Saturday, November 17, 2012

Good Samaritans

Paul Ramsey was a Princeton professor, a Methodist, who wrote about Christian ethics and modern war. I first came across his books in college. They had titles like War and the Christian Conscience and The Just War: Force and Political Responsibility. He wrote and argued clearly and well. He convinced me of the contemporary relevance of "just war" theory. I am reminded of his arguments today by this:
When Paul Ramsey retold the parable of the Good Samaritan asking, "What do you imagine Jesus would have had the Samaritan do if in the story he had come upon the scene when the robbers had just begun their attack and while they were still at their fell work?," he was not merely concerned with asking what Christian love required of the individual, but what the implications were for the responsible political use of force. ....

.... Once you decide that you would be complicit in the evil if you were entirely passive, and once you decide that charity requires action, it is difficult to see how it is more charitable to the victim to pursue an ineffective nonviolent strategy than an effective violent strategy. As Ramsey says, "if one judges that not to resist is to have complicity in the evil he will fail to prevent, then the choice between violent and non-violent means is a question of economy and in the effective force to use." ....

Christian pacifists, at least those who base their pacifism on the Gospel teachings of Jesus, claiming that Jesus' suffering non-resistance on the cross is the model for all Christian action, cannot consistently appeal only to nonviolent action as the only just recourse in the face of grave evil. That's not only because Jesus sacrifice on the Cross was not an example of nonviolent direct action in the first place, but because it is simply not effective in the face of great evil. Nor can they reasonably draw a categorical distinction between police and military use of force, for the simple reason that the difference between them is merely a difference in degree not in kind.
The quotation in the Orwell poster dates from World War II.

Paul Ramsey, the Good Samaritan, and Christian Pacifism - Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD)