Monday, 7 November 2016

Just War Theory Is Obsolete

by Sister Joan Chittister

Excerpted from Becoming Fully Human: The Greatest Glory of God (2005) with permission of Sheed and Ward.

The Tao Te Ching, the ancient Chinese manual on the art of living, reads:

Weapons are the tools of fear... a decent person will avoid them except in the direst necessity and, if compelled, will use them only with the utmost restraint ....Our enemies are not demons but human beings like ourselves. The decent person doesn't wish them personal harm. Nor do they rejoice in victory. How could we rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of people? Enter a battle gravely, with sorrow and with great compassion, as if attending a funeral. (c. 550 B.C.E.)

The problem is not a new one. Over seven centuries ago, people began to recognize that war was an attack on the innocent by the ruthless for the sake of the privileged. They wanted it stopped. And if that was an unrealistic goal, given the thirst for power in the human condition and the absence of any overarching negotiating bodies, they at least wanted it regulated. They wanted the innocent protected. After all, the people were not fighting their neighbors. They wanted the defenseless made secure. After all, war meant that armies were to fight armies, not civilians. So they turned to the church, which, by threat of eternal punishment, might be able to bring sense to chaos. They popularized and developed the just war theory, first articulated by Augustine, and for a while it seemed to make sense. But over time everything has changed: the nature of the world, the nature of war, the nature of weapons, and the nature of nations themselves.

Adults seem to have a problem understanding such things. Children see it clearly: Some second-graders asked their teacher what was going on between the United States and the place called Iraq. So the teacher said, "Well, think of it this way: Somebody in your neighborhood has a gun in her house. All the neighbors are afraid of it, and they go to Margaret, the owner of the gun, to ask her if she'll get rid of it. "And Margaret said yes, she would. But after a while, the people began to doubt that Margaret had really thrown the gun away. So they went to see her again and asked her if she still had the gun. And she said yes, she did. "So they told her that the fact that she had a gun made them afraid, so she had to get rid of it. "But Margaret said no, she wouldn't because it was her house and her gun. "So all the neighbors went back to their own houses, got out their own guns, pointed them at Margaret, and shouted that they would shoot if she didn't throw her gun away. "Then a child in the room spoke up and said, "Teacher, that is a really dumb story. It doesn't make any sense." Right. When is war "just," or is war .already obsolete now?


"You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake," Jeannette Rankin wrote. But we go on trying. Why? What exactly is to be gained? The powerful stay in power. The innocent are expelled from their homes. Children grow up with fear and hatred in their hearts. Who wins what?


For war to be just, the first criterion is that it must only be waged in the face of "real and certain danger." So when did we start waging war "just in case"?


"All war is insane," Madeleine L'Engle wrote. Killing doesn't stop killing. It just gives the world a new reason to do it called "vengeance." In the meantime, the poor get poorer and the strong get stronger. Nothing really changes.


After years of Nintendo and shopping mall video arcades, Americans know that no one bleeds and no one gets hurt in war. In fact, we teach our children to love it. Or, as Ellen Glasgow said, "The worst thing about war is that so many people enjoy it."


War is not what happens in the military. It is what happens in the hearts of the rest of us who applaud it. Marianne Moore, the poet, wrote, "There never was a war that was / not inward; I must / fight till I have conquered in myself what / causes war.

Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? The Independent view on who should win

A campaign that has exposed many flaws presents only one competent candidate       Editorial

After 30 years, The Independent has reached the point in its existence when as many readers are in the United States as the United Kingdom, thanks to the expansion of our online readership. Moreover, the election on Tuesday is arguably the most important in America’s history, with the choice on offer to the US electorate staggeringly stark. Its outcome will also have ramifications for the rest of the world.

We accept that for many it is hard to be enthusiastic about either
Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It is a sign of the dysfunction of America’s political system that a process which has dragged on for 18 months has thrown up the two least trusted and unpopular candidates in the country’s recent history. Were they running against almost any other opponent from the other party, both would be near-certain losers.

What has unfolded in the US since Mr Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015 has much in common with the wave of populism sweeping the rest of the West, fuelled by fear and resentment of immigration, globalisation and supranational institutions in general, and stoked by anger at apparently out-of-touch and self-perpetuating domestic elites who failed to prevent the financial and economic crash of 2008, the aftershocks of which still reverberate. These forces contributed heavily to the Brexit vote. They are driving nationalist parties in France and other European countries. In America, the beneficiary is Mr Trump.

But Mr Trump is a man of breathtaking ignorance, vanity and shallowness. He exhibits alarming racist and xenophobic beliefs. He has mocked and threatened Mexicans and Muslims. He has a staggering disregard for the truth. His contempt for women is a disgrace. He has dragged political discourse down to levels until now unimaginable in an American presidential election, to the point of urging his opponent be sent to jail.

