War, Peace, and Christianity: Questions and Answers from a Just-war Perspective [Book Review]

Charles, J. Daryl and Timothy J. Demy. War, Peace, and Christianity: Questions and Answers
from a Just-war Perspective. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010.

Part I of the book focuses on questions relating Just War Theory and philosophy. Being in question and answer format these questions revolve around JWT versus peace, justice, morality, religion, secularism, etc. Issues such as morality and terrorism are touched upon as well as the views of opponents to the theory. Most of the information is not new to someone who has studied the subject matter previously, but it is a good refresher and for those new to the topic the format makes it easy to read and follow.

Part 2 focuses on history and the Just War Tradition. Questions revolve around issues such as where did JWT originate, is it mainly Christian in nature, and how do/have Christians over the centuries dealt with conflicting issues of war and peace. These are the discussions that will most benefit my research as I move towards the dissertation process. There is also a good starting discussion about the parallels in non-Western and non-Christian traditions which I also believe will be helpful throughout the process. The section addresses the Reformation, Luther, and Calvin as well – though these areas are not as important to my area of inquiry. Lastly, the authors look at the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, which I thought was interesting – I don’t usually think of JWT when I think of any civil war, so those sections did offer some new information and insights.

Part 3 questions focus on “Just-War Tradition and the Statesman.” This section really focuses on the tenets of JWT and how they are at the core for whether it is moral or not to go to war. What I enjoyed most about this section is its focus on justice and the reminder that war is about promoting justice and peace for the long haul – should not be about personal vendettas or about religious affiliations. It also touches about international law and groups like the United Nations in declaring war or declaring one as unjust and the difficulty relating to state sovereignty. It also brought up some good questions for me in regards to jus post bello and how that will fit in with my dissertation topic/research/writing. There will be a definite use for this book as a jumping off point for further research based on this section. The section also delves into humanitarian interventions and how those differ from war and their implications on society as a whole, using real life examples of places like the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Iraq.

Part 4 deals with theology and war theory and therefore the first half is largely outside of my dissertation area since it deals mainly with scripture and Jesus’ reactions/comments to certain aspects of violence and peace – areas which are not relevant to my studies. The information in this section looking at Islam and how it relates to war and peace was interesting and has provided a jumping off point for more focused research. At the end the biggest questions I have is, if JWT is decidedly Christian in nature than why do we use it as there is supposed to be a separation of church and state. I understand the answers on some level, but I may have to spend some time looking into a few areas that sparked my curiosity

Part 5: Just War Tradition and the Combatant. Here the book turns to looking at the differences between combatants and noncombatants and the various types of warfare and their ethical implications. The very first question deals with the idea of deterrence and looks at it from the social scientist perspective and then the economist perspective. Neither is necessarily religious in nature but they have different ideas about human nature and thus differing ideas on deterrence. The use of nonlethal weapons is also described and their moral implications. The biggest thing to remember from this part though is that these are issues that have been wrestled with for centuries. Technologies have changed but the underlying moral issues have not.

Part 6: Just War Tradition and the Individual. This last section looks at how the individual can (or tries to) incorporate JWT into their everyday life. There are differences between the religious and ideological outlooks that need to be delved into more deeply for my dissertation research as well as looking at the philosophical sides of this area. There is much in this section and these questions that will help push my research forward and further.

Barkawi, Tarak. Globalization and War. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. [Book Review]

Chapter 1, “The False Dawn of Globalization,” attempts to shed light on the fact that globalization may be a new term, but it is not a new concept. There are different ways to understand globalization and what it is. As an ideology it began in the 1990s, but it is also a “category of historical and social processes.”[1] The author does a good job with examples of colonial rule and various trade wars (China and England in the 19th century) that rebuke the idea that globalization equals peace. The idea that free markets (which are political) will promote peace is an idea long held by many who simply want to profit from the backs of others (my words not the authors). Overall, the chapter does quick work of the thinking that these are new world problems to be addressed.

Chapter 2, “Behind ‘Globalization’: nation-states, empires, and democracies at war, spends most of the chapter giving a brief history of war and how it helped form the nation-state as we see it today. A lot was discussed in regards to the West and its heavy-handed influence because of colonialization in the areas of war, technology, and the push for liberal democracies. I did learn about CoW (Correlates of War) out of the University of Michigan, which was very interesting to me and something I will need to look further into. The chapter also spent a lot of time on Clausewitz and Max Weber. An interesting point was made about war and the humanities in how there is not much correlation made between the areas of study. People look at one or the other and their effects on the other but not hand-in-hand.

