The topic of the Spring 2007 issue of the Criswell Theological Review is “War and Peace.” Stanley Hauerwas makes a poignant contribution to the journal with his “Sacrificing the Sacrifices of War.” His main point is that the biggest sacrifice of war does not consist in the lives that are lost, but in the loss of our unwillingness to kill (p. 80).
One of the main tragedies of war according to Hauerwas, is the fact that war takes otherwise ordinary citizens and turns them into killers. To support this point, Hauerwas narrates the stories of several soldiers who have been emotionally traumatized by the killing they did during war. Many of them feel so guilty about the killing that they did, they never fully re-assimilate into society but live lonely, guilty lives. The sacrifice of these citizens’ “unwillingness to kill” harms not only the veteran, but also the society that normalizes their killing by awarding them medals and honors. Hauerwas concludes that Christians should have no part in wars (p. 94).
I do not agree with Hauerwas’ central thesis, nor with his essentially pacifist conclusion. But I do think it is helpful to read some of the soldiers’ stories of their participation in war. Everyone, whether pacifist or just war proponent, should take to heart the ugliness of war, why we hate it so much, and why it should always be the last resort.
The rest of the articles in this journal are excellent reads, and I will likely be commenting on them in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, you can order a copy of the journal with Hauerwas’ article here: