Is There a Christian Attitude toward War?
- Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Accordingly, our perception of the war is simplified into an “us versus the enemy” paradigm, and we begin to dehumanize the person living on the other side. We avoid the gray by convincing ourselves that we know exactly who our enemy is and what we must do to him/her. We fall into a fatalistic worldview that assumes that power solves all things. As a result, reconciliation with the other side seems like an impossible endeavor. War easily produces negative feelings and ideas in us because it is divisive and forces us to take sides. We must be aware of this and be careful of finding easy and false answers to the problem of conflict.
During our recent summer camp (July 2006), the Israeli and Palestinian counselors were challenged with some of these issues. One Israeli counselor, Avi, was set to be drafted into the Army right after the camp, a reality which proved difficult for some of the Palestinian counselors. Camp coordinator Shadia Qubti notes that the tension between Israelis and Palestinians arises out of a conflicting perception of what it means to be a soldier. On the one hand, "Palestinians view soldiers with fear, and perceive them as aggressors." However, on the other hand, for Israelis "a soldier is someone who could be their brother, sister, or parent; someone they love and admire."
The encounter between these two groups was nonetheless hopeful. Out of love for Avi, the counselors collectively gathered to pray for his military service; many of the prayers were said in Arabic, by Palestinian counselors. For them, the Israeli soldier now had a name, a face, and character. This makes it far more difficult to dehumanize him and view him as an aggressor. In like manner, when Avi faces difficult decisions during his military service, he will have the faces of his fellow Palestinian counselors in his mind and heart to remind of the importance of being discerning.
Is the war we are currently in existential? Is it just? Are there political interests involved that we do not know about? How should this war be carried out? What is a proportionate and just response to acts of aggression? These are some of the questions that must be raised if we are to use our prophetic and priestly voices. Upon raising these questions, how should we, as believers, be responding to this war? By way of conclusion, I would like to outline a number of suggestions that I believe are necessary for us to consider during this difficult time:
1. Question what it means to be priestly and prophetic during times of war. This means that we must honestly seek the will of God and be discerning. We must call upon God to intervene, and pray for those in authority that they might act justly and with mercy.
2. Question what you hear and what you think you know. History teaches us that the king has the ability of manipulating the people and convincing them that they are truly engaged in a “just war.” The priest’s knowledge of Scripture provides us with the framework by which we can be more discerning in this regard; the prophet speaks out accordingly.
3. Be critical of how power is being used. It is not easy to speak out against the excessive use of the sword, and only few have the courage to do so. But it is our prophetic calling to identify if there is a way to relieve the pain of the innocent. We may feel that a war is justified, but we must still pay close attention to the means that are used to achieve the desired ends.
4. Attend to the immediate needs of people: whether they are spiritual, medical, psychological, or any other that might arise during this war.
5. Reach out to the other side. There is no better time to reach out than during the time of war. If we do so, we will be taking an enormous stride towards building a bridge of reconciliation and showing the love of God. For God’s love transcends these boundaries that we, as fallen human beings, have set up.
This article has made certain observations in attempt to discern how God's people should act, as we are called to be peacemakers amidst the fog of war.
*Special thanks to Nomi Pritz for her assistance in writing this article.
Davis, John Jefferson. Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today, second
ed. New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 1993.
Geisler, Norman L. Christian Ethics: Options and Issues. Leicester:
Interview between Yaakov Achimeir and Earl Cox. “Roim Olam,” Reshut Hashidur.
(August 5, 2005). Taken from interview transcript.
S alim Munayer is Executive Director of Muslaha Ministries which seeks to bring reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians through camp and retreats.
© 2006 ASSIST News Service, used with permission
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