Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Mercer Ethicist Dave Gushee on U.S. Evangelicals in Politics

David P. Gushee is a friend of mine who is somewhat more conservative than I am theologically and politically–but not in any extreme sense. We are almost the same age (I’m slightly younger) and Dave is, like me, a former student of Glen Stassen.  Dave then did a Ph.D. at Union Theological Seminary under Larry Rasmussen, a Lutheran expert on Reinhold Niebuhr and Dietrich Bonhoeffer–as well as ecological ethics and the role of Scripture in Ethics.  Dave tried to work with the fundamentalist Mohler administration at post-takeover SBTS before needing to leave for several years at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.  Now, he has recently joined the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University– a context in which I am sure he’ll thrive.

Dave shares my commitment to gender equality, but does not share my views on GLBT inclusion. (I’ll keep working on him.) He shares my strong commitment to Jewish-Christian dialogue and is beginning to add Christian-Muslim dialogue to that. He is deeply committed to a 2-state solution in Palestine-Israel for Middle East peace although I sometimes think he is too trusting of the Israeli government’s view of things. But Dave is definitely NOT one of those knee-jerk evangelicals who think the gov. of Israel can do no wrong and who support wiping out Palestinians or permanent occupation of the territories.

Dave is a Just War Theorist, unfortunately, but he is an honest and strict JWTer who opposed the Iraq war and opposes the Bush doctrine of preemption.

Dave is deeply committed to human rights, and started Evangelicals for Human Rights to work on abolitioning torture, beginning with the U.S. 

Dave and I mostly agree on church-state matters, although I think I am slightly more of a separationist than he is.  But in a very important article in USA Today, Dave takes most U.S. evangelicals to task for the way they have turned the majority of U.S. evangelicalism into a religious wing of the Republican Party–something that should not be done with ANY Party or ideology.  Read Dave and show this to other U.S. evangelicals.  It’s that important. The integrity of the church in these United States is at stake.

January 14, 2008 - Posted by | Baptists, church-state separation, citizenship, evangelicals, U.S. politics


  1. What does it mean to be a “strict” just war theorist?

    Comment by DON | January 17, 2008

  2. Don, good question. Many Christians in the U.S. call themselves Just War Theorists, but really just approve of whatever wars the U.S. wants to fight. By calling my friend, Dave Gushee, a “strict” JWTer, I am removing him from this category.

    Even apart from the nationalistic tendencies of agreeing with whatever the govt. wants to do, JWTers do seem to be divided into roughly two groups: 1) Those who assume that war is natural and normal and that most wars will meet JWT standards and 2) Those who assume that war is a major evil, to be justified only when other evils or threats are far worse and when all other means of addressing that evil have been tried and failed. The latter, of whom Dave is one, I call “strict Just War Theorists.” They are not pacifists like myself, but they assume that the burden of proof is always on the one wanting to go to war–and that the principles of JWT (both those for deciding whether or not to go to war and those governing how war is to be waged) must be adhered to strictly–deviations are crimes to be prosecuted.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 18, 2008

  3. thanks. I see elsewhere that Gushee supported (still supports) military force in Afghanstan. but not in Iraq. Which seems to mean that even for a strict just JWter military action in Afganastan is a just war. (but not Iraq)

    Interesting? Do you agree with Gushee that a strict jwter should conclude that Afghanastan was (is) a just war?

    Comment by DON | January 18, 2008

  4. I think the JWT case for Afghanistan is much stronger than for Iraq–which is why NATO troops would volunteer for Afghanistan, but not Iraq. Afghanistan isn’t really a war, but nor is it an occupation. It is an exercise in nation building in which the current government–the first democratically elected government in some time–needs help in providing security, training police and military while disarming warlords and preventing a return of the Taliban. That’s the NATO mission and the U.S. troops with NATO are adhering to that mission.

    Some military resisters to Iraq, believing it to be an unjust and illegal war/occupation, have begged to be sent to Afghanistan or Kosovo, instead.

    Meanwhile, the Afghan government has also allowed the U.S. to have another force in Afghanistan whose purpose is to hunt al Qaeda. This mission falls more in line with JWT since al Qaeda attacked the U.S. One can question whether or not military force is the most moral or the most effective way to fight terrorism (as I do–see posts under that category), but a military element in fighting terrorism would fall under traditional JWT without much problem. So, for instance, if the U.S. were to withdraw everything from Iraq, but keep a strike force in Kuwait to go after al Qaeda groups in Iraq, especially if this had the okay of the Iraqi government, few JWTers would have much problem with that.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | January 18, 2008

  5. Boy, am I confused. The US and NATO forces who seem to be killing people in Afghanstan sure seem to think it is a war. The Taliban and Al Qaeda seem to think it is a war. I would even think that Gushee thinks it is a war. But Michael, you tell us it is not a war. But if it is not a war, then how could it have anything to do with being a just WAR?

    In any case, you tell us that you are opposed to military action in Afghanastan even if it is a just war. That would seem to imply that if the Taliban and Al Qaeda were to return with all the evil oppression, that would still be morally preferable from your viewpoint to ever using military force (and killing people) to prevent it. Is this what you believe?

    Comment by anon | January 19, 2008

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