Sunday 8 Jan 2012

Is There Just War?

Chalice Lighting

We set this time apart to commemorate those who have fought for us
Those whose sacrifices have helped to create the reality we live today
In their honour…

May this kindled chalice be a flame of remembrance –
A tribute to all that they have given

May this chalice be a beacon light –
Leading us in the sacred work of spreading justice and freedom.

And may this chalice blaze forth with the sweet glow of love –
The only true path to peace.

Rev. Andy Pakula

UU Principles

Joys and Concerns


Whoever gives even moderate attention to human affairs and to our common nature, will recognize that if there is no man who does not wish to be joyful, neither is there any one who does not wish to have peace. For even they who make war desire nothing but victory — desire, that is to say, to attain to peace with glory. For what else is victory than the conquest of those who resist us? And when this is done there is peace. It is therefore with the desire for peace that wars are waged, even by those who take pleasure in exercising their warlike nature in command and battle. And hence it is obvious that peace is the end sought for by war.

St. Augustine of Hippo. “The City of God,” Trans. by Marcus Dodds, D.D. In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series One, Volume 2. Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. American Edition, 1887. (Chapter 12)






When, if ever, is the use of military force morally justifiable? How should Unitarian Universalists respond to this question in light of our theological principles, our historic practices, and the world situation today? These questions lie at the heart of the UUA Congregational Study/Action Issue for 2006–2010 on Peacemaking (SAI).  The SAI puts the question this way: Should the Unitarian Universalist Association reject the use of any and all kinds of violence and war to resolve disputes between peoples and nations and adopt a principle of seeking just peace through nonviolent means?

To move “beyond just war and pacifism” is not to abandon either tradition; it is rather to recognize that both perform important roles in our ongoing efforts to reduce the violence of war.  As James Childress has observed:

Just-war theorists need pacifists to remind them of their common starting point: the moral presumption against force and war. And pacifists need just-war theorists to provide a public framework for debates about particular wars and for the restraint of the practice of war.


Creating Peace

2010 Statement of Conscience

We believe all people share a moral responsibility to create peace. Mindful of both our rich heritage and our past failures to prevent war, and enriched by our present diversity of experience and perspective, we commit ourselves to a radically inclusive and transformative approach to peace.

  1. Our commitment to creating peace calls us to the work of peacebuilding, peacemaking, and peacekeeping. Peacebuilding is the creation and support of institutions and structures that address the roots of conflict, including economic exploitation, political marginalization, the violation of human rights, and a lack of accountability to law. Peacemaking is the negotiation of equitable and sustainable peace agreements, mediation between hostile parties, and post-conflict rebuilding and reconciliation. Peacekeeping is early intervention to prevent war, stop genocide, and monitor ceasefires. Peacekeeping creates the space for diplomatic efforts, humanitarian aid, and nonviolent conflict prevention through the protection of civilians and the disarmament and separation of those involved in violent conflict.
  1. We advocate a culture of peace through a transformation of public policies, religious consciousness, and individual lifestyles. At the heart of this transformation is the readiness to honor the truths of multiple voices from a theology of covenant grounded in love.
  2. We all agree that our initial response to conflict should be the use of nonviolent methods. Yet, we bear witness to the right of individuals and nations to defend themselves, and acknowledge our responsibility to be in solidarity with others in countering aggression. Many of us believe force is sometimes necessary as a last resort, while others of us believe in the consistent practice of nonviolence.
  3. We repudiate aggressive and preventive wars, the disproportionate use of force, covert wars, and targeting that includes a high risk to civilians. We support international efforts to curtail the vast world trade in armaments and call for nuclear disarmament and abolition of other weapons of mass destruction. We repudiate unilateral interventions and extended military occupations as dangerous new forms of imperialism. In an interdependent world, true peace requires the cooperation of all nations and peoples.
  4. For Unitarian Universalists, the exercise of individual conscience is holy work. Conscientious discernment leads us to engage in the creation of peace in different ways. We affirm a range of individual choices, including military service and conscientious objection (whether to all wars or particular wars), as fully compatible with Unitarian Universalism. For those among us who make a formal commitment to military service, we will honor their commitment, welcome them home, and offer pastoral support. For those among us who make a formal commitment as conscientious objectors, we will offer documented certification, honor their commitment, and offer pastoral support.
  5. Our faith calls us to create peace, yet we confess that we have not done all we could to prevent the spread of armed conflict throughout the world. At times we have lacked the courage to speak and act against violence and injustice; at times we have lacked the creativity to speak and act in constructive ways; at times we have condemned the violence of others without acknowledging our own complicity in violence. We affirm a responsibility to speak truth to power, especially when unjust power is exercised by our own nation. Too often we have allowed our disagreements to distract us from all that we can do together. This Statement of Conscience challenges individual Unitarian Universalists, as well as our congregations and Association, to engage with more depth, persistence, and creativity in the complex task of creating peace

“Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Toward a Unitarian Universalist Theology of Prophetic Nonviolence” Paul Rasor



Where Have All the Flowers Gone


Remembering our spiritual, courageous ancestors who forsook oppression with security to gain freedom with opportunity — may we go forth to master ourselves by accepting duty with responsibility, by showing balance in our judgments and by having breadth of vision in our deliberations. May we be exemplars of that spirit, moving forward with conviction and commitment, with unity without uniformity, with brotherhood and sisterhood to serve the truth that sets us free. Amen

Service leader
George Sprowls