Chapter 3, “Globalization and War: Britain, India, and the Indian Army,” looks at the interconnectedness of globalization and uses the relationship (and colonization) of India by Britain as its prime example. The beginning of the chapter states, “Globalization is about interconnection and mutual constitution between different locales and the peoples found there, the ‘making together’ of world politics. War involves interconnections between parties to conflict, interconnections that transform society and politics. To study globalization and war is to attend to interconnections in world politics occasioned by war.”[2] These sentences pointedly summarize what the chapter is about and the example of the relationship between Britain and its colony, India, is well suited to understanding it.

Chapter 4, “War and Culture in Global Context,” is about the attempt at making meaning out of war and the cultures that spur it on and their relationship to one another. It is about how we, as humans, make meaning out of our lives. War is another form of interconnectedness that is created on a global scale. The author is also quick to point out that war is not caused by globalization nor are other violent conflicts – it is the way we connect (or use globalization) that causes conflicts and violence. Some great examples of this (Vietnam and Iraq) are used in the chapter as well as the differences between East and West and North and South. He also points out that (especially in regards to these conflicts) that globalization does not mean sameness, which is a hard thing for some to understand/handle.

Chapter 5, “Terror and the Politics of War,” focuses on terror as a type of warfare and its relationship to politics around the globe. “The experience of war can prompt an overcoming of the differences that divide humanity and lead to recognition of the enemy, the other, as a fellow human being…”[3] Unfortunately, it also does the opposite as well. Just like with all words defining what one means is important. The author also points out in this chapter that humanity is used for political gains during campaigns against terror and more traditional warfare. The examples used are still current and relevant today – Iraq and the war on terror and unresolved issues between Islam and the west.

[1] Tarak Barkawi, Globalization and War (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 1.

[2] Tarak Barkawi, Globalization and War (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 59.

[3] Tarak Barkawi, Globalization and War (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 127.

The Kingdom of God and the American Dream; the Religious and Secular Ideals of American History [Book Review/Comments]

Eddy, Sherwood. The Kingdom of God and the American Dream; the Religious and Secular Ideals of American History. New York: Harper & Bros., 1941.

This book, published in 1941, offers great information about the relationship between democracy and religion from the beginnings of the American colonies up until the beginnings of what was to become World War II. He states that the American Dream, “from the founding of the first colonies and from the time of the Declaration of Independence, had religious sanctions. And the religious ideal had implications for a secular social order politically free, economically just, materially secure, and abundant.” So what are those implications and ideals today? He traces it through to his present day and offers an interpretation of Hitler and Fascism leading to his ideas that war is what needs to disappear in order to get back to a Christian state and for democracy ideals to flourish again. It would be interesting to see how he would trace this path from then until now.

Some of the issues that he spoke about have ebbed and flowed and are again issues in society today. Talking about an attack from Japan towards China he mentions the individualism in America and the problems it causes: “At its worst this individual selfishness in America also has been not a foundation of rock but of sand upon which any dream or ideal might fall when the floods came.” Early puritans called this “sin”. Today it is individualism and for many it is why many today call themselves spiritual rather than religious. The organization of the Puritans and the community it created from it are not the same for many Americans today. But what is the number? How much does it actually correlate? Is religion still important? How does it relate to democracy, politics, and education? What are the effects on war? Towards the end of the book, the author discusses the census breakdowns of the 30s of the religious sects found in America, but I am interested in taking that further to try and see the changes and how those changes effected certain times in our country.

Talking about colonial America, he talks about how religion, self-government and education were intertwined as an early foundation for the colonies. If these were early foundations and where our Declaration of Independence came from you would think these would still be important today, and yet, in many parts of the country they are not. Or, at the very least, it is a different type of religion and education has been a battle for a few decades now as we slip in world standings.

Jumping from colonial America to 18th century Enlightenment brings us to Newton and Descartes who were trying to use science to prove religion. This was before the dichotomy which exists today. Hatred/distrust of science came from misunderstanding and fear that God would disappear from men’s lives. For some churches it was also about fear of losing power, but that wasn’t the intention of science. Now they are on ends of the spectrum. Since science creates a need for more education and education is seen as a detriment to religion there could be a correlation here as well.

When describing the reasons for the American Revolution and its effects on religion Eddy writes, “The American Revolution like all wars tended to weaken the forces of religion but through it, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the great inaugurals of Washington and Jefferson, the American Dream of democracy, liberty, and justice came to full birth.” So maybe this is the problem? Maybe wars are the correlation? The problem could then be that war changes the way we think about religion and then politics, education, and religion are affected instead of the other way around.

