Jesus tells Peter that “those who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt 26:52), yet the Scriptures also acknowledge that the state does not “bear the sword in vain” (Rom 13:4). To reconcile these two positions, Christian pacifists have traditionally accepted that Christians had little role in “bearing the sword.” Church Fathers argued back and forth whether it was legitimate for Christians to serve in the military. For these pacifists, God would ultimately judge Rome (or Washington, D.C.). Today, such a position would prevent Christians from serving in the military, the police, or the president who serves as Commander-in-chief.
The alternative to Christian pacifism is the “just war” position. Where pacifism is simple, “just war” is messy. One has to make judgments about legitimate power, just cause, and the rules of warfare. Good Christians can vary in the application of these principles. Thus, Roman Catholic hierarchy has been critical of the current Iraqi War and the Southern Baptist Convention has not. Although I am not a pacifist, occasionally I tire of the messiness and long for the simplicity of the pacifist's arguments.
I’ve been following the story of the Christian Peacekeeping Team who was kidnapped in Iraq. CPT believe that the war in Iraq is illegal, and multinational troops are destabilizing the region. They are there in Iraq to protest the war and to “get in the way”. A team was captured by insurgents and one member was killed. Based on a tip, multinational troops rescued the team.
On March 23, CPT released a statement, and I was more surprised at what was not mentioned. They gave thanks to God for the release of their members which is right and good. They even had a wonderful statement about Christ’s demand to love our enemies. However they never mentioned the elephant in the room--the actual troops who rescued them. CPT prefers the term “release” rather than “rescue,” and they blame the presence of troops for the instability which led to the kidnapping. To me, there seems to be some ingratitude, and a willingness to excuse the evil acts of the insurgents. I also sense some self-righteousness. I don’t expect their position on the Iraqi War to change, but I wonder if there has been some serious reflections on the proper use of military force. Is this an example where the state was rightfully “bearing the sword”?
In contrast to CPT's rather dissatisfying response, I found the words of Roman Catholic peace activist, Rose Marie Berger, more humble and more helpful. She continues to believe that the Iraqi War is wrong and agrees with CPT. Still, she mentions the troops. After praising and thanking the troops, She writes,
“It would be easy to pit the peacemaker against the soldier - but it would be wrong to do so. There are soldiers who serve ‘the least of these’ in Iraq. It was an unknown American soldier who decided to drape Tom Fox's casket with a flag to honor his sacrifice. And there are peacemakers who thrive more on their own anger, self-righteousness, and personal purity, than on authentic deeply rooted sacrificial love.”An acknowledgement of the good and evil in us all. Makes this Calvinist’s heart proud.
UPDATE: CPT finally has thanked the troops.
UPDATE: The CPT hostages have decided not to cooperate with coalition forces for debriefing--information which could lead to the rescue of other hostages. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/03/25/wkemb25.xml