- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2001

American Christians are debating what is a "just war" and a proper response to terrorism.
The anti-war march here yesterday in the District included an element of Christian pacifism and the belief that U.S. power is the cause of terrorist resentment.
But other Christians are taking a harder view, arguing that the terrorists attacks on New York and Washington have redefined warfare and security and thus the moral response.
They say assassinations and pre-emptive military strikes now are a Christian option in a just war, and that justice must be done with no illusions about the moral purity of America or individual believers.
"The just-war way of thinking needs development," said George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center at a recent Roman Catholic forum.
He said that because international terrorism does not follow established rules of combat, "pre-emptive military action is not only justifiable, it's morally imperative."
Mr. Weigel, who wrote on the topic during the Cold War, said that in recent years, some Christian thinkers have revised the "just war" theory to say conflict must be avoided.
Instead, he said, the original just-war argument in Christianity going back to St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas was developed so that a "legally constituted authority" could defend the citizenry with violence, if necessary.
At the same forum, "Just War Principles and Counterterrorism," international relations expert Andrew Bacevitch of Boston University said he has reversed his stand against assassination, a position he held on moral grounds for 30 years.
But he said the United States now must shoulder the murky morality of restoring a spy system that "gets in bed with unsavory" people and that lets the president use military force in part for domestic reasons, such as morale or re-election.
Meanwhile, U.S. Catholic bishops are likely to avoid specific comments on military strategy against terrorist complexity, said Jerry Powers, director of their office on peace and justice. "They will be reluctant about moral judgments on how to proceed," he said.
But he added that the bishops who also are divided over anti-war and just war views will not be "chaplains" simply to rubber-stamp military policy.
The nation's leading evangelical journal, Christianity Today, soon will publish an essay saying the world's long-term problem is religious terrorism, and the Christian response must be "tragic courage."
Believers must fight the new evil, even if they feel wracked with guilt about their own sin or America's injustices and imperfections, Managing Editor Mark Galli wrote.
"This course requires courage because it means risking one's moral purity in the pursuit of justice," he said, "and that means the pursuer must depend on the grace of God for his justification."
He said Christians must also engage in prayer, charity, sacrifice and peacemaking, but that "in this war against religious terrorism, Christians, in particular, should be able to act with both vigor and humility."
The Jesuit journal America, which reflects that Catholic religious order's pacifist leanings and criticism of U.S. arrogance, argued that it was immoral for Washington to act alone to exact justice.
"Only a united world community can stop organized terrorism," said the journal. "Such solidarity will not be achieved if the United States is seen as a lone ranger going its own way."
Another Christian response is a proposal to strengthen religious and democratic ties with moderate Muslims to isolate religious radicals.
Douglas M. Johnston of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy here said that a "dual-track strategy" that adds diplomacy to a military response can help the United States avoid a "trap" of spiraling terrorism.
For example, he said, the United States should seek out Muslim moderates in Sudan.
The world image that the United States props up such regimes as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait could be reversed, he said, by helping "facilitate the kind of democratic change" their populations want.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide