FAST FOOD (2018): Sixth Helping
“No Christian theologian or writer prior to Constantine justified killing or Christian participation in the military.”
The Early Church on Killing
—Ronald J. Sider, PhD (History, Yale)
The Christian Just War Theory is rooted in two statements:
- God Incarnate, the Messiah, the Jesus of historical record, the Jesus of the Gospels was Nonviolent and taught a Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies to His Apostles and disciple so that they could “love as He loves” and so they could teach those they Baptized “to obey all that I have commanded you.” And this they did for the three hundred years closest to Jesus’ Resurrection.
- “Nevertheless,” Christians can engage in the mass homicide of war.
Huh? Where does this “nevertheless” come from after three hundred years? No one even mentioned it during those first three hundred years. If Jesus wanted to make this a part of His salvific teaching and Way, why didn’t He? And, if those Christians who lived and died during those first three hundred years did not ever mention a “nevertheless” was it because they were unable to cognitively conceive a homicidal “nevertheless” alternative to Jesus’ teaching? Or was it because right-mindedness, truthfulness, uprightness of conscience and moral integrity would not allow them to replace the clear teaching of their Lord, God and Savior with a “nevertheless” that was a direct contradiction of the teaching of God “made flesh?” And of course, those first three centuries were times of brutal Roman persecution of Christians. There were at least three instances during that time that it became the policy of the Roman government to execute the ‘final solution’ to its “Christian problem” and liquidate the Christian community. Yet, in the face of lethal enmity and the seeming total destruction of Christian lives, loved ones and livelihoods, not a sentence was written by a Christian theologian or writer during that time justifying killing of lethal enemies who were unjustly massacring Christians and their families or anyone else.
One would think that if there was ever a time for the Church to introduce and justify a “nevertheless” to Jesus’ teachings of the rejection of violence and the love of enemies, this was certainly it! Natural law, justice, third party defense, duty to family, etc., were all available to prop-up a “nevertheless.” But, none of the old and well-known justifications for killing enemies was called into service to give Christian credence to a “nevertheless.” It did not happen—and it did not happen because it was self-evident that it was in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels.
Did isolated Christians and groups of Christians engage in defensive or retaliatory violence? Of course they did. But the Church never called it good or taught it as a way of faithful discipleship. Just as Christian committed adultery, but the Church never called it good or taught it as a way of faithful discipleship for those chosen by Jesus to be among his followers. “Nevertheless,” was not in the vocabulary of Christian moral discourse and discernment in original Christianity or for the first three hundred years thereafter. Yet, today “Nevertheless” is the operating moral norm in almost all Churches. “Nevertheless” owes its place in Christianity to the Fourth Century theologians and writers Ambrose and Augustine—not Jesus.
—Emmanuel Charles McCarthy
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