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Duke theologian discusses Christians' conflict with war, pacifism at UC

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- How can a country with a motto of "In God We Trust" also be associated with endless wars?

That was the question for discussion posed Tuesday night by Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, professor of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School, as part of the University of Charleston's Speaker Series. The discussion was titled, "God and Violence in American Culture."

Hauerwas said that the initial question has boiled down to the evolution of Christian ethics. Some Christians, backed by the teachings of Jesus Christ, argue that war is unjust because it amounts to murder. Another school of thought has formed, arguing that some wars should be considered justified to stop evildoers.

The question then becomes, Hauerwas said, what does a just war look like?   

"Is it any wonder why the world thinks what Christians say isn't true?" he asked. "It's because Christians war with each other."

Hauerwas discussed his view with Eric Mounts, a pastor at Bible Center Church in Charleston. Mounts read a Scripture from Romans that says rebellion against a government is also rebelling against God.

Mounts argued that some wars might be considered just if another country has attacked America first. Christians should support this war just as the Bible instructed complicity with the government.

Hauerwas countered this point by reading another passage from Romans that reads, "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath."

One audience member asked how America could combat the threat of violence from Islamic countries.

The threat of violence comes from ignorance of the Islamic religions, which are based on principles of peace and forgiveness, Hauerwas said.

Hauerwas' work focuses on philosophical theology and ethics, political theory, as well as the philosophy of social science. He was named "America's Best Theologian" by Time magazine in 2001. The lecture was sponsored by the Herchiel and Elizabeth Sims fund at the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation.

The purpose of the fund is to promote discussion around the meaning of the national motto, "In God We Trust."

An audience member asked if the statement were true that war would not exist without religion. Hauerwas agreed with that statement.

"The problem is that we have to have confidence that God is going to show up in people who are different than us," he said.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.

 


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