Christians need some criteria, some body of thought on war, in order to make sense of and to judge their own country’s policies. Two positions on war -- the war realist position and the classic pacifist position -- have serious deficiencies. The war realist position makes war an intrinsic part of a nation's culture. But even the most justifiable wars contain acts of violence towards noncombatants and tragic loss of life. All war involves evil, and should be a last resort. On the other hand, the classic pacifist position excoriates violence as a great moral evil, to be avoided at all costs. However, this is not necessarily the case. Violence in and of itself has a morally neutral character. For example, we cannot say that what a lion does to a wildebeest is morally evil, though it certainly is violent. To judge a violent action to be morally evil we need to know something about the intentions behind the action. Thus, given the extremes of war realism and pacifism, just war tradition (JWT) offers a fruitful middle ground. At its best, JWT seeks to restrain those who would jump to war too quickly, as well as to respond effectively to external threats to a people's welfare.
© January 2009Journal of Lutheran Ethics (JLE)Volume 9, Issue 1
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