Brian McLaren on War

Liked this comment from Brian McLaren:

On war … my interest has not been in figuring out if war is ever justifiable, but rather in how war can be prevented. History teaches that one of the worst ways to prevent war is by beginning with justifying hypothetical wars. Obviously, I’d be much less against a war in which people defend themselves from unprovoked invasion or aggression than I would elective or aggressive wars. But even there, I’d rather use the words “less against” than “justified.”

However, it still leaves the conversation somewhat in the hypothetical realm. I would say the more concrete question for many is this: is it ok for a Christian to enlist in the army, given that, once you enlist, yet get no choice over which wars you fight?

10 thoughts on “Brian McLaren on War

  1. As a South African all men were all compelled to do two years compulsory army service when the country was engaged in an unjustified war. Having gone through that time, I find it very difficult to feel comfortable with a Christian joining the army and then not being able to decide for him/her self whether a war is justified or not.


  2. Arnau, yes, enlisting in a professional army is very different to joining a citizens militia. Once you’re in you’re in, you’ve signed up to fight whatever war you’re told to fight, however justified, however not. I’m very uncomfortable with the loss of moral agency implied. So, if the only moral decision one can make is the initial one, on whether to enlist or not, then we’d better approach that decision with care.


  3. I once heard Tim Costello talking about a conversation with the head chaplain of the Australian Army (can’t remember the name or exact title), in which he asked how a soldier should obey Jesus’ command to “love your enemies”. The response was that as a soldier the best way to love your enemy was to kill them as quickly as possible… !
    I personally am very glad that when I faced the somewhat attractive offer at Uni to enlist as an officer, I realised the potential loss of moral choice and elected not to join.
    I think the question is a good one. By no means is it comfortable, which only means that it must be asked so much more.


  4. Hmmm, reminds me I was intending to write something on military chaplaincy at some stage. Missional Christians deconstruct church readily enough, methinks chaplaincy is long overdue for some of the same deconstructionist treatment.


  5. Touching back on “Pagan Christianity”, could the Just War tradition be one of the most far reaching “Paganizations” of the church? Augustine did adapt it from a Pagan after all.


  6. I almost joined the army myself a couple of years ago. I do not endorse the armed forces as a path to be taken by Christians nor do I think that we should judge those that have because the temptation is always there especially when you have loving family and friends who are praying that you join the army to help defend their supposedly “Christian Heritage.”
    An interesting story came up on the news tonight as well:,
    A soldier protesting against the war in Aghanistan.


  7. Forgive me, but today has been one of my ‘how I strongly abhor dispensationalist eschatology’ day because it is a/an heresy/abomination not to mention their Jihadist Jesus that contradicts even the most violent books in the Bible, i.e. Revelations (which despite its violence does not project that violence on Jesus, in that Jesus does not inflict violence, but it needs to be mentioned that it seems to come very close (Rev 19)). I used to work with 5 dispensationalist pastors. Sorry for the rant and anything that could offend


  8. Concerning chaplains, I quote (my translation from Afrikaans) from a secret memo addressed by H.J. van den Bergh (notorious securocrat known as “Lang Hendrik”), Secretary for Security Information, the the Secretary for Internal Affairs, in connection with my application for a passport to go to Swaziland on holiday.
    “In an open letter dated 24 August 1976, by Hayes to the Anglican congregations in Natal, he objects to (maak beswaar teen) the appointment of priests as chaplains in the Defence Force and regards the serving of Holy Communion to soldiers by White priests as a form of racism.”
    Lang Hendrik clearly didn’t understand the point of Anglican ecclesiology that I was making. The soldiers concerned were serving in Ovamboland, along the border between Namibia and Angola. It happened to be a place where there were a lot of Anglican churches, and so if the soldiers wanted to receive communion they could easily go to the local churches.
    But, as one military chaplain pointed out in an angry response to my open letter, the army did not allow soldiers to mingle or fraternise with the local population, either in churches or in “Cuca shops”. In spite of their propaganda that they were protecting the local population from “terrorists”, they were in fact an occupying army, repressing the local population. And the local Anglican clergy were mostly black, and it was against government policy for white soldiers to receive communion from black priests.
    What is more, again in terms of Anglican ecclesiology, Ovamboland was part of the Anglican diocese of Namibia, and any priests who exercised any ministry in that diocese should do so with the knowledge and blessing of the bishop, which the military chaplains did not have. And at that time the bishop, Colin Winter, was in exile, having been deported by the (illegal) South West Africa Administration four years previously.
    So by sending white chaplains to minister to soliders in Namibia, the Anglican Church in South Africa was undermining its own ecclesiology, and conniving at racism and the illegal occupation of the territory, and the unjust military rule imposed by the South African government there, including the persecution of Christians. See:
    This is just one example — I am sure one could find many more — to show that one doesn’t have to be a pacifist to have reservations about the desirability of military chaplaincy.


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