Jesus and the Lies of War

Killing from the Inside Out: Moral Injury and Just War, by Robert Emmet Meagher. Cascade Books. Borderline: Reflections on War, Sex, and Church, by Stan Goff. Cascade Books.
Killing from the Inside Out / Amazon
Killing from the Inside Out / Amazon

DAYS AFTER 9/11, a just war philosopher and I were interviewed on Christian radio. I’m a pacifist who served on peace teams in Nicaragua and Iraq. My co-interviewee called for waging war on “terrorists” because we must kill our enemies while loving them. My plea to listen to Jesus and victims of war was scorned.

Two compelling recent challenges to Christian justifications for war are Robert Emmet Meagher’s Killing from the Inside Out: Moral Injury and Just War and Stan Goff’s Borderline: Reflections on War, Sex, and Church.

Meagher, a humanities scholar, incorporates listening to veterans of war into his work. Goff writes as someone who was a soldier before being transformed by Jesus.

Three issues in both books—just war, masculine sexual violence, and moral injury—resonate with my peace team encounters with war. Through very different approaches, Meagher and Goff offer the best reflection on these concerns that I’ve seen; both rightly implicate the church.

First, just war has a sordid rather than sanctifying history. Meagher’s survey of ancient literature, scripture, and Christian history reveals its legacy as antithetical to Jesus’ teaching: “Since the time of Constantine ... just war doctrine has served to license and legitimize state and ecclesiastical violence and to draw a convenient, if imaginary, line between killing and murder.”

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