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Is ISIS Prompting Reappraisal of Pacifism and Just War?

"Christian thinking has to offer both hope and sobriety, each of which requires perseverance and patience." -- IRD President Mark Tooley

Contact: Jeff Walton, Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, 202-413-5639 cell, jwalton@TheIRD.org

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- ISIS invasion of Iraq and subsequent horrors, for which Iraq's dwindling Christian minority is a chief victim, has reanimated talk about Christian Just War teaching.

Citing the call by Iraq's Chaldean Patriarch for military intervention, a group of prominent Christian thinkers, with others, has declared on the site iraqrescue.org that "nothing short of the destruction of ISIS/ISIL as a fighting force will provide long-term protection of victims." Urging U.S. and international help for local forces against ISIS, they assert that "no options that are consistent with the principles of just war doctrine should be off the table." They want expanded U.S. air strikes against ISIS and U.S. arms for the Kurds, among others. The most prominent church official on this list is the Southern Baptist Convention's chief public policy spokesman.

Pope Francis' recent statements about the morality of force against ISIS similarly appear to permit a limited use of force. He said on Monday in flight home from South Korea: "In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor."

IRD President Mark Tooley commented:

    "Christian thinkers and others who urged the 'destruction' of ISIS within the parameters of Just War teaching offer bracing moral clarity. All persons of good will and realism must agree with them on some level. The challenge is to convey that even after the hoped for destruction of ISIS, violence and upheaval, which are intrinsic to humanity, will continue, especially in the Mideast. Christian thinking has to offer both hope and sobriety, each of which requires perseverance and patience.

    "Maybe the Pope's opaque green light for implied military intervention without specifics is the best approach for church officials whose ecclesial authority or influence is global, primarily the Pope himself. It also tacitly acknowledges the limited vocational expertise and mandate of church officials for political and especially military specifics.

    "As for the Christian pacifists and neo-pacifists, they might perform a service if they emphasized and demonstrated their own commitment to nonviolence. But their expectation of a disarmed state rejects orthodox Christian teaching. And dreams of a Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. style movement emerging in the Mideast are dangerously delusional."