Congregational Strategies for Invigorating Lutheranism’s Just PeaceMaking Tradition

[1] This paper was originally presented as a PowerPoint based lecture at Pacific Lutheran University on February 10, 2003, for a conference titled Two Kingdoms Collide: A Lutheran Perspective on War, Peace, and Social Justice.1

[2] “Just peacemaking” Lutherans have not often used that terminology2. We have, however, engaged in just peacemaking, often even as a trait of a Lutheran way of life. It is about time that we name this trait as such and naming it can help us better claim just peacemaking as a Lutheran manner of living. In this address I will concentrate on the contemporary situation as I address congregational strategies for reinvigorating Lutheranism’s just peacemaking tradition. Toward this goal I will identify three particular strategies for congregations. But with war with Iraq looming I first want to put this exploration of congregational strategies into the context of “just war tradition.”

[3] A Lutheran beginning point for discussing under what circumstance a war might be justifiably prosecuted is Article 16 of the Augsburg Confession (CA). Here is the relevant portion from the Latin text:

Concerning civic affairs they teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God and that Christians are permitted to hold office, to work in law courts, to decide matters by imperial and other existing laws, to impose just punishments, to wage just war, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to take an oath when required by magistrates, to take a wife, to be given in marriage3.
[4] The Lutheran confessors offered Article XVI to distinguish themselves from certain Anabaptist traditions of the time. “Just war” is mentioned in a series of practices, offices, and institutions that are permissible as “good works of God.” There is no explanation what the confessors mean by these things, including “just war.” They simply assume the tradition in which they are living. Indeed, they assume the “just war tradition” and they affirm it. They did not create “just war” tradition and the Lutherans themselves-at least Luther and his contemporaries-did not change or improve upon it in any particular way. One further point must be mentioned. Their placement of “just war” between “impose just punishments” and “serve as soldiers” emphasizes that just war is a form of just peacekeeping on an international scale, if I can use that term ‘international’ rather loosely.

“Just War” in Context

[5] There are basically four kinds of traditions in the West about the relationship of war and peace: war realism; holy war-crusade; just war; and pacifism(s). Further, it is crucial to see that just war is a critical alternative to the other three. My key assertion here is that the justifiable war tradition lies embedded always within a larger normative context of just peacemaking. In other words, just war must be understood as a peacekeeping activity within the larger circumference of just peacemaking, a peacemaking based on justice.

[6] The just war tradition grew up in order to combat traditions of “war realism.”4 War realism goes something like this: every culture is called to a vocation in the world-sometimes a culture’s consciousness of its calling is weighted with theological awareness and content invoking a Deity or Nature or some such. In war realism some cultures are called to lead the world. Every culture becomes a leader by becoming a state and a state always has the power of the sword. War realism holds that going to war is a necessary way for a state to find meaning in its life as a people, as a nation, that leads. War realism is very old and has taken on many different forms. This happened to Germany in the middle and latter part of the 19th century and into the 20th century. Germany developed a culture and philosophy and even a theology of war realism that ascribed meaning to the Prussian German nation as world leader with imperialist militarism as a key tool of leadership. This provided backdrop for Germany to enter World War I.5 Now, war realism in Western civilization is as old as the Roman empire. The just war tradition emerged as an alternative to war realism; indeed, the justifiable war tradition actually negates war realism and its basic assumptions. This point cannot be too fervently asserted and will be explored later.

[7] There are ancient versions of war realism as well as modern renditions tied closely to the rise of the modern nation-state. “Holy war-crusade” has ancient roots and contemporary manifestations. It is similar to war realism, though with a more explicit and manifest theological content and heightened claim to moral and religious purity and perfection rooted in a sharply conflicted dualism between light and darkness, without the ‘modern’ institutional separation between organized religious community (“church”) and state. Here we can recall the Christian Crusades to reclaim Jerusalem for Christianity beginning at the end of the eleventh century and continuing in various forms even through the middle of the fifteenth century. The just war tradition is a counter tradition also to holy war-crusade.

