Responding to the growing nuclear threat from North Korea, President Donald Trump’s administration has consistently failed to rule out a US first strike option as a form of preventive war. Although this approach was threatened by President Bill Clinton’s administration as the so-called ‘Osirak option’ against North Korea in 1994, and again included as part of the ‘Bush Doctrine’ under President George W. Bush’s administration concerning the alleged threat posed by Iraq in 2003, preventive war was and continues to be a major departure from international legal norms as well as Christian ethics. According to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, “Therefore, engaging in a preventive war without clear proof that an attack is imminent cannot fail to raise serious moral and juridical questions” (#591). The Christian Just War tradition distinguishes between a legitimate pre-emptive strike in response to an attack that is certain, grave and imminent, leaving no time to pursue other options, and an illegitimate preventive war inaugurated to eliminate an as yet inchoate threat. As followers of Jesus Christ and as ethicists representing a broad spectrum of denominational diversity within the Christian tradition, we declare our unanimous, principled opposition to any preventive war.
- The democratic right of all citizens to demand foreign policy decisions consistent with our national character and values.
- The long-standing objection to any ‘preventive’ war to eliminate a speculative, non-imminent, future threat.
- The moral imperative to prioritize just peace-making strategies, such that war or armed force is only ever accepted as a tragic last resort, where all other means have been shown to be impractical or ineffective and damage inflicted by an aggressor would be lasting, grave and certain.
- The need to weigh the great evils inevitably unleashed in war against the harms and injustices it is intended to address; this includes being mindful of the lives of military personnel and civilians in harm’s way, taking care not to discount the rights and humanity of vulnerable people in the region, whose lives are no less precious to God than those of threatened Americans.
We object to recent inflammatory rhetoric, which fails to communicate that the United States and its allies, whilst ready to defend ourselves and each other from attack, fundamentally desire peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.
We urge the Trump administration immediately to clarify that a preventive war initiated with a US first strike would be contrary to American values. Indeed, as Harry Truman emphatically stated in 1950: “We do not believe in aggression or preventive war. Such war is the weapon of dictators not of free democratic countries like the United States.”
Jesus taught us to love God, our neighbour and our enemies, pursuing peace and justice in the world. Therefore, as Christian ethicists and disciples of Christ:
We call upon Priests, Pastors and leaders of every Christian denomination to speak out against any further threats of a preventive war against North Korea. We respectfully invite fellow Christians to join us in resisting the acceptability and normalization of preventive war and committing ourselves to:
- Repent of our sins, where fear or self-interest have inclined us—individually or collectively—to unjust or aggressive behavior, discounting the value of co-bearers of the image of God.
- Rededicate our lives to Christ and His peaceable Kingdom, as we participate in democratic deliberation, holding our elected representatives to account for decisions made on our behalf.
- Celebrate and share our faith and values based on the love of God poured out for the whole human family, actively promoting peace and cross-cultural understanding in our relationships with others.
- Resolutely reject acts of aggression including preventive war, making clear our Christian opposition to threats of such action in the context of the present North Korea crisis.
- And vigorously campaign to ensure that any future war fought in our name respects international legal norms, Christian ethics and American values.
Signatures (to request that your signature be added, please email firstname.lastname@example.org; institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and not as an indication of their agreement or support; also, this post, as with all posts on this site, does not necessarily represent the views of all the bloggers at this site, but it does address an issue about which we frequently write):
1) Tobias Winright, Māder Endowed Associate Professor of Health Care Ethics & Associate Professor of Theological Ethics, Saint Louis University
2) Jackie Turvey Tait, Honorary Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Chester
3) MT Dávila, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Andover Newton Theological School
4) Anna Floerke Scheid, Associate Professor of Theology, Duquesne University
5) Matthew Shadle, Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, Marymount University
6) Jana M. Bennett, Associate Professor of Theological Ethics, University of Dayton
7) Grace Yia-Hei Kao, Associate Professor of Ethics, Claremont School of Theology
8) Kathryn Getek Soltis, Director, Center for Peace and Justice Education, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, Villanova University
9) Marcus Mescher, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, Xavier University
10) Jimmy McCarty, Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs and Adjunct Professor of Ethics, Seattle University
11) Peter R. Gathje, Professor of Christian Ethics, Memphis Theological Seminary
12) Andrew D. Walsh, Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Culver-Stockton College
13) David Cloutier, Associate Professor of Theology, The Catholic University of America
14) Terrence W. Tilley, Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Chair in Catholic Theology Emeritus, Fordham University
15) Daniel R. DiLeo, Assistant Professor and Director, Justice and Peace Studies Program, Creighton University
16) Dolores Christie, Ph.D., Executive Director (retired), Catholic Theological Society of America
17) David Hollenbach, S.J., Pedro Arrupe Distinguished Professor, Walsh School of Foreign Service, and Senior Fellow, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University
18) David O’Brien, Loyola Professor of Catholic Studies Emeritus, College of the Holy Cross
19) Mark J Allman, Professor of Religious and Theological Studies, Merrimack College
20) Anne M. Clifford, Ph.D., Msgr. James A. Supple Chair in Religious Studies, Iowa State University
21) Paulette Skiba, BVM, Professor of Religious Studies, Clarke University, Dubuque
22) Gerald J. Beyer, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Villanova University
23) Ron Pagnucco, Associate Professor, Department of Peace Studies, College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University
24) William J. Collinge, Professor Emeritus of Theology and Philosophy, Mount St. Mary’s University
25) Nancy Sylvester, IHM, Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue
26) William L. Portier, Mary Ann Spearin Chair of Catholic Theology, University of Dayton
27) Anthony J. Godzieba, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, Villanova University
28) Sandra Yocum, University Professor of Faith and Culture, University of Dayton
29) Christopher Pramuk, University Chair of Ignatian Thought and Imagination, Associate Professor of Theology, Regis University
30) Charles Strauss, Assistant Professor of History, Mount St. Mary’s University
31) Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College
32) Mary Hines, Emmanuel College
33) Andrew Staron, Assistant Professor of Theology, Wheeling Jesuit University
34) Peter L. Jones, Assistant Professor, Institute of Pastoral Studies, Loyola University Chicago
35) Teresa Delgado, Associate Professor and Chairperson, Religious Studies, Iona College
36) Scott Paeth, Professor of Religious Studies, DePaul University
37) Gerald W. Schlabach, Professor of Theology, University of St. Thomas (MN)
38) Bruce T. Morrill, S.J., Edward A. Malloy Professor of Catholic Studies, Vanderbilt University
39) Maria Russell Kenney, PhD, adjunct professor of Christian Ethics, Asbury Theological Seminary
40) Daniel Scheid, Associate Professor of Theology, Duquesne University
41) Karen Peterson-Iyer, Ph.D., Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, Santa Clara University
42) Nancy M. Rourke, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies & Theology, Canisius College
43) Sandra Sullivan-Dunbar, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Loyola University Chicago
44) Kathryn D. Blanchard, Professor of Religious Studies, Alma College
45) Rev. Dr. Gregory D. Voiles, Adjunct Instructor of Theology and Ministry, Trevecca Nazarene University
46) Mary Jo Iozzio, Professor of Theology, School of Theology and Ministry, Boston College
47) Laura M. Hartman, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
48) Christian T. Collins Winn, Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Bethel University
49) Charles Camosy, Associate Professsor of Theological and Social Ethics, Fordham University
50) Laura Stivers, Ph.D., Dean, School of Liberal Arts and Education, Dominican University of California
51) Susan A. Ross, Professor of Theology, Loyola University Chicago
52) The Rev Dr Allyne Lev Smith, St John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church, Des Moines, IA
53) Emily Reimer-Barry, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Diego
54) Christine Pae, Associate Professor of Religion/Ethics and Chair, Department of Religion, Denison University
55) Jason T. Eberl, Semler Endowed Chair for Medical Ethics and Professor of Philosophy, Marian University – Indianapolis
56) David C. Cramer, Ph.D., Adjunct Instructor, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary; Pastor, Keller Park Church, South Bend, Indiana
57) Mari Rapela Heidt, Ph.D., Independent Scholar, Wilmington, Delaware
58) James P. Bailey, Associate Professor, Department of Theology, Duquesne University
59) William George, Professor of Theology, Dominican University
60) Justin Barringer, PhD Student in Religious Ethics, Southern Methodist University
61) Elisabeth T. Vasko, Associate Professor of Theology, Duquesne University
62) Christopher Steck, SJ , Associate Professor, Georgetown University
63) Elizabeth W. Collier, PhD, Christopher Chair in Business Ethics, Professor of Business Ethics, Brennan School of Business, Dominican University
64) Myles Werntz, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics and Practical Theology, Logsdon Seminary, Hardin-Simmons University
65) Elena Procario-Foley, Ph.D., Br. John G. Driscoll Professor of Jewish-Catholic Studies, Iona College
66) William T. Cavanaugh, Professor of Catholic Studies, Director of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, DePaul University
67) Jon Nilson, Professor Emeritus of Theology, Loyola University Chicago
68) Patrick Lynch, S.J., Professor of Theology & Religious Studies, Canisius College, Buffalo, NY
69) Craig A. Boyd, Professor of Philosophy, School for Professional Studies, Saint Louis University
70) Philip J. Rossi, SJ, Professor of Theology, Marquette University
71) Gloria H. Albrecht, Professor, Master of Community Development, University of Detroit Mercy
72) Paul Wadell, Professor of Theology & Religious Studies, St. Norbert College, De Pere, WI
73) Stephen E. Lammers, Helen HP Manson Professor Emeritus, Religious Studies, Lafayette College
74) Daniel Maguire, S.T.D., Professor, Marquette University
75) Matthew Tapie, Assistant Professor of Theology, Director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, Saint Leo University
76) Andy Alexis-Baker, Lecturer in Theology, Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago
77) Matthew Puffer, Assistant Professor of Humanities and Ethics, Valparaiso University
78) Brandon L. Morgan, Ph.D candidate, Baylor University, Department of Religion
79) Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom, Professor of Theology & Ethics, North Park Theological Seminary
80) Jessica Wrobleski, Associate Professor of Theology, Wheeling Jesuit University
81) Mikael Broadway, Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics, Shaw University Divinity School
82) Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Christian Ethics Emeritus, Duke University
83) Christina Astorga, Professor and Chair, University of Portland
84) J. Milburn Thompson, Professor Emeritus of Theology, Bellarmine University
85) Laura Alexander, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of Nebraska Omaha
86) Judith A. Merkle, Professor of Christian Ethics, Niagara University, NY
87) William O’Neill, S.J., Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
88) Gerard F. Powers, Director, Catholic Peacebuilding Studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Keough School of Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame
89) Christopher D. Jones, Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics, Barry University
90) Ellen Ott Marshall, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics and Conflict Transformation, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
91) Michael G. Lawler, Amelia and Emil Graff Professor Emeritus of Catholic Theology, Creighton University
92) Alex Mikulich, Catholic Social Ethicist, New Orleans
93) Tisha Rajendra, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Loyola University Chicago
94) The Rev. Philip LeMasters, Ph.D., Professor of Religion, McMurry University
95) Barry Harvey, Professor of Theology, Baylor University
96) Richard D. Crane, Associate Professor of Theology, Messiah College
97) Paul Lewis, Professor of Religion, College of Liberal Arts, Mercer University
98) Brian Stiltner, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, Sacred Heart University
99) Raymond R. Roberts, Ph.D. ; Pastor, River Road Presbyterian Church, Richmond, VA
100) Stephen Okey, Assistant Professor of Theology, Saint Leo University
101) Cameron H. J. Jorgenson, Associate Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics, Campbell University Divinity School
102) Nichole Flores, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
103) Rev. Christian Iosso, Ph.D., Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
104) Steven R. Harmon, Associate Professor of Historical Theology, Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity, Boiling Springs, North Carolina
105) Amy L Chilton, Adjunct Associate Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and Azusa Pacific University
106) Hille Haker, Richard McCormick Endowed Chair of Catholic Moral Theology, Loyola University Chicago
107) William A. Barbieri, Associate Professor of Ethics, Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Program, Catholic University of America
108) Michael Baxter, Term Professor, Religious Studies / Catholic Studies, Regis University
109) Rev. John J. Slovikovski, Ph.D., Part-time Theology Faculty, Saint Francis University, Loretto, PA
110) Ed Gaffney, Professor Emeritus of International Law & Use of Force, Valparaiso University
111) Elizabeth Sweeny Block, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, Saint Louis University
112) Andrew Staron, Assistant Professor of Theology, Wheeling Jesuit University
113) Dawn M. Nothwehr, OSF, Ph.D., The Erica and Harry John Family Endowed Chair in Catholic Theological Ethics, Catholic Theological Union
These are fine and noble sentiments, but I hope the above are ready for what is most likely going to happen next.
North Korea is a Chinese proxy. The Chinese want the U.S. out of Asia, and are using North Korea to safely present us with a reality that will undermine our alliances in the region.
Once North Korea has convinced the American people that it can credibly strike our homeland, it will begin moving against South Korea. Remember, it has been the bottom line goal of that regime to unify the Korean peninsula under their rule since the 1950’s.
No American president is going to risk a dozen American cities, and their political career, to protect a small far away nation that most Americans can’t find on a map. So South Korea will in one way or another have to submit to North Korea or face the full fury of the North’s awesome arsenal on it’s own.
Once that happens all of America’s allies in Asia will realize that we can’t be counted on to defend them, which is true, and they will fall in to the Chinese orbit. And let us remember, China is the largest dictatorship in the history of the world.
You’re likely waiting for me to try to justify pre-emptive war. I’m not going to do so. This is just a wake up call reality check. We’re headed towards war or surrender in Asia, and a couple billion people’s future hangs in the balance.