Panel Discussion: Should a Christian Be a Pacifist?
Thoughts on Peace and Just-War Theory

Friday, November 11, 2005
Gonzaga Socratic Club

introduction by David Calhoun
remarks by Ron Large | Doug Kries | Tom Jeannot

David Calhoun, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Should a Christian Be a Pacifist?  Introduction
Jesus famously admonished his followers to “turn the other cheek” when treated with unjust violence (Matthew 5:39), but he also said “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Is Christianity essentially non-violent, even pacifist, or does Christian doctrine allow for the legitimate use of violence? How should a Christian think about matters of war, violence, and peace?

Ron Large, Religious Studies, Gonzaga University
Pacifism and Christianity
Pacifism rather than Just War represents the essential Christian view toward war. While the Just War Tradition has played a significant role in analyzing and understanding war, it compromises the fundamental Christian rejection of violence. If Jesus stands at the center of a Christian ethic then war cannot be seen as a valid Christian response to conflict.

Just make some general comments.
Scratch the surface, yet give some indication of notion of pacifism

Varieties of pacifism: not all one thing
Generally opposition to war
    Can have different reasons

Like to begin with some questions
    Is it possible to be a Christian and a racist?
    Is it possible to be a Christian and a misogynist?

Would we accept these? Most answer no. So why are we more or less comfortable with saying no to these than we are in saying no to Christianity and war? Does war give us something the others lack? Does war serve a purpose that we need?

See war as creating justice, as necessary, as a moral obligation. But is it these things?

See war as a means to enforce cooperation both internally and externally.
See war as a means to preserve values that we are then willing to kill for.
Not to kill seen as a dishonoring these values.
War becomes a moral institution in which Christians can participate.
Pacifism here portrayed as irresponsible.
We also see war as a regrettable sin. Yet given what we want war to achieve is this really adequate?

Jesus and the Kingdom
Discipleship and Christianity: What is a Christian ethic?
Alternative Story: the promise of violence is false. We lie and are lied to about violence. Jesus rejects the lie of violence.

Practical Pacifism
    What is the higher purpose that we use to justify violence?
    Violence and the momentum of escalation
    Do we ever have sufficient information to judge the claims of the resort to violence?
    The burden of proof is on those who want to use violence
    Govt has a duty to explain and convince

Doug Kries, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Should Christians be Pacifists?

1. Christian charity demands that we love our neighbors—even if our neighbors hate us.
2. Probably the most poignant illustrations of this point are in the Sermon on the Mount (e.g. turning the other cheek, going a second mile, et cetera).   

3. Unfortunately, it isn’t always clear what loving the neighbor means.  That is, while loving the neighbor must mean always willing what is best for the neighbor, what is “best” for the neighbor might not be in complete accord with the examples given in the Sermon on the Mount.  Is “turning the other cheek” always the same as loving the neighbor?   For example, perhaps the best way to love an alcoholic is NOT simply to turn the other cheek. 

4. The problem is compounded even more when the situation involves not only two people but three or more.  That is, even if I should turn the other cheek to one who slaps me, what should I do if someone slaps not me but a bystander?  The problem is even more acute if the one slapping and the one being slapped are under my authority.  The trouble with the Sermon on the Mount is that the situations it imagines involve only two people.  (This is, incidentally, also why Christians need to study political philosophy.)

5. The implication of this argument is that, while pacifism may prove the best method for practicing Christian charity in some situations, other situations may arise in which the demands of Christian charity conflict with pacifism.  In other words, there are situations in which Christian charity obliges the use of violence.

6. Two points of clarification should be added.  First, I am not arguing for a right of self defense.  Often today Christian just war thinkers argue in this way.  I think that the New Testament is quite clear that no such right exists, at least for Christians.  Christians must willingly suffer violence if that is the best way to love the neighbor.  This talk about a right to self defense is an import from early modern political philosophy. 

7. The second point of clarification is that I am not merely claiming that sometimes it is permissible for Christians to resort to violence in practicing charity.  I am arguing that it is obligatory.  It is a Christian duty to protect the innocent from unjust aggression.  This duty is, like all positive duties, limited.  It is not possible to protect all the innocent from all aggression any more than it is possible to clothe all who are naked or feed all who are poor or visit all who are imprisoned or teach all who are ignorant.  One has to pick and choose.  But when it is possible for one to help and one is in the best position to help, a failure to help is a failure of Christian charity.

