The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence

By Andrew R. Murphy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 21
Just War and Jihad of the Sword

James Turner Johnson

As the nature of this volume shows, the relationship between religion and violence is complex and multifaceted. This is no less true of the particular relationship between the two traditions treated in the present chapter. The traditions on just war and jihad of the sword are deeply imbedded in their respective cultures, those of the West and of Islam; they are at once religious and political in nature; they connect to fundamental understandings of political order, domestic and international; and they have influenced contemporary discourse and action. They treat the same core questions: What authority is needed for resort to armed force? What justification is required? What purpose or end is to be served? What constitutes right conduct in uses of armed force thus defined? Their answers to these questions differ considerably, though interesting convergences can also be seen. The purpose of this chapter is to examine these two traditions on the use of armed force, identifying both the common ground between them and the significant differences that divide them, as well as the cultures they represent.


Just War and Jihad Thinking in Contemporary Context

Fifty years ago it would not have occurred to anyone that the kind of effort undertaken in this chapter would be well spent. In religious discourse on war in the United States and Europe, the just war idea was nowhere to be found. In its place were three other forms of discourse. One had grown out of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian realism, which by the 1950s had already begun to be reduced to an ongoing critique of states and the state system as such and actions of the United States in particular. Two forms of pacifism also flourished: one focused by opposition to nuclear weapons (nuclear pacifism) or more broadly by a reaction to the destructiveness of modern war manifest in the two world wars (modern-war pacifism), the other (world-order pacifism) seeking the abolition of all war through the power of international organization. This second form of

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