Eddy mentions the French Revolution in a few contexts – maybe worth looking into as a possible point of comparison in my dissertation in relationship to religion, politics, education, and war. Are we the only country with these types of “problems” or issues with losing religion to secularism and the negative effects some see on democracy? And why is it perceived as negative? Are American morals really falling as religion becomes more and more covert in our lives? This book ranks up there with Moral Freedom and Habits of the Heart in provoking questions for further research, which is great!

“Virtue Ethics: Natural and Christian” and “Democratic Citizenship and Public Ethics” [Two Commentaries]

Lawler, M. G., and T. A. Salzman. “Virtue Ethics: Natural and Christian.” Theological Studies 74, no. 2 (2013): 442-73. doi:10.1177/004056391307400209.

This article really did not tell me anything new. It gave some good examples, but it only reiterated material I’ve learned in courses throughout my Masters and the PhD program as well as from other readings for this exam. The source page could prove helpful as the authors draw on sources I’ve not read before.

The article does a good job of reviewing Aristotelian and Plutonian ethics and how they relate to Christianity through Aquinas’s work. They use the story of the Good Samaritan to explain virtue ethics and how maybe the Christian and the Jew, based on their own ethics were unable to stop for the stranger rather than them being bad followers of Christ. The authors admit that getting others to think this way would require a paradigm shift, similar to what Kuhn discusses in his book. From there it also gives a brief history of Martin Luther and other religious ethics’ arguments. Overall, for my purposes not the most helpful article since there is not much in the way of new information, but it does offer some recap.

Ventriss, Curtis. “Democratic Citizenship and Public Ethics.” Public Integrity 14, no. 3 (2012): 283-97. doi:10.2753/PIN1099-9922140305.

In this article, the author discusses how public duty is important to democracy as well as to ethics. One must feel a sense of ethic and public duty in order to further the democratic agenda. The author makes some good points, and some of the things he is worrying about seem to be happening today. The article was written in 2011, stating: “… to the ‘de-democratization of democracy”. That is, the diminution of citizenship, if left unabated, can facilitate the atomization of citizenship wherein citizens subordinate their public responsibilities into either rampant materialism or, more troubling, civic privatism.” In other words, citizens without citizenship turn to materialism and/or worse – they turn inwards and worry only about their private lives. The author sees a public ethic as going missing. I see (2 years after this was published) that the public ethic is all but gone. I say this because multiple reasons: the growing number of people moving to extremist religious views, the character attacking that is rampant in public campaigning, and the less than stellar voter turnouts happening around the country.

While, overall, I agree with many of Ventriss’ points, I am concerned that his evidence is lacking. I agree because it sounds reasonable to me, not because I believe the evidence is overwhelming in favor of his argument. He uses his own works too many times as sources for me to give proper credence to this article. If, after reading some of the other authors on his source page I still feel as I do, then I may revise this statement, but currently I am skeptical of his solutions because I do not feel as though they are backed up.

“What Is the Point of a Public Morality?” [Article Review/Comments]

Edyvane, Derek. “What Is the Point of a Public Morality?” Political Studies 60, no. 1 (2012): 147-62. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9248.2011.00894.x.

In this article the author focuses on the need (as he sees it) for the “reassertion of moral value in public life…” We need this, according to the author to get back to the idea of a good society. The issue becomes what is the definition of good? He goes on to talk about negative politics which relies on fear and hope (political type). A few pages in the author writes, that the “point of public morality is ‘damage control’…”
whose aim is to offset human cruelty. He goes onto say that a “World without justice is a world in which conflicts are resolved by violence and life is nasty, brutish, and short.” This statement I tend to agree with on a personal note, but I know that my views are heavily influenced by where I have lived. My perspective is relative to the liberal environment I grew up in.

From here, the author goes on to describe Walzer’s ideas about politics and what happens when we move beyond hope and fear in politics. In this case we end up with what he calls aspirational activity and a politics of faith and one of skepticism. The rest of the article is used to explain why the author believes more is needed than Walzer’s approach. He offers a dualistic model of public morality which is interesting, but not wholly convincing. Overall, I believe that Walzer makes more sense for morality in society today. The individualism that people strive for affects their morality and their politics in a way that Walzer seems to understand. There are some great sources though that will useful for further research in the next phase.

“Theological Ethics, The Churches, And Global Politics.” [Article Comments]

Cahill, Lisa Sowle. “Theological Ethics, The Churches, And Global Politics.” Journal of Religious Ethics 35, no. 3 (2007): 377-99. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9795.2007.00312.x.

