The Christians against War
Today, we’re talking about War, Christianity and The Church Fathers, here at the Practical Catholic.
Here’s the deal:
I’m not opposed to military intervention in Libya, nor am I opposed to nations preventing political and physical abuse of civilians. However, as Christians, we must take seriously the early Christians and their opposition to war. I offer you the following:
Justin Martyr, approx. 138 A.D.
“The devil is the author of all war.” “We, who used to kill one another, do not make war on our enemies. We refuse to tell lies or deceive our inquisitors; we prefer to die acknowledging Christ.”
Hippolytus, 170-236 A.D.
“A soldier, being inferior in rank to God, must not kill anyone. If ordered to, he must not carry out the order, nor may he take an oath (sacramentum) to do so. If he does not accept this, let him be dismissed from the church. Anyone bearing the power of the sword, or any city magistrate, who wears purple, let him cease from wearing it at once or be dismissed from the church. Any catechumen or believer who wishes to become a soldier must be dismissed from the church because they have despised God.”
“A person who has accepted the power of killing, or a soldier, may never be received [into the church] at all.”
I merely offer these as thoughts. I have many close friends who are soldiers, and I love them dearly, I sincerely think that Christians as a whole must come to recognize the importance of a Christian position against war, especially when our culture and military machine seem to claim self-righteous authority to intervene in global affairs.
As far as Hippolytus goes, I think he’s a bit harsh, but I can understand with some trepidation where he is approaching this from. I think that as we approach Christianity and approaches to war and violence, we have to take seriously these Church fathers and saints who challenge our culture’s obsession with violent answer to global problems.
God and war are a complex subject, and I am working through some of these things, stay posted.