Archive for June, 2007

Chill already…

Posted: June 28, 2007 in random thoughts



Just War?

Posted: June 25, 2007 in Uncategorized

An Argument Against Aquinus’ Just War Theory

It can be assumed that wars have been fought as long as civilizations have existed. The rise of agriculture, food storage, and sedentary lifestyles gave formerly hunting/gathering peoples the ability to grow and gather more food than could be immediately consumed. This surplus, as well as the new allowance of an unmoving locale gave rise to specialization, and consequently heirarchy. Egalitarian life slowly but surely faded into prehistory as history began. Specialization gave birth to kings, army generals (to guard the storehouses and protect “property”- an entirely new concept), writing (aka history) and of course, war. Nearly ever since wars began to be waged, there has surely been some sort of ethical considerations involved, which have helped dictate the procedures and limits of war. Philosophers, ethical theorists, theologians and other thinkers have tried for centuries to articulate a proper set of guidelines for waging “just war”. Though the premise that wars must be fought justly remains the consistent foundation of these theorists, their reasons, limits, and procedures can vary greatly. Most theorists believe that a lack of consensus is inappropriate and argue that a universal theory of just war must be reached.

The idea of a just war seems absurd to me. It is adopted and forwarded by many intelligent people regardless of the obvious paradox that is evident even in its name. I understand why this is the case. Good and moral people have disagreed about issues of war for centuries. It is no surprise. The motives of war are not always bad in and of themselves. War is fought as a means of defense just as much as it is fought as a means of attack. When faced with a violent assault, it is a natural reaction to want to defend oneself. In this essay, I will attempt to argue that though it is natural and to want to react externally to situations like this, it is not just in any way. Just war theorists have been debating issues of war for many years. I don’t believe that, at this time, there is any definitive answer to the problem. But I do believe that war is a moral issue. I understand that it is easier to argue against war than it is to argue for a viable alternative to it, but the latter is not the point of my essay. My point it to highlight the errors in the theories of just war and to call for a reconsideration of the ethics of war.

Wars are seemingly inevitable. Conflict seems to be a natural outcome of human interaction. Yet whether humans are intrinsically evil or not, history shows us that conflict is an ongoing occurrence in the world. I sympathize with the tendency to immediately draw a correlation between human conflict and human nature. But I would argue that such a correlation is an excuse that feeds the flame of conflict. Yet a look into pre-history, through anthropological means, assures us that war is note inherent within our species, but within civilizations. The only logical consideration, within light of this knowledge is that civilization is the cause of war. Though this is a radical idea, it is true and leaves us with one of two options. We can dismiss a critique of civilization as absurd and continue on this path to inevitable war, or we can give consideration to it. I believe that most just war theorists are genuinely peaceful people who would prefer war to be nothing but a primitive survival technique that is irrelevant to modern humanity. Yet I believe that they have put their peaceful ideas aside and fallen victim to a drastic form of realism. St. Aquinus, in his second stipulation for just war says, “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” Though this seems like a reasonable statement, it does not acknowledge the possibility of other ways to secure peace and uplift good. It does not acknowledge the roots of war. I would argue that one solution, though very much complicated, would be to weed the roots out- to re-organize society in an egalitarian way, a way of freedom, taking example from our hunter/gatherer ancestors who lived millions of years without anything resembling the sort of destruction that has become so commonplace in our “civilized” world. Such ideas as this are largely ignored by war theorists. They seem to focus on what to do after everything is messed up, instead of what to do so that things do not become so messed up. So though this is a good argument, it falls short in that it does not look beyond history and into the anthropological evidence of peaceful pre-civilized societies.

As I mentioned before, it is a natural (yet immoral) human response to react externally to attack. The just war theory does not take into account (at least properly) this tendency. It is much easier for a nation, territory, group, etc. to sit in councils and discuss the proper response to difficult situations than it is for individuals to rightly consider a just reaction to an assault in the moment of conflict. Even if there is such a thing as a just reason to wage war, and war is waged with certain stipulations, those stipulations will be tossed away as soon as the first gun fires or bomb drops. Theorists do not only argue that there are reasons to wage war, but that there are certain guidelines that soldiers must engage in during the process of war in order for it to remain a just war. St. Thomas Aquinas argues that “Such like precepts [not revenging yourselves… ] …should always be borne in readiness of mind, so that we be ready to obey them, and if necessary, to refrain from resistance, or self-defense.” This seems to put to much faith in individual soldiers. It is natural for feelings of rage, anger and defense to drive the emotions at the point of conflict. To say that individual soldiers will only react in certain ways to certain situations is, for that reason, not realistic. Therefore, even if wars may be declared for just reasons, there is no way to guarantee that they will be fought justly in all situations.

The world is not the same as it used to be. We are in a new era- a global, post-colonial world. Politics, trade, and so on do not work in the same way that they once did. War also does not work in the same way that it once did. People fight for different reasons and use far different strategies than in the time of St. Aquinus. Wars are still fought over territory, but that is not nearly the primary cause of war anymore. Countries that are hundreds of miles away from each other can now wage war without getting anyone else involved. The ways in which war is fought are also significantly different than they used to be. Technology now exists that allows mass scale bombings with little to no human interaction, air raids, and so on.

