There is a huge problem here, however. Pro-life advocates often refer to abortion as a modern day holocaust. If aborted babies are human lives with intrinsic human value, then they have been victimized like no other group on the face of the Earth. Yet when we see a terrorist bomb an abortion clinic in an attempt to stop the "holocaust," most pro-life advocates distance themselves from the bomber. "That's not what Christ would do," they say. They recognize that abortion is horrendous, but bombing people isn't how Christians are to go about defending these lives.
There are all sorts of nuances you can place on the scenario of the situations you want to compare between WWII and bombing abortion clinics. But I have yet to meet someone who can tell me why they think a German resistance fighter who knows the horrors of the Holocaust killing a Nazi was justified, but us killing abortion doctors isn't. That leaves us in a conundrum, because if the two scenarios are morally equivalent, then the conclusion about one is faulty. If the scenarios are morally equivalent and the German resistance fighter should defend Holocaust victims with deadly force, then American citizens should defend the unborn with deadly force. However, if the scenarios are morally equivalent and we know that it is wrong to kill abortion doctors, then the German resistance fighter shouldn't defend Holocaust victims with deadly force.
I thought about this for years and just couldn't figure out the answer. But of the two scenarios, I was more certain it was wrong to kill the abortion doctor. It wasn't until I researched pacifism that it finally clicked for me.
There are all other sorts of moral scenarios you can begin to play around with. Since just war adherents are usually more pragmatic, there a lot of scenarios that are conundrums for them which the pacifist just doesn't have to face. Here is an example using a Mash episode that highlights one of my favorites. I hope these questions and thoughts help you to think a little deeper about your beliefs.
What just war has been fought in the 20th century? The most "just" war I can think of is WWII, but it failed the just war test on at least three points I identified at the bottom of section 7. I could argue that it failed on all but one.
We're not a Christian nation, so we may often do bidding of a misguided ruler and don't have discretion on whether or not we go to war. How is it possible to be in the military knowing that your government inevitably wages unjust wars (economic motives for waging war, proxy wars for political reason, wars that don't fit all "just war" criteria, etc)?
There are no more battlefields anymore. Combatants are often fighting from amongst dense populations of civilians and aren't easily distinguished from civilians. Any war is going to produce significant civilian casualties. How can modern wars be just?
WWI saw the creation of the homefront. With the huge armies and the amounts of supplies needed, war efforts became as much about civilian producers as it did about the armies. In WWI and WWII armies bombed war factories with civilian workers. So who is a combatant in today's society? Who is a fair target if the U.S. goes to war? Is the person working in a factory in Texas who makes bullets fair game? What about the person in Michigan who makes tires for army vehicles? What about the farmer who supplies the army with food? What about the person in California who makes circuitry for Cruise Missiles? What about the person in China who makes components and tools and harvests the raw materials for the guy in California who makes the circuitry for cruise missiles?
If you think all of the workers in the above question are non-combatants and shouldn't be targeted, what do you then think about blockades? Are you free to prevent other nations from supplying your enemy with war materials? What if there are food supplies along with the shipment of war materials? What if there are only food supplies - can you blockade food supplies from your enemy? Is keeping food from enemy civilians justified if you are also keeping it from their army? If such as a blockade that hurts all enemies (civilians and army) indiscriminately is legitimate, why not a bombing that blows up a factory and kills hundreds or thousands of civilians in the process like the Tokyo firebombing or the A-bomb?
How can you explain the warmongering of Christian Europe? Up through WWII, nations that identified almost wholly as "Christian" fought each other to the death. If we had a thousand years of utter evil and malice at the hands of Christian states (in war, inquisitions, tortures and public executions, etc) how are we to believe that a theory of just war is reasonable? We've seen the Christian state who adheres to just war in action and it's been found wanting.
How can you maintain reasonable success in Just War if you are so constrained by moral limitations? Does this qualification apply to the individual? What about the individual soldier or the unit in battle? What does that do to notions of honor and sacrifice?
If you were a soldier, what would be your threshold for determining whether you could kill someone justly? Or would you just follow commands and kill anyone who your government determined was the enemy?
