War and the Christian Conscience: How Shall Modern War Be Conducted Justly?

War and the Christian Conscience: How Shall Modern War Be Conducted Justly?

War and the Christian Conscience: How Shall Modern War Be Conducted Justly?

War and the Christian Conscience: How Shall Modern War Be Conducted Justly?

Excerpt

For almost two centuries of the history of the early church, Christians were universally pacifists. Christ, in disarming Peter, they said, had unbelted every soldier; or if not every soldier, this at least meant that the disciples of Jesus Christ were not to engage in armed violence for any cause. Such pacifism was a withdrawal from political and military affairs to which the early Christians were driven, no doubt, from a mixture of motives. As a sect of Judaism, they at first shared in the exemption of all the Jews from military service--which exemption had been granted by the Romans not because the Jews had conscientious objection to fighting but against fighting on the Sabbath Day. The early Christians avoided the life of a soldier also in order to avoid the requirement of emperor-worship, since everyone whose office was that of a soldier or commander, judge or magistrate, was forced on numerous occasions to throw incense on the altar. Thus, a religious refusal to commit idolatry may have been the main motive, and not always a refusal, on ethical grounds, to engage in war. Many apparent pacifists, in North Africa and elsewhere, were simply anti-imperialists. Moreover, the dualism and otherwordly spirituality widespread in a decadent Hellenism had its effect. Just as in sexual morality there was among the Christians a strong tendency to reject the body and its passions altogether, so also to engage in physical struggle seemed to many of them a contamination of the soul with the impurities of matter.

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