November 11, 2010

it's remembrance day; go read some hauerwas

Or just listen to him.

Does Remembrance Day treat war with enough ambivalence? The ritual of remembrance is ultimately a question of identity and collectivity. Is there a way of remembering war that doesn't participate in the the sort of political allegiance required by the nation state?

St. Augustine saw that war arose from disordered desires and ambitions but he understood that it could also be used, in some cases, to restrain evil and protect the innocent. Mass support for current war efforts, Christian or not, (formally) projects a similar view (though if any major military states actually followed St. Augustine's conditions for just war, our last century would have looked entirely different). For theologians like Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder, Christian pacifism is not just an abstract attitude about war; rather it entails the belief that God through Jesus Christ has inaugurated a history that frees all people from the assumption that there is no alternative to war.

For Hauerwas and Yoder, the debate between positions of pacifism and just war theology is a debate between differing assumptions about history and the performance of political allegiance.  The just war view of history demands that we must compromise ideals of peace because of our sinful condition, while the Christian pacifist believes that peace is not simply an ideal destined for compromise, but is rather a present alternative within the suffering body of Christ.

For many, war is the only way to preserve our common history and properly remember the sacrifices of our forefathers. To participate in warfare and to engage in certain styles of remembrance that validate the nation is to claim for ourselves the power to determine our meaning and choose our destiny. For Hauerwas, to protect ourselves against our enemies from a position of individual sovereignty is to protect a state-sanctioned version of history that is incompatible with the manifest weakness of God in the person of Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Very well put, brother. Haven't kept up in the last few months cause of have the controlled internet connection of a teenager, but I caught up a bit last night and I like it. Whodda thought you were in Grad school...