9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. 1 John 2:9-11
Percent of population claiming to be Christian:
Ukraine: A 2018 survey conducted by the Razumkov Centre found that 71.7% of the Ukrainian population declared themselves believers.
Russia: A 2020 poll conducted by the Levada Center found that 63% of Russians claimed to be Orthodox Christian.
United States: In a recent Religious landscape study, 70.6% Americans were found to be Christian. Only 3.6% claimed to be atheist. This is down from 4% in the 1940s.
Jesus said we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and be willing to die for them. Jesus said we are to love our enemies.
If 72% of Ukrainians are Christian and 63% of Russians are Christian is it possible for a Christian to join either military without killing and hating fellow Christians. Is Just War possible?
I do not understand the situation in Ukraine. I do not trust the propaganda from the US government or the US media or the Russian government. If what many are saying is true, then since 2008 NATO and the European Union have been expanding and encroaching on what Putin feels should be neutral territory between the West and Russia. Putin has been warning that this encroachment must stop.
The situation is similar to the Cuban crisis when the US demanded that the Soviet Union did not place missiles in Cuba.
Many commentators claim that the United States has been involved in supplying Ukraine with weapons and pushing the Ukrainians to continue fighting so that Russia becomes destabilized in order to make access to Russia natural resources easier.
Some say that the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex want continual war in the area so that weapons makers can accumulate huge profits and the US can import cheap resources from Russia.
If the US is goading Ukraine to war to steal Russia’s resources, is it possible for a Christian to support the foreign policy position of the United States?
The soldiers who killed Jesus were men like us, trying to make it in the world. Likely many had families. Quite possibly they had been taught, when they were young children that it is good and patriotic to be a soldier and fight for the state. Perhaps their parents encouraged them to be soldiers to take advantage of the career and leadership opportunities available to soldiers. Perhaps they were told stories of how Jewish “terrorists” such as the Maccabees had killed many Romans.
As soldiers, they were told that the people they killed on the cross were enemies of the state and a threat to their families. Many of those killed in Jerusalem at that time were insurrectionists, rebelling against unjust Roman rule.
If I had grown up in Rome and become a soldier would I be different? If I had been commanded to nail the hands of Jesus to the cross would I have refused if I thought that he deserved that death because the state told me he deserved it? How would I know that Jesus was innocent? How would I know Jesus was the Son of God? What if I refused to obey my orders? Would I be willing to be court marshaled or executed on the cross myself for refusing to obey orders? Could I follow a just war ethic?
Has the Just War doctrine created more division, hatred, and heretics in the church than any other doctrine?
Who is more heretical? A Mennonite who causes his church to divide arguing about the color of the carpet or a person killing our brothers and sisters in Christ because the government told them they were fighting a just war and needed to kill these Christians?
I recently read an article by Frank Viola and Greg Boyd, “Who are the Real Heretics.”
Viola and Boyd say that in the New Testament, “If a person divided a genuine church, they were guilty of heresy. Consequently, a person could be a heretic with the truth!”1
Many people who ascribe to the Just War Doctrine are not heretics, but the Just War Doctrine causes a situation that creates heretics.
What doctrine has created a situation where more Christians kill each other? What doctrine has caused more hatred and division in the church?
What if Christians were willing to die like Jesus died on the cross? What would have happened in past wars if all Christians involved refused to fight and had allowed the enemy soldiers to kill them instead?
How many soldiers would have been willing to follow the orders of Hitler?
How many soldiers would have been willing to follow the orders of Winston Churchill?
In some wars, members of the same congregation have fought on both sides.
Christians fighting Christians killed 1/3 of the European population during the 30 Years War from 1618 to 1648. All sides claiming just cause.
In the American Civil War both sides claimed they were fighting a just war. Both sides claimed to be Christian. Between 620,000 and 750,000 soldiers died in that war, Christian brother killing and hating Christian Brother.
In World War I, both sides claimed to be Christian. About 20,000,000 people died. Over half were innocent civilians. Both sides claimed they were fighting a just war. Christians from Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Christians and Muslims from the Ottoman Empire killed Christians from Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan, and the United States. And vis versa.
If World War I had not been fought, perhaps World War II and the Cold War could have been avoided.
Consider the teachings of Jesus and his disciples.
Jesus said,13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13. NIV
Jesus died on the cross and said of his enemies as he died. “Forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”
Jesus said, “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27. NIV
John said, 9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 1 John: 2:9 NIV
I am not convinced that it is possible for a Christian to fight a just war.