Tom Jeannot, Philosophy, Gonzaga University
Armistice Day 2005

Gonzaga Socratic Club, November 11, 2005
Active nonviolent resistance to injustice is often said to be unrealistic.  Moreover, Elizabeth Anscombe is not alone in arguing that pacifism is a dangerously “false doctrine,” since it fails to distinguish justified killing from murder, the deliberate killing of the innocent, which is categorically wrong if anything is.  On the other hand, what is “realistic” or otherwise is a long way from obvious, and it may be the case that contemporary warfare is unavoidably murderous in the literal sense.
After World War II, Gandhi’s movement in India became the paradigm of active nonviolent resistance.  But it is often said that Gandhi was dealing with the British, to whom the appeal to conscience could be made, in contrast with a Hitler, a Stalin, or an Idi Amin.  I have never understood this piety towards British imperialism and the people who invented the concentration camp during the Boer War.  In fact, if realism is what is at issue, we are mistaken to neglect the replication of the Indian experiment in Filipino “people’s power” toppling the Marcos dictatorship, the victory of the African National Congress in South Africa, the “velvet revolution” in Czechoslovakia, or the civil rights struggle of the fifties and sixties in the United States.  Beyond their witness to the success of mass social movements of active nonviolent resistance, these examples also project an eschatological image of the human future in an epoch of weapons of mass destruction, against the alternative horizon of World War III. 
    To make the point as forcefully as I can, we neglect these five examples at the peril of a thermonuclear holocaust.  They did not resolve all human problems, but they succeeded in their fundamental aims against all types of regime: British imperialism, authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and apartheid in South Africa and the United States.  If it is said that it was the logic of mutually assured destruction shaping the Cold War that led to the collapse of perhaps the most brutal experiment in totalitarianism in the history of humanity, the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, it must also be said that nonviolent resistance was the decisive factor—samizdat, Solidarity, and the hands of the people themselves, no shots being fired, who tore down the Iron Curtain—imposing a fundamental limit on the range of responses available to apparatchiks, the KGB, gulags, and tanks on the streets.  In retrospect, it was the Prague Spring of 1968 that already prophesied the beginning of the end.  The drama of Tianemen Square in 1989, where the Statue of Liberty was a principal, forecasts the unquenchable strength of the human aspiration to be free, erupting in mass social movements from below: the so-called “communism” of the PRC today is a world away from the Great People’s Cultural Revolution. 
Meanwhile, the whole world knows that the use of weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations, such as the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the use of depleted uranium munitions, napalm, anti-personnel devices, and white phosphorous, is a crime against humanity ranking with genocide, the very crime that served as the pretext for the war in Iraq today.  It is worth noting that it is not the people themselves who use these weapons, but their governments.  Who can doubt that if popular democracy prevailed around the planet, nuclear weapons would be abolished tomorrow?  Only the apparatchiks themselves lecture the people on their necessity in a dangerous world, while they operate what President Eisenhower famously called a military-industrial complex, which it must be confessed an overwhelming majority of people would happily forego, knowing what such complexes portend for the future of humanity.
If we project the eschatological horizons of our world-historical circumstances today in 2005, we can readily grasp the imperative to prevent the outbreak of World War III.  The Cold War logic that still dominates the thinking of our own foreign policy establishment is not only dangerous but atavistic.  This is what led Pope Benedict XVI to say, before his election, “There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq.  To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war’” (May 2, 2003).  Benedict’s words appeal to the jus in bello condition of the just war theory called discrimination.  The urgent question today is whether wars can be fought at all consistent with this principle.
