Christianity, Pacifism and Principles of Justice in Warfare

- Mebane, John*
How did warfare become acceptable to Christians in the early centuries of church history? To what extent is it possible to create a rationale for warfare that is grounded on Christian principles? How have Christian ideas concerning justice in warfare contributed to the Charter of the United Nations and the Hague and Geneva Conventions? This talk will begin by discussing foundational contributions to Christian thought concerning the morality of warfare, especially the Sermon on the Mount and works by Saint Augustine and Erasmus. Mebane will briefly discuss Machiavelli’s The Prince and Shakespeare’s Henry V. After a brief outline of how principles of justice in warfare evolved in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, he will discuss modern principles that justify going to war (jus ad bellum) and principles that govern the conduct of war (jus in bello). The talk considers the Gulf War of 1991 as a case study of justice in warfare. Mebane will conclude with discussion of whether the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 can be justified on the basis of traditional “just war” principles. He will provide two handouts: (1) a statement of principles of justice in warfare, and (2) a bibliography of important scholarly works on this topic.

A lapel microphone is requested for audiences of more than 100, or for facilities in which a microphone is advisable. Computer and projector are also requested. Mebane will bring a PowerPoint presentation on a flash drive. He can adapt the presentation so that PowerPoint is not necessary, if that is more convenient for a given venue.