This article has a great reference section, which based on my dissertation topic will definitely be utilized. While the author delves into the works of others with great detail, the overall argument she is trying to make is lacking and unclear at times. The author does make some good analogies/comparisons from the past and uses them to illustrate the difficulty in applying religious ethics today. I would say that globalization has become a hindrance based on her conclusions regarding ethics and politics. The biggest problem seems to come from people’s multiple affiliations. While, I can see where the author is coming from I do not agree. Multiple affiliations does not necessarily make for less of an ethic. If anything it should create more of one since the individual will care about multiple groups of people and not simply themselves or their families which tends to be an issue with the US since we have become such an individualistic society today.

Cahill does make one remark that while I understand where she is going with it, I am not sure if I completely agree. I will have to think about it some more and do additional research: “… As such the church does not have a social ethics; the church is a social ethic…”[1] For some I believe this may be true, but since the social ethic is a construct of those who created a particular church the church would then have an ethic not be an ethic. Again, I can understand the author’s point, but I don’t think all sides of the argument were addressed.

Earlier I mentioned some great resources and that the author spends a lot of time explaining the works of others. These include, MacIntrye, Hauerwas, and Stout. MacIntyre and Stout are on my reading list and after her comments about the Hauerwas, I will have to research him when I am through with exams. Cahill writes that what they “have in common is that they disallow that every person or group within a political community has a stake in and responsibility for good government and civil society, and hence should be a full participants in the democratic process.”[2] I do not agree with this assessment of MacIntyre from what I have read of his, and as I am not familiar with Stout or Hauerwas I cannot comment on their ideas. Either way, this statement seems backwards to me. Wouldn’t any religious group want their people to be politically active, especially in today’s society, in order to be the forces for change in the world?

From here Cahill gives a brief history of black churches, but I am not 100 percent certain as to how it fits in with her thesis. The information could provide useful down the road in my research though. I think her point is that churches should use their influence to promote social change which would then suggest she disagrees with most of the authors she defines. It will be most useful as a stepping stone for more research.

[1] Lisa Sowle Cahill, “Theological Ethics, The Churches, And Global Politics,” Journal of Religious Ethics 35, no. 3 (2007): 379, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9795.2007.00312.x.

[2] Lisa Sowle Cahill, “Theological Ethics, The Churches, And Global Politics,” Journal of Religious Ethics 35, no. 3 (2007): 380, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9795.2007.00312.x.

The Ethics of Peace and War: From State Security to World Community [Review/Comments]

Atack, Iain. The Ethics of Peace and War: From State Security to World Community. Houndmills, Balsingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Beginning chapters on realism and communitarianism are disturbing in that their circular arguments can/could justify war for almost any reason if worded properly. Morality is not an issue because the state determines what morality is, which seems counterproductive. It is an interesting interpretation of realism taken to an extreme I have not read in any other works before. The idea that politics and power give credence to morality is why Atack states, “that nationalism, understood as the exclusive allegiance by the individual to a particular moral and political community, has become the ideology of the modern nation-state.” Morality becomes relative in this environment which does not seem like that is a good approach to morality in any society.
The opposite of realism is internationalism which promotes an idea of cooperation and security within the international community. He elaborates on the “democratic peace theorem” in this chapter. I believe this theorem is responsible for many of our wars and conflicts today. Too often this used (in my opinion) to justify creating democracies in another nations without their will/consent. The idea is that democracies are much less likely to go to war with other democracies. While this may be true, I believe it is why many Western nations push democracy on other countries that may not be ready for it now or may not want it all. This push though causes tensions which can turn into conflict – the Middle East?
“The rule of law” states that all are equal before the law – this sounds good in theory but it does not happen realistically in many places around the world. The rest of this chapter talks about the differences between internationalism (rationalist approach) and realism (positivist) approach. All of it sounds relativist to me and puts an emphasis on sovereignty and the individual, which I am beginning to think is the problem. There is a problem when we can all look through a different lens and see things differently but refuse to acknowledge that another way may be better. It is this individualistic approach that is creating a hands off attitude in some areas of ethics and morality.
What each appears to agree upon is that military force is necessary at times – how and when is the question. The realists do not think that international relations will bring about any genuine morality within the political community. Most of the notes for the remainder of this chapter bring it back to relativism and how maybe this is the area to delve into for my dissertation.
Throughout the book, I kept waiting for the author to complete his comparisons and integration of JWT into his looks at Cosmopolitanism. He never even mentioned jus post bellum, which made the book lacking for me. The third phase of JWT is just as important, and for my ethicist it is the most important phase of a war in that it can help prevent future violence. This does not mean that the book does not hold relevance for my dissertation, but that it is not a fully formed book, in my opinion.

A dozen or so more to go,
Sara