Letters to the Editor

Voice of the People - July 30, 2007

Does Iraq war meet criteria for just war?

Mojo is a religious animal. He often seems to bow his head in prayer before he eats from his bowl. He is all loving. No matter where I've been or what I've done, Mojo accepts me. After all, dog spelled backwards. ... In that context, Mojo came to me the other day. He has been following the Iraq debate on TV and in the papers. I believe that way back somewhere in his family tree is a military police dog. Mojo wanted to know where the church is in the debate. Isn't there something that religious communites can add to the discussion?

I told Mojo that his nose had once more sniffed out something important. Indeed, people of faith have wrestled for centuries with whether or not they should participate in the use of force or violence. All faith traditions have developed guidelines to help with that wrestling. I know my own Christian tradition best.

There are three ways the church has answered the question should force or violence ever be used?

The first way is the active non-violent way. Members of the early church answered no to the question of violence. Interestingly, in the first several centuries of the Christian church, members could not also be soldiers. The first Christians took Jesus' teaching to turn the other cheek literally. This was also the age of the martyrs. There are still church groups that have as part of who they formally are active nonviolence. The Quakers and Mennonites come to mind.

As the church and its world evolved, so did the answer to the question of violence.

It is OK for me to turn my cheek, but what if someone else's cheek is being hit and I can do something about it? The Roman Empire had become Christian. The ancestors of many of us, "the barbarians," were attacking Rome. The answer to the question, "Can a follower of Jesus use violence?" had another answer, "yes," under certain circumstances. The just war tradition was born.

The just war tradition did not seek to justify violence but to limit it. Criteria were developed. Is the use of violence called for by a legitimate authority? Is the use of violence a last resort? Is the violence applied in a way to protect the innocent? Does the application of violence have a chance of success? Will the end result of the application of violence be wholeness and not more brokenness? Will the means of applying violence be proportional to the threat (a classic example, if a dangerous insect lands on your friend's head, you don't knock it off with a sledgehammer). And, if you have to apply violence, is it done with a heavy heart? Historically, all the criteria have to be answered in the affirmative before the use of violence can be justified. You can't pick and choose. Most Christians, Protestant or Catholic, stand in the just war tradition, whether they realize it or not. And the same is true of members of other religious groups.

The third way of answering the question, "Should violence be applied?" is the Holy War. It is OK to do whatever you want to do to whomever you want to do it as long as you do it in the name of God. Our enemies become God's enemies. When that happens, watch out. Sadly, there are zealots in all religious communites who adhere to this way of thinking and acting.

As we wrestle with Iraq, often the question is the question. If we are in the active nonviolent tradition, are we consistently faithful in pushing for nonviolent options?

If we are in the just war tradition, are we faithfully applying all the criteria as we seek answers to what we will and won't support?

And, in attempting to answer the holy war in others, are we avoiding the holy war in ourselves?

Mojo is pleased to have something else to chew on.

The Rev. Jim Watkins and Mojo

Rock Hill

Friends were there for local musician

As a family member of the late Danny Guyton, I want to express my appreciation to his friends at Woody's music and all the friends he made in his short but full life. As Danny was dying and needed round-the-clock care, his friends and family stayed with him and took care of his every need.

Danny was one of the finest musicians I've ever heard play, but, more importantly, shown through the outpouring of love from his friends, he was also one of the finest persons. In a day and age where most people think only of themselves, the staff at Woody's music reminds us of what true friends are and what we should strive to be.

Amy Guyton Preslar

Rock Hill