Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Just War As Christian Discipleship

Yesterday in the mail I received two copies of the book Just War as Christian Discipleship (published by Brazos Press) by Dan Bell, one of my former professors at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. I had written an endorsement for the book and the publishers had chosen to use my blurb.

Bell seeks to reframe the just war tradition not just as a checklist for public policy, but as the way Christians should seek to bear the cross even in warfare. His book is timely, provocative and all the more needed as we seek to follow Christ faithfully. Bell moves through the conditions of the just war tradition, laying out some suggestions as to how we might recenter our actions and thoughts so that we may truly love our neighbor even as we wage war.

He points out in the introduction that he intends this book to be read not by specialists or academicians, but by regular folks seeking an understanding of the just war tradition. His writing leaves lots of room for discussion. This book would be a good starting point for group discussions, and would give both supporters of military actions as well as those who cannot support war (along with the vast middle who lie somewhere within that spectrum) the time and ability to critique their own positions. Bell writes,
...this book engages the just war tradition in the hope of strengthening the church's practice of discipleship. Although it will certainly contribue to evaluating various positions and agendas and will certainly have implications for public policy, this treatment of the just war begins from the assumption that the first and overriding concern with regard to matters of war is the church's faithful following of Jesus Christ. Our first concern as Christians is not how to bolster our party or platform while discrediting the other side, nor is it steering politicians and public policy in the right direction. Our first concern when it comes to war should be how we might wage war (or not) in a matter that points to the One who came that all might have life and have it abundantly. How can we live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in the midst of wars and rumors of wars? How do we follow Christ by loving and seeking justice for our neighbors in war? (p. 20)

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