Is there such a thing as a just war? Can the massive death and destruction of armed conflict ever be morally justified by followers of the Prince of Peace?
For the first disciples of Christ, the answer was a resounding, “No!”
During the first 300 years of Christianity, it was unthinkable for followers of the nonviolent Jesus to kill a human being. They took most seriously Jesus’ command: “But to you who hear, I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other as well. … Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
In his book Abortion and the Early Church, Michael J. Gorman cites an address of the famous church father Clement of Alexandria to wealthy Christians: “Contrary to the rest of men enlist for yourself an army without weapons, without war, without bloodshed, without wrath, without stain — pious old men, orphans dear to God, widows armed with gentleness, men adorned with love.”
Gorman emphasizes that Clement’s statement represents the entire body of Christian literature from the first three centuries by affirming Christian faithfulness to Christ’s paramount teaching of love, which completely rejects violence and bloodshed….
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. Please contact your diocesan newspaper and request that they carry Tony’s column. Tony is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings about Catholic social teaching. His keynote address, “Advancing the Kingdom of God in the 21st Century,” has been well received by diocesan gatherings from Salt Lake City to Baltimore. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.