Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The desire to kill

I had previously posted on Tertullian's argument for a separation of Church and State. I don't mean to be a "one-issue" guy, and I strive for literary diversity, but I came across one more quote from an early Church father. This time it is Cyprian whom I found quite enlightening on the subject Adin Ballou wrote in this last post I spoke of.
Wars are scattered all over the earth with the bloody horror of camps. The whole world is wet with mutual blood. And murder--which is admitted to be a crime in the case of an individual--is called a virtue when it is committed wholesale. Impunity is claimed for the wicked deeds, not because they are guiltless--but because the cruelty is perpetrated on a grand scale! (5.277)
This is another great point from one venerated in Roman, Eastern and Lutheran traditions. However it got me thinking to yet another logical point of contention between war and justice.

In war we are killing men (women and children are excluded at this point for sake of argument for it is generally considered unjust to kill them anyway) for deeds they have not done, we're killing them simply for their allegiance to a rival authority. Is that a punishment worthy of death? If we argue that if don't kill them they'll kill us we're basically saying we kill an enemy for their conscious decision to kill under the authority of their nation's ruler. Doesn't this mean anyone who would kill for their country is as worth of death as any other person of the same conviction?

We can't rebel against an authority who is placed here by God (Romans 13) but we can somehow rebel against an authority from the neighboring nation. It's a bit incongruous.

Lactantius put his own spin on the issue by saying:
How can a man be just who hates, who despoils, who puts to death? Yet, those who strive to be serviceable to their country do all these things.... When they speak of the "duties" relating to warfare, their speech pertains neither to justice nor to true virtue. (7.169)

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