Wars are no longer only fought between territories either. We have seen the rise of guerrilla warfare, suicide bombing, and the like. War is no longer centralized. This poses a problem for proponents of the just war theory. According to the Aquinus’ first stipulation for a just war, “…the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime.” Now, attacks by an individual or group under illegitimate authority can be a just cause for retaliation if constituted by a legitimate authority according to the just war theory, but that is a nearly impossible task at times. We are witnessing this in the present situation facing the United States. The problem of terrorism has caused the United States to act in ways that are unprecedented. We cannot simply attack the responsible country. There is no single country responsible. There are organizations that are too mobile to pin down. From torture camps to controversial border policies, there are issues of war facing our world that we know nothing of. The just war theory does not cover these things. Therefore I argue that, whether just war theory is legitimate or not, we need a new theory that deals directly with our present situation.
This assumes of course that the United States is engaging in war primarily in response to terrorism. This is clearly not the case. I wonder how waging a war in order to assassinate a leader and bring democracy and the American way to a nation would hold up to the just war theory.

As I said, I am not attempting to show an alternative to war in this essay. I am simply trying point out the faults in the just war theory. Now it can be said that I am not being helpful and that my arguments are meaningless until I come up with an alternative. I disagree. I believe that the first step to rethinking issues of war is to show that the popular ethical stances that we have on them are wrong. My comments are not immediately invalid simply because they do not offer any practical advice.

I will not deny the reality of war. One might say that since there are wars going on right now, the immediacy of our struggles constitute the application of the just war theory. “There is no time for any debate!” someone could say. But I think it is illogical to think that, though just war theories are widely accepted and proposed, the theories are leading any wars at this present time. Deny just war theory is not synonymous with supporting uncontrollable war. Just war is simply a theory, and as I have attempted to point out an unpractical one. It is not being applied currently. It is unrealistic. So deconstructing just war theory is not helping war in any way, but only helping the process of peace.

So in conclusion, it is my opinion that the just war theory is highly impractical, irrelevant and even harmful. It provokes a defeatist attitude by claiming that war is inevitable, necessary, and if waged correctly, moral. Just war theorists have therefore slowed down the struggle for a peaceful world and consequently promoted violence. The just war theory is impractical because of its attempt to control the battle field and not just the decision process. It is also irrelevant for our time. The issues of war have shifted, and the just war theory has not. It is outdated. So just war is a paradoxical term that is not only paradoxical in name, but also in it’s very ideology.

Why Jesus was queer

Posted: June 21, 2007 in theology

I just read an article on homosexuality (or more specifically LGBTQ…) and biblical interpretation. I have read a good deal of articles and books on the subject, but for some reason I really liked this one. It’s by Walter Wink. He starts out by talking about why the debate today is moreso about biblical interpretation than it is about homosexuality. Good point Walter!

The debate over homosexuality is a remarkable opportunity, because it raises in an especially acute way how we interpret the Bible, not in this case only, but in numerous others as well. The real issue here, then, is not simply homosexuality, but how Scripture informs our lives today.

He goes on to say a lot about specific passages. He also says something that I love. It’s the best thing to bring up during a discussion with someone if you really want to shake things up. He says that the bible doesn’t have a sexual ethic. I’ve heard others go as far as to say that the bible is not about morality at all. I actually think that is kind of what Wink was getting at. The bible’s only absolute ethic that transcends time and culture is an ethic of love. He starts to bring it to a close with the paragraph below. This is why I said Jesus is queer, and it’s why I really like Jesus.

…women are pressing us to acknowledge the sexism and patriarchalism that pervades Scripture and has alienated so many women from the church. The way out, however, is not to deny the sexism in Scripture, but to develop and interpretive theory that judges even Scripture in the light of the revelation in Jesus. What Jesus gives us is a critique of domination in all its forms, a critique that can be can be turned on the Bible itself. The Bible thus contains the principles of its own correction. We are freed from bibliolatry, the worship of the Bible. It is restored to its proper place as witness to the Word of God. And that word is a Person, not a book.

“With the interpretive grid provided by a critique of domination, we are able to filter out the sexism, patriarchalism, violence, and homophobia that are very much a part of the Bible, thus liberating it to reveal to us in fresh ways the inbreaking, in our time of God’s domination-free order.

Sailor Jerry and Fate

Posted: June 11, 2007 in random thoughts

Recently I was driving back from St. Augustine after spending the day on the beach and walking the historic parts of downtown. It was a really good time, and I got to spend it with a really sweet girl… but that’s not the point… The day before I had been looking through tattoo books and web sites and found some old Sailor Jerry designs that are pretty sweet. I am unhealthily crazy about traditional tattoos, so finding the “official” Sailor Jerry site was quite entertaining to me. So this day, on the way home from St. Augustine, I found myself standing in line at a gas station next to a woman who had a bunch of fresh Sailor Jerry tattoos on her arm. Her husband, who works at Fallen Angel, was apparently in the process of sleeving her arm in Sailor Jerry’s work.

I think that life can be kinda funny like that. Why does it seem that things can tend to fall in line in really random ways? Fate… destiny… coincidence? I don’t really know, but I just think it’s interesting that stuff like that happens. I really do believe in some sort of spiritual interconnectedness between all things. Hmm… I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy. Just a thought…