Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fosdick on War

As usual, I have a hundred ideas for blog posts, and no time to write them up. So, I'll cheat, like I often do, and post a quote I like. This one is from Harry Fosdick, liberal 20th century theologian, from an essay on whether Christians should participate in war.

Today when I picture Christ in this warring world I can see him in one place only, not arrayed in the panoply of battle on either side, but on his judgment seat, sitting in condemnation of all of us--aggressor, defender, neutral--who by out joint guilt have involved ourselves in a way of life that denies everything he stood for. The function of the church is to keep him there, above the strife, representing a manner of living, the utter antithesis of war, to which mankind must return if we are to have any hope. But the Christian ministry does not keep him there by throwing itself, generation after generation, into the support and sanction of the nation's wars. Rather it drags him down, until the people, listening, can feel little if any difference between what Christ says and what Mars wants. It is not the function of the Christian church to help win a war. A church that becomes an adjunct to a war department has denied its ministry. The function of the church is to keep Christ where he belongs, upon his judgment seat, condemner of our joint guilt, chastener of our impenitent pride, guide to our only hope.

I especially like the line about the "aggressor, defender and neutral" all being guilty. Pacifism isn't about sitting back and letting evil flourish, but about creating conditions for peace. Nonetheless, there are times when pacifism has no better answers than the soldier, and I think it is important to recognize that sometimes being faithful results in ineffectiveness, and requires both humility and penance. We are all to blame when conflict cannot be resolved peacefully.


Brownie said...

Yes, I think Jesus would be, and is, disappointed in our shortcomings. But I definetly don't agree that Jesus would be "sitting in condemnation of all of us [all]" as this guy says.

Christ came not to judge but to save. Not to condemn, but to offer forgiveness. Not to belittle, but to help us grow.

Sounds like bad theology to me, but then again, like any other human endeavor, this too can be flawed.


Dan S said...

You can't forgive if you don't first condemn. Grace is not needed for those who don't sin.

Fosdick is merely saying that we all sin when war happens, and dragging Jesus into this sin as if he approves of it is misguided or against what Jesus taught.

TimN said...

This is an interesting quote and I think an important reminder that Jesus is beyond any nation. Its certainly a good reminder for Christians in the U.S.

However, when I think of where Jesus is in the midst of war, I immediately see him with the civilians on both sides whose homes are bombed, who have all their food taken by soldiers, who are raped and who are left with nothing. These people do not fit into Fosdick's neat categories of "Aggresor, Defender, and Neutral." They are the victims of war and its true face.

Dan S said...

Good thought Tim - Jesus as being with the suffering, the oppressed, the victims. This is true not just during war either...