Aquinas’s conditions for a Just War – Jus Ad Bellum
The war must have a just cause – eg against invasion, or for self-defence – and not to acquire wealth or power.
The war must be declared and controlled by a proper authority, eg the state or ruler.
The war must be fought to promote good or avoid evil, with the aim of restoring peace and justice after the war is over.
Later conditions developed by other Christians – jus in bello
The war must be a last resort when all peaceful solutions have been tried and failed, eg negotiation.
The war should be fought with ‘proportionality’, with just enough force to achieve victory and only against legitimate targets, ie civilians should be protected.
The good which is achieved by the war must be greater than the evil which led to the war.
Reasons I question the possibility of Just War.
I do not see anything in the teachings of Jesus that allow for Just War of violence by Christians.
I do not see anything in the teachings of the church prior to St. Ambrose that states Christians may be involved in violence.
The prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah began teaching a way foreshadowing non-violence.
How does a Christian soldier stop fighting if he finds out he in an unjust situation?
How does a Christian stop a war that does not meet the just war criteria of Aquinas?
If a countries foreign policy does not have a system to test each military endeavor to determine if it is a just war, can a Christian fight in such a military?
How is a war determined to be just by the US government?
Christians in Germany and Christians in Great Britain both thought they were fighting a just war in World War one. If both sides claim to have Just cause can both sides be following Jesus when they declare Just War?
Are we arrogant when we claim our side is right and God is protecting our country when we attack other Christian nations who think they are fighting a just war?
Osama Bin Laden in his letter to America after 9/11 talked about the decades of bombing of innocent people in the Middle East by the US and it’s allies. If he was fighting an invading enemy and thought God was on his side and would help him win, was he fighting a just war?
Some Christians claim that any war the United States fights is a just war. If we allow the government to make moral decisions for us, are we worshiping the government?
If we allow the government to protect us instead of trusting God for protection, are we worshiping the government?
If we support a government fighting an unjust war are we endangering our souls?
What do we do with the teachings of Jesus that contradict Aquinas’ just war theology?
When I was young I was tempted to join the military. I did not. When I start thinking about the answers to the above questions, I cannot come up with good reasons how a Christian could violently support any empire that has ever existed while following the teachings of Jesus.
Making arguments Taking Scripture Out of Context
Some Christians take Biblical passages out of context to justify violence. A few examples:
Romans 13 says we are to be subject to the ruling authorities, however, Paul never gives permission to Christians to disobey God in order to be subject to the ruling authorities.
Paul says we cannot rebel against the authority: 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Romans 13:2.
Some Christians even use Romans 13 to justify wars such as the Revolutionary War. Paul was unjustly imprisoned by a repressive Roman government. The injustice of Great Britain against the American colonies was far less than the injustice St. Paul experienced from Rome. I believe the Revolutionary War was not just war in the eyes of St. Paul.
I am of the opinion we must read Romans 13 in the light of Romans 12. Is it possible to overcome evil with good when you are bombing innocent women and children?
Can a Christian fight in the military taking revenge for 9/11 and protecting America’s wealth and easy living and protecting oil wells owned by American companies?
I think we must also take these passages in context with Romans 8:28. God always brings about good for those who love him through the actions of evil men. We do not need to join in their evil activities.
For the first 3 centuries of Christianity, three times the Roman Empire tried to wipe out Christians like Hitler tried to wipe out Jews. These Christians remained faithful because God works for the good of those who love him through all things.
We can also compare the good that God brings when our enemies conquer us as compared to the good brought about through God using Babylon to bring about good for the Jews when they were taken captive and taken to Babylon.
God uses evil men to control the violence of evil men.
Some Christians have mentioned to me that when Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, he was demonstrating that violence by Christians is acceptable. The centurion was an enemy soldier. It is possible the centurion was one of the soldiers involved in killing Jews on crosses, as was common at that time.
Rather than demonstrating that violence was acceptable, Jesus was showing us how to treat our enemy. Jesus healing the centurion’s servant is like an American Christian supplying Osama bin Laden with a dialysis machine in 2002. Or an American doctor helping a close adviser of Hitler during World War Two.
Jesus forgave a solider. If Jesus forgave an alcoholic, does that mean it is acceptable for the alcoholic to continue breaking God’s laws and continue his alcoholic ways?
