The Common Good

Rand Paul, Drones, and Honor

While I stand with Sen. Rand Paul on the question of the use of militarized spy drones in American airspace and (potentially) on Americans, I am deeply troubled by our use of these weapons in other lands, too, where they are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of children and other innocents.

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is seen on a TV monitor participating in a filibuster. Alex Wong/Getty Images

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There's something dishonorable about killing without the risk associated with the act, no matter how heinous the target or valuable and beautiful the persons you put at risk in order to personally kill.

This is one reason why I abhor aerial bombing (though most pilots remain at risk). It seems one of the reasons we hold sacred our Special Forces, esteem them so highly, is in part the acknowledgement of the considerable danger they place themselves in, and in part the exactness in wielding death when absolutely necessary, that their risky proximity to their targets allows. But this new video game-like killing presents a whole new order of problems because of an even higher level of detachment. I could control one of these drones from this laptop, taking life with a click from a distance of thousands of miles.

The overkill associated with the impersonal means of killing by drones, with nuclear weapons at the apex, ought to trouble all Christians.

I have never thought it possible for Christian wisdom to, for instance, justify the use of two nuclear weapons on the Japanese civilian population in order to save our military personnel (and our nation) the unthinkable sacrifice of invading Japan.

Never mind that our conventional bombing of scores of civilian population centers in Japan led to the deaths of far more women and children than the two atomic bombs, by orders of magnitude. Here, please see the draw-dropping testimony of Robert McNamara in Errol Morris's brilliant "The Fog of War."

If you must kill to defend against killers — and this is a heavy responsibility even when the target is loathsome — I believe the only honorable way to do it is to risk your own death or the death of those you love in the effort.

The Rev. Kenneth Tanner is pastor of Church of the Holy Redeemer in Rochester Hills, Mich.

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