Breaking earlier assurances, he refuses to release his tax returns, unlike every White House candidate since Richard Nixon. His admiration for autocrats and tyrants is sinister, to put it mildly. His casualness about nuclear weapons is frightening. His concept of foreign policy, insofar as he has one, is purely transactional: what’s in it for the US? If that means the end of the Nato alliance, too bad. Such attitudes set the worst possible example to a world that still looks to America for leadership. Mr Trump, in short, is utterly unfit for the most powerful office on earth.

Ms Clinton sits atop the most powerful machine in Democratic politics, probably in all US politics. But she is secretive to a fault, sealed away behind a praetorian guard of longtime advisers, and inclined – as Clintons are – to assume there is one rule for them and another for everyone else. Such a mindset helps explain the fiasco of the private email server she used while Secretary of State. One may criticise the FBI for reopening the matter days before the election, but her problem is entirely self-inflicted.

Campaigning, however, is not governing. If her record as Senator and Secretary of State is any indicator, she has the makings of an extremely competent president. It is hard to imagine a better-qualified candidate for the job (a job, admittedly, for which there is ultimately no adequate preparation).

As her debate performances showed, she is a master of the issues. In foreign policy she might be more assertive than Barack Obama, especially towards Russia and China – no bad thing, many would argue. But she is an internationalist who would maintain and foster the West’s key alliances, and work constructively on the great questions of the day, from the Middle East to human rights and global warming.

At home, she is well aware of the country’s needs, alive to the left-wing populism that made Bernie Sanders so dogged a primary opponent. Her instincts might make her defer to Wall Street, but her political nous will tell her otherwise. In a Clinton administration, Obamacare, the most significant healthcare advance since Medicare/Medicaid in the 1960s, would be preserved and improved. Mr Trump, by contrast, has vowed to rip Obamacare apart.

Most important, as she proved in the US Senate, Ms Clinton is a pragmatist who is able to work across the aisle. Nowhere are such qualities needed as in polarised and hyper-partisan Washington. It would be a tragedy if Americans failed to make her the 45th President. [Abrisdged]

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Catholics and Lutherans sign joint declaration 'accepting common path'

Harriet Sherwood       Religion Correspondent      Guardian/UK      31 October '16

After 500 years of schism, will the rift of the Reformation finally be healed? Pope Francis is beginning a year of events to herald growing cooperation between Protestants and Catholics. The events also commemorate 50 years of dialogue and cooperation between the two Christian traditions to overcome the divisions of the past.

Tolling bells marked the pope’s arrival at Lund Cathedral, which passed from the hands of the Roman Catholic church to the Lutherans in the 16th century as part of the epic sweep of change across Europe. In the presence of the Swedish king and queen, Francis prayed that “the Holy Spirit help us to rejoice in the gifts that have come to the church through the Reformation, prepare us to repent for the dividing walls that we, and our forebears, have built, and equip us for common witness and service in the world.”

In his homily, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics said the two traditions had “undertaken a common journey of reconciliation. Now, in the context of the commemoration of the Reformation of 1517, we have a new opportunity to accept a common path, one that has taken shape over the past 50 years in the ecumenical dialogue between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic church.”

The anniversary presented an “opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another,” he added. The separation “has been an immense source of suffering and misunderstanding”, he said.

The joint declaration, signed by Francis and Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, said the past five decades of “sustained and fruitful ecumenical dialogue” had helped Catholics and Lutherans overcome many differences, and had deepened mutual understanding and trust.

The declaration said: “At the same time, we have drawn closer to one another through joint service to our neighbours – often in circumstances of suffering and persecution. Through dialogue and shared witness we are no longer strangers. Rather, we have learned that what unites us is greater than what divides us. While we are profoundly thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, we also confess and lament before Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the church. Theological differences were accompanied by prejudice and conflicts, and religion was instrumentalised for political ends.”

The two leaders prayed for wounds to be healed, saying: “We emphatically reject all hatred and violence, past and present, especially that expressed in the name of religion.”

Luther’s challenge to the corruption and elitism of the Roman Catholic church swiftly gained support across Europe, helped by new printing presses which allowed his theses, along with other papers, pamphlets and the newly translated Bible, to reach people. The Catholic church launched a counter-reformation.

Followers of
Catholicism and Protestantism persecuted and fought each other for decades. By the middle of the 17th century, Europe was divided between a largely Protestant north and Catholic south. Recent moves towards closer coexistence have been resisted by hardliners on both sides, and few people have suggested that the Christian church could reunite even though Francis has made ecumenicalism a hallmark of his papacy. On Tuesday, the pope is due to celebrate mass in front of a crowd of up to 10,000 people in Malmö before returning to the Vatican.