Watching martyrdom in the moment all but sanctions an anything goes retaliation, which can be seen in many Democrats’ willingness to jettison their rather clear Constitutional obligation when it comes to declarations of war.
It’s exactly when we think an enemy deserves no love and no forgiveness, neither compassion nor quarter- that we should submit to Jesus’ command to ‘love our enemies.’
It’s exactly when we’re faced with an evil for which there is no justification and to which any violent response seems justified that we should recall how we are justified- made right with God- by the faith of Jesus Christ alone.
The faith of the One who died rather than kill unjustly.
The minute we think we’re facing a ‘real world’ situation for which the words and witness of Jesus have no ‘practical’ application is the moment in which we should shed ourselves of the pretense and cease bothering to follow Jesus.
Jesus’ commands are not abstract teachings to which we look for the exceptions; they are teachings to be applied no where else if not to the ‘exceptions.’
While pols and pundits now debate the scope and nature of President Obama’s ‘war’ it may be helpful, I think, for Christians to remind themselves that- speaking Christianly:
action against ISIS cannot rightly be called ‘war.’
The Christian journal Sojourners this week posted an editorial entitled ‘War is Not the Answer’ which seems to me not only cliche but beside the point. Dangerously so, for to accept the use of the term ‘war’ all but forsakes the Christian field of view.
ISIS is a terror group, a criminal network, representing no state (their chosen moniker aside) or government and abiding no exact borders- certainly not massing at our borders.
According to the demands of Christian Just War Tradition, then, war against ISIS cannot be just.
Indeed it cannot be war.
According to the Christian Just War tradition, the just and appropriate response to something like ISIS cannot be narrated in the language of war but only in the language of policing.
This isn’t just semantics or language games, for truthful speech requires that if a war is not just- if it’s not even rightly called a ‘war’- then we must call it something else and how we speak of it will necessarily shape how we prosecute it.
I suppose it’s not surprising (being Catholic and all, where the Just War Tradition has remained robust and urgent) but Pope Francis recently framed the threat posed by ISIS and a potential response in clear Christian terms.
That is, unlike President Obama et al, Pope Francis spoke Christian:
“Where there is an unjust aggression I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor…
I underscore the verb ‘to stop. I am not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ but ‘stop him.’ The means by which he can be stopped must be evaluated.
Stopping the aggressor is the legitimate [goal].”