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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Is war virtuous?

I am currently reading a book defending war, in some cases, as good and Christian called The Virtue of War. I have only gotten through about half of the book and while it is an interesting read, it could be structured a bit better.

The authors looks mostly at the Orthodox Church and a tradition of "justifiable war", that is - that if war is conducted for a good end, it is indeed good and not rather a "necessary evil". In support of this conclusion, the authors point to liturgical rites such as the blessing of weapons, military saints, and writings from scripture and the holy fathers.

The authors also look to the views of Vladimir Soloviev especially presented in his Three Conversations and A Brief Tale of the Antichrist republished in War, Progress and the End of History - in which Soloviev criticizes the Tolstoyan view that war is always immoral with a view that war can indeed be necessary in the struggle against evil.

Both of these are books you are not likely to see in the hands of the typical Franciscan and are certain to raise eyebrows at the next meetings of the Peace and Justice Committee. Though I have been tempted to start an organization called Bellum Christi just for fun.

I think that what Soloviev demonstrates, and a point with which I agree, is that it is one thing to personally commit yourself to pacifism, it is quite another to commit others to the same principle. For example, if someone points a gun at you and threatens to shoot you, I have no problem with someone choosing not to respond in self-defence in order to practice a non-violent alternative. On the other hand, if someone points a gun at someone else and threatens to shoot them, I believe that you have a moral responsibility to protect the one in danger - especially if that danger is not just imminent but in fact truly exists. I can make a choice for myself to practice pacifism, I cannot force that choice upon someone else.

What this means in terms of national policy is that countries do, in fact, have an obligation to defend the rights of the persecuted and some times that defense requires military force. This doesn't mean that military force should be the first or only option, but that it should not be automatically rejected because we have foolishly decided to preserve a bad peace at all costs.


Blogger sean said...

You'll see those books in my hands now that you've made me aware of them! :)

Great post!

Sean, SFO

1:01 AM  

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