Is America Ready for a Nuanced Discussion of Just War?

Writing about a lecture he attended at St. Irenaeus Church in Park Forest, Illinois, Park Forest Mayor John Ostenburg presents perhaps one of the most nuanced perspectives I’ve ever read on the Catholic Just War Theory. The lecture, given by Kathy Kelly, coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, "covered a much wider scope of things. Really, her presentation should have been promoted¬†with the old John Lennon song title, ‘Give Peace a Chance,’ Ostenburg says on his blog, The Outpost Observer.

What follows is a summary of the lecture by Kathy Kelly, and additional perspective by Ostenburg, including the following:

While I agree with Ms. Kelly in principle, that the sincere and consistent efforts of even a handful eventually can reap genuine rewards, I also am inclined to believe that it is extremely difficult to control the behaviors of any individuals — or even nations —¬†who have hatred in their hearts. Turning the cheek is a personal act that any one of us can take (I might even say, should take), but those charged with the responsibility of protecting the public at large face additional responsibilities that reach beyond that. As Christians, Ms. Kelly and her compatriots do well to imitate the actions of Jesus Christ in how he showed love for those who extended ill toward him; however, even Jesus took up the whip to expel the money-changers in the Temple because of the social ill they were spreading.

As such, I find it difficult to accept that absolute pacifism is enough to effect the kind of change that Ms. Kelly would like to see. Lest we forget, law enforcement also was a necessary component of the changes that ultimately brought major controls on racial hatred in the 1960s and 1970s. People had to be arrested, sentenced, and sent to jail; federal officers often had to engage in strong tactics in order to bring the wrongdoers to their knees. And — even with all the combined efforts of peaceful protest and effective law enforcement — things today are far from perfect and the ugly head of racism still rises all too often and spews its hateful venom.

So, from my perspective, it is legitimate for the U.S. to seek to curtail hateful acts by Al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban. But I also believe the methods we employ in our efforts at self-protection must likewise be legitimate.

An explanation of the Catholic Church’s Just War Theory follows.

What strikes me as fascinating in all of this is this line from Ostenburg’s post, "Even Jesus took up the whip to expel the money-changers in the Temple because of the social ill they were spreading."

Yes, He did. And I never thought about that in connection to warfare.

Read this post in full, and ask yourself, is America, polarized as it is today, ready for a truly nuanced discussion of war — and peace?