Monday, August 06, 2007

62 years from Hell

62 years ago today, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, another was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.

Without question, fascism needs to be opposed, and the Church has powerful and nonviolent ways to do so. But Americans tend to canonize World War Two, as if it really were a good example of "just war". We forget that this war violated "just war" principles...first by demanding "unconditional surrender", then, of course, by dropping atomic bombs on Japan. Many Americans remark that had the bombs not been dropped, forcing Japanese surrender, an invasion might have cost a million or more American lives, as if those lives were somehow of greater value than the tens of thousands...hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives which were ended.

One of the great problems of "just war" thinking is that once we allow that little compromise from Jesus' directives, the next steps are unconditional surrender, to the internment of Asian-Americans, to cluster bombs in Kosovo, to Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, to Auschwitz and Birkenau, to the dropping of nuclear weapons. For the Church, there can be no compromise when it comes to Jesus' commands, because when we compromise (or simply ignore) our Lord, millions may die.

May God forgive all those responsible for the atomic attacks on Japan, as well as all those who helped to create those conditions; may God forgive Jesus' Church, which failed to be a voice for peace during the 1940s, and continues that failure into the 21st century; may God have mercy on victims of war throughout the world.

May God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, help his people to be more peaceful and his Church to be more obedient to Jesus Christ, Lord of the Church and Lord of All.

"Just War: a secular version of “holy war”,
our religion: Righteous Indignation.

Just wait till March when we march,
gas masks our featureless faces.

Just wait till April when we shower
like rain on the just and unjust.

Propaganda? The biggest lie
is “civilians won’t die.”

Jesus didn’t say, “Do unto others,
before they do unto you.”

Why do we both have God on our side?
Could it be that God just loves a good fight?

And here we insert the societal shrug,
askance, resigned:

It’s only human nature;
it’s just war." - Bruce Niedt


Prettybird said...

Oh boy. This should be good.

Let the comments begin.

love you (anyhow),

Brett Probert said...

All I can say is what Robyn said. "I love you anyhow."

Anonymous said...

Wow! Way to have some gahona's, and post something controversial in this "just war" - loving society!

Greg Cox said...

Our society doesn't have the slightest idea what "just war theory" is. We just like to think we do, when and if we meet one of the criteria. Most people refer to WWII as the "Great War," which to me is an indication that we further have no idea what war is.

Chris said...

War is hell - Praise God that one day we will see peace!

Unknown said...

I fear many seperate issues have been conflated into one larger topic and a blog really isn't a good format to go into all that. So let me point out where I think we agree.

Anytime our Faith is used to justify the actions of a human government, we turn our Faith into Religion.

Using Faith in YHWH to justify war or to justify political "peace" are equally destuctive illusions. (PS. I am not suggesting you have made that mistake in this blog Keith, I am just making my own application.)

Anonymous said...

Is there pehaps another point of emphasis that could be made here?

We all die. We are "a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (James 4:14b)

Jesus commands us to love our enemies not for their sake, but for our own. In killing, we - to borrow from JK Rowling - split our own souls.

Anonymous said...

I should have noted that my previous comment was in response to the line about millions of people dying.

You note above that line the ways our own actions lead us into further and further horrors.

Boxman said...

What always troubles me about these kinds of arguments is, in my opinion, the ignoring of the other side of the equation. The Japanese were responsible for horrendous amounts of slaughter through their own actions.

Secondly, I don't see a direct link between a secular governments action and the church in this case. The church is separated from the state in this country and there were plenty in the church who opposed the action. You seem to imply different.

I've been to the peace museum in Hiroshima and seen first hand the remnants of us dropping the bomb. It is indeed a sad sight. But they aren't wallowing in their sorrow, in fact they recognized their own failings and moved forward. They make no secret of the fact that they savaged many surrounding peoples including committing unspeakable horrors on the Chinese. Japan's was a life of warfare that turned peaceful after this tragedy. I just don't understand on any level how not resisting them would have been a better choice.

If you are so insistent on following Jesus's imperatives, then why ignore him when he spoke not of bringing peace, but division or in Matthew it speaks of a sword. I know, I know, it's all about context, in which case you would have to apply context to your own imperatives.

Keith H. McIlwain said...

Boxman - Thanks for the response.

Indeed, many Japanese actions in the war were horrific. But there was nothing in their arsenal (in anybody's arsenal) to compare with the atomic bomb. One of the tenets of "just war" thinking is proportionality; that, obviously, was not the case in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There also were folks who opposed war during the 1940s, but the vast majority of Christians...and even the institutional Church of the era...were in strong support. Even today, most Christians I speak with seem to have no problem with Truman's decision to drop the bombs.

I'm also a supporter of resistance, and made the point in my post that fascism...German, Italian, Japanese, or whatever radical version we're seeing today from Al Qaeda...must be opposed, for it is evil. But the Church also has nonviolent means of resistance; resistance does not always mean bombs and guns.

There are many ways to bring divisions and swords which don't involve the taking of human life on an atomic scale; that's my point.

I fully expect nations to engage in war; after all, we live in a broken world that is filled with horror and sin, and governments are a part of that world. But just because a nation engages in war doesn't mean that the Church should in any way support it or that the Church shouldn't stand up and proclaim things like, "The nation can do what it wants to do, but we in the Church will love our enemies."

Brett Probert said...

So Keith, is what is happening on this blog "just war"?

Keith H. McIlwain said...

It's far preferable to the real thing, brother. I can live with talking and disagreements; killing and death, that's another matter.

