Comments: Focus on War

Thank you Rosemary. I find this such a difficult subject. I am completely opposed to nuclear weapons because of the barbarism of killing so many innocent non-combatants and children, and yet war is barbaric anyway and the history of warfare is littered with what is now called (with clinical nicety) 'collateral damage'.

And yet...

To look at your chosen words:

"when we get to the New Testament that we find a radical demand that we suffer ourselves, rather than attack others, or even defend ourselves..."

Yes, there is a call for sacrifice in our faith... that we be prepared to 'suffer ourselves'.

So yes, we should not always demand the right to "defend ourselves"...

But what about defending others?

The classic analogies, to test one's readiness to protect others, would probably include -

1. Would it have been protective and right to have just surrendered to Hitler?

2. The burglar analogy - an intruder comes into your house and attacks your children... would it be protective to defend your moral scruples and let the children be attacked?

I find these dilemmas challenging.

On the other hand, I detest our species tendency for warfare. I marched in the big anti-war protest in London (which Tony Blair ignored) and ran our local Stop the War group.

But I still don't feel I could rule out taking clinical and commensurate action to protect, even if it compromised my own moral position.

The problem beyond that, is that war, to be executed successfully tends to need to be fought with total ruthlessness, and it leaves a trail of widows, orphans, and devastated communities.

As Shakespeare writes in Coriolanus:

"These are the ushers of Martius: before him he carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears."

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 12 May 2014 at 6:35pm BST

At an anti-war rally (Iraq in 2003 or 04), I met a woman who was so committed to pacifism that she opposed the American Civil War. I asked her "what about the slaves?" and she responded that that would have come to a natural end without the racism and bitterness that remains in our society to this day.

I wish I believed that, but I don't. They say that "evil wins when good people do nothing." And that seems to be the case with slavery, Hitler, apartheid, Civil Rights in the US, etc.

It has been found that nonviolent resistance is one of the most effective tools for achieving justice. But I think there are limits, like Hitler and slavery.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 12 May 2014 at 9:17pm BST

I don't think one can can be asked to do things one considers immoral, or fatally stupid, to defend others. I also think one has to be realistic about the cost of peace. It is high. I just think the cost of war is even higher, and more disastrous.

I think the defeat of Hitler was as close as one can imagine to a really just war. While I lament the fact that avoiding the Civil War in America would have led to slavery continuing longer, it would have, I think, avoided other ills.

But I am quite clear that there is always a cost to peace, and it is often a terrible cost.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Wednesday, 14 May 2014 at 8:25pm BST
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