Thursday, 1 March 2007

War... what is it good for? (almost absolutely nothing) Part I

Is it OK for a Christian to bomb another Christian if they belong to another country? Is it OK for me to shoot another Christian if they happen to find themselves on the other side of a conflict? Shall I stab another member of the body of Christ with a bayonet? As Paul says, shall I "destroy God's temple"? Is my allegiance to my country/state more important than my allegiance to my brother in Christ? Are we to say that Iraqi Christians killed by Christian American and British pilots, for example, are collateral damage?

Those are far from the only questions for the Christian regarding war and conflict, but they are extremely relevant. So often we remove the debate about war and violence to debates about abstract justice. the good etc. But actually it is as much about to whom we owe allegiance: to the church or the state?

Read these lines from Father George Zabelka, chaplain for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb squadrons in 1945, who later came to repent of his complicity in the bombing of civilians. He describes the bombing of Nagasaki....

"Catholics dropped the A-bomb on top of the largest and first Catholic city in Japan. One would have thought that I, as a Catholic priest, would have spoken out against the atomic bombing of nuns. One would have thought that I would have suggested that as a minimal standard of Catholic morality, Catholics shouldn't bomb Catholic children. I didn't.......I walked though the ruins of Nagasaki right after the war and visited the place where once stood the Ukrami Cathedral...When I look at it today I pray God forgives us for how we have distorted Christ's teaching...."

And he speaks of his conversion to non-violence.....

"I worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights struggle in Flint, Michigan. His example and his words of nonviolent action, choosing love instead of hate, truth instead of lies, and nonviolence instead of violence stirred me deeply. This brought me face to face with pacifism—active nonviolent resistance to evil. I recall his words after he was jailed in Montgomery, and this blew my mind. He said, "Blood may flow in the streets of Montgomery before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood that flows, and not that of the white man. We must not harm a single hair on the head of our white brothers. I struggled. I argued. But yes, there it was in the Sermon on the Mount, very clear: "Love your enemies. Return good for evil." I went through a crisis of faith. Either accept what Christ said, as unpassable and silly as it may seem, or deny him completely."

I can't help thinking we need a crisis of faith as well.