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.
Christians have never embraced blood sacrifice. We have not offered chickens or slain goats, let alone sacrificed our firstborn children to God. Indeed, the very idea of blood sacrifice is abhorrent to us, evoking an almost involuntary visceral reaction. It sends chills down our spines and stirs deep within us a strong impulse to act against such a horrific practice.
The just war tradition is meant to be more than a tidy checklist of criteria for evaluating a conflict. The tradition developed not as a theory to be bandied about, but as a rigorous ecclesial practice that arose out of the church’s day-to-day life and shapes that life. The tradition is a form of Christian discipleship, an expression of the character of Christian communities concerned daily with justice and with loving their near and distant neighbors.
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