Thursday, March 29, 2012

Living as if....

Non-Christian and non-pacifist Eric Cohen reviews War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity by Stanley Hauerwas:
.... Stanley Hauerwas, one of the most distinguished and surely most interesting Christian thinkers of the modern era, has been in the middle of this moral and theological fray for decades, arguing in various ways that being a Christian means never killing others in war. His new collection of essays, War and the American Difference, is his latest effort to show what it would mean to abolish war, and what it would mean to really live as Christ lived, and to live in the faith and knowledge that Christ’s coming has changed everything. In fact, the central argument of the book is that war has already been abolished, because in Christ we have a way—the only way—to live in peace in the face of the world’s evils.

The essays are provocative, cutting, and filled with interesting nuggets of existential insight into the condition of man and the meaning of faith. And Hauerwas is, in general, charitable to his opponents, be they Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis, Reinhold Niebuhr, or Paul Ramsey. But the larger argument—that we can live as if war has been abolished and that faith in God requires that we live that way—is morally unconvincing and at times morally perverse. ....

For Hauerwas, there is no such thing as a just war, since Christ is the embodiment of justice, and the revelation of Christ is that men should not and need not kill the other we are called to love. He believes the tragic necessity of war is an illusion. It is the denial of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice, which we have replaced with the blood sacrifices of modern war. The only answer—for him, the only Christian answer—is to "sacrifice the sacrifices of war" and to see the truth that the new reign of peace has already come. ....

If Hauerwas is the realist he claims to be, let him at least be realistic and honest about what will likely happen if love is our only weapon against those who believe that sending young girls to the gas chamber is rational or that nuclear war against Israel might bring about the new reign of God on earth. ....

...[I]f Hauerwas’ political theology is the true political theology of Christianity, then Christianity is a form of eschatological madness. And most Christians I know are not mad; indeed, they are, in general, the best hope for preserving a decent, God-seeking, free society in the face of the politics of death, desperation, and domination. ....

I do not believe that Hauerwas sees America’s enemies as "harmless, tame, and gentle creatures." He is too smart for that. But either he believes that loving them (combined with our unilateral disarmament) would change them or that dying under their sword would be the only right way to live. .... [more]
Darrell Cole, in "The Problem of War" summarizes C.S. Lewis on the subject of Christian pacifism.

The Sacrifices of War | First Things