So just last week I posted an entry entitled “War Etiquette” that discusses whether it was morally right for the United States to invade Iraq. My dear friend and spiritual guide Kara, analysed whether the it is morally acceptable based on Jesus’ standards. I think her writings are very important and hits bang on. I’d love to hear your thoughts. For her full response, click here. Below is a summary.
Two precursor questions need to be answered first:
What is war? War comes from a term that originally means to mix things up, to confuse. Being at war then, is about being engaged in some kind of conflict. It has come to be defined in several ways: an active struggle against competing entities; to engage in armed conflict against an enemy; a concerted effort to end something considered harmful/injurious, among others things. Based on this, we know that not all wars are wrong; not all wars are right; not all wars are “all” wrong; and not all wars are “all” right.
What is morality? Or what does it mean to be morally acceptable? Morality is to behave with good or right conduct. Something is morally acceptable if the behaviour is done with good intent or the act is something good to do. If we can agree on these two things then we can answer your questions.
Your Question: “How can Jesus Christ’s standard of morals be used to judge whether the war in Iraq is morally acceptable?”
The war you are referring to is an armed/weaponised struggle against an enemy. Because the “golden rule” standard evaluates thoughts, motives, and actions right down to the individual level, the real question is: “How can Jesus Christ’s standard of morals be used to judge whether the US Administration’s motive(s) for going to war in Iraq are morally acceptable?”
The only overt clues we have as to the reasons are either: pre-emptive strike (i.e. get them before they get us), acquisition of resources (i.e. get their oil), depose the Iraqi head of state (oust him because he is no longer useful to them), protect the American way of life (i.e. maintain the American lifestyle by war-economy), promote democracy (i.e. setup a pro-American leadership in Iraq). The “golden rule” does not support any of these motives to justify starting an armed/weaponised struggle for the following reason: the circumstances under which the “golden rule” standard was produced.
Jesus grew up in a hostile environment, similar to what we now have in present-day Israel or Iraq: The country was ruled by corrupt officials; the country was under occupation and oppressed by the most powerful nation at that time (Rome); there were insurgents and insurrections left and right, and innocent civilians were constantly caught in the thick of it. Jesus could have existed today in any of these two places and the results would be the same. Anyone who practices this knows that the golden rule:
- does not support the use of weaponised offensive or “pre-emptive” strikes but says instead “love your enemy”, meaning live a life of non-retaliation
- does not support armed struggle for the sake of acquiring other peoples’ resources but says “watch out! be on your guard against all kinds of greed”, meaning don’t desire what belongs to someone else
- does not support armed struggle to overthrow leaders because we don’t like them anymore or don’t agree with their political model but says “Put your sword away. He who lives by the sword will die by the sword”, meaning live a non-violent life
- does not support the use of weapons against others in order to maintain/protect a certain lifestyle but says “do not store up treasures on earth where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” and “be content with what you have”
- does not support weaponized struggle to promote an ideology but says “let your light shine in front of everyone that they can see your good works”
Jesus did not engage in or advocate any of these practices, although others around him did, yet the circumstances around him were egregious enough. Instead he advocated waging what he considered the right war: the war for the minds and hearts of human beings to see the solution to their destructive ways (both self-destruction and the destruction of others around them). His war or struggle was for love and justice – walking in the light versus living in darkness. His verdict against us says this:
“Light has come into the world but men loved the darkness rather than the light…everyone who does what is wrong does not come to the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”