Tag Archives: Scot McKnight

But But What About Hitler? What about Qaddafi?

The Disreputable Situational Ethics of Conservatives

It seems to me that there is that same question hanging over the head of the pacifist (myself included) that there will always be a question related to World War II or Hitler or whatever dictator who we think is the most evil at the time. I find it quite ironic that Conservatives like to use situational ethics when it comes to war, but when it comes to sexuality, they are offended. A number of persons have asked me “what would I do?”; i mean, that is assuming that I want to have power, and the ability to take human life, i.e., before g*d. So, as I have on a number of occassions, I offer this quote I left on Scot McKnight’s blog, JESUS CREED:


I sense a bit of hostility in your inquiry; I feel that no matter how I respond, it would be insufficient for you. You are really begging the question here, “what would i do concretely for libya” as if i myself am a politician in power to do something. Also, i fear you are delving into the conservative variety of situational ethics (their ideas of justifying war is situational ethics, just like liberals and their views of sexuality). I see them as 2 sides of the same coin, really, because the Christian response, it assumes, should fit the situation, a project I must utterly reject (besides the fact that these views in themselves lead to more violence).

I opposed Libya for a good number of reasons, but I think these lines of reasonings are interconnected.

As a nonviolent Christian, I cannot ignore the Gospels or the letters of the apostles, (or the Old tEstament for that matter, but thats in my series the God of Peace on Craig’s blog, as I mentioned). Since Jesus was not a political revolutionary but the Messiah, he is the 1 teacher that we owe our allegiance. In the Pauline letters, like Romans, Christians are encouraged to honor the government, to put ourselves under the order of G*D, “subordination” and respect the authority of the government. The state has judicial power (to judge) but it has no right over life & death. But since has sinfully taken what is rightfully the Creator’s, Christians are told not to respond in violence (revolution, etc), but loving our enemies, accepting that vengeance is God’s alone. This may call for reading Romans 12 & 13 together, like Yoder does, which I agree.

Concretely speaking, Christians are to honor the highest authority in the land, like the Petrine letters say (honor caesar). However, Christians in the US do not pledge an oath to an emperor, but to a document, the Constitution. On both christian nonviolent and constitutional grounds, I found the invasion of Libya immoral

My post was in response to a friend who is a Just War theorist, and as my subsequent post says, he was persuaded.

So, I think the question, “What did I do for Libya?” is quite an example of begging the question. In the order of God, I am not a states-crafter. I am called to be a preacher, and as such, I much call for loyalty to the Constitution, and it’s general principles. I think concretely I can say that I am being non-violent by accepting God’s way, and not resisting it. I am not trying to be someone I am not, which would be disobedience, which would be violence then. I consider breaking with Constitutional priorities (Congress approving, and therefore the people approving of when to go to war–and i do believe the war powers act of 1973 is unconstitutional, it has just never been challenged) is an act of violence. As for arguments vs the constitution, like how it approved of the enslavement of my African ancestors, I would rebuttal that no piece of paper is perfect, and because the Christian allegiance to the Liberator and Reconciler far outweighed the 2 or 3 instances that enslavement was mentioned, that Christians were right to work towards changing the constitution. And that’s the loveley thing about our republic. We do not have to answer to Caesar who grants “life eternal” as some “son of g*d” but to a piece of paper, a secular covenant that is open to change.

Like you, John, my perspective does change. On the issue of war, however, i do not believe it has from the days I was first baptized.

These are exactly the views I espoused almost 2 years ago in my response to NT Wright and his wrong defense of the United Nations as the place for a Just War praxis, in my series, the Gift of Meekness:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

In my never ending search to discover a non-violent politics, this is where I am in my life, and I am comfortable with it. It bothers both conservative and liberal relativists only to the extent that Jesus the Christ is the norm as well as his likeness discovered in the history of Israel & Judah. As I have argued on Craig’s blog, it is insuffice to try to argue our views of promoting war and crusading into the Hebrew Bible, for The God of Peace is the very same YHWH of Armies.  For the Just War/Christian Crusader situational ethic, it could not be more telling than this: that they ignore the true SITUATION that actual prophets and angels led God’s people into battle. Do we see preachers doing the same here in the U.S.? or do we see them on the sidelines, as merely cheerleaders for nationalism? I would argue the latter.

Wisdom Wording of the Day

From Scot McKnight:

Alas, A New Kind of Christianity shows us that Brian, though he is now thinking more systemically, has fallen for an old school of thought. I read this book carefully, and I found nothing new. It may be new for Brian, but it’s a rehash of ideas that grew into fruition with Adolf von Harnack and now find iterations in folks like Harvey Cox and Marcus Borg. For me, Brian’s new kind of Christianity is quite old. And the problem is that it’s not old enough.

From Christianity Today


This quote makes so much sense, especially after reading McLaren’s Generous Orthodoxy and A New Kind of Christian.  It is pretty blurry where McLaren is going in those two books, but recent writings and podcast should have given us the hint.