Next time anyone attempts to justify the current global arms spend of £1,134,320,000,000 a year, by citing the muddle we were in in 1939, send them the link to this enlightening discussion.
Christians (thoughtful Christians) always struggle to reconcile the teaching and example of Jesus with our present day military ethics and just war formulation, and never more so than on Good Friday. In discussion last night we came eventually to the World War II, 1939 question. What would you have done, or think you ought to have done, in that situation and at that time?
This is certainly a challenge, the more so because this one situation is a defining episode for our military culture. Growing up in the fifties and sixties it was part of our life – the lesson that had been learned the hard way and almost too late. One had to be prepared (in two senses of the word) to fight, and appeasement was a bad thing. However, it is time for us to recognise that this has become the paradigm that we are in; it affects every aspect of security policy in the UK and to some extent globally. It is as if all our wisdom is hinged on one historical situation.
Time to move on? Or at least, time to re-examine the criteria, just in case they are leading us to a global doom? I think so.
Susan Clarkson helped to enlighten us at a recent talk she gave to the Council on Christian Approaches to Defence and Disarmament (CCADD). The following is from the report of the discussion:
How can the pacifist position be sustained, for example in face of WW2 and Hitler?
A non-violent stance means working all the time towards it and living a life of non-violence when there isn’t a war. It does usually work. There were people even in this country who liked Hitler, but always there are people who believe that war is wrong. Some people, in some ways, effectively defeated Hitler by non-violent means, e.g. the Danes defeated a plan to round up the Jews by declaring that all citizens were Jews. Everyone knows that the seeds of WW2 were sown by the victors after WW1 and that a different approach after WW2 was hugely successful. We all have to face the question, for ourselves, of what we would have done at start of WW2, but far more important is what to do now. Start from here.
So if we can’t all be pacifists (or those Christians trying to really follow Christ) then we have to start from where we are now and judge the situation with the help of history; that means all the relevant history we can see, including the times when we made mistakes. If we base all our ideas and policy on one particular episode, then we really are in trouble.
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