[8] The fourth great tradition in the West regarding the relationship of war and peace is pacifism, though it is better to speak of pacifisms since there are different kinds. Duane Cady notes: “Pacifism is a complex and subtle range of value positions on morality, peace, and war, not the stereotyped extreme of conventional wisdom. The varieties of pacifism have emerged within a just-warist value tradition, to some degree building on and extending that tradition.”6 One thing to remember about all of the pacifisms is that pacifism has two sides to it, what some pacifists call the ‘critical’ side and the ‘positive’ side. The critical side-in principled pacifism-is “no war, no violence, no sword, by anyone under any circumstances.” The positive side of pacifism is to work tirelessly, vigorously, and endlessly for the establishment of peace according to just criteria.

[9] A crucial thing for Lutherans to think about-from within the Lutheran tradition-is that while, as Lutherans, we will not adopt the critical side of pacifism, we have every reason in the world to be in alliance with the historic pacifist traditions-such as the Mennonites and the Quakers-as they have developed their positive peacemaking side. Here as Lutherans we have much to learn from them. We also have much that we can develop anew coming from our historic past. While I was a pastor at Resurrection Lutheran in Portland, we at Resurrection participated vigorously with the regional hunger ministry. In that collaborative, ecumenical endeavor we worked closely with several Mennonite communities and, quite a bit of the time, they showed the way. “The problem with the just war tradition,” they told us, “is that it talks about peace and justice as if it were a hundred yard sprint; we Mennonites imagine peace and justice to be a long-distance marathon.” I will return to this issue somewhat later.

[10] Often people who claim and desire to live according to the just war tradition really are living according to assumptions and aspirations more fully coherent with war realism, assumptions and aspiration that they unknowingly transfer into the just war tradition from the tradition of war realism. James Turner Johnson captures some of this when he writes:

In Western civilization the general term of the tradition that has grown up to justify and limit war is ‘just war theory.’ This term, however, is an imprecise one-ambiguous because of the variety of contexts out of which the just war idea has arisen, because of the metamorphosis of the concept of just war over time; because of the existence at any one time of numerous theories; because of the imprecision of language, especially in equivalence of terms between different languages; and, not least, because of the expectations of many persons today regarding war, expectations that are transferred to the just war idea7.
The Just War Tradition

[11] The concept of just war has a long history; indeed, it is a tradition. Like any tradition, it is historically extended, it is socially embodied, and it is an ongoing argument8. Cicero is credited with the first Western attempt to think systematically about the circumstances under which engaging in war could be justifiable. He desired to overcome the war realism of the Roman Empire in which he lived-to offer an alternative to Rome’s ‘war is what gives our empire meaning.’ He thought that such an outlook was against the natural law of the universe. Cicero argued instead that there existed within the natural universe a strong presumption against killing and therefore against engaging in war. Going to war could only be undertaken if certain criteria could be met and therefore he sought to think through how the bar should be set. We will review these criteria later.

[12] In the Christian tradition, Tertullian, Lanctantius and, significantly, Ambrose began in a preliminary way to ask whether it was ever justifiable for Christians to participate in war. Ambrose’s significance resides in who one of his students was: Augustine. In his great treatise, The City of God, and in other writings Augustine develops just war reasoning within the framework of specifically Christian concerns.9

[13] Gratian is the next person to take up the topic in a significant way. While his name is not well-known among Protestants, Gratian from Bologna, Italy is the twelfth-century compiler of the Decretum Gratiani, the precursor of what we today call ‘canon law.’ As a compiler, Gratian was not an innovator as such. Rather, he gathered together all of the traditions of the western church into a coherent body of law, a coherent body of doctrine. Significantly for our purpose here we collated Augustine’s thinking about just war. Thomas Aquinas was the primary thinker to take Augustine’s just war reflections compiled in canon law, think theologically about them, and pass them along to the later Middle Ages.

[14] There is not much innovation within the just war tradition between Aquinas and the Reformation. Thus, when the Lutheran confessors came to Augsburg in 1530 to make their confession before Emperor Charles V, they took the basic framework of the just war tradition for granted. When in Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession they offer a sampling of activities and callings in which Christians are called and permitted to do within society-serving as magistrates, getting married, having children, farming, trading-they list ‘just war’ as well10. While Calvin emphasizes different aspects of just war, he also does not make any major innovations within the tradition. He is particularly interested in matters of legitimate authority.

