Friday, August 25, 2006

Holy War, Just War, Jihad, and GKC

Middle East events are dominating the news, and likely will not arrive at a state of detante for some time.

Having spent a great deal of time and mental energy in these matters, I deeply respect the thoughts of Chesterton on Islam, and on just war in general.

Chesterton's critique on Islam in The New Jerusalem is an excellent starting point for understanding the cultures of the Middle East. "Islam is a movement which ceased to move," is a brilliant single line which describes an aspect of character in these populations. Belloc, as well, in The Great Heresies makes many keen observations, or even prophecies which are coming to fulfillment in our own times.

I admit that tense times tend to push us towards either a mission field or battlefield type of mentality. Finding that third option becomes more and more difficult. I have yet to read Peter Kreeft's Ecumenical Jihad, but I believe from some of his other writings that he sees true devout Moslems as allies in the culture war. Without having read the book, I could superficially agree to this. My experience with interpreters would validate this idea. Despite the conflict of faith, those of us who were practicing Christians made much deeper connections with the Moslem interpreters from the basis of a shared sense of personal morality.

When it comes to battlefield conflict, I have often wondered about the difference between Jihad and Just War. Just War theory really tries to make armed intervention a situation of grave last resort. Yet, if the cause is clearly right, could we go so far to say that Just War becomes Holy War which becomes a sacramental act? This I would argue more accurately describes Jihad than the classical understanding of Just War. On a smaller scale, no matter where you live, there is probably a methamphetamine infested neighborhood nearby where your local police basically have to fight their way in and out of. This more local, immediate perspective holds part of the key to finding the exit from this dilemma.

To repeat the analysis of others, Chesterton saw the Boer War of his day as an unjust conflict, and WWI as a just war. The distributist bent on the topic would add the principle of subsidiarity to the discussion, which actually fits the just war model in a stronger way. The drug neighborhood with the constant warrants being served by the SWAT team I think represents the implementation of just war in the most correct form on the most small scale level. How do we inductively reason up from this to international conflicts?

Returning to the issue of Just War vs. Jihad, I think the answer to that tension is found in that notion of subsidiarity. Just War is not a holy act, coming to the aid of the helpless is. Using the SWAT team in the drug neighborhood as the example, we can see that kicking in the door and doing dynamic entry is the means to the end of removing a terrorizing element from the community. This requires deep thinking and integrating many subtle points into one's knowledge of the subjects. Our journalists and educators are the absolutist, black-and-white thinkers. Look at the movie Kingdom of Heaven, irritatingly simplistic in its treatment of the Crusades.

Im afraid that my post here leaves more questions than answers. But I actually am rather enthused that it is the Chestertonian mindset gleaning over the collected wisdom of Christian experience that seems most likely to discover answers.

Well, I ramble. Have a great weekend folks.

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