them—on the other side, the innocents of our enemy.
And this is, right—this is going to color our subjective intentionality, right, so right intention is a component of this. It’s going to color the way we understand the enemy. They are not people that we can hate; they are people to whom we are supposed to be bringing love in some way, and potentially see as members of a community that is a greater community, one that is more inclusive than it was prior to the conflict. And that is going to, of course, temper all aspects of the way we wage war: the kinds of weapons we’re going to use, the kinds of peace that we’re going to offer, you know, as a consequence of the war, right? It’s not going to be one that humiliates the other side, one that extracts from them the means of adequately taking care of their own people, and so on, right? You know, so it’s—this posture that third end specifies, you know, of reconciliation, of restoration of justice, really tempers and controls, from this perspective, how war needs to be waged. Hopefully I’ve left some stuff there where there’s some good questions that we can entertain, but thank you for listening to me.
Mark Tooley: Well thank you for three very strong presentations to start off our interchange among the panelists. Joe already alluded to this a little bit, but it merits further elaboration: if I could challenge each of you to, if you’re willing, to elaborate on what differences may exist among the three of you on how we understand what the Bible and the moral traditions that descend from the Bible command involving war. And then, if you could, maybe elaborate a little bit on what are the larger disagreements among people of faith in terms of the Bible and war historically, but more especially, what are they today? So Eric, maybe you could begin?
Eric Patterson: Sure, thanks. Maybe I’ll mention one because I knew Glen Stassen. So you heard Drew talk a little bit about Just Peacemaking and the idea that Christians could have a proactive role to play in bringing peacemaking. And so I want to affirm that, and then I want to criticize it. So the affirmation I’d like to make is, many of the things Drew said I wholeheartedly agree with. And I think in particular that there’s Christians whose vocation is to be a peacemaker before the bullets start flying—so in other words, to be intermediaries, to be diplomats and things, and that there’s a role Christians often play on the back end in providing humanitarian and other forms of assistance. It’s often Christian groups who are there in terrible places long before the U.N. gets there, and they’re there long afterwards—in places like Africa and Sudan and Central Asia and things. So Christians have a role to play outside of military uniform, outside of working in various government agencies that are security oriented.
That being said, I had—Drew mentioned Glen Stassen. He has a very long book called Just Peacemaking. I know Glen. When he was alive, I had him actually come and speak to my students when he and I were both teaching in Southern California, and there was a lot of good there. However, since you asked us for criticism, let me make a criticism. And that was, that it seemed like the Just Peacemaking literature, and what Glen was talking about, made it very difficult to distinguish the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. It seemed that anyone who picked up the sword, so to speak, was the bad guys, and that this often gave the upper hand in conflict to the bad guys. It restrained the good guys; the good guys listened to the peacemakers and said, “Ah we shouldn’t go to war.” The bad guys said, “Hahaha, this is a window of opportunity. Bomb them harder.” And an example of this was in the Balkans—in the Balkans where there were lots of opportunities both in the early 90s and the late 90s, where there were voices who said, “Let’s try diplomacy; let’s do last resort,” while Bosnians and others were being herded into concentration camps.
And I’m particularly critical of Glen Stassen on this because, during the Kosovo war, he advocated for human shields to stop the bombing. And at first that sounded great: “Yeah, put some human shields over there, Glen, take your students over and stop the Serbs.” But that’s not what he was talking about. He was talking about stopping NATO from bombing the bad guys and trying to have a longer aperture towards diplomacy and peace. And that seemed to me very shortsighted. It seemed to me we had gotten to the point where trying to restrain the West from stopping another potential genocide, which we hadn’t stopped in ’92 and ’93 just a few miles away—it seemed to me that that’s where Just Peacemaking had gone overboard when it was time for Just War.
Drew Christiansen: Thank you. I think this a good place to start, but before I begin, let me just talk about what are the tensions within the question of Just Peacemaking, just note that in none of our presentations do you hear “Holy War,” you know? The result of the church ecumenical’s reflections that, in general, there are no holy wars any longer—not for the United States, not for Israel, not for anyone. What we have to see clearly is whether there are Just Wars or not.
Secondly, I think with respect to the Balkans—and I was very much involved in the execution and the formation of church policy in that period—the first is that the Holy See was very early on one of the groups that argued for humanitarian intervention. But by humanitarian intervention, it didn’t just mean military intervention. It included military intervention—but at that point, the Vatican did include the notion of powerful military intervention, but, both on the part of military people and on the part of politicians, there was great reluctance to get involved in that intervention in that period.