[15] The next important person for understanding the development of the just war tradition is Vitoria or Victoria, a contemporary of Luther. He founded a new theological tradition at the University of Salamanca in Spain by reestablishing Thomas Aquinas’s theology as the basic approach rather than Peter Lombard’s. Vitoria’s followers then made Salamanca into the premier university in sixteenth-century Europe for the study of Scholasticism. He took the just war tradition that had not developed much over the previous three centuries and put it into the context of what we today might call international relations. He argued against colonization in the Americas and against the conquest of the Indies, which was among the crucial questions of his day. By arguing that “difference of religion is not a cause of just war,” he undermined the then-dominant notion that Christianity’s superiority as a religion was reason enough for militarily conquering those with a primitive and thus inferior religion. By rejecting religion as a justifiable reason for war he made the decisive distinction between the just war tradition and the holy war-crusade tradition that often functioned within western Christendom. Vitoria’s innovative contribution can hardly be underestimated.11

[16] For the purposes of this brief review I call our attention to Hugo Grotius, a Dutch reformed theologian and jurist. Grotius writes in the midst of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and helps to conceptualize the notion of the modern nation-state each with its own bounded sovereignty. Often called “the Father of International Law” Grotius places the developing just war tradition within the context of nation-state sovereignty and bases just war thinking on a strictly natural law or secular form of reasoning quite distinct from specifically “Christian” biblical reasoning12.

jus ad bellum/jus in bello

[17] We turn now to consider the criteria that stand at the center of the just war tradition. Michael Walzer, the eminent political philosopher at Princeton University offers this pithy maxim: “In the just war tradition war is always judged twice.”13 First, one must judge when war is right-i.e., the justice of going to war, jus ad bellum-and second, one must judge the means for fighting in war-what in war is right, jus in bello. These are the two ways war-or, you might say, peace-is judged in the just war tradition.

[18] There are different ways to enumerate the criteria for just war. There are conversations in the history of the just war tradition about how many criteria there are and in what order they come. I will use a way that goes right down the center of the tradition.14 The first two I list, for instance, are often reversed.

A war is justifiable …
1) that is in response to a real injury that has been suffered-just cause (justa causa);
2) that is declared by legitimate public authority-legitimate authority (auctoritas principis);
3) in which those prosecuting the war have good intentions-right intention (recta intention);
4) in which the damage likely to be incurred by the war will not be disproportionate to the injury that has already been suffered under the first criterion-proportionality ;
5) that is undertaken only after all reasonable means of peaceful settlement have been exhausted-last resort;
6) in which there is reasonable hope for success and a new state of peace-probability for success;
7) that employs only legitimate and moral means (debito modo)-the proportionality of means and discrimination of non-combatants.

[19] There are many nuances for all of these criteria, even when they are isolated from particular situations. Furthermore, when it comes down to the particulars, into concrete situations, the criteria can become very complex. And of course there are many questions about the internal logic: how do these criteria relate to each other? does any criterion have more priority than another? what happens when one criterion is fulfilled but another one is not? do they ever conflict, and if they do, then what? to what extent do you have to fulfill the criteria? how pure do our intentions have to be? Such things are part of the messiness of of the just war tradition because they are part of the messiness of life. The just war tradition is a prudential ethic. It lives in the real world, in the ‘knottiness’, the nervousness, in the messiness of life.

[20] The first six criteria relate to jus ad bellum, regarding possible justifications for going to war or not going to war. The seventh one-many renditions separate this criterion into two, three, or four points-involves jus in bello and thereby assumes that war is happening. This seventh criterion has two sides. Aquinas starts thinking seriously about the moral means of for fighting a war when in the late Middle Ages military technology begins changing significantly. It is here that we consider the issue of the proportionality of means. The other significant consideration is the discrimination of non-combatants and the matter of ‘collateral damage.’

