A major loophole that Christian Just Warists have manufactured to try to theologically legitimate their obstinate refusal to obey Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies is to reduce this teaching to a private option rather than a universal obligation of discipleship. On the one hand since the nonviolence of Jesus in the Gospels cannot reasonable be denied, the Christian Just Warists have to say that the rejection of violence and enmity is an acceptable understanding of God’s Will and the Way of Jesus, and the Christian may follow this path. On the other hand the Christian Just Warists engaging in or supporting, as they do, massive homicidal violence, full throated enmity and self-evident disobedience to many of Jesus’ imperative teachings, such as, “love your enemies,” “put up your sword” and “love one another as I have loved you,” need and want moral cover, especially since so much of their human slaughter was and is on the direct orders of and/or on behalf of a Popes, a Christian emperors, a Christian ethnic groups and/or Christian states.
So Christian bishops and theologian came to the rescue and contrived a theological loophole to the explicit teaching of the Nonviolent Jesus so that Christian Just Warists could substitute homicidal violence for Christlike love with a clear conscience and with the blessing of the institutional Church, its bishops, priests and ministers and members. What they did was to tell people that contrary to Jesus’ very words, “and teach them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20), Jesus did not expect all of his disciples to be obedient to His teaching of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies, but only some of His disciples. That, He in fact chose most of His disciples to be killers and haters of enemies. The rejection of violence and enmity was morally equated with taking a vow of poverty or celibacy, acceptable for a certain type of Christian personality but was by no means meant for all whom Jesus choose for discipleship. One will look until Gabriel blows his first note and not find Jesus, explicitly or implicitly, making this exception to His Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies in the Gospels.
This ploy, which reduces Jesus rejection of violence and enmity to a mere optional “counsel of perfection,” is seldom employed in Protestant Churches or in Orthodox Churches, however, it is shot through Catholic moral theologies and pastoral practices. It is the ground that legitimatizes conjuring up Christian Just War Theories. From people at the highest levels of peace and justice work in the institutional Catholic Church I have heard it said more than once, “Nonviolence in the Catholic Church is just for a sect for perfectionists.” On all occasions when asked to validate that statement as Jesus’ understanding in the Gospels, the speaker has either quickly walked away “to a previously scheduled meeting,” or if stated in a lecture forum has always responded by pointing to someone else in the audience and saying, “Next question, please.”
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy