At the Threshold published an email message while the debate was taking place over a proposed unilateral strike against Syria. That posting led a friend of the author to respond and the exchange that took place between them is directly reflective of the sort of exchanges that must have been taking place in the international corridors of power. For the present proposals conform rather remarkably to the analysis and conclusions that can be found within the conversation between the author and the friend.

A recap:

We began with this declaration: Christianity is opposed to war. Then we went on to acknowledge that the church does make allowance for war if it meets certain standards. Two of the standards for a just war are: (1) that it will be effective for its intended purposes and (2) that there is no alternative in the face of a direct threat to national security. Additionally, we recognized the pragmatic reality: Lasting results do not come of war but ultimately must be worked out diplomatically and politically. Read More…

By Deacon Charlie deGravelles

BATON ROGUE — Scholars in the still young but expanding field of peace and conflict studies distinguish between two kinds of peace. “Negative peace” is the term  for those relatively rare periods when there is no declared war but during which all sides are planning and preparing what will inevitably be the next armed conflict. In his book, War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, American journalist and war correspondent Chris Hedges notes an astounding fact — discovered through the calculations of the historian, Will Durant: In 3,300 years of recorded human history, only 29 of those years have been without a war somewhere on the planet.

Charles deGravelles

Charlie deGravelles

To reduce the scale to my own lifetime, in all of my 63 years, there has been one or more wars raging somewhere on the planet. Even in my own country, there have been only a few scant years — mainly between the end of the Korean War and the beginning of our involvement in Vietnam — when we haven’t been engaged in open armed conflict somewhere.

I’ve heard this kind of peace, negative peace, described as “perpetual pre-hostility,” and Jesus alludes to such a peace in the Gospel of Luke. “What king,” Jesus asks, “going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.”

The point of Jesus’ illustration is not necessarily about war (though military tacticians should certainly take note); it’s about the importance of careful consideration, of “counting the cost,” of understanding possible consequences before you make an important decision. And wouldn’t you know it, we, as a country, are in just such a period of “pre-hostility” as I write this, carefully calculating how to react to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. (May God help us in those calculations.)

Jesus is always a realist, as his illustration suggests: Don’t be stupid and get your soldiers slaughtered if you know you can’t win. Make the best deal you can, buy some time, and when you can muster thirty or forty thousand to their twenty thousand, then you can think about war or at least better terms of peace. Read More…

Christianity is opposed to war. That is where any consideration about going to war or using the weapons and instrumentalities of war must begin for Christians.

At the beginning of its history the church did not allow Christians to participate in killing of any sort, including the actions of soldiers. Before being baptized, a soldier would have to leave military service. In due course the church mitigated its absolutist position and made allowance for war if it meets certain standards. Two of the standards for a just war are: (1) that it will be effective for the security and justice it seeks to establish or maintain and (2) that there is no alternative way to effect the justice that is sought, absolutely, whatsoever, under any circumstances.

In this case the first question should be: Does the limited military action proposed by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry meet these two standards?

As is patently obvious, the answer is no.

The second question should be:  Does the argument that the proposed use of force will act as a deterrent to both this tyrant and others meet these two standards?

The answer may be less obvious, but it is clearly no.

Comment here.

Is the church relevant in England but irrelevant in America?
Except when the issue involves a woman’s right to choose or the rights of gay couples to marry, it is not at all clear that the church ecumenical has a voice in the deliberations that take place in the corridors, committee rooms or on the floor of the Congress. Catholic senators and congress-people will have heard Pope Francis’ strong denunciation of U.S. plans to attack Syria but none seem to be heeding it, let alone acting on it.  In England it was obvious that the opposition voiced by the Archbishop of Canterbury had a significant impact on the decision, but in America, will the voice of the church be heard? Read More…