Just PeaceMaking and Strategies of the Imagination

[21] It is crucial for Lutherans to remember that the just war tradition assumes a broad, vigorous context of just peacemaking. That is reflected in the sixth criterion but is a fundamental presumption for the entire tradition. Tragically, this fundamental presumption is far too often neglected, understated, or even denied. Without the larger context of just peacemaking, war realist traditions and the just war tradition are too readily blurred, especially in the popular imagination, and that aspirations of war realism are surreptitiously transported into the just war tradition. This broad, vigorous context of just peacemaking is why just war tradition communities ought to establish long-term, collaborative alliances with the historic peace churches. As we turn our discussion to congregational strategies, please notice that the topic is ‘reinvigorating’ Lutheranism’s just peacemaking tradition. While we have a lot of work to do as Lutherans, it is not as if we have never done anything. Still, Lutherans are not all of a single stripe and some have been more vigorous in this way than others.

Thou shalt not kill.

[22] We can consider the Fifth Commandment to be the first commandment of the just war tradition. If it is not first because the First Commandment must always be first, then “Thou shalt not kill” surely is the second commandment of the just war tradition. As Luther asks in his catechism regarding all of the commandments, “What does this mean?” “We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life’s needs.” It is amazing, really, to see what Luther was able to weave into his explanation, what he was able to get into the imagination of an eight-year-old kid, the age that I was when I had to memorize these commandments! The first thing was to include the First Commandment-“we are to fear and love God, so that”-in each of the other commandments. That is, the biblical God has something at stake in each commandment and therefore across the whole breadth of human life.

[23] In Luther’s explanation, we also see that the ‘not’ of the commandment leads to Luther’s ‘buts.’ Strictly speaking, the moral prescriptions that Luther includes in the ‘but’ clauses do not exist in the Exodus recording of the commandments, though they do exist throughout the Bible, as Luther notes. Therefore, Luther puts them in his explanations. The ‘but’ clauses represent the just peacemaking side of the Ten Commandments. For Luther, just peacekeeping and the just war tradition go together. He believed very strongly in the right of political authority to exercise the power of the sword. And while it is the side of Luther probably least read by Lutherans, Luther also talks a lot about just peacemaking15.

[24] Another facet of the biblical imagination to consider besides ‘Thou shalt not kill’-one could pick many-is Isaiah 58:12: “You shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.” Now that’s not a bad vocation, even for Lutherans! With these features of the biblical imagination in mind, I would like to discuss three kinds of strategies for congregations as they engage in just peacemaking: Strategies of Imagination; Strategies of Interruptive and Reconstructive Action; and Strategies of Formative, Integrative and Restorative Action. I will lead with imagination and follow with action and practice.

Two Strategies of Imagination

[25] First, I want to start by imagining congregations as public companions. In Lutheranism, we often talk about vocation-one of the gems of our heritage-but we almost always reduce our understanding of vocation to the lives of individuals only. Many people are familiar with Habits of the Heart, written more than 15 years ago by Robert Bellah and his bunch of researchers. It is a good book, but the Bellah-bunch follow-up book, The Good Society, is even better. The first chapter of The Good Society is titled “The Institutions We Live Through.” Their assertion is that individuals always live their lives through institutions and that institutions have vocations as well.

[26] As we imagine our congregations having public vocations, I suggest that we imagine them with the vocation of ‘public companion.’ In order to do that, we must imagine where these congregations are going to have public vocations. That is, what is the public social space for the vocation of public companion? Once we imagine the public social space then we can imagine with whom they will have the vocation of companion. The public social space most relevant to congregations as public companions is “civil society.” I use the term, “civil society,” in a very particular way. The greatest thinker on civil society in the last twenty-five years is Vaclav Havel, who just retired this year as president of the Czech Republic. He is the one who really put his finger on the significance of civil society within western civilization, a topic to which I will return.16

[27] To initiate the imagination of congregations as public companions, I will reference the mission statement of Luther Seminary. The first part reads, “Luther Seminary educates leaders for Christian communities called and sent by the Holy Spirit ….” There is a purposeful ambiguity in our mission statement. As a seminary, we imagine that congregations are our constituency and that we serve them by educating leaders for them. So, according to the mission statement who is being called and sent by the Holy Spirit? Is it the leaders or the Christian communities? Who is called and who is sent? The answer: they are both both called and sent!

