Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Religious Purity Tests Not Working So Well For Christian Conservatives

Erick Erickson just doesn't know which Jesus Jerry Falwell, Jr. is worshiping.

Over at Ted Cruz's new campaign site, I mean, Erick Erickson's new website, The Resurgent, Erickson expressed his concern that Falwell just hasn't thought through how to reconcile his faith with his politics like Erickson has.

He doesn't like that Falwell said of Trump, "Look at the fruits of his life and…people he’s provided jobs…that’s the true test of somebody’s Christianity." After clarifying that he's not questioning Trump's faith Erickson adds, "What I do question is whether Jerry Falwell is so intent on finding a savior for America that he’s descended to worshiping flag waving, America Jesus and not the actual Jesus who carries a banner for truth, not for the Grand Old Party or even America."

I don't care for Falwell's "true test" either. And I have problem with "America Jesus." But I also have a problem with the double standards Christian conservatives are applying when it comes to their religious purity tests for presidential candidates.

Erickson praying with Cruz. Credit: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez.
Erick Erickson's guy, Ted Cruz, just made a severe theological faux pas in New Hampshire yesterday. According to The Dallas Morning News,
At every point on his tour, Cruz asked voters to pray for him and the country, using one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite Bible verses, 2 Chronicles 7:14, as inspiration.

“If my people, which are called by my name, would humble themselves and pray, and seek my faith and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear their prayers and will forgive their sins and I will heal their land,” he said.
So Ted Cruz just equated biblical Israel with America.* Talk about a flag-waving America Jesus! When you're working more and more in your own life to make sure you're worshiping the actual Jesus and not a political Jesus you concern yourself with questions like, "Who is 'my people' in this verse?" "What is 'their land'?" If the answer is "Americans" and "the United States" its time to put in a little more work. I hope Erickson isn't "upping his skirt" just a bit more for Ted Cruz. If America Jesus is no good for Donald Trump, its no good for Ted Cruz either.

Russell Moore of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Comission (ERLC) continues to be highly disturbed by the candidacy of Donald Trump. Trump is twice-divorced. He "destroys families" with his casinos. Unlike Erickson who wanted to be explicitly clear that he was not questioning Trump's faith, Moore knows that Trump is "lost."
Portraying this lost soul as a brother in Christ is not only doing wrong to Trump himself, it preaches an anti-gospel to all who hear.
However, Dr. Moore is no stranger to lowering this theological standards when it suits him. During the 2012 presidential election, Moore explained why it was acceptable for evangelicals for vote for Mitt Romney, a Mormon. Moore said,
The question is not John 3:16 in terms of reading the regeneration of the person's heart. The question is Romans 13: Does this person have the kind of wisdom to bear the sword on behalf of God's authority that He has granted to the state? And can I trust that person to protect society? That's the fundamental question.
Apparently things have changed a bit since 2012. For Romney the "fundamental question" was wisdom in bearing the sword and assurance of protection. Now regeneration of the person's heart is back on the table and Moore knows Trump's heart is not regenerated.

In a panel discussion, Moore went on to make other declarations that would presumably apply, not only to Mitt Romney in 2012, but also to Donald Trump in 2016:
Moore added, "We are going to have to give up -- on both sides -- the idea of president as religious mascot." An Obama-Romney campaign, Moore said, is a "good thing for American evangelicals."
"It enables us to simultaneously honor the king," he said, alluding to 1 Peter 2:17, "and to boldly proclaim the Gospel -- in a way that we see happening all through the Book of Acts. We are able to love and pray for President Obama while we disagree with him on life and religious liberty and marriage and some really important things. ...
"And if a President Romney is elected, we're the people who ought to be able to say, 'We respect and honor this man as president. We're able to ... serve with this man as president, and we're the people who are willing to -- if we're invited into the Oval Office -- say, 'President Romney, here's where we agree with you; here's what we like about what you're doing. And we sincerely want to plead with you to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ." 
Is the President to be a religious mascot now four years later? What has changed? If Trump is a "lost soul," can't Moore serve with this man as president, tell him where he agrees with him, and then sincerely plead with him to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Moore is rightfully very concerned about religious liberty. "What will matter to evangelicals [in 2016] is how the candidate, if elected president, will articulate and defend religious-liberty rights." Trump addressed the matter with the Iowa Faith and Family Coalition: "'I will protect… because we’re not being protected,' Trump said, referencing Christians and religious liberty. He said his first priority if elected President of the United States would be to 'preserve and protect our religious liberty.'" First priority. Isn't that what Russell Moore wants?

