How (Some) Christians Defended and Rejected the War in Iraq
As the possibility for a US led war in Iraq began to gain momentum, Christians began staking out positions. Some Christians defended the call for war and other Christians rejected the call for war.
Below I examine how believers of the same community of faith came to defend and reject the war in Iraq. How did they justify their positions?
I’ll look at two prominent Christian figures: Richard Land, the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Conference, and, Stanley Hauerwas, professor of theological ethics at Duke University Divinity School. These two Christian men took two opposing positions on the war, with Land supporting and Hauerwas rejecting.
How did Land justify the war?
In “The Time Has Arrived: Bush Policy on Iraq Meets Just War Criteria,” Richard Land combines the “just war” tradition and Romans 13 to justify the US intervention in Iraq in February 2003.
Land argued that “just war” had seven criteria and the US-Bush led war in Iraq met all of them.
The war in Iraq is defensive.
To conclude this section with Land’s own words:
Next, let’s move on to Stanley Hauerwas who opposed the war in Iraq. He published an editorial in Time magazine entitled: “No, this war would not be moral.” How did he justify his stance against the war?
In the editorial, Hauerwas argued that the war in Iraq is not a legitimate war in terms of the “just war” tradition precisely because President Bush has justified the war by appealing to “evil.” For Christians, the problem of “evil” is dealt with by God. “Evil” is neither the province of the state nor the president, so the war in Iraq is not justified.
To close this section with Hauerwas’ own words:
Both Christian men appealed to the “just war” theory to support and account for their positions on the war in Iraq. That they both appeal to the “just war” theory is a sign that we should perhaps question the unquestioned value of the “just war” theory as a mode of justifying violence and war. For emerging believers, what is the status of the “just war” theory? How should we relate to it?
Also, there is a key difference in the two ways the men deployed the “just war” theory. Land can be seen to have used the “just war” theory in a Constantininan strategy. That is, Land used the “just war” theory to legitimate the imperial state to act in God’s name, as did Constantine and his supporting Bishops. Hauerwas, critically, did not. He deployed the “just war” theory against the Constantininan strategy, as a way of de-legitimating the assertion that the war was an act of Christian love and divinely inspired violence.