As a high school sophomore I was told: “If you wait until you are in the back seat of a car to figure out your sexual ethic, it is probably too late.” In other words, moral issues are best addressed not in the passion of the moment but as part of an ongoing formation in discipleship.
What the church knows about sex it forgets about war. Christian discourse on war rarely rises above the level of emotional appeals. At the congregational level, we often see little more than Crossfire-style debates. At the national level, we get editorial or ecclesial statements of at best a few paragraphs which present the just war tradition as a tidy checklist of criteria for evaluating a conflict.
The just war tradition was not always so superficially employed. It developed as a form of Christian practical rationality. It was not a theory to be bandied about but a rigorous ecclesial practice which arose out of the church’s day-to-day life and shaped that life.
Daniel M. Bell Jr. teaches at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and at the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is the author of Just War as Christian Discipleship: Recentering the Tradition in the Church rather than the State.