Later on, the United Nations, following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and experiences learned there and other places, like Rwanda, espoused the principle of the “responsibility to protect,” where the international community is responsible for protecting the rights of innocents, wherever they are, if their own government doesn’t uphold the first demand of sovereignty, which is defense of its own people. And that has been effectively utilized in a number of intervention situations. You can go to the Global Center for R2P at City University of New York and find a lot of those cases. But in smaller military interventions, it’s worked, especially in West Africa, where the African Union has been involved or the local, regional African Association of States has been involved in states or has been used to intervene in states where there are disputes. And in Kenya, it’s been instrumental in preventing post-electoral violence.
But where it fell apart was first in Libya, which was a very complicated case between the French and the U.S. and between the Western allies and Russia, and it really became a [inaudible]. And of course, in Syria it utterly failed, even to provide, kind of, zones of protection for refugees when the situation got very bad. But R2P was a way to try and reconcile some of those conflicting ends.
And finally, it seems to me that part of the reflection, beginning in some of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and later Pope John Paul in his Worldly Peace statement in 2002 took the lesson from the war with the Taliban in Afghanistan, namely, that there can be no just ending without forgiveness, a topic on which we just heard. And I’ll pass onto the person who’s been talking about forgiveness.
Joseph Capizzi: I actually have my own microphone. Well, I think part of we’ve been talking about here—Eric used this wonderful phrase, “the long aperture of”—what was it?—“of last resort,” right? Or lengthening the aperture of last resort. And probably part of what we’re discussing here, and maybe where there is some disagreement—or disagreement might be too strong, but a difference of judgment—would be about diplomacy, last resort, the point at which one resorts to lethal force. And I think Father [Drew] in the Just Peacemaking approach is generally speaking—going to approach this from one where they want a very long aperture. They want to really exhaust diplomacy and other avenues—maybe even soft or harder-than-soft but not quite hard coercive avenues—whereas perhaps Eric and I would, you know, be more sympathetic with using force.
There’s no science here, right? There’s no, like, “okay if A and B obtain, then C—you know, force makes more sense” or something. There are judgments to be made here, and we can all sort of point to places where the Just Peacemaking approach might, you know—you can point to Munich or something and say, you know, “the Just Peacemaking approach,” you know— “that was Chamberlain’s approach,” or something, but that’s not really fair to them. And neither do I think it would be fair to us to point to premature uses of force. But I think we all agree that there is something like the principle of last resort, and we probably all agree that there’s some point at which peace can really only be reclaimed by the use of force.
Some of us are going to err on the side of maybe an earlier response than a later one out of a concern that, again the weak are going to be made more vulnerable by inaction or non-recourse. I think Father Drew—I don’t want to speak too much for him, but I think Father Drew is going to say, “well, the costs of war are so heavy,” right? “And there is a kind of logic of war that, once it commences, becomes almost irresistible. It expands, you know, it expands beyond limits, both geographic and ethical that—you know, where he’s going to want to really, really hesitate.” But we’re all, I think, in the same space at this point, saying, you know, “we get there’s a judgment here,” but we also agree about this possible use of force at some point.
Mark asked about those traditions that are Christian—they call themselves Christians, you know, with as much hope and as much pride as we call ourselves Christians—who will say, “Never,” right? “Never! We could never use force as Christians,” because of a different approach to the Scriptural tradition than Eric outlined or a different approach to it than Father Drew and I share, which is one that reads it through a tradition of thinking. They’re going to, you know, pull out certain texts, including the texts on non-resistance, right, and say that this is something a Christian could never do, right, because discipleship and witness must follow the pattern of the life of Christ, which, quite frankly, you did not hear us discuss, you know? We did not talk about following a pattern of the life of Christ. We talked about politics and community and authority and things like that. So there are, right, these traditions that really depart from us. Where we may have some disagreement, but it’s more or less judgment disagreement, not disagreement of principle, I think. Is that fair?
Drew Christiansen: I think it’s fair. But I think what we’re missing is that the Just Peace position is arguing for an expansion of the toolbox for avoiding war and limiting the consequences of war, and particularly for investment in those institutions. The Catholic tradition is a tradition that takes society very importantly. And one of the things that means is that you’re concerned about building institutions to carry out what you think is necessary. So what the Just Peace proposals represent are an effort to expand that kind of thing and draw on the recent experience of both Christians and non-Christians for how it can be expanded.
The political problem is investment. When the bishops wrote in the ‘90s and gave nonviolence a kind of preference as the underlying principle, they were looking at a time when all sorts of activities were going on, both in government and between governments and in civil society, to support peacemaking different ways. There were threat reduction initiatives. There were hotlines. There were various kinds of treaties to control weapons in different ways. Forgiveness became, as they used to say, a cottage industry in this town, because of the war in the Balkans. There were all sorts of things that have dwindled because we failed for political reasons to build them up or continue them when they had been established.