Amazingly some have suggested that because Paul compared Christian service to military service that this means it is acceptable for Christians to use violence. In verse 12 Paul clearly says that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. And in 2 Corinthians 10:4, Paul says the weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world.
Ephesians 6 is showing us that fighting evil like Jesus fights evil is dangerous and we will suffer losses. Fighting for Jesus is a real war. More real than any war fought by the Kingdoms of this world. But we have the resurrection on our side.
When we sign up to fight for Jesus, we experience true freedom. It is a freedom that does not need a government to pamper us in our faith. Perhaps a Christian can live under a government-run by Boka Horam and die by the sword a few days later and have greater freedom than a Christian living in the United States.
Some Christians claim that we as Christians have the responsibility to use violence if we are in government. Jesus passed the test of government of using government to further his Kingdom in Matthew 4. If Jesus did not use government, why should we? Why are we different than Jesus?
God demonstrates in the crossing of the Red Sea that he will fight for his children.
Throughout history, many Christians have been miraculously delivered from evil men. More Christians died for their faith in the 20th century than throughout all history before that.
Living as a nonviolent Christian is not safe in this world. But I would like to suggest that it is safer to be killed by our enemies when we are loving them than it is to live in the temporary freedom and wealth earned by killing our enemies.
I have been asking Christians why they feel it’s acceptable for Christians to use violence for 40 years. Listed below are reasons I have been hearing. I have provided a link to my response. I am planning to post responses to more of the reasons.
I think the best argument I have heard is “Protecting your family when violent people come.” (See reason 1 below.) But even in this case an alternative to the Christian using violence almost always occurs.
Notice however, that when we start looking for reasons to defend a pacifist position using the teachings of Jesus or the examples of Jesus, Paul, Peter & James, we can easily find one argument after another. For example, in Matthew 5: 8-13, Jesus shows us how to treat an enemy by healing the centurions servant. (See reason 13 below)
Arguments people have given me to suggest that it is acceptable for Christians to us violence:
Protecting your family when violent people come. See my response:
Paul used the Armor of God (Military references) as a metaphor for Christian spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:11-17. Because Paul referenced military equipment, that means he approved of Christians participating in military violence. See my response:
Ryan Callahan has written one of the best defenses for Christian violence than I have heard or read over the last 40 years of asking. Ryan said, “Good to meet you Jon. I agree that as followers of Jesus we should be men of peace. The Bible is also clear in 1 Corinthians 13:7 that love always protects. Defending your family is not a matter of violence. It is a matter of love.” Closely related is Phil Robinson’s defense of Christian violence. See my Response:
See the very interesting conversation between Ryan and Agent X.
“I have no problem with people Christian or otherwise for that matter choosing not to defend themselves ( particularly if doing so would involve violence) I do have an issue with people who refuse to defend OTHER people and/or tell people that it is wrong to use their legal right to self defense.” I found this quote on Christian Forums.
In Numbers 32, two tribes of Israel wanted to stay in Gilead and discontinue fighting. Moses spoke severely to them therefor we also should fight in war. .
One friend said, “Jesus often saves people in the military so it must be alright to work in the military.” Jesus saves people who once were prostitutes and thieves. That does not indicate that is acceptable for people to remain prostitutes and thieves. .
What arguments for violence have I missed? Please feel free to point out any errors in my thinking.
What arguments for violence have I missed? Please feel free to point out any errors in my thinking.
I absolutely agree with you that war is not compatible with Christian belief. It’s the reason I long ago ceased to call myself a Christian. I believe that there are circumstances in which war is justified and would cite the activity of Adolf Hitler and his followers. Had the rest of the world permitted the Nazi’s to continue with their programme, which included unspeakable violence against large numbers of our fellow humans based on their ethnicity/religious beliefs/failure to meet a supposed ideal of physical and mental perfection, neither you nor I would be alive today.Frank Parker
I find Frank’s honesty refreshing. I remain a Christian and believe it is wrong for Christians to participate in war. Why should we leave the Christian faith if most Christians do not follow that faith?
Many times the use of violence seems logical and right, but Jesus taught non-violence and gave us the example of a life and death of non-violence. Nowhere in the teaching of Jesus is violence taught as an acceptable alternative to non-violence.
Jesus as the Son of God has the right to ask his followers to live lives of non-violence if that is what he wants to do.
40 years and I have not found any reasons that Christians use to justify violence, that I felt is convincing.