Christian attitudes towards war – the Just war
Christians emphasise that the use of violence is generally wrong, however, some Christians recognise that in order to overcome evil war should sometimes be allowed.In the 13 century Thomas Aquinas decided that there should be guidelines for people to follow, (his original list has now been extended to include the list below)
- The Just War Theory
- 1. The war must be started (declared) by a legal authority (government)
- 2. The reason for going into war must be just or moral
- 3. Everything should be done to make sure that good rather than evil results from the war.
- 4. The war must be a last resort.
- 5. The force used during the war should be enough to win, but no more than that.
- 6. Civilians should not be targeted
- 7. There must be a realistic chance of winning
- ¨ A pacifist is someone who believes that all war is wrong and who refuses to participate in any fighting.
- ¨ People who refuse to fight in war are called CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS. (e.g. those who refused to fight in the first and second world war.) Some conscientious objectors agreed to be stretcher bearers or drivers in wartime but would not fight.
- ¨ The Religious Society of Friends (also known as Quakers) believe that it is never right to fight under any circumstances.
- ¨ Martin Luther King was a Christian pacifist. He changed the segregation laws by using non-violent direct action. He always maintained that he was a pacifist and never reported to violence.
The Bible and Violence
- Blessed are the peacemakers for they are the children of God (Matthew 5:9
- Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig-tree by the road, he went up to it and found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered. (Matthew 21:18-19)
- But if there is a serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Exodus 21:23-24)
- You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13)
- When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen [in garden of Gethsemane] they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear healed him. (Luke 22:49-51)
- Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He over-turned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves. "It is written," he said to them, "My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers. [Matthew 21:12-13]
- A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. [John 13:34]
Holy and Nuclear War
Some Christians might say that war (or violence) can sometimes be regarded as the lesser of two evils.
- Holy war
- This is when a country goes to war with the intention that they are fighting the war on ‘behalf of God’ and that it is their religious responsibility. The crusades were regarded as holy wars, however they were never fought according to the rules that Christianity has tried to apply to war.
- Nuclear war
- Some Christians argue that everyone has to be a pacifist in this nuclear age. The threat of biological and chemical weapons is so great that any type of conflict should be avoided. Avoiding war will at least reduce the risks of such lethal weapons ever being used. They cite the example of Hiroshima to show the devastation that these weapons can cause.
Christian beliefs about the treatment of criminals
Christianity teaches a message of forgiveness, and of love for enemies. In John’s Gospel when a woman is about to be stoned to death because she has committed adultery, Jesus said;
- ‘if any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’
- · Jesus taught people to think about their own fault before they judged other people.
- · In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught people to look at their own faults before judging others.
- · In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus shows how visiting prisoners is also an act that will be rewarded. This shows the importance of forgiveness towards prisoners.
The four aims of punishment
- Christians believe it’s important to punish criminals.
- There are four aims of punishment
- Deterrence – to deter (put off) a person and so avoid the crime being committed
- Protection – to protect the society from the criminal
- Retribution – to take revenge for the victim on the criminal
- Reformation – to help the criminal to change and become a better person
Christian responses to social injustice.
- · Social injustice is when some people in society are given fewer rights and privileges than others, e.g. racial groups, the poor, the disabled, ethnic minorities etc.
- · Everyone is made equal by God – therefore to treat anyone unequally is wrong.
- · The Bible shows how it is wrong to mistreat the poor. Christians are also told not to favour the rich over the poor.
- · In the Old Testament the Prophets spoke out against social injustices warning people that they would be punished by God.
- · People from different parts of the world should be treated well.
- · The Reverend Martin Luther King is an excellent example of a Christian (minister) who fought against racism in the US and gained many rights for black people. Many people argue that Barack Obama would not now be US president if Martin Luther King had not laid the foundation black equality in the 1960’s.
Organisations Christians may join
Christians may join organisations such as Amnesty International in order to try and change the situation for prisoners. E.g. Amnesty international are trying to change the situation for the suspected terrorists who have been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay.
TEARFUND seeks to reduce poverty around the world
MENCAP is an organisation that tries to help people with disabilities.