Eric Patterson: Maybe I’ll briefly make a point about forgiveness, and maybe we can talk about that in the Q&A, but then say something about denominations in the Just War genealogy. So the first one is simply that, going back for a thousand years, and in my own work, and in a book called Ending Wars Well, when we think about a third question—so if one question is, when is it just to go to war, and a second question is, how can war be fought justly, a third is, so how do you end a war well? How do you cause an enduring, moral peace? And the answer that I gave was, you establish order, and you work towards justice, and in some cases, you can get towards conciliation—in other words, coming to terms with the past, and moving on towards a shared future. And it’s hard. I mean, it is very hard, usually, to get to that point. But Christians do bring things. We bring prayer. We bring the transcendent love of God. We bring resources to that fight in a fallen world.
I do want to say one thing about the differences, and that is, it is important to recognize that 99% of Christian traditions are rooted in the Just War tradition. We sometimes, particularly in the post-Vietnam era, have this idea that there’s a bunch of pacifist Christians, and that that’s been a major part of Christian theological tradition for 2,000 years. It’s just really not the case. And we could talk at length about this, but the Catholic tradition is rooted in Just War thinking. The Orthodox traditions are rooted in Just War thinking, with some differences that have developed historically. The churches that—almost all of the churches that come out of the Reformation—so Lutherans have a robust statement on Just War thinking. The Westminster Confession, which Presbyterians and Reformed hold to, has a robust statement on Just War thinking. The Anglican Church has a Just War position. Their descendants, which are the Wesleyans, have a Just War tradition. Western Baptists, meaning North Americans and things, are usually either break-offs of one of these groups and are rooted in the Just War tradition. Now, that’s a little bit of a boring genealogy that I’m telling you, but it’s important because there’s probably only about 3 million, in the world today, people that come from denominations that have a theological tradition of Anabaptism or pacifism. So the vast, vast majority—now I’m an evangelical, and so a lot of our folks in evangelical churches are going to nondenominational churches. They don’t know that much about their heritage. And it’s important to realize that they’re actually a part of this longer tradition, which is so much shared across denominations.
Drew Christiansen: Here I’m going to take issue.
Eric Patterson: Okay.
Drew Christiansen: I think there is coherence from the early modern period and the rise of the absolute state, which coincides, more or less, with the Reformation, but I think, if you look at even the great Reformers, you look at the treatment of war, they’re very clear about the Christian ideal. And Luther talks about the Elector Frederick as being a peacemaker, and how long he delays before he goes to war.
Eric Patterson: That’s right.
Drew Christiansen: Calvin does the same kinds of things. So, they put an emphasis that we, with our policy orientation, don’t put on, as theologians, at least. And leaders in the Reformation—they put on restraints that we don’t think of at a later period dominated by state policy. The Christian tradition, I would argue, is a much more mixed tradition, up to 1600. If you—there’s a wonderful book called The Catholic Peace Tradition, which documents—and it’s accompanied by two very expensive folios of documentation showing the great variation in the Christian tradition over centuries, so that, yeah, there are different kinds of peacemaking, but Just War was not, to use the expression the bishops have used, not in possession until the early modern period. There were also—and of course, in the Middle Ages and so on, there are large lapses from this; there’s no question. But also large peace movements that were approved by—given papal approval, with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims marching on Rome to prevent war in the Empire. So it seems to me it’s important to read the history more closely, and see how variegated it is. And the name of the author of that book is Ronald Musto—The Catholic Peace Tradition. It’s rich in detail. And the dominance of Just War theory, it seems to me, comes about because of the dominance of canon lawyers, who are also advisors of kings, and therefore they created the canonical tradition of Just War because they were instruments of policy as well as articulators of theory. And that then brought us along to where Just War was looked on as being the natural position. It really was not until, as I say, you know, four hundred years ago.
Mark Tooley: Any further comment?
Joseph Capizzi: Lots of further comments, but I’d love to let other people in, I mean, if people are chomping at the bit. But just as kind of a slight modification—I mean, so there is some disagreement up here, which is fun—there’s a way in which we come to start to, like, dwell on this term, the “Just War tradition” or the “Just War ethic,” and I think it actually starts to become less and less helpful the more we focus on that, as opposed to what really was the way the tradition thought through the question, which was, “what’s the status of these soldiers? What are we supposed to make of these people who want to participate in governance or use violence—excuse me—be associated with warmaking,” and so on? And so that’s how the traditionists really thought through this problem, and thought through it more or less the way Eric described at the beginning, which was, “this is not incompatible with being Christian.”
There were some people who thought it was incompatible with certain ways of being Christian, right? And we’re familiar with those, but if you asked a confessor, you know, “look, I fought through a war” and so on—which is how the Catholic tradition thinks about this, right, up through the period Father Drew describes—they would ask this series of questions, you know, “okay, tell me about the war. Tell me about what you did in the war. Tell me about your own activity, what you felt in your heart, or thought as, you know, you were engaged in these kinds of things.” And that kind of thinking becomes the way that all of this is kind of specified over time into something that we now call the Just War ethic, the Just War theory, the Just War tradition.
