Christianity, Islam, & Just War

(Editor’s Note: This is an essay written for a college sociology class in or around 2006.  While it oversimplifies the War on Terror and does not account for secular decisions, nationalism, or sectarian conflict, I think the Just War Doctrine comparison is worthy of publishing.)

While the conflict between Christianity and Islam long predates Charles Martel, Saladin, and King Richard I, the methods of warfare have changed much since then.  The 9/11 Attacks have brought a level of animosity between the United States and Muslims not seen since Thomas Jefferson, Stephen Decatur, and the Barbary pirates.  Radical Muslims have launched attacks on both U.S. military targets (Beirut in 1983, USS Cole in 2000) and civilian targets (Kenyan and Tanzanian Embassies in 1998, World Trade Center in 2001) (US Army).  In response to these attacks, the United States invaded and occupied the terrorist haven of Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, suspected of aiding Al-Qaeda. Neither the “Christian” nation of America nor fundamentalist Muslims understands the Just War Theories of their religions they profess to follow. As a result, the casualties of the War on Terror could one day belittle the Crusades.

While it would be a grievous error to characterize America as a Christian nation, its military thinking is clearly rooted in Christian Just War Doctrine. In the Bible, Jesus tells his apostles, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).  Yet, he says, “and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36).  In the Old Testament, we are told, “There is an appointed time for everything,” including, “a time to kill” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 3).

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