[28] And what are the leaders and the Christian communities called and sent to do? Our mission statement continues, “. . . to witness to salvation through Jesus Christ and to serve in God’s world.” We at Luther Seminary do pretty well discerning our being called and sent by the Holy Spirit; helping people figure out their vocations and to what they are called. And we are also really good, I think, interpreting and confessing Jesus Christ as the source of salvation: “to witness to salvation through Jesus Christ.” To be self-critical of my home institution for a moment, however, it seems to me that exploring the depths and riches of “to serve in God’s world” is the least-developed portion of our curriculum and of our course work. Perhaps that is the case for many congregations as well. Each congregation has to ask itself that question from within its own context. When it comes to Luther Seminary, it is at least a part of our imagination regarding for what we are called and sent, both for ourselves and for the leaders we educate.

[29] “To serve in God’s world”? Can we think more pointedly and more profoundly about congregations as serving in God’s world? We can use many prepositions: in the world, with the world, against the world, and for the world-“in-with-against-for.” Notice that ‘over’ is not included in this list. We do not serve ‘over’ the world. ‘Over’ would signal a theocratic tradition, a reality reflective of certain times and traditions within Christian history. In a theocratic situation, you usually end up with either coercive political power in the church’s realm or you end up with some sort of moral superiority resulting in a Christian aristocracy that rules by virtue of that superiority.

[30] Just as imagining congregations as public companions is not to imagine them as serving ‘over’ the world, it is also not to imagine them serving ‘under’ the world or being ‘of’ the world. Both of these would be to accommodate to the world, to have the world set the agenda for the church. The church, surrendering to whatever is, would then be voiceless, even becoming colonized by the world. This is a real possibility. It is what the peace traditions often suspect has happened to just war tradition communities-we ought to listen to that suspicion.

[31] To serve in God’s world is also not to serve ‘without’ the world. That would be the sectarian option, which is what worried Lutherans about the Anabaptist, left wing of the Reformation as discussed by Jane Strohl. Historically, Lutherans have had a very strong doctrine of God as Creator who continually engages in the ongoing creation of the world. This understanding of the creational, left-hand rule of God asserts that God is alive and well and has not surrendered the world to the Devil. To serve in God’s world is to be ‘in-with-against-for,’ not to be ‘over’ or ‘under’ or ‘of’ or ‘without.’ The metaphor of congregations as public companions attempts to imagine congregations in that light.

[32] It is important to draw attention to Lutheranism’s ‘critical participationist predilection.’17 Normatively speaking, that is what Lutherans aspire to be: critical participators in society and in the world. This metaphor “public companion” resonates with the mission emphasis of the ELCA. This paradigm for mission is found in a recent statement released by the ELCA’s Division for Global Mission:

The concept of accompaniment is becoming a central theme in an emerging vision of global mission. Its promise lies in inviting the ELCA to take seriously the contributions of other expressions of the global church. The interaction of companion churches around the world reflects their evaluation of and attitudes about their relationships with other Christians in both North and South. Their evaluations of past and present interactions offer valuable insights into how the ELCA can learn to participate effectively in God’s mission together with other Christians18.
[33] The metaphors ‘companionship’ and ‘accompaniment’ go together. Indeed, you can see the word ‘companion’ in ‘accompany.’ Further, in Latin the word panis means bread. To be a companion, therefore, is to ‘bread’ together with others. The Eucharistic-communion nuances in the metaphor of ‘companion’ and ‘accompaniment’ are there, waiting for further exploration.

