Faith and Force: A Christian Debate about War

Faith and Force: A Christian Debate about War

Faith and Force: A Christian Debate about War

Faith and Force: A Christian Debate about War

Synopsis

"This book began in an argument between friends surprised to find themselves on opposite sides of the debate about whether the United States and the United Kingdom should invade Iraq in 2003. Situated on opposite sides of the Atlantic, in different churches, and on different sides of the just war/pacifist fence, we exchanged long emails that rehearsed on a small scale the great national and international debates that were taking place around us. We discovered the common ground we shared, as well as some predictable and some surprising points of difference.... When the initial hostilities ended, our conversation continued, and we felt the urgency of contributing to a wider Christian debate about whether and when war could be justified." -- From the Preface

So began a dynamic collaboration that developed into a civil but provocative debate over matters of war and peace that is Faith and Force. From the ancient battles between Greek city-states to the Crusades to the World Wars of the twentieth-century to the present-day wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Middle East, aggressors and defenders alike have claimed the mantle of righteousness and termed their actions just. But can the carnage of war ever be morally grounded? And if so, how?

These are the questions that David L. Clough, a Methodist proponent of pacifism, and Brian Stiltner, a Catholic theologian and just war adherent, have vowed to answer -- together. With one voice, Clough and Stiltner outline and clarify issues of humanitarian intervention, weapons proliferation, and preventative war against rogue states. Their writing is grounded in Christian tradition and provides a fresh and illuminating account of the complexities and nuances of the pacifist and just war positions.

In each chapter Clough and Stiltner engage in debate on the issues, demonstrating a respectful exchange of ideas absent in much contemporary political discourse -- whether on television or in the classroom. The result is a well-reasoned, challenging repartee that searches for common ground within the Christian tradition and on behalf of the faithful promotion of justice -- yet one that also recognizes genuine differences that cannot be bridged easily. Intended for a broad audience, Faith and Force is the perfect foil to the shrill screeching that surrounds partisan perspectives on military power and its use.

To help with using the book in a classroom context, the authors have provided Questions for Reflection and Discussion for each chapter. You can download these questions in PDF format at press.georgetown.edu.

Excerpt

This book began in an argument between friends who were surprised to find themselves on opposite sides of the debate about whether the United States and the United Kingdom should invade Iraq in 2003. Situated on opposite sides of the Atlantic, in different churches, and on different sides of the just war/pacifist fence, we exchanged long emails that rehearsed on a small scale the national and international debates that were taking place around us. We discovered the common ground we shared as well as some predictable and some surprising points of difference. We watched together as our nations embarked on another war against Iraq in our name, and we mourned together the loss of Iraqi, American, and British lives.

When the initial hostilities ended, our conversation continued, and we felt the urgency of contributing to a wider Christian debate about if and when war can be justified. We began to wonder whether the dialogue we had shared might be a good way to present the ethical issues at stake in Christian thinking about war in the context of the beginning of a new century and millennium. Ethics is essentially a dialogic task, in which truths are discovered and tested in debate and discussion, yet most ethics texts settle either for a calm overview or a strong case for one side or the other. We planned a book that would instead retain the spirit of the argument in which it originated while also providing enough background to make the debate intelligible to those who have not previously reflected on these issues. Indeed, one of the book's distinguishing and—we hope—most informative features is a debate section between the authors at the end of each main chapter. We wrote these debates back and forth in real time, and we have resisted polishing them too much so as to retain their conversational character.

The writing of this book has been assisted by feedback from students at Sacred Heart University, Connecticut, and St. John's College, Durham, England. We are grateful for their engagement and insights. We are indebted to those who have read chapter drafts and provided feedback, especially General Sir Hugh Beach, Eric Gregory, Todd Speidell, and the anonymous readers for Georgetown University Press. Colleagues who engaged in conversation with us and shared helpful ideas include Amy Laura Hall, Karen Peterson-Iyer . . .

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