Thoughts on War in the Bible and Terrorism in the 21st Century, Essay 8

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For an introduction to the series, see here.

The final essay in this momentous book is by Christian ethicist Glenn H. Stassen and pertains not to pacificism or the Just War Theory but to something different – to the Just Peacemaking Theory. Immediately, with that phrase, I think about the end of the Great War, and what might have happened at the peacemaking with Germany being in line with Christian precepts, but I digress.

His stated goal is to show, using ten methods, how Just Peacemaking will reduce terrorism between Palestine and Israel; however, he begins with reintroducing Christ as the Lord ‘over all our actions, and there is no realm in which Jesus is not Lord’ (p130) contrary to both Niebuhr and Hauerwas who both, according to Stassen, marginalize Christ in some manner. It is not mere if war is justified following the ethics of the New Testament, but how to use the ethics of Christ in another dimension – the one of maintaining the peace:

When we explore the scriptures to answer not only the narrow question whether war is justified but also the wider question of specific peacemaking practices, we being to see a richer and more helpful narrative with regard to ethics. (p131)

He ends his first section with the 1o practices which he has previously supplied the Scriptural evidence for, and it is these 10 practices in the ‘new ethics of peace and war’ which he uses to discuss the issue of terrorism in Palestine. While they are generally ideal principles, I would find it difficult to support several, especially his eighth point, which calls for the strengthening of the United Nations. While I can, politically, understand the need for a strong central body of government, as an American, I cannot disavow the basic principle of American sovereignty, the more so when the United Nations has proven itself counter to Christian ideals already. Could a stronger United Nations prevent terrorism? Maybe, but I believe that the previous essay should be consulted for other understandings of terrorism.In both examples of response to terrorism by nations (Russia and Turkey), ironically, the United Nations was not mentioned.

Moving into the goal of the issues, that of Palestine and Israel, Stassen is rhetorical in his questions, as I suspect he knows full well the answers to the questions which he asks regarding the ‘what ifs’ and our policy towards Israel. Further, his ‘it is not Christian’ statements should be carved in the State Department and Pentagon walls, repeatedly. His statements are soundly supported by the prophets, although I recognize that they would be received at anti-Semitic in many quarters; yet, his statements are accurate.

In a short history of the era after Oslo, Stassen shows easily enough that Just Peacemaking must be carried forth for it to actually work. If, he notes, terrorism is purpose driven, then preventive initiatives make a difference (p143). For example, when Israel was withdrawing from Gaza, they missed their deadlines. Suicide bombings happened because of this. Israel then, in response to this, sped up the withdrawal. Stassen draws the correlation that if peacemaking was carried forth accurately, then terrorism could be adverted. To this end, he provides further examples, including the return of the Sinai to Egypt which merited Egypt’s refusal to wage ware on Israel.

Returning to the the notion of the United Nations, Stassen ends his essay by calling for more joint cooperation among nations, spear-headed by the United Nations. While I understand that in today’s realm of foreign relations, a unilateral response is often pointless, even then, we have seen nothing but worsening features of the United Nations. As a whole, their response actually causes problems and disarray where they land.

Overall, Stassen’s theory is acceptable, but in the end of it, I have to wonder what the difference between Just Peacemaking and Appeasement is?

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Post By Joel Watts (9,936 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, working on the use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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