Offering Loving Resistance [Sequence Index]

Offering Loving Resistance [Sequence Index] August 10, 2012

In July 2012, Patheos sent me a copy of Logan Mehl-Laituri’s memoir Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism & Conscience to review, and thus was sparked a wide- ranging (unusually book-heavy, even for me) discussion of just war, martyrdom, the courage of enemies, and whether Hamlet is the worst person in Hamlet.  I’ve collected all those loosely linked posts here.

  1. Can Lethal Resistance be Loving? – The initial book review, discussing Laituri’s decision to become a conscientious objector and his desire to ship out again with his men
  2. “That his heels may kick at heaven” – If Laituri is trying to find a way to offer lethal resistance morally, Hamlet has no such qualms. He’s not content to stop his enemy, but seeks to damn him
  3. A Martyr for All Seasons – If you’re reluctant to kill your enemy, when and how should you allow yourself to be killed by him/her? (Prompted by a reading of A Man for All Seasons)
  4. And What Did You Win with Your Death? – The difference between seeking death and just not finding the prospect of martyrdom salient enough to turn you away from your appointed path (plus a recommendation for Of Gods and Men)
  5. What Can You Do in the War? – Sourcing from Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering to talk about how soldiers spot the difference between killing and murder (and what kind of sporting chance the other guy is entitled to).
  6. Brave Enough to Kill – Applying some of the Gilpin Faust text from the last post to the ethics of drone war.  Is it reassuring that drone pilots experience PTSD?
  7. On Value-Neutral Bravery – We’re brave, and our enemies are brazen.  Trying to parse a “it’s only brave if you’re right” definition.  (And from there, we ended up in a debate tactics/gay marriage fight).


If you liked this sequence, you may want to check out an older posts tagged with “radical forgiveness.”

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  • Steve

    1) Perhaps ‘loving’ is the wrong word, but Lethal Resistance can be a moral imperative. Lethal resistance rather than appeasement early on might have made WWII a less horrible affair. In that case a temporary lethal response killing 100,000 might have saved 10,000,000 lives. I suppose you can call that ‘loving’.

    2) If we’re judging ‘best vs. worst’ in terms of a characters decisiveness then perhaps Hamlets the ‘worst’ character. I might place fratricide above righteous vengeance (ie. worse) on the list of crimes in that play.

    3) There’s a fine line here between purposeful martyrdom & just plain stubbornness. What were his goals in getting himself killed? Did the Catholic Church resume their place of power in England afterwards? I might add that the Catholic Church might think More’s a saint, but those he was responsible for having burned at the stake might feel differently.

    4) I admire the monks position and their loyalty. However, I’m not sure I’d classify as martyrs people who chose to stay somewhere knowingly dangerous. Perhaps if their goal was to get themselves killed for whatever purpose I suppose they were successful. I’d have to see the film or read about these men, but on the surface it sounds like brave & foolish is a better description than martyr

    5) I’m always puzzled at the mentality that there are certain kinds of war that are somehow uncivilized. What is a civilized war? Wars with swords & shields or bows & arrows? Wars with rifles & bayonets? Wars with snipers & other elements of guerilla warfare? Wars with the planes & tanks? Wars with rockets, missiles or the A-bomb? War is uncivilized. You might be able to define the civility of war by avoiding the harming of non-combatants or how you treat captured enemies perhaps. But beyond that, mass killing is mass killing whether with a rock or the push of a button. Drone warfare might not seem sporting, but I suppose neither is setting up IED’s and hiding in caves or amongst civilians.

    6) You say it yourself, “The soldiers are safe from physical damage and death, but psychological wounds can’t be written off”. I’m not minimizing PTSD (and yes in a odd way it’s reassuring that drone pilots get PTSD), but being safe from physical damage and death isn’t in the same bravery league as being under fire or falling on a grenade. 99% of me is glad (if that’s the right word) that we have the technology to take military action and minimize the physical threat to our men & women. However the 1% of me thinks back to a star trek episode when the enterprise encounters a people who wage computer wars (if I remember right) and if a city gets ‘blown up’ then all the people in that city report to a death camp of sorts and are killed humanely. If you take away much of the horror of war, you might be more likely to engage in it far longer than necessary. Such considerations are luxuries of not being in the armed services and if it were my kid out there I wouldn’t give it a second thought.

    7) I admire attempts at an objectivity of sorts in examining suicide bombers. I might not agree on the bravery issue, as were I utterly convinced that my family would be rewarded and I would immediately spend eternity in paradise killing the enemy, it’s not nearly a big enough sacrifice to be considered ‘brave’ regardless of whether or not this persons delusions are actually true. Their virtue leads them to the direct & purposeful murdering of non-combatants and that virtue runs deep. It’s naive to count on reasoning with such people. You really have a bone to pick with nihilism. While I disagree with many of their conclusions, I’d rather deal with someone who sees no inherent purpose in the world than someone who’s intent on blowing it up to satisfy some bizarre religious value.

    • I’m not sure that WWII didn’t cost more lives than it saved. Violent dictatorships, for all their violence, rarely wreak as much havoc as general war. And we tend to assume that Hitler would have continued unopposed by any internal forces, which I think is wrong. Certainly the bombing of German cities (which did nothing to break German morale, just as the Blitz did nothing to break British morale) was not loving. Nor was the firebombing of Japanese cities.

      Pacifism is rarely presented in an articulate/serious way (normally it’s a strawman created by others), so I think I’d like to stop and recommend Walter Wink’s “Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way.” It presents nonviolent resistance as a positive and practical moral force (as it is in the Gospels).

      I’d also like to recommend Desmond Tutu’s “No Future Without Forgiveness.” I’m pretty sure Leah’s talked about restorative justice in the past (might be making that up). Tutu’s take on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa would be highly relevant to that topic.

      As a final note, I’m basically a pacifist (I accept Catholic Just War Theory, I just think the use of arms almost always causes more harm than it prevents when we look at long term impacts on health infrastructure, mental health, and the societal costs of maintaining large standing armies), so I’m completely opposed to suicide bombers. I think attacks on civilians are immoral and unproductive. That said, I can’t really blame Palestinian suicide bombers for not recognizing the status of non-combatants. Palestinian noncombatants are humiliated, killed, and abused by an illegal occupation on a daily basis (somewhere between five and ten Palestinians die for every Israeli in the conflict, and that’s not even counting the poor Palestinian health outcomes that result from Israel’s economic warfare). Talking about noncombatants to Palestinian militants is the wrong approach.