[34] Most synods in the ELCA have companion synods from other places in the world. Also, many congregations have companion congregations. When I served as pastor at Resurrection in Portland, we introduced “Zacapa partners,” our companion congregation relationship with a base community of Lutherans in Guatemala. That helped reinvigorate our congregation and its sense of missional partnership in the world. ‘How to bring the world to Resurrection Lutheran Church and us to the world?’ was one small but crucial part of an overall strategy to develop a missional imagination. Post 9/11 perhaps we can begin imagining ‘companion faiths.’ Isn’t it about time that we really take the risk of being companions with other faith traditions-with a Hindu or Buddhist temple, with a mosque, or with a Jewish congregation?

[35] The relationships developed through companionship help create what Michael Walzer calls “connected critics.”19 Such critics are neither sectarians nor cynics but rather fully engaged in solidarity with the world they love-the countries, places, town, cities, and regions that they will not, indeed, cannot abandon. The metaphor of congregations as public companions, when tied to notions and practices of critical participation and connected critic, goes along with the public space of civil society.

A Sociological Map of the United States

[36] Civil society is that vast, spontaneously emergent, plurality of networks, association, institutions, and movements for the prevention and promotion of this, that, and the other thing. When I use the term ‘civil society’ I refer to a sociological space, not to a society that behaves itself civilly with civil speech and the like. Civility is welcome, but my use of the idea ‘civil society’ does not mean civility. Civil society has emerged as part of the architecture or landscape of western civilization and, now, of other great civilizations as well.

[37] I introduce the concept of civil society to pique our sociological imaginations. To that end, I would like to present a sociological map of the United States. We are all familiar with geographical maps, but a sociological map will help our imaginations consider how congregations might be public companions.

[38] In the United States, we experience something called the political state.20 This can be represented as a giant sphere, as a great system. The medium of this system is power, administrative power. In our political state we have the three familiar branches. Besides the political state, there is another giant sphere, the market economy, where the medium is money. These are the two great political systems that dominate the landscape of our country. These mega-systems are not found only in our country but are alive and well and powerful in other Western countries as well.

[39] There is a third sphere that sociologists call the lifeworld. The lifeworld is where our personal lives unfold, where our values are formed, and where we make friends. In Figure 1, the lifeworld appears squashed. And isn’t that often how we feel about our personal lives and also about our personal values? The kind of values that we have in the lifeworld of our families and friends seem to be not nearly as strong and as vital and as determinative as do the two great systems with their respective media that drive western civilization. I refer to this as the domination and colonization of the lifeworld by the economy and the state. The colonization of the lifeworld generates a lot of injustice, diminished wellbeing, suffering, oppression, and a host of serious unpleasant things.

[40] In this context we can ask what it would take to create a vibrant, deliberative democracy based on the principles and practices of just peacemaking. I suggest we take Vaclav Havel’s identification of the sociological space of civil society as a key ingredient for what is needed. Civil society is that public space where emergent just peacemaking happens. It’s not that we do not already have such a space. Indeed, it is the arena populated by the hundreds of thousands of movements and associations for the “prevention and promotion of this, that and the other thing.” Some of the things prevented and promoted-in fact a lot of them-I am not at all interested in preventing or promoting! After all, in my family background, my grandfather on my father’s side was a Klansman in Kentucky.

[41] What does it take to have an invigorated and invigorating deliberative democracy that generates justice and peace? It takes a civil society at the center of it all. And with civil society at the center the political state and the market economy can take their proper role; and so can the lifeworld-our families, our friends, our values, our personal lives-have space to live and to thrive. Civil society is the first, preferential space where the public work, the liturgy, of citizenship goes on. The institutions within civil society form what Havel called “the moral infrastructure of western civilization.” Civil society is a sounding board and warning system for societal problems, for issues of justice, civil and human rights, freedom, and well-being. It often detects and identifies problems by problematizing issues that seem to have been settled or even perhaps have been settled but, due to new circumstances and insights, must be reopened. Additionally, it defines the moral meanings of new problems in convincing and influential ways while frequently furnishing possible moral solutions to problems.

[42] Civil society also dramatizes both moral predicaments and solutions for the broad citizenship as well as for governmental branches and economic systems. It is a crucial arena within a deliberative democracy since neither the political state nor the market economy possess sufficient moral wisdom to create and sustain a vibrant, just, and thereby peaceful commonwealth. That civil society can provide “the moral infrastructure of western civilization” is as much an aspiration as an already existing situation. But without a vigorous civil society the lifeworld is in danger of being colonized and abused. In Havel’s situation the state was the prime colonizer, in ours the economy is often most overwhelming.

