>Among the text questions sent in during our “Red Hot” series at Radiant Church this week, was a question about whether a Christian ought to participate in the armed services. Pastor Lee appealed to St. Augustine and his Just War Theory. In researching the topic a little further, I came across this article from InterVarsity ministries that has a somewhat balanced view of the history of the issue and seemed to lean toward a pro-Just War Theory position.
Besides the history of Just War Theory’s origins, an interesting highlight from this article included the question that was raised by some of the Just War Theorist regarding military personnel choice not to participate in a war that does not meet the criteria for “Just War”. There is some debate about this. (there is debate about everything) :)
The question could be posed like this, “Should Christians take an oath to serve in the military if that oath legally binds them to participate in a war that may or may not meet just war criteria?”
For example, the Catholic Church felt that the Iraq war (2003) did not meet the criteria for just war. So, if you’re a Catholic believer serving in the military, and your country goes to war, and the war is condemned by your church, as “unjust”, you might be in a difficult position.
Or… If you are a Protestant Christian serving in the military, and your country goes to war, and you think it’s an unjust cause, you are in a difficult position.
It seems to me, that the appeal to Just War Theory can only be as strong as the nation(s) are willing to engage in war, on the basis of Just War Theory. Given the fact that, military personnel are obligated to participate in, basically, whatever they are ordered to do, if we appeal to Just War Theory as the basis for Christian participation in the arms services, we are not guaranteed that our nation will wage wars on the basis of Just War Theory, yet we are obligated to participate in the war by oath.
Could a soldier who is a Christian ever “opt out” of a conflict, if the country goes to war under unjust pretenses? On one hand, they are under oath to the military and the other hand, they feel a moral obligation not to participate. Could a country’s basis for war ever be so unjust, that it would be morally apprehensible to participate. Is this a wise oath to take, knowing the risks? How much do we trust any countries ability to wage war on the basis of justice? Enough to swear allegiance?
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be a soldier, but I think there are some things to think about regarding just war and Christian ethics. Just asking the questions… Any thoughts?