Monday, September 13, 2010

The Church In A Time Of War

Several thoughts from around the web:

The UCC on becoming a Just Peace Church:
The Just Peace Church vision is a hallmark of United Church of Christ theological identity.

For nearly two decades, the Just Peace Church program has been a grassroots movement of UCC congregations committed to corporately naming and boldly proclaiming a public identity as a justice-doing, peace-seeking church.

The movement traces its history to the 1985 General Synod, when a Just Peace Church Pronouncement called upon all settings of the UCC to be a Just Peace Church, underscoring the words of Dr. Robert V. Moss, the second president of the UCC, who wrote in 1971, "We now need to put as much effort into defining a just peace as we have done in the past in defining a just war."

The General Synod defined "just peace" as the interrelation of friendship, justice, and common security from violence. The pronouncement called the church to a vision of shalom rooted in peace with justice and placed the UCC General Synod in opposition to the institution of war.

From the official Pronouncement on affirming the United Church of Christ as a Just Peace Church:
Biblical and theological foundations
A Just Peace is grounded in God’s activity in creation. Creation shows the desire of God to sustain the world and not destroy. The creation anticipates what is to come: the history-long relationship between God and humanity and the coming vision of shalom.
Just Peace is grounded in covenant relationship. God creates and calls us into covenant, God’s gift of friendship: “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezekiel 37:26). When God’s abiding presence is embraced, human well-being results, or Shalom, which can be translated Just Peace.
A Just Peace is grounded in the reconciling activity of Jesus Christ. Human sin is the rejection of the covenant of friendship with God and one another and the creation and perpetuation of structures of evil. Through God’s own suffering love in the cross, the power of these structures has been broken and the possibility for relationship restored.
A Just Peace is grounded in the presence of the Holy Spirit. God sends the Holy Spirit to continue the struggle to overcome the powers ranged against human bonding. Thus, our hope for a Just Peace does not rest on human efforts alone, but on God’s promise that we will “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
A Just Peace is grounded in the community of reconciliation: the Just Peace Church. Jesus, who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14), performed signs of forgiveness and healing and made manifest that God’s reign is for those who are in need.The church is a continuation of that servant manifestation. As a Just Peace Church, we embody a Christ fully engaged in human events. The church is thus a real countervailing power to those forces that divide, that perpetuate human enmity and injustice, and that destroy.
Just Peace is grounded in hope. Shalom is the vision that pulls all creation toward a time when weapons are swept off the earth and all creatures lie down together without fear; where all have their own fig tree and dwell secure from want. As Christians, we offer this conviction to the world: Peace is possible.

Shuck and Jive on Imperial Religion: Shuck and Jive: Our New Imperial Religion.

The Christian Conscience and Nuclear Escapism:
It is correct to say, as Robert McAfee Brown does, that the possession and manufacture of nuclear weapons are immoral. But if the alternatives are also immoral, as the bishops suggest, it hardly follows that Christians should say an "unequivocal no" to participation in nuclear weapons development. Brown believes that such an unequivocal stance is "risky." Granted, it carries the risks of job loss and accusations of disloyalty. These risks are significant, but they pale before an even greater risk which they reduce. This is the risk of unfettered thinking whereby the human mind, as Augustine said, is stretched and stretched until eventually it encounters something that transcends and judges it, which is Truth. We try to avoid divine judgment and the anxiety it brings by refusing to think, by permitting our prepossessions to prevent the emergence of new insights, as the late Bernard Lonergan wrote.

This is part of the appeal of unequivocal stances. Because they are unambiguous and devoid of irony and paradox, they allow us to suppose that we are righteous. The result is that on the peace issue, we come to sound like those fundamentalist churches that call people out of a sinful world to a holy place of painless. personal salvation. If, however, we resist what Flaubert called "the mania to conclude," we are bound to fathom finally that for the moral problem of deterrence, there is no sanctified ground on which to stand. We learn instead, as London’s G. R. Dunstan writes, that there is only a choice between evils and "everlasting mercy for those who, in good faith, are driven to choose"

At first, Ramsey seems directly opposed to Brown, who rejects deterrence altogether. Actually, Ramsey and Brown are closer to each other than either is to Dunstan or the bishops. Both believe that nuclear morality involves choosing between good and evil. This is what Dunstan and the bishops deny, saying that we choose only between wrongs.

The stark honesty of such a view calls to mind a response to war known as "agonized participation," which is associated with the names of Reinhold Niebuhr and Roger Shinn. and which is described by Edward Long, Jr., in his 1968 book War and Conscience in America (Westminster). This position is not to be confused with statements of just-war theory. The agonized participant believes war is never an act of justice, but that it may sometimes be necessary to prevent an even greater evil. The agonized participant accepts the necessity of war without obscuring its tragedy.

