From Ruth Harris
Sir, - Lord Harries of Pentregarth says in his review of In
Defence of War by Professor Nigel Biggar (Books,
9 May) that it is "an important book". I would say, rather,
that it is a frightening book, defending plenty of war and violence
as it does. The most "important book" Christians could ever read
about Christianity and war is Walter Wink's The Powers that
Be; and I urge them to read it.
It is a fallacy that war is a necessary evil (or, as Professor
Biggar seems to think, no evil at all), and that people must be
killed by their fellow humans in order to let others live. There
were many countries that successfully resisted the Nazis, and
others who overturned Communist oppression, through non-violent
resistance and sabotage. This information has been ignored by
pro-just-war advocates and by the powers that be, which insist
thatwar and standing armies are necessary.
Saying we can kill some people to save others may be a moral
argument that some people believe in with integrity, but they
cannot argue that it is Christian. It is utilitarianism, and that
has nothing to do with Christianity or the Kingdom of God. In
Jesus's vision, every person is of equal value in the Kingdom,
there is no preference for one country or another, and it is not
our imperative to decide who dies and who lives.
War and the threat of war belong to a domination society, which
Jesus quite clearly resisted. Jesus spoke with true wisdom and
insight. He knew that non-violence was not just a pipe dream for
naïve pacifists, but God's calling to us, and the only thing that
will bring in the Kingdom. He also knew that it works, and that
returning violence with violence doesn't. Non-violent resistance is
not only Christlike, but also the only pragmatic way to challenge
and transform the injustice in the world. We should be working hard
to organise people in order to make it work.
The Church should return to its true calling, which is to stand
up to injustice, not by ending other people's lives, but by being
prepared to put our own lives at risk in the righteous cause of
non-violent resistance all around the world. It is a calling that
the Church abandoned as soon as it became linked to the State, and
it is probably the saddest thing about the state of the Church.
112 Nottingham Road
Mansfield NG18 1BP