Christian Just War Theory

From a comment on a comic:

“Martin Luther explains that God and government are not constrained by the commandment not to kill, but that God has delegated his authority in punishing evildoers to the government. The prohibition of killing is forbidden to the individual in his relation to anyone else, and not to the government.”

My reply:

The Christian Just War Theory or Doctrine was produced and expanded upon by Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Grotius and others. (I never came across Martin Luther as a proponent of war.) Between them they did a good job of saying “That there God geezer, yeah, didn’t say ‘not kill’, he said ‘not murder’, right? And it can’t be murder if it’s not illegal, can it? And how can it be illegal if the King or Pope said to do the killing? So it’s not murder and God’s perfectly fine with it. Stands to reason, doesn’t it?

Another argument is that killing non-believers who refuse to convert is doing them a favour by saving their souls. That was the excuse in Africa and other places where exploring and conquering was going on.

A third was that provided you are careful in your killing, then that’s reasonable. So kill people nicely and proportionately, and even Jesus would be OK with that. This argument is used by politicians today.

So, despite Holy Scripture from God, and prophets and the Son of God saying not to kill people, it is fine if a rich or powerful person tells some poor person to kill another person, because the rich and powerful said so. They know better than God, Jesus, Moses and that lot what God wants.

You’ll find the same pro-killing arguments in the Jewish and Moslem Just War arguments too.

Celebrating weapons of war … in a cathedral

As part of their celebration of the RAF’s 100 birthday, Lincoln Cathedral staff decided to exhibit a Spitfire fighter aircraft within the cathedral itself.  As a cathedral with a long-established link to the RAF I can understand why they fancied doing this: the Spitfire is am emblem associated with the Battle of Britain.  It is significant in being associated with the RAF’s role in ensuring the Luftwaffe did not get control of the airspace above the UK, meaning a German invasion of the UK could not go ahead.

But is it appropriate in a church?  It is a killing machine, after all.

Spitfire in Lincoln Cathedral

It was flagged up in the Facebook group A social audit of #EverydayMilitarism and from their shared to the Conscience: Taxes for Peace not War group which is where I saw it.

Some (edited) comments made:

A weapon of war in Lincoln Cathedral…RAF100 Dinner being set up.  Is it here to be symbolically disassembled by the church? To sit as a reminder of war as one of our “foolish ways” to be turned aside from? To sit alongside a display of the horrors of destruction and death which all such things are designed to bring? To be bathed in tears?  I hope so. I really hope so. I don’t believe any weapon of death should be allowed in to church – save the cross: the site of our evil, our wrongdoing, our sin, and the triumph of Jesus Christ who says: “forgive them father for they know not what they do” and extends his hands in love.


Glorification of war. Perhaps they’ll put on a nice display of barbed wire and machine guns for Remembrance Sunday.  I should have thought a bomber would have been more suitable: Bomber Command were vital to the destruction of Germany’s production.  I wonder if it will it still be there when the German Neustadt Liedertafel choir come for the War Requiem later this year?


Yes, it is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the formation of the RAF, and the Battle of Britain was their finest hour.  But celebrating it in a religious building by showing off a finely crafted, excellently designed, utterly superb killing machine is a strange way of going about it. The Supermarine Spitfire was a highly manoeuvrable, high-speed platform for delivering 2,800 machine gun bullets into an aircraft and its crew in 18 seconds.

In the USA they have churches who celebrate automatic rifles and take them to church:…/hundreds-of-worshipers…/ They are barking mad – what is the difference?

Remembering the sacrifices of the crews of fighter command and bomber command is one thing. Celebrating the killing machines – in a church – is quite another.


It would be better to celebrate in terms of the international strengthening of human rights and outlawing of fascism, the non-violent resolution of conflict and ( if one is religious) the understanding of difference and ( in my view) the dispelling of the class system.  I suspect Christ might have preferred that.

I sent a message to the Lincoln Cathedral events staff (17/08/2018 11:57):

If Lincoln Cathedral can celebrate the glorification of war machines (the Spitfire), it is equally acceptable for mosques to celebrate the mujahideen participating in military Jihad. It is the same thing.