[43] I consider civil society to be God’s preferential arena for emerging moral wisdom. Perhaps Proverbs 8 can serve as biblical imagination for my claim. It is a beautiful chapter:

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. (vv. 1-7)

I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight, I have strength. By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me rulers rule, and nobles, all who govern rightly. I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. (vv. 12-17)
[44] In the United States we have a constitutional republic with developing practices of a deliberative democracy. We imagine a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” to borrow Lincoln’s words. To discern civil society as God’s preferential arena for emerging public companions is to identify that public space where congregations exercise a vocation along with other civil society institutions to discover and generate moral wisdom for justice and peace in the world. Though surely living in a civilization quite different from a modern-postmodern society, perhaps Paul still had something like that in mind when he wrote, “Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness” (Romans 2:14-15a).

Strategies of Interruptive & Reconstructive Action

[Figure 3]

[45] What I like to call ‘strategies of interruptive and reconstructive action’ have sometimes been called the ‘non-violent, direct-action’ traditions. Some examples are Martin Luther King, Jr., in our country and Mohandas K. Gandhi in India. Such actions are frontally interruptive, radical, perhaps revolutionary; they strike at deeply systemic issues and may be considered ‘war by other means.’ Things like boycotts, strikes, civil disobedience, marches, accompaniment and the providing of safe places and sanctuary-these are actions that can happen when civil society itself becomes colonized by the state or the market, when injustice turns the corner into out-and-out wickedness. To some extent some of the criteria of the ‘just war’ tradition can even serve as a good test of whether this turn has occurred. Congregations must join together to discern the appropriateness of these strategies in their time and context. With more time we could obviously say much more, and need to, about strategies of interruptive and reconstructive action.21

Strategies of Formative, Integrative, & Restorative Action

[46] As I stated above, Lutherans have not often used the language of just peacemaking. But we have a long heritage that in important ways we have let slip away, a heritage where we have initiated and practiced just peacemaking-even though we haven’t called it that-in particular places and regarding particular critical issues. We Lutherans tend to do very well at creating, as the Bellah-bunch says, institutions through which we live out our vocations. Unfortunately, we have not always vigorously recognized and claimed the significance of our institution-generating capacities. Now is the time, sisters and brothers, to retrieve lost opportunities.

[Figure 4]

[47] We Lutherans have formed a new institution, which is only about four years old, called Lutheran Services in America (LSA). While you may not have heard of LSA, you will be glad to hear about it and no doubt surprised by it as well. Did you know that historic Lutheran identity and practice stand behind the largest nonprofit in the United States? The total revenue for LSA in 2001 was $7.6 billion! Please take a moment to look down the list of the other organizations on this list. This is a major Lutheran institution that most congregations and members have no idea exists. Unless we name it and claim it-our Lutheran heritage of just peacemaking, that is-it will surely again recede and even slip away.

[48] One of the goals of LSA, which seeks to coordinate over 200 Lutheran organizations across the United States in all kinds of ministries, is to reconnect with its Lutheran identity. LSA does this by asking the question, “Does it make a difference that we’re Lutheran?” In crucial ways, we have lost that question among our congregations. Can we name and reclaim the difference that being Lutheran makes?

[49] Part of LSA’s important work is to coordinate agencies for the purposes of public advocacy. A lot of that work goes on around the country. What I have tried to help us imagine here tonight is civil society as a critical place for just peacemaking, even as God’s preferential arena within Western society for the nurturing of an invigorated and invigorating deliberative democracy that can continue to generate just peacemaking. And this is inherently Lutheran, for God’s just peacemaking represents within Western civilization the alpha and omega of the peacekeeping aspiration that is the strong presumption of the just war tradition given witness in the Lutheran confession.

You shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
(Isaiah 58:12)

End Notes

1 I am grateful to Robert Smith, my research assistant, who has carefully transcribed this lecture with editing and also for his insightful consultation on many of the issues that I have addressed. The other conference address was by Jane Strohl from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, who took a more historical approach focusing on the Reformation era. I accepted her exposition of the Reformation tradition as a basic presupposition for my own point of view.

2 For the term “just peacemaking” and for a good introduction to this ecumenical approach see Glen Stassen, Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices for Abolishing War (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1998).

3 Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans. Charles Arand, et al (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), CA XVI:1-2 (BC, 49).

4 I have been served by Duane Cady’s analyses regarding the distinction between war realism and just war tradition and also regarding the varieties of pacifism. See his From Warism to Pacifism: A Moral Continuum (Philadelphia: Temple Universithy Press, 1989). On the basic assumptions behind war realism also see Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (New York: Basic Books, 1977), pp. 3-33.

5 See John A. Moss, “Bonhoeffer’s Germany: The Political Context,” in The Cambridge Companion to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited by John de Gruchy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 5-9.

6 In Robert Phillips and Duane Cady, Humanitarian Intervention: Just War vs. Pacifism (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1996), pp. 32-33. For other expositions of the varieties of pacifism see John Howard Yoder, Nevertheless: The Varieties and Shortcomings of Religious Pacifism (Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1992); also Edward LeRoy Long, Jr., War and Conscience in America (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1968).

7 James Turner Johnson, Just War Tradition and the Restraint of War: A Moral and Historical Inquiry (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981), p. xxi.

8 As a working hypothesis I accept Alasdair MacIntyre’s description of tradition as “historically extended, socially embodied argument” (After Virtue, 2nd ed. (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 221-223).

9 For a good exposition of Augustine’s thinking on just war see Lisa Sowle Cahill, Love Your Enemies: Discipleship, Pacifism, and Just War Theory (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994), pp. 55-80.

10 For a theological exposition of Article XVI see, Gary M. Simpson, “Toward a Lutheran ‘Delight in the Law of the Lord’: Church and State in the Context of Civil Society,” in Church and State: Lutheran Perspectives, eds. John Stumme and Robert Tuttle (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003).

11 For Franciscus de Victoria, De Indis et De Jure Belli Relectiones, ed. By Ernest Nys (Washington: Carnegie Institute, 1917) see: For Vitoria’s argument against holy war-crusade see: Johnson’s exposition of Vitoria is quite helpful (op. cit. pp. 94-103.

12 Johnson, pp. 172-189.

13 Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (New York : Basic Books, 1977).

14 I have basically followed the listing of criteria in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986), s.v. “Just War,” by James Turner Johnson. About the variety of ways to list criteria the renowned Christian pacifist John Howard Yoder has stated: “Years ago I randomly surveyed twenty-five lists offered by authors, each of whom assumed that he was describing the general consensus. Yet the lists differed significantly as to how the criteria were stated, how many there were, what exceptions and conditions they were qualified by, and what to do if they were not met. . . . [T]here is no standard statement of just-war criteria by any ecclesiastical authority.” See John Howard Yoder, When War Is Unjust (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001), p. 2.

15 For a marvelous look at the justice tradition at the time of the Reformation, see Carter Lindberg, Beyond Charity: Reformation Initiatives for the Poor (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993).

16 Vaclav Havel, Living in Truth (London: Faber & Faber, 1990), pp. 136-157.

17 For my understanding of Lutheranism’s critical participationist predilection see Simpson, op. cit

18 Division for Global Mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, “Global Mission in the Twenty-first Century: A Vision of Evangelical Faithfulness in God’s Mission,” 5, found at The late Rev. Will Herzfeld was one of the persons who helped formulate this new paradigm. He was a mentor of mine when we were pastors together in Oakland, Calif. I learned much from him.

19 Michael Walzer, Interpretation and Social Criticism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987).

20 For a fuller rendition of this sociological map see Gary Simpson, Critical Social Theory: Prophetic Reason, Civil Society, and Christian Imagination (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), pp. 101-145.

21 See Stassen, op. cit.

Gary M. Simpson

Gary M. Simpson is Professor of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota.