Sunday, July 13, 2014

Christians should question war and violence

This month my theology book group is discussing The Truce of God by Rowan Williams.
I found it quite refreshing and challenging because it questions some positions that often seem to be taken for granted in modern Western society.

Movie portrayals of uncontrollable violence seem to imply "violence is never something that ordinary human beings decide to do". It is just done by monsters and robots. No, we do it.

We do have a choice. We have to take responsibility. Supporters of war may claim "we have no choice" and so try to evade responsibility. "Peace" activists may wish to disengage from society and so evade responsibility. Christian freedom is the freedom to engage, just like the Creator God, not the freedom to disengage.

"war and peace are 'spiritual' as well as tactical and political issues" (p. 20)

Peace is not just absence of conflict. The peace of God is not really serenity. It is quite different to modern political notions of peace.
"Hence my reasons for some scepticism about the peaceful effects of the Cold war era. Honesty requires that we look rather hard at the present realities of Africa and Asia and ask how much responsibility of their condition lies with a mindset in which military and strategic decisions distorted the great powers from coherent development policies and pressed many nations into an artificial mould with in the international drama. ... a history of displaced conflict, aggravated by debt, is ... the responsibilities of wealthier nations... peace in Europe and North America has been purchased at the cost of systematic destabilisation elsewhere."   (p.37-8). 
Western governments seem to strive to create an environment where their war and "national security" policies are necessary and beyond debate. Questioning (and particularly opposing) these policies is unpatriotic and threatens national security and the lives of soldiers on the ground. Yet, surely the last fifty years, from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan has shown the folly and tragedy of these wars. Those who opposed them were marginalised [for example, the Dixie Chicks] yet in hindsight many of their concerns seem to have been well placed.

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