You need to stop teaching people – especially children – that religion approves of violence and that killing people is the way to solve problems.

That wasn’t the message of Jesus as I was taught it.

I look forward to their response.


I have a problem with Max Weber

Max Weber, an influential German sociologist, said in 1918:

the state is a human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.

This statement is used as the argument for policing, criminal justice, prisons, war and all manner of violent acts initiated by the state that cause harm to its people.

Note that he said ‘territory’ not ‘people’, and that he said it immediately after Germany lost the Great War.

Weber, a Prussian by birth, was raised by a strict pro-Bismark politician and a strict puritan Protestant and grew up in Berlin surrounded by the political elite that were promoting the development and growth of a united Germany on the world stage.  He was a strong proponent of liberal imperialism: imperial expansionism that would allow Germany to compete with France and Britain.

He had identified a strong correlation between capitalist success in Germany and Protestantism.  This he attributed to predestination associated with protestant puritanism that was elsewhere suppressed by the Catholic Church.

During the Great War, Weber argued for strength and unity for Germany.  In 1916 he said the conquered nations of Europe should, in Germany’s long-term interests, remain as independent political countries within the greater German economy.  In 1917 he was one of those advocating ceasing the war, when Germany put the proposition to the Allies to leave the boundaries at their new positions based on the front line, that is, accept Germany had won.  This would allow the extended Germany to keep Belgium and other territories gained in the war to that point.  Unfortunately for Germany, the Allies decided to fight on.

During the Great War, Germany had committed ‘the Rape of Belgium’.  This was the taking from Catholic Belgium – at that time one of the world’s largest and most modern industrialised economies – of its machines and resources.  Its male population was transported to Germany to provide forced labour for the German war industry.  Belgium was stripped of its factories and experience and has never recovered from what Germany did.

After the Great War, discussions took place in Paris about what reparations Germany should be making for what it did in Northern France and Belgium.  It was during these discussions that Max Weber, pro-German, anti-Catholic, pro-capitalist gave his speech about the state being entitled to use violence within its territory.  That is, that Germany was perfectly entitled to do what it like to Belgium as it was German conquered territory.

That his quote “the state is a human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory” is still used today as an excuse for police brutality, the death penalty and genocide is beyond my comprehension.  Max Weber was an apologist for this worst atrocities Germany committed in the Great War and his defence of Germany in the context of a horrific war in which war crimes and genocide occurred is being used today in modern democracies to excuse immense social harms committed by states upon their citizens.

And yet he is considered a founding father of modern social science and this quote appears in text books as an essential foundation for functioning societies.

Some more of his statements from that period of the post-war German revolution:

The decisive means for politics is violence.


the world is governed by demons and that he who lets himself in for politics, that is, for power and force as means, contracts with diabolical powers and for his action it is not true that good can follow only from good and evil only from evil, but that often the opposite is true.


Whoever wants to engage in politics at all, and especially in politics as a vocation…lets himself in for the diabolic forces lurking in all violence.

The Kalashnikov assault rifle as “a sacred weapon”

I can understand why the Russians want statues to The Great Patriotic War, fought for survival against a treacherous Nazi Germany that was hugely important in the eventual end of World War 2 for the allies.

I can also understand the desire to recognise the tools of this victory, such as the remarkably effective T-34 medium tank.

But a statue to the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle seems a bit odd.  Firstly, because it was produced after WW2, but especially because of its history since then for unlicensed production, illicit black market trade and as the weapon of choice for revolutionaries, terrorists, drug cartels, pirates and criminals.  It made the BBC news because the statue’s designer put the wrong parts diagram on a plate on the statue.

What the BBC did not say was the statue is unpopular locally and the unveiling of the statue to the AK47’s inventor resulted in the arrest of the sole protestor,  link, proclaiming “a creator of weapons is a creator of death”.

But I am puzzled by the words of Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin of the Russian Orthodox Church who describes it as “a sacred weapon.  What a strange Christian.  But then, he also endorses female genital mutilation, so his opinion is not that worthwhile.

