Stanley Hauerwas on A Christian Response to War

Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony
A challenging story from Stanley Hauerwas in Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony.
Sometime ago, when the United States bombed military and civilian targets in Libya, a debate raged concerning the morality of that act.  One of us witnessed an informal gathering of students who argued the morality of the bombing in Libya.  Some thought it was immoral, others thought it was moral.  At one point in the argument, one of the students turned and said, "Well, preacher, what do you thing?"

I said that, as a Christian, I could never support bombing, particularly bombing of civilians, as an ethical act.

"That's just what we expected you to say," said another.  "That's typical of you Christians.  Always on the high moral ground, aren't you?  You get so upset when a terrorist guns down a little girl in an airport, but when President Reagan tries to set things right, you get indignant when a few Libyans get hurt."

The assumption seems to be that there are only two political options:  Either conservative support of the administration, or liberal condemnation of the administration followed by efforts to let the U.N. handle it.

"You know, you have a point," I said.  "What would be a Christian response to this?"  Then I answered, roght off the top of my head, "A Christian response might be that tomorrow morning The United Methodist Church announces that it is sending a thousand missionaries to Libya.  We have discovered that it is fertile field for the gospel.  We know how to send missionaries.  Here is at least a traditional Christian response."

"You can't do that," said my adversary.

"Why?" I asked.  "You tell me why."

"Because it's illegal to travel in Libya.  President Reagan will not give you a visa to go there."

"No!  That's not right," I said.  "I'll admit that we can't go to Libya, but not because of President Reagan.  We can't go there because we no longer have a church that produces people who can do something this bold.  But we once did."

We would like a church that again asserts that God, not nations, rules the world, that the boundaries of God's kingdom transcend those of Caesar, and that the main political task of the church is the formation of people who see clearly the cost of discipleship and are willing to pay the price.

It's scary to ask for a Church like that, but I want a Church like that.  May my life echo that desire.