As Cain lifted the stone so that he might bring it down upon his bother Abel’s head to kill him, Abel leaped out of the way and grabbed a stone from the ground and threw it at Cain’s head. Cain fell to the ground and died. God came to Abel and asked him, “Where is your brother Cain?” Abel said to God, “I killed him in self-defense.” God then said to Abel, “Did you have to kill him? Was there not a more peaceful solution? Do you not believe that I can take care of you?” Abel said to God, “Like I said, it was in self-defense and, honestly, there really was no other alternative. I know Cain would never change. You know how it is with people like that.”
I am studying about Just War Theory. I am inclined to think that when the layers of arguments are pealed back it comes down to human nature: Sin is the great justifier of its own existence. Sin is the great excuser. I fear that Just War Theory is fundamentally an elaborate excuse system. I recognize this is simplistic, but maybe simple is closer to the truth. The fact that Just War Theory is also the “common sense” position only fuels my suspicion.
More specifically I find fascinating the fact that human beings are utterly captivated with this world. We love this world (my perspective here is Pauline not Platonic). More importantly, we are committed to this world being a certain way and we not only feel the need to make is so, we want the control to make it so. Part of that control is the belief in our right to exist at the expense of others – if it comes to that. In other words, I have my life and no one has the right to take it from me (true, except that God has that right of course) therefore I can take another’s life if my life is threatened (true??).
In Just War Theory it goes a step further. I have the right, some might say the obligation, to take the life of another if a government tells me to, assuming that government has made the case that the killing is justified. Or, if we don’t go quite that far, I am at least absolved of any need for either justice or mercy for having killed.
We weave our elaborate theories out of our common sense. Our common sense emerges from our captivation with this world. And, like all things human, our common sense is run through with sin.
There is a logic to the Just War Theory, but I fear we only cling to the logic in order to delude ourselves into believing our right to chose to kill in war does not come from our corrupt hearts. We disparage Cain in the Genesis account, but we hold to a position not unlike Abel in the fractured fairy tail version above. We are good at creating a gloss over sin. This does not mean there is no truth in the gloss, but it may still be only a gloss over something we neither want to look at or be seen. (I use “we” in the broadest human sense, recognizing the multiplicity of experiences.)
I am in the process of looking deeper into Just War Theory. I am doing some reading and a lot of pondering. I welcome any suggestions for reading. I will probably write through my process here on SatelliteSaint.