From last year, but still seems fitting:
Why is it that conversations about Christianity and war are more likely to take place in academic settings rather than ecclesial ones? Why don’t pastors and preachers talk about war as much as professors do? What homiletical and catechetical conditions (failures?) make it almost impossible for congregations to undertake a study of, say, the proportionality criterion for just war or the reasons for the early church’s unequivocal pacifism?
And how does the “support the troops” ethos that has pervaded liberal and conservative America and low-and high-church Christianity contribute to the poverty of our discourse around these matters? That is, how does the fear of being perceived as anti-soldier silence preachers and teachers who have an obligation to preach and teach the peace of Christ in churches that glamorize, sentimentalize, and fetishize war – and the soldiers who fight them?
And where exactly did this new “warrior ethic,” summed up in the mantra “support our troops,” come from?
In an essay in the Society of Christian Ethics Journal, Patrick McCormick traces the confluence of narratives from liberal Hollywood filmmakers and the Washington war machine in which the valor of the individual soldier – not the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the greater cause – trumps every question about the justification of war. Genuine political debate about the rightful use of military force has been supplanted with this “idealization of soldiers,” and the just war ethic has been replaced with a “warrior code” — an ethic that embraces every war as just.
So now most Christians get their theology of war from Saving Private Ryan. What matters in the movie (and in real life) is not whether the war is just but that the warrior is righteous; and the warrior achieves righteousness simply by being courageous and loyal to fellow comrades. Support the troops and don’t ask questions. (Our recent fascination with the Navy Seals who “took out” Osama bin Laden only reinforces this new stance).
How can clergy and church educators gain the necessary courage to preach and teach regularly about war, making its intrinsic connections to our foundational practices: Baptism and Eucharist? When will church leaders trust those in their care with the complex history and theology of war in the Christian tradition (and not debate the finer points with their clergy friends only)? And when will we realize that we need to address these matters not so much on Memorial Day or Veterans Day but, more fittingly, during Advent or when we wash each other’s feet?
And how can discernment about war and violence be recovered as a communal, ecclesial practice since, as Bill Cavanaugh has pointed out, the church has always assumed “that those who would judge rightly in these matters would be followers of Jesus Christ, formed in the virtues of a disciple, and given authority by the Holy Spirit within the community of disciples.”