The just war is subject to more than one interpretation, but The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is probably a competent authority.  In their pastoral letter on peace, addressed to the epoch of weapons of mass destruction, they take the moral presumption against killing and war as their starting point.  As John C. Ford wrote in 1957, “If I assert that it is wrong to kill a million schoolchildren, I do not have to prove my assertion.  It is those who assert the contrary who have the burden of proof.”  Surely the fifth commandment retains some of its moral force.  The burden of justification falls on the shoulders of those who would justify war.  The just war theory of the natural law tradition is a carefully crafted construction of the conditions that would have to be satisfied if the burden is to be successfully borne.  It is not the one who says no to war who has a case to make.
In 1977, Michael Walzer laid his hands upon the just war theory in Just and Unjust Wars, raising this question again in the aftermath of the debacle in Southeast Asia, in which three million people lost their lives, principally through the indiscriminate mass murder of carpet bombing, napalm, and anti-personnel devices.  In the course of his complex discussion of noncombatant immunity, he includes Orwell’s famous account of his experience in the Spanish Civil War:
…a man, presumably carrying a message to an officer, jumped out of the trench and ran along the top of the parapet in full view.  He was half-dressed and was holding up his trousers with both hands as he ran.  I refrained from shooting at him.  It is true that I am a poor shot and unlikely to hit a running man at a hundred yards…Still, I did not shoot partly because of that detail about the trousers.  I had come here to shoot at “Fascists,” but a man who is holding up his trousers isn’t a “Fascist,” he is visibly a fellow-creature, similar to yourself, and you don’t feel like shooting at him.
In Catholic moral thought and in just war theory, the first and fundamental recognition is that the other person against whom you would perpetrate your act of violence is “visibly a fellow-creature, similar to yourself,” the imago Dei.  In this spirit, war can be justified only as a last resort, just in case it is the last remaining way of repelling an unjust aggressor.  And if it is taken up at all, the principle of discrimination still categorically applies to its conduct.
    In his book, Walzer also takes up the Paul Ramsey’s valiant but vain attempt to argue otherwise.  Walzer writes, “if there is to be a justified deterrent strategy, there must be a justified form of nuclear war, and Ramsey has conscientiously argued ‘the case for making just war possible’ in the modern age.”  But Walzer’s salient criticism is this:
Perhaps [Ramsey’s] argument is right [that although nuclear war can be threatened, the threat cannot be carried out], but I should stress that its result is to void the proportionality rule.  Now there is no limit on the number of people whose deaths we can threaten, so long as those deaths are to be caused ‘collaterally’ and not by taking direct aim [as Ramsey’s defense of the counterforce strategy entails].  [But] the idea of proportionality, once it is worked on a bit, tends to fade away.  And then the entire burden of Ramsey’s argument falls on the idea of death by indirection….But its standing is undermined…by the fact that Ramsey relies so heavily on the deaths he supposedly doesn’t intend.  He wants, like other deterrent theorists, to prevent nuclear attack by threatening to kill very large numbers of innocent civilians, but unlike other deterrent theorists, he expects to kill these people without aiming at them….[The] word ‘collateral’ seems to have lost much of its meaning.
Since what is at issue here is what the Pentagon euphemistically calls “collateral damages,” it is easy enough to extend Walzer’s criticism from the field of deterrence to the doctrines of preemptive and preventive war.  The crucial point is Benedict’s concern: “we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war’.”  If Ramsey’s attempt to work out the just war for the epoch of weapons of mass destruction fails along the lines Walzer develops, then it is quite likely that nations that fight wars with the firepower of the fire-bombing of Tokyo or the fire-bombing of Dresden cannot fight them justly in principle, for the simple and principled reason that this firepower is unavoidably indiscriminate.
    This appears to be the case in the U.S. war against Iraq.  Something like 50,000 bombs have been dropped.  We know about the siege of Fallujah.  We know about depleted uranium.  To the best of my knowledge, the Lancet’s report in October, 2004 of the Johns Hopkins study projecting casualties in excess of 100,000 people, the vast majority of them innocent civilian bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, has not been refuted.  And conditions would be similar for any war the U.S. might conceivably fight today.  I personally have not crossed over to pacifism, although it has haunted me my whole life.  My point this afternoon is that it is right to be haunted by pacifism.  John Ford writes, “It is illegitimate to appeal to the principle of double effect when the alleged justifying cause is speculative, future, and problematical, while the evil effect is definite, enormous, certain, and immediate.”  This strikes me as the right statement to make.