Colloquium on Violence & Religion (COV&R) Presentation, May 31 – June 4, 2006, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
WN: When I finally decided to register to present a paper at my friend Vern Redekop’s urging (he was the Conference host), there was only a slot left under French language workshops. I immediately asked two bilingual colleagues about doing a “quickie” translation for me. Neither had the time (understandably!). When I arrived by noon at the conference site, I discovered that the presentation slot was that afternoon, not the next day as I had thought. I did not even have a printed English language copy with me! Vern Redekop gave me his office to print off a copy. I went immediately from there and “winged it” in French at the workshop! The irony is: I don’t speak French (from one year to the next where I live in British Columbia!…)
It is fascinating that the inventor of the utterly non-Christian 1) Just War Tradition 2 in the West, one taken over wholesale from “pagan” Cicero and others, Saint Augustine of Hippo, should tell such a tale that not only gives the lie to all ethical state exceptionalism [ref number =”3″]Alexis de Tocqueville, a kind of Eusebian French 19th-century American apologist, coined the term, “American exceptionalism” that essentially means: the (American) state may “get away with terrorism and murder”. This notion is closely aligned in the United States with “Manifest Destiny” and the Monroe Doctrine (1823) of divine right of brutal conquest; ethnocentrism of the sort celebrated in Empire laureate Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden” (trumpeting the white man’s (Britain’s and America’s) “savage wars of peace” to impose the “ways of civilization”!); and modern mythologies of “just war against terror” (Elshtain, 2003), because the United States wages such (and by definition can do no wrong, even when 120,000 civilian lives are instantaneously snuffed out by a pair of atomic bombs – to cite two of an endless stream of American “benign” savagery during and since World War II).)), but to any ethical difference between the collective called “Empire” or “sovereign state”, and the individual.
Please click on: “Not Enough!”
- Father George Zabelka was the Catholic chaplain with the US Army air force who blessed the men who dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. He dedicated his later years of post-atomic-Holocaust life to one long act of penance, writing: “The mainline Christian churches still teach something that Christ never taught or even hinted at, namely the just war theory, a theory that to me has been completely discredited theologically, historically, and psychologically… So as I see it, until the various churches within Christianity repent and begin to proclaim by word and deed what Jesus proclaimed in relation to violence and enemies, there is no hope for anything other than ever-escalating violence and destruction.” (“I Was Told It Was Necessary” (interview), Sojourners 9/8: pp. 12 – 15.Zabelka, 1980, passim). (See this accessible site for a similar article: George Zabelka.[↩]
- “During the fourth and fifth centuries, the church adopted from classical thought the teaching of the just war (J.D. Douglas, General Editor, “War”, The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, Grand Rapids: Zondervan.1974, p. 1029.)” Saint Augustine of Hippo first developed this understanding when confronted with the horrors of a disintegrating Roman Empire. His original three criteria were: “just cause”; “legitimate authority”; and “right intention.” To these were eventually added another three: “proportionality”; “probability of success”; and “last resort”. A seventh is often included: “noncombatant immunity”. Dr. Richard Land wrote the classic contemporary “American exceptionalist” (see next Footnote) open letter, co-signed by top American Evangelical leaders, entitled “A Letter from Conservative Christians to President Bush”. See: Land Letter, October 3, 2002. Jean Bethke Elshtain wrote the definitive contemporary American exceptionalist book: (Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World, New York: Basic Books, 2003.) See my Review at: Just War Against Terror[↩]