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A Religious Wake-Up Call in the Matter of Drones


As a person of faith, in my case, of Christian faith, I am puzzled by the weak opposition, among our fellow citizens who are persons of faith, to the use of drones in Pakistan and other countries to implement American foreign policy.

What's wrong with drones, from a religious perspective?

For me, this has to mean, what's wrong with them from a Christian perspective.

Well, at least two things are wrong with them: They violate what can be called the "maximum" position of Christianity. The maximum position of Christianity is opposition to all wars and violence in favor of peace and non-violence.

"Thou shalt do no murder" is not a principle, in this maximum form of Christian ethics that admits exceptions. Drones are not only an instrument of war, which Christianity's founder explicitly opposed; but they are an instrument of pro-active war. You get your enemy before he can get you!

"Put away your sword" is something Jesus said to his followers in the Garden of

Gethsemane, when he was literally surrounded by weapons. Later that night, when he was hit on the face, he refused to hit back. He didn't even answer back.

Historically, this maximum position of Christianity has been held by the Quakers, the Mennonites, and certain courageous pacifists such as The Rev. Dick Sheppard and Vera Brittain. But drones are worse, because drones go against what could be called the "minimum" position of Christianity. The minimum position of Christianity is summed up in a concept known as "Just War Theory".

"Just War Theory" was developed, first, in the Fourth and Fifth Century A.D. by St. Augustine, a North African Christian, and later, during the Thirteenth Century, by Thomas Aquinas. "Just War Theory" was an attempt to ease the consciences of Christian princes and professional soldiers who were Christians, who instinctively realized that Christ Himself had not blessed war in any form. So St. Augustine, and later Thomas Aquinas, tried to come up with a rationalization for war in some cases.

Thus for example, if you went to war purely as a defensive response and with the idea that you would cease fighting the very moment the enemy had pulled back, that could be justified under "Just War Theory".

Or, if you could demonstrate "imminent threat" -- if you actually had definite information as to when and where an enemy was preparing to attack you, and only on your own land -- then you could justify trying to stop that enemy.

Or, if you could show that your defensive response was precisely in proportion to the attack you were getting -- and which you had done nothing to deserve -- and that you were not using weapons "disproportionate" to the weapons they had, then you could justify a military response.

In the latter case, your response had to be no stronger than whatever attack had provoked your response. You also, according to "Just War Theory", had to prove, before the forum of Christian opinion, usually represented by the Roman

Catholic Church, that your methods of fighting were "humane". Being humane did not just mean avoiding civilian casualties. Being humane meant treating your enemy, no matter how you might hate them in the heat of the moment, as human beings. You could not objectify your enemies as "The Bad Guys", even if you legitimately resisted them for a limited period.

Our country's use of drones in Pakistan and in the continuing undeclared "war against terrorism" fails the test of Christian ethics on every side. It fails the "maximum" test of Christian ethics, and it fails the "minimum" test. You don't have to be a pacifist to see this.