There has never been a good war. Not even World War II. All wars are bad. Lives lost, property destroyed, dreams shattered – nothing is worth that. War is a rich man’s trick. War only benefits the rich and powerful who use it as a means of establishing more dominance over the common people. No poor person ever started a war or truly benefited from one.
But what if one country invades another? Do people have the right to defend themselves against attack?
And not only the RIGHT but also the DUTY to defend.
Do I contradict myself?
I think the real issue is in HOW do you defend yourself and fight back – and what, exactly, are you defending.
I advocate for Civil Disobedience. This applies not only to foreign invasion, but domestic abuse by our own leaders.
The path is to stand by your principles (assuming you have any) and resist your oppressors – not through armed conflict, but by simple refusal to submit.
There are two basic outcomes in war or invasion – either your tax dollars and tribute is just redirected to a different master; or, the personal freedom you use to have is totally taken away making you a slave to your new master.
The second outcome is more serious. The method of Civil Disobedience works best in this situation. Gandhi used it very effectively in overthrowing British Imperialism in India and giving his people an independent voice. The method itself goes back much further than Gandhi or even Henry David Thoreau who wrote the essay that empowered Gandhi.
During some periods of the Roman empire, the rulers sought dominance over various populations. They weren’t just raising taxes, they were trying to ensure that taxes would continue to accrue, unhindered. They made, what appeared to be, mild demands on people, buy enforced those demands with the sword.
A specific example is this: the emperors declared that all religions would be permitted (except ones that practiced human sacrifice, cannibalisms, or other such rituals) as long as each person also paid homage to the Roman State religion – specifically honoring the emperor.
In other words, like modern political leaders, they said everyone could express themselves freely as long as they obeyed the will of the leader without question. They were free to do what they wanted as long as what they wanted was agreeable to the State.
Well, honoring the emperor was a fairly simple process in most cases. It involved something as easy as appearing at the local temple, putting a pinch of incense in the fire in honor of the emperor and then receiving a certificate confirming that you did what was required. (Again, sounds familiar)
Most people complied – including people who claimed to be monotheists. Because compliance meant you could keep you job, keep your money, keep your property, keep you freedom to move around, etc.
What were the penalties for NOT complying? Besides losing your livelihood you would be confronted by authorities and told to comply, if you refused, you’d be arrested and told to comply, if you still refused, you’d be imprisoned, and then tortured and then, finally, for those who continued to resist, you’d be killed – often horribly by being thrown into an arena and torn apart by wild animals for the amusement of the mobs who obeyed the mandates.
Things have changed a little since those times, but not much.
Some Christians, with solid principles, convictions and faith, refused to comply. They resisted to the end.
How did they fight back?
Did they take up arms to kill others?
Did they riot through the streets?
Did they burn down buildings, beat people up, loot stores, block the streets, threaten the lives of the emperor and local authorities?
They simple did not comply with the dictates and accepted the consequences. They even prayed for the health of their persecutors.
Yes, they suffered horribly for their convictions, but eventually, other powerful people, with more wisdom and good sense, stopped the evil practices and changed society.
2000 years later, many of the martyrs of that time are still remembered. Their names are recited in Church services around the world. Their sacrifices that changed the world are honored.
What about the soldiers, local authorities, and emperors who persecuted the martyrs? They are pretty much all forgotten – buried in the garbage heaps of history. The few who are remembered are classed as monsters and psychopaths.
The Roman empire itself collapsed while Christianity became dominate.
People die in wars all the time, innocent people, mostly. But the martyrs who fight the good fight – without resorting to violence, themselves – win a great, moral victory.
Is this a path for everyone, in every instance? No. This is a narrow path for the most courageous people. A path not to be taken up lightly.
Even in modern conflicts between nations or when confronted by violent individuals, those on a spiritual path are not fighting merely flesh and blood opponents, but spiritual forces as well.
If you have principles and faith, then stand firm in your convictions. The war never ends, but the violence within ourselves can be stopped.