Unknown said...

Keith, you wrote, "The nation can do what it wants to do, but we in the Church will love our enemies."

I agree. I do not support or oppose the war. It simply is what it is. God causes nations to rise and fall, and I trust He will ultimately be the judge of nations and of the poeple in those nations.

Unlike Pat Robertson, we should not be promoters of the Gospel of Democracy

Unlike the American Family Association, we should not be political Pharisees who think our freedom comes from Man

Our call, as followers of Jesus, is to stand for the Kingdom of God, not the kingdoms of Men.

Keith H. McIlwain said...

I agree 100%.

Boxman said...


I'll try just one more line of reasoning and leave it at that as I think we will always see things differently on this one.

I would compare your insistence on only non-violence to the pharisees who confronted Jesus about healing on a sabbath. They had inisisted that the Law prohibited work on a sabbath and applied that principle unequivocally. They also attempted to bring a sense of corporate sin to the table by implying that anyone who associated with someone who would breaks God's Law is as guilty as the one breaking it. Jesus rejected that entire line of thinking instead focused on the practicality of someone who needed healing.

When a godless country fires up their war machine as Japan had done, no amount of non-violence can resist that. Unfortunately the reality is that bullets, mortars, and bombs kill people and they don't respond to any human plea.

God promised to protect Israel from it's enemies but in no way did it involve them not having warriors available to defend them by killing their enemies.

Lastly, while I don't know your own personal stand on abortion, if we continue your line of thinking, there is no more asymmetrical warfare and more violent act than the taking of an unborn child by a living human being. Yet our church financially supports a religious group that advocates the right for a person to choose to commit that act. If you are insistent that we are all liable for the sins of warfare then isn't one complicit by one's own association with our church in this form of warfare too? Do you really believe that the corporate body is pressing this sin down upon each individual too? And if so, I expect to hear as much chatter about our ongoing commitment to abortion rights as there is chatter about just war arguments.

Keith H. McIlwain said...

Boxman - Thanks again for your comments.

Regarding abortion and our complicity in those actions, I would agree with your line of thinking. I oppose abortion and have a record (literally) to prove that. Truly, the Church's support of these acts is a sin for which we will be held accountable.

I would take issue with your statement: "When a godless country fires up their war machine as Japan had done, no amount of non-violence can resist that."

First, I disagree strongly. Nonviolence can resist a "war machine". It may mean being ostracized, rejected, or even martyrdom, which we should never seek but should be willing to give, but we can resist. Confession, the Eucharist, forgiveness, certainly the Cross and the Empty Tomb...all of these are far more powerful in the bigger picture than guns and bombs.

Second, I would disagree with your presumption (forgive me if I presume too much) that Japan was godless, whereas the Unites States was not. God loves both equally; neither is a favorite; neither is a "Christian nation". Far, far from it.

Finally, yes, the Old Testament is filled with violence to and by Israel which seems not only supported but sometimes commanded by God. My only answer to that is that, in my view, everything changes because of God works in the world, how we work for God, how the stars are aligned and move...everything changes because Jesus rose from the dead. That includes philosophies about war and death.

In the end, as you mention, we likely will agree to disagree. Blessings as we together seek faithfulness!

Greg Cox said...

Record? Would you be bumped by Safe Sanctuaries?

Keith H. McIlwain said...

No...nothing like that!

Unknown said...

Boxman, you wrote to Keith "I would compare your insistence on only non-violence..."

Based on what I have read here, I don't think Keith holds a traditional "pacafist" view. (Please correct me Keith if I am speaking out of turn).

Secular pacafists think that non-violence will bring peace. Keith has already acknowledged that his non-violence can bring more violence and even martyerdom.

Secular pacafists say the governemnt has no right to defend itself. Keith, in agreement with my post, is saying that governments can and do have a right to use force. HOWEVER, the role of the individual Christian is to neither support or condemn, it is to promote God's Kingdom in the midst of all things.

These are just 2 quick points. I hope you can discern the difference and understand then why your comparison to his view with that of the Pharisees, IMHO, is misplaced.

One of the links I gave was bad. I meant to link to this blog entitled ACTION ALERT “Your Freedom Can NEVER be Lost!” This might be a good read for you boxman to understand the difference between trusting in God to bring justice and freedom vs. trusting in the United States as our source for freedom.

Keith H. McIlwain said...

I agree in part with you, Joe. True...nonviolence is not a means toward achieving peace; we are nonviolent because Jesus said to be nonviolent. It's for faithfulness...not for results. It may indeed result in martyrdom.

But governments can do whatever they want...they're not the Kingdom. A Christian can disagree with the government, saying that war is wrong, death is bad, etc. My point is that government and Church are completely separate entities...and when government sins (which is often), Christians can (and at times should) witness to that.

Unknown said...

Keith, you wrote, "A Christian can disagree with the government, saying that war is wrong, death is bad, etc."

It may be semantics, but I did use the word "condemn" and you used "disagree". But I accept your clarification that we do have an obligation to make our voice for the Gospel heard.

Keith H. McIlwain said...

I can live with that. I can't see me, for instance, "condemning" the US gov't, even though I have disagreements (with BOTH parties).

I could easily, though, have condemned the gov'ts of the USSR or the Third Reich, or, more recently, the Taliban. Not the PEOPLE, mind you...but the gov'ts themselves, which were steeped in (and founded on) sin, oppression, and death.

Randy Roda said... know how I feel about just war. I thought Zilhaver was bad. Talk about controversial.