Incidentally, the roughly estimated 100 million genuine and copied AK-47s in the world are responsible for about a quarter of a million killings every year.

Killing for Christ

Personally, my main concerns over starting wars are the financial and social costs and the subsequent consequences from a desire for revenge.  Lately, I have been spending more time with people who object from a conscientious objective, sometimes from a religious viewpoint.  I have also been exposed to a forum where I regularly hear “people with no religion have no moral compass“.

I do not see there is necessarily a link between a care for humanity and adherence to a religion.  I shall explain.

When gathering evidence that argues against capital punishment, I was surprised at how many American Christian Baptist groups demand the death penalty because “it is God’s will according to the Bible“.  Funny that, because I thought the 6th commandment to not kill, and the subsequent teachings of Jesus in the Gospels to turn the other cheek and forgive, were supposed to take precedence over the Old Testament’s millennia-old verbal story traditions of nomadic desert tribes-people.

That made me contemplate the “you need religion to have morals” claim since some Christians are saying killing people is good, right and proper because it is what God wants.  But other Christians are saying they think the teachings say it is always wrong (which was my interpretation from reading them, too).

But I think learning about a variety of religions and their pros and cons is helpful and informative.  It tells you about the ground they have covered and what to think about.  It also protects one from the more predatory organisations.

If I were writing about political systems and claimed “absolute power corrupts absolutely“, few would disagree and most would sagely nod their heads and agree it has been proven time and time again through history.

But when you have any form of organised religion that says “Do exactly what we say” and “Think what we tell you to think” combined with “It is a sin to read the scriptures of others” and “Only we tell the truth“, it will always go wrong.  Organised religions are run by people and absolute power corrupts absolutely – we know that from history.  Giving them absolute power over your behaviour is naïve or foolish.

This is why I worry about people who operate in such organisations and demand people follow them blindly.  What kind of person wants that kind of power over others, and why do they want it?  Why are they attracted to that role, or create it for themselves, and why enforce it so thoroughly?  Scary people!

Then I worry about those who specifically promote such religions to vulnerable people: the homeless, refugees and students who are living away from home for the first time and who may be spiritually lost, home-sick or lonely.  Why are people who want absolute power over others so keen to target people who are already in turmoil?  Sounds like abusers looking for easy victims to me.

That is why I get so cross with people advertising or promoting the Mormons, the 7th Day Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and now the Revival Fellowship too.  Relatively new organisations who demand total blind adherence to their teachings and rejection of all other beliefs such that their members are forbidden to even find out about them.  They all typically have ‘scriptures’ that have been amended many, many times, they have false end-of-the-world predictions and a history of turmoil in their leadership as different power nuts fight for control over their followers.  Organisations defending young earth creationism, faith healing, evidence of aliens or that Jesus went to America.

It is also why I would always advocate to someone feeling a need for spiritual guidance to always shop around.  You wouldn’t buy a house or a car without looking at a few first, so why commit your immortal soul (if such a thing exists) to the first Honest John dealer (“Honest John, Honest John, the others are a con!“) who approaches you?  And remember, if they are reaching out to you, it is because you have something they want, not because they have something to give away.  If you are being approached in the street or online to “open your mind” and accept their teachings blindly and reject things that most of the rest of the world believe, then you can be sure you are being conned – all cold callers and spammers are just trying to get something from you and that includes those promoting too-good-to-be-true “religions” too.

Find out about a variety of big religions and faith systems – both with and without gods – what they stand for, their history, what is involved, what the criticisms are.  Get a feel for what is right, honest, decent and true.  Become wise enough to spot the outdated, the inappropriate and, sadly, the liars hiding amongst them.

I did that and came out the other side as a confirmed atheist.  You may come to a different conclusion.  But either way, you’ll have worked out for yourself a pretty good idea of what you think is right or wrong.

More Killing for Christ: bombers, Catholic revenge on Protestants, black-policeman-killing survivalists, their own membership, lynchings, migrants, death penalty and anti-peace!   And sometimes, a religion can be very wrong indeed.