I do not think that a person can have a role in the wartime firing of a nuclear device, or even in the development or production of a destabilizing weapon, as an agonized participant. Those would be acts devoid of conscience. But workers on projects that make the world safer should develop the mind of agonized participants. Their work can be justified, but it provides no cause for patriotic self-congratulation. It is necessary, but it is still immoral. When these defense workers ask how they can resolve the conflict between their religious principles and their participation in nuclear weapons projects, the churches need to tell them that there is no resolution. As Niebuhr said, God’s forgiveness enables us to live with moral dilemmas, but it does not make our deeds righteous.

The churches must speak these things without pointing fingers, as though nuclear defense workers constitute some special, reprehensible class. Their dilemma should be felt acutely by any Christian who lives under the nuclear umbrella and enjoys the prerogatives that come from a military security bought at an awful moral price.

In "Ethics and Tragedy" (Explorations in Theology [SCM, 1979]), D. M. McKinnon recounts a story about the duke of Wellington. An admirer said to the great man: "A victory must be a supremely exhilarating and glorious experience." The duke, by then an old man, replied: A victory, Madam, is the greatest tragedy in the world, only excepting a defeat." Today, living with nuclear deterrence is the greatest tragedy in the world, only excepting what might result from its alternatives. Since there is no handy exit from this tragedy, we may be forced to learn the wisdom of another generation -- that Christian ethics is not a deus ex machina to extricate us from our predicaments. Instead, in the words of neo-orthodoxy’s most systematic thinker, ethics exists "to remind us of our confrontation with God, who is the light illuminating all actions." In a nuclear age, we confront a sorrowful God whose righteous anger boils over in the face of our folly. The miracle is that this weeping, angry God still graces us to hope and to labor for peace. But hoping and peacemaking, we must see, are very different things from indulging in one form or another of nuclear escapism.

Matthew 5 Project - Evangelicals for Nuclear Reduction:
1. As Bible-believing Christians, we recognize Christ’s lordship over all areas of life. The end of the Cold War and the rise of global terrorist networks call for a renewed application of Jesus’ lordship and our own best moral convictions to meet the challenges of our time.
2. Jesus Christ Commands Us to Go, Make Peace with Our Adversary: Matthew 5:21-26 is a command, not an option; the apostle Paul followed it; so must we. This is the central theme of our statement.
3. Jesus Christ is Lord Over Every Area of Life, in Our Relations with All the World: The sanctity of all human life created in the image of God includes all persons. The Holy Spirit empowers us to make our witness to even the remotest part of the earth. God is revealed in Christ and sovereign over the whole world.
4. Overcoming the Nuclear Threat Requires International Cooperation: Our church experience of getting adversaries to talk together, as well as the historical examples of North Korea, Libya, Iran, and sixteen nations that were persuaded not to develop nuclear weapons, show the realism in our context of Jesus’ command to go talk with an adversary to make peace while there’s time.
5. Governments Need International Checks and Balances: Government is part of God’s good creation, but is also fallen and therefore in need of checks and balances, and respect for law. This applies also to governments that have the power to create enormous destruction. We honor our elders, who saw the devastating destruction of World War II, and dedicated themselves to creating international networks so that the scourge of war might be prevented.
6. Nuclear Weapons are a Physical and Moral Threat that Need International Agreement: Nuclear weapons are a physical threat to the survival of human life on earth. They are also a grave moral threat. Prominent national security experts have recently called for reducing and abolishing reliance on nuclear weapons, by verifiable international agreement, in order to enhance national security. This cannot be accomplished unilaterally; it requires international cooperation and verification.
7. A Call for Action: In order to safeguard life, liberty, community, and security for its own citizens and for the world, the United States must demonstrate moral leadership in protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable, strengthening the rule of law in the international community, and seeking diplomatic negotiations with allies and enemies alike. Christians should pray for our leaders and leaders of other nations. We urge churches to teach members ethics for discernment, including just peacemaking practices based on the teachings of Jesus, so they are well prepared to meet today’s challenges in ways faithful to Christ. We encourage church groups to consider engaging in interfaith dialogue and witness, and in building international partnership with fellow Christians around the world. We call for governmental action to oppose the rise in global terrorism by working for international justice and peacemaking. We call for verifiable international reduction of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. We affirm that overcoming the threat of global poverty, global warming, global terrorism, regional insecurity, and nuclear war requires international cooperation. We call for obedience to the Lordship of Christ in all that we do, including talking with an adversary and seeking to make peace.

Patriotism, Nationalism, and the Christian Life:
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my
heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
But other lands have sunlight, too, and
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, O God for all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.
Tune: “Finlandia”
The New Century Hymnal 591

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