Moral Health #1

Conscience Before War; Moral Formation

  • War is a social moral construct– no indefinites, absolutes, or certainties.
    • It is notessential to human nature (if it were, why would it cause stress or guilt, especially if executed with social sanction?)
      • Biblical: our story begins in Genesis 1, not 4
      • Secular: SLA Marshall & Dave Grossman (see bibliography), but also anthropological studies’ claims that martial ‘posturing’ far outnumbering actual blood-n-guts fighting in ancient cultures
    • Movies, advertising, video games, etc. are reducing the “moral” value in favor of entertainment value.
      • We receive behavioral cues not just from our parents, but our entire community and it’s language, patterns, mannerisms, etc.
        • Heck, we can quote more lines from war movies than we can from the Apostles Creed!
      • Example of the competing claims on our martial imaginations: John Wayne versus Jimmy Stewart
  • Moral formation is done w/in the context of a community
    • A community goes to war, not just an individual. Therefore, a community (ecclesial or national) must form itself justly in order to conduct just wars  (Dan Bell);
      • Jus ad bellum criteria prohibit self-interest and prevent self-incrimination. Taken seriously, they restrain the passions and reinforce the virtues, both individually and societally
    • It is not “me” fighting, it is “us” for a common purpose, a clear cause (Marlantes, p.56). i.e., we (the nation) don’t say “you” (as in our soldiers) versus “them,” we say “us versus them.” Communities must own the “us” in that statement, not just for honesty’s sake, but for the moral health of those who need to subsume their justifiable actions into the collective will.
    • How do communities form individuals; What is the difference between a ‘pacifist’ congregation and a ‘patriot’ congregation, and what are the strengths and weaknesses to each?
  • Vows and oaths (Creeds, doctrines, statements of faith, etc.) bind us to communities
    • Vows as binding, like Abraham bound Isaac
    • Wilfred Owen; “The Parable of the Old Man and the Young.”
      • What is our Mt. Moriah; the place that binds us to militarism/nationalism? The family? MEPS? The pulpit?
    • How do vows act on our conscience? On our identity? (Tick, p.270), How do they make us feel guilt or fulfillment?
      • They create a debt to a community that binds both parties (the individual AND the community)

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