Take just about any European war among Christian nations - like the 100 years war. If both sides are Christian and the reasons for fighting are murky, would you join your country's army and fight against other Christians? If you didn't join but were conscripted, would you fight? If you believed the other country was just and your country was not, would you seek to uphold justice and support their cause or would you support the national cause? Anecdotally, all I speak with would not seek to fight for justice, but would support their country. How does the just war notion not simply devolve into an excuse for defaulting towards a defense of one's own nation (at best), and emphatic nationalism at worst?
Questions from the Hauerwas article:
- What would an American foreign policy determined by just war principles look like?
- What would a just war Pentagon look like?
- What kind of virtues would the people of America have to have to sustain a just war foreign policy and Pentagon?
- What kind of training do those in the military have to undergo in order to be willing to take casualties rather than conduct the war unjustly?
- How would those with the patience necessary to insure that a war be a last resort be elected to office?
PUNISHMENT AND SELF-DEFENSE:
If rape or robbery isn't punishable by the death penalty - and if we don't think it should be - then how can we justify killing someone in the act of rape or robbery? If you think an aggressor who is raping or robbing someone can be legitimately killed, are you saying that "the right to my body/property trumps another's right to life?" If you are essentially saying that "the right to my body/property trumps another's right to life," do you also advocate abortion - a position which makes this exact claim?
What situation can cause an individual to lose their right to life? How do aggressors lose their right to life, or how is this right subsumed? If an aggressor doesn't lose their inalienable right to life, by what justification can you then kill them?
If you are justified to harm or kill another person in self-defense, how can you avoid the conclusion that torture can be justified on the same grounds? You can rightfully shoot someone in your home if you have a reasonable belief that they could harm you. If I have a reasonable belief - or if I am almost certain that a suspect has information that could save another's life, why am I not justified in torturing them? What is the difference between harming them to save a life in torture, or harming them to save a life by shooting them while they are attacking? An intruder in my home is neutralized when they are in custody or incapacitated from doing violence. A terrorist is not neutralized until their plan is foiled, the bomb disarmed, all the hostages released, etc. Why can't we use torture to neutralize terrorists? In fact, isn't torture more merciful and just than killing in self-defense? If an intruder is in your home, to stop them with a gun means you will likely kill them. But by using torture, you can usually stop the crime by only using as much force as necessary without taking a life.
Is it possible to kill someone out of love for them? Don't many instances of killing in self-defense involve some sort of hatred? If you find someone in the act of raping your child, while you may kill out of a love for your child, is it possible to kill the aggressor without hate for them? If you harbor hate for them, doesn't that then turn your killing into murder? At that point, how is it a justified killing to stop a rape with murder? If many instances of self-defense are murder, what situations remain open to kill another human without doing so immorally?
Christianity largely abolished slavery in Rome and early Christians were discouraged from military service. When the state and church were married, Christian Europe soon began warring with other religions and with each other, slavery made a return and was justified by Christians because it was in the interest of their conquering country, etc. Christianity instituted some of the most horrific tortures (e.g. breaking on the wheel) because people thought torture prevented evil action. The state has an interest in preventing evil (and revolt). Torture was ubiquitous among Christian nations for the sake of the state (and the souls of others). How has mingling Christianity with government and letting Christians bear the sword been beneficial to the advancement of the true gospel? Isn't the first objection most Christians today hear, "what about the Crusades and the Inquisition?" Doesn't it seem like Christians taking government upon themselves as a means has caused far more harm to the gospel message than good?
Bible and Tradition:
Can you make a positive case for anti-pacifism and just war from the Bible? What examples can you give under the New Covenant?
Can you picture Christ or any of the apostles advocating using violence on other human beings until Christ returns in judgment?
How do you explain away the lack of anti-pacifism in the first few hundred years of the church? What about Canon 12 of Nicaea - an ecumenical document? What about all of this coupled with the first formulation of just war coinciding with the rise of Christian/state mingling and the felt need for soldiers due to the rising threat to Rome and its first sacking in about 800 years? Doesn't the transformation in the literature and tradition seem a bit convenient for a newly formed Christian state?
2. Biblical Teaching
3. Biblical Examples
4. Early Church Teaching
5. Real Life Examples
6. Pacifism Applied
7. Evaluating the Christian Alternative to Pacifism
8. Pacifism Quotes to Ponder
10. Questions for Just-War Adherents