Welcome to the Crawl

Before you start, make sure someone gives The Schpeel to your group. 

Also, remember these conversation tips: 1) Be polite, and don’t take offense, 2) Say something if you don’t understand, 3) Ask “why” and speak up if you disagree (It’s not rude, its just a good conversation). Now, order a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

The Big Question: Is there a “Christian” Way to Be INvolved in War?

The Main Questions

  • What is war?
  • Can wars be good, or are they always bad? Why?
  • How is the use of physical force ethically distinct from the use of deadly force? How are these things related?
  • For an individual, is the use of deadly force during a war different than the use of deadly force outside of a war? Why or why not? 
  • How does the Bible deal with the use of deadly force? The below questions may be helpful.
    • What continuities do you see between violence in the Old Testament and in the New Testament?
    • How does Jesus utilize physical force in his own ministry? How does Jesus utilize deadly force?
    • How would you characterize the way that God utilizes war in the Bible?
  • Look below at the “Four Christian Stances” section. Read one at a time and answer the following questions as a group:
    • What are the strengths of this view?
    • What possible problems does this view present?
    • How does this view deal with Christian scripture?
  • Is a Christian permitted to use physical force against another person? Why and under what circumstances?
  • Is a Christian permitted to use deadly force against another person? Why and under what circumstances?
  • Can Christians bear faithful witness to Christ while engaging in military service? If yes, under what capacity and in what circumstances? If no, why not?

Four Christian STANCES

  • Nonresistance // the Christian is dedicated to the work of the gospel as his/her highest priority as a
    citizen of a heavenly kingdom. One may pray for peace and must support the government, but must never be involved in any action that takes the life of another human being. If the unbelieving government needs to fight a war to fulfill its obligations to defend its citizens, let it do so, but no Christian should be an active member of combat troops. Christians holding this viewpoint ought to request noncombatant status when fulfilling a military obligation. 
  • Pacifism // The basic philosophy undergirding the nonresistance view is also foundational to the Christian pacifist viewpoint. The key difference is that the Christian pacifist will not serve in the military in any role. Whereas the nonresistance adherent may serve in a non-combatant role, the Christian pacifist must be a conscientious objector
  • Just War // Establishes guidelines to ensure the exercise of the military option in a just fashion. The criteria include the following:
    • A just cause is basically defensive in posture, not aggressive.
    • The intent must also be just—the objectives must be peace and the protection of innocent lives.
    • War must be a matter of last resort when all attempts at reconciliation or peaceful resolution are exhausted.
    • A just war must be accompanied by a formal declaration by a properly constituted and authorized body.
    • The objectives must be limited. Unconditional surrender or total destruction are unjust means.
    • Military action must be proportionate both in the weaponry employed and the troops deployed.
    • Non-combatants must be protected and military operations must demonstrate the highest possible degree of discrimination.
    • Without a reasonable hope for success, no military action should be launched
  • Preventive War // This view is an extension of the just war position. It supports preemptive action or first-strike options (even with nuclear weapons, when necessary) if an enemy’s aggression is thought to be imminent and unavoidable. Preventive war adherents also advocate the use of military force to recover territory unjustly seized by an aggressor.
    Adapted from William D. Barrick, “The Christian and War”

Important Scripture

  • For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. // 2 Corinthians 10:3-4
  • In the temple courts [Jesus] found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” // John 2:14-17
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. // Matthew 5:9
  • Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. // Romans 13:1-5
  •  When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them… For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory // Deuteronomy 20:1a, 4
  • You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. // Matthew 5:38

Thoughts from Others

  • You cannot demand military service of Christians any more than you can of priests. We do not go forth as soldiers with the Emperor even if he demands this. // Origen
  • For the time being, we know of no other means to imbue exhausted peoples, as strongly and surely as every great war does, with that raw energy of the battleground, that deep impersonal hatred, that murderous coldbloodedness with a good conscience, that communal, organized ardor in destroying the enemy, that proud indifference to great losses, to one’s own existence and to that of one’s friends, that muted, earthquakelike convulsion of the soul. // Friedrich Nietzsche
  • The purpose of all wars, is peace. // St. Augustine
  • The whole rabble of these divided multitudes are called Christians and together they pray: Our Father which art in heaven. They approach God in this way while each party has in mind the destruction of the other. They think they are serving God by shedding others’ blood. And on both sides they say: Forgive us as we forgive. And every party seeks to increase its military force and never thinks of forgiving the other so long as they can hope to overcome them. Therefore their prayers are blasphemies against God. // Peter Chelchitzki
  • I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can. To avert or postpone one particular war by wise policy, or to render one particular campaign shorter by strength and skill or less terribly by mercy to the conquered and the civilians is more useful than all the proposals for universal peace that have ever been made; just as the dentist who can stop one toothache has deserved better of humanity than all the men who think they have some scheme for producing a perfectly healthy race. // C.S. Lewis
  • I say I’m a pacifist because I am a violent son of a bitch. I’m a Texan. I can feel it in every bone I’ve got. And I hate the language of pacifism because it’s too passive. But by avowing it, I create expectations in others that hopefully will help me live faithfully to what is true. But that I have no confidence in my own ability to live it at all. // Stanley Hauerwas
  • To ask God to prohibit war, then, is to ask him to prohibit the consequence of human behavior. Something he has never been wont to do. As long as there is sin there will be war. // Max Lucado



This summer, REUNION Somerville’s generosity team has teamed up with the Northern Crawl to turn our conversations into action. Each week, after the discussion, participants will vote on an organization to support financially.

Below are the organizations that will be voted on this week:

    • The HALO Trust The HALO Trust leads the effort to protect lives and restore livelihoods for those affected by war. We continue to play a major part in getting mines out of the ground, for good, but we are also increasing our role dealing with the broader debris of war – small arms, IEDs and unexploded ordnance. In our work to make people and places safe we embed ourselves in local communities, build capacity and work closely with local and national governments as well as aid and development partners. We create safe and secure environments, offer opportunities to rebuild lives and livelihoods, and prepare the way for development and long term stability.
    • Semper Fi FundThe Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post-9/11 combat wounded, critically ill and catastrophically injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities.
    • The Carter CenterThe Carter Center is guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. It seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health. The Carter Center has become a pioneer in the field of election observation, monitoring 107 national elections to help ensure that the results reflect the will of the people.A culture of respect for human rights is crucial to permanent peace. The Center supports the efforts of human rights activists at the grass roots, while also working to advance national and international human rights laws that uphold the dignity and worth of each individual.