And I think it becomes less and less helpful, like I said, in asking ourselves, what are we supposed to make of the men and women right now, who serve in the U.S. army, right, or in militaries across the globe? What is their relationship or possible relationship with Christ as they undertake this kind of behavior? Is it necessarily some sort of idolatry or some sort of step away from their commitment to love their neighbor and so on? And I think the traditions that we’re all—that we share up here would say, “No, it’s not necessarily that. No, it’s, in fact, quite compatible with it because it can be a mission of service. It can be a vocation compatible with your vocation to love ‘the other.’”
It can also be, you know, all of these other nasty things for sure, no question. And the state, as an instrument of making these kinds of authorizations, itself can become idolatrous, or even a source of my own idolatry. These are all available to us. But I think, right, I think sometimes we get kind of lost in, or overwhelmed by, the term, and, anyway, I’ll stop there.
Mark Tooley: We’ll go to the audience for questions in just a moment, but touching on Joe’s final point specifically, does Veterans Day—could Father Drew or Eric or Joe, if you have additional comment—any counsel you would have for members of the armed forces today in terms of how they apply the Bible to their own service in the military?
Eric Patterson: Well, the principal one is those points that I made early on that, you know, Christian Just War thinking emphasizes the motivations of the heart. Now, why do most people join the U.S. military? They join it for the G.I. bill; they join it for a chance to travel; they join it for a vocation, a job, job training. I think that, for the past couple of decades, one of the great motivators has not been simply love of country, but it’s been also that there’s financial inducements there.
So one can easily imagine, hey, “I joined the military. It was going to provide me with the G.I. bill to go to school. I learned a trade. And then 9/11 happened, and I’m sent to Afghanistan, or I’m sent to Iraq.” The question really becomes—for so many people—is about keeping hatred from the heart. I think, more than anything else, the Just War ethic is an ethic that’s within the larger Christian ethic, and it’s an ethic of love—love of neighbor—protecting those, protecting the weak, etc., love of country. But it’s easy after you see something like happened on 9/11 or you lose a buddy to a sniper, a Taliban fighter, or something—it’s easy to hate unless we keep that in check. And so, keeping that part of our life, our inner life, before the Lord—that’s a critical thing, and the Just War tradition would emphasize the importance of the heart.
Mark Tooley: Eric, briefly would you tell us where you served?
Eric Patterson: Yeah, I mean, I don’t have a glorious career like warfighters. I continue to serve as an officer in the Air National Guard in Texas. I previously served in California. Almost all of my duty has been as a band commander. I have a music degree. I used to be a high school band director, and so I did take a rock band to several countries in Central and Southwest Asia several years ago to play for the troops. And last year, in 2017, my group was mobilized and I took 35 people to the Texas Gulf Coast to serve in the hurricane duty, which is a big part of what the National Guard does. And I love the job. I get to talk to people about what the Air Force and the Air National Guard do by playing some music—reeling them in, and then talking about the military. It’s a great job, and so I’m thankful to do it.
Mark Tooley: Father Drew.
Drew Christiansen: And thank you for your service. I had a brief engagement as an auxiliary chaplain in the Air Force along the DEW line in Alaska at the time of the Vietnam War—late in the Vietnam War, in the summer of ’72. And at that time, the most onerous part of my job was helping people write petitions so that they could be excluded from going to war in Vietnam because they had objections of one kind or another to serving there.
But I think the first thing to say is that, the Church, both the U.S. bishops and the Holy See, the Vatican Council, were all very clear about the probity of military service in that it is a service of a neighbor and for the common good. And so, active duty people and service people—people serving—both deserve our respect.
The second—Secondly, the church is clear that states have a duty, not just a right, but a duty to defend their people. And therefore, governments need to be ready to do that. And in responding to the first initiative of Pax Christi three years ago, “For Just Peacemaking,” Pope Francis made clear that that would always be so—that whatever we said about Just Peacemaking, it would not detract from the state’s duty to protect its people, sometimes with armed force. That was important, because that meeting was spun by, especially one journalist for the National Catholic Reporter, and activists within the peace movement who attended that meeting, as being an effort to condemn the Just War. That was never the intention of the meeting, and the pope made clear that—at the outcome of the subsequent discussions—was that he was not about to sign on.
Mark Tooley: Thank you. Time for questions from our…
—End of Recording—
Photo Credit: A Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa service member holds a Bible during an Easter service provided by a CJTF-HOA chaplain on April 5, 2015, for members in the CJTF-HOA area of responsibility. CJTF-HOA chaplains visit members throughout the CJTF-HOA area of responsibility at least once a month to provide religious services and encouragement. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma.