“Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast,
And each will wrestle for the mastery there.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust
“History is much more the product of chaos than of conspiracy.”
As people of faith we learn to be bi-focal.
We look through the eyes of secular newsflashes,
and we look through the eyes of spiritual and theological discernment.”
Bishop Gavin Ashenden
Anytime a Western coalition is mounted against “the bad guys”…whomever
those bad guys may currently be…more and more questions abound…
more questions than there may be answers.
Maybe it’s because I grew up during the Vietnam war.
A horrific conflict and war where thousands were killed, maimed, scarred and lost…
leaving no clear win or victor.
The bad guys were still bad and we were left limping back home…
home to a Nation now divided…and still dividing as we speak.
For Christians, the notion of war is a tough call.
The Koran makes no bones about the allowance for war and killing.
Our faith, on the other hand, admonishes those who opt not to turn the other cheek
or refuse to offer the shirt when the tunic is first taken.
For the Believer there is an inner turmoil…a conflict of both faith and righteous indignation.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pacifist German theologian, lived this turmoil.
It also lead him to the gallows.
A walk he took decidedly confident because he knew his faith secure.
He looked to the words and teachings of St Thomas Aquinas when he agreed to be a part of
an assassination attempt against Adolph Hitler.
The moral issue here is that of tyrannicide…
the killing of a tyrant, and specifically, the killing of a tyrant by a private
person for the common good.
Technically, there are two classes of tyrants: a tyrant by usurpation
(tyrannus in titulo), a ruler who has illegitimately seized power;
and a tyrant by oppression (tyrannus in regimine),
a ruler who wields power unjustly, oppressively, and arbitrarily.
The key conditions for a justifiable act of tyrannicide in this case include
that the killing be necessary to end the usurpation and restore legitimate authority;
that there is no higher authority available that is able and willing to depose the usurper;
and that there is no probability that the tyrannicide will result in even greater evil
than allowing the usurper to remain in power.
However, if the tyrant by oppression attacks the citizen,
jeopardizes the welfare of the community with the intent leading
it to destruction or killing the citizens, or commits other evils,
then a private citizen can morally commit an act
of justifiable tyrannicide.
Moreover, if because of the tyrant’s rule, a nation cannot defend itself,
is on the course of destruction, and has no lawful means to depose or to condemn the tyrant,
then a citizen may commit an act of justifiable tyrannicide.
Interestingly, many modern political philosophers would posit that a leader who abuses
power and has become tyrannical ipso facto loses legitimacy and becomes a usurper.
(Catholic Resource Education Center / Fr William Saunders)
(see the previous post:
And so it is with interest that I’ve read a couple of the most recent posts by our friend
Bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding his feelings and thoughts about the coalition attack
The necessity, the truth, the need, the deception, the compassion, the empathy,
the indignation is each woven into the fabric of our confliction as human beings.
The conflict between right and wrong, defending the undefended, the truth versus
that which is right versus that which is wrong,
the need for freedom versus the oppression of tyranny…
What are our roles, our responsibilities, our culpability…
The good Bishop offers one more perspective, one more layer to the fabric we
Christians continue to weave…
Do I agree with his doubts, his concerns, his pointed questions?
I think his questions lead us all to a place of asking even more questions.
Yet the real question found in the Bishop’s concern is simply leading us back to wondering
where the real true answers rest…
So Syria has been much in the news.
But to the community of faith, Syria is not just a place.
It is both a birthplace, and an end-place.
Theologically, for Christians it is the birth place of the Church.
It is the place where in Antioch, we first became known as Christians (Acts 11.26);
for Muslims the place at the end of time, the apocalypse.
This dual identity lies at the heart of the present secular conflict and how we understand it.
And yet, it is clear in geo-political terms that what is taking place in Syria
is a proxy war fought over future energy sources and types of Islamic hegemony
between Iran on one side and Saudi Arabia on the other.
The opposition to Assad was not a plea for regime change by democratic Syrians,
but an attempt to remove a non-Muslim ruler and replace him with a Muslim regime by
Saudi backed terrorist groups.
Twice now chemical attacks have been attributed to the Assad regime with the
immediate effect of inducing in the West a moral indignation that led to a call
for bombing the Assad regime.
But though the video footage was provocatively emotive, the hard evidence that laid a trail
back to Assad was always just missing.
Syria and the Western Christian conscience.