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.

We affirm:

  • 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 tobias.winright@slu.edu; 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