Sunday, December 20, 2009

On War, Rights, and Obama's Nobel Speech

I've (all too inadequately) posted on the problematic theological notion of inalienable rights, on the 'politics of Jesus' in favour of non-violence over just war, and on the question of Christian political theology or ethics. This recent response from Prof. Stanley Hauerwas (another frequent citation of mine) on President Obama's 'remarkable' speech for the Nobel Peace Prize seems to tie several of these threads together. Here are a few excerpts I wish to highlight:
But there is a deep conceptual issue that he does not raise concerning war. That issue is: how do you know a war is a war? He begins with the claim that war in one form or another appeared with the first man. One assumes he’s referring to Cain and Abel. But what happened between Cain and Abel was not war. It was murder. His lack of clarity about what distinguishes war from other kinds of violence becomes the basis for his claim that because evil exists then war is necessary. Thus his suggestion that war is simply “there,” requiring acknowledgement. To recognize the necessity of war is to simply acknowledge history. But that is simply an assertion without argument.
And this:
Of course the idealism that is shaping his justification for war is extremely dangerous. Thus his claim that a “just peace” should be based on the inherent right and dignity of every individual. He then underwrites the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a basis for accomplishing the peace that war makes possible. But to make rights the rationale for going to war will make war even more difficult to control. It may be, as he maintains, that peace is unstable if most rights are denied. But it is just as likely that claims for rights will lead to what some call war.
These suggestive comments require some unpacking, I grant that. That they require unpacking should not excuse us from thinking seriously about them as Christians. We are nearing the celebration of the birth of Christ, the 'Prince of Peace' and God Incarnate. What have we still to learn from Him? Maybe it is not non-violence. Maybe it is. But I know this much: it is not merely a 'private' message. His reign is so much bigger than that.

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Manfredi said...
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