It appears that Christian conservatives want to move the goal posts depending upon which players are out on the field. Are we simply looking for character? A defender of religious liberty? A wise leader to skillfully bear the sword? What's good for one election ought to be good for the next, or so one would think. What's good for Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz ought to be good for Donald Trump.

If we, as evangelicals, are supposed to look for people of character, perhaps we need to hear Erickson or Moore speak to the character of the leader who will carpet bomb enemies into oblivion until the sand glows, or of the intrepid executive who can eloquently describe civilians killed in the line of fire as "collateral damage." Does that speak to a candidate's character or is that merely worldly wisdom in bearing the sword and "protecting society"? The answer to that question, among others, would shed much light on the subject of flag-waving America Jesus versus the actual Jesus who carries a banner for peace and truth.

*To read more on the identity of biblical "Israel" see:
How I "Stand With Israel!"
Christians Love Them Some Israel! Why?
He Said What?! More on the Identity of "Israel"

This post originally appeared at the Libertarian Christian Institute.

Jeff Wright, Jr. is a Chaplain in a "city of lost souls" and holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from Dallas Theological Seminary. His other areas of interest include the kingdom of God, American evangelicalism, the ministry of the local church, and all things Star Wars. He blogs at JeffWrightJr.com and the Libertarian Christian Institute. You can also find him @jeffwrightjr and facebook.com/PursuingTruth.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

On White Privilege II

Race, Injustice, and the Single Garment of Destiny

Despite what Macklemore says, we honor people when we actually afford them the dignity of being responsible for their own successes and shortcomings. We dishonor people when we invent special rules for (socially and politically constructed) groups which lower expectations for them. Not only is it dishonoring, it is racist.

"Choosing our options," rather than being a privilege, is a reality for each individual. How degrading and harmful it is to imply to someone that they have no choice. Life never has been and never will be "fair." Each one of us makes choices from where we stand today.

As the 1%ers of the world, I suppose all Americans are blessed with privilege while the rest of the world is left with scars. As the privileged global 1%, what choices are you making that will determine what you achieve? But I'm gonna be me so please be who you are.

"Should I even be here marching?" "Is it okay for me to say?" Have we (are we "we"?) regressed to the point where these are serious questions?

He might not have been a hip-hop/pop artist but a decent lyricist from a previous era wrote,
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
Damn, a lot of opinions. A lot of confusion. It's almost as if this ground hasn't been tread before.

If we spent less time othering one another into ever-narrowing constructs and more time honoring the gains of previous generations we could skip already-answered questions and take action. What if you actually read an article, had a dialogue, looked at yourself, got involved? Psst, no one is stopping you. The narrow, provincial "outside agitator" question has already been answered.

Our generation has created an entire industry out of undermining the network of mutuality and tearing apart the single garment of destiny. We were all many steps ahead to begin with before we chose to undo progress by proudly segregating ourselves into narrow, provincial social constructs of victimhood. Now our artists are riddled with angst over whether they can speak out about injustices against another race.

Success is not the product of white supremacy and lack of success does not make one a victim. The dark clouds of racial prejudice will not soon pass away while so many are committed to deepening the fog of misunderstanding and locking us into, rather than lifting us from, our fear drenched communities.

Jeff Wright, Jr. is a Chaplain in a "city of lost souls" and holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from Dallas Theological Seminary. His other areas of interest include the kingdom of God, American evangelicalism, the ministry of the local church, and all things Star Wars. He also blogs at Libertarian Christian Institute. You can find him @jeffwrightjr.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Getting to the Root of ISIS and the Syrian Refugee Crisis

A Response to Russell Moore’s “Why Christians Must Speak Out Against Donald Trump’s Muslim Remarks”.

The least courageous act in American politics right now has got to be denouncing Donald Trump. Who hasn’t taken their turn explaining why Trump is supposed to be The Worst Person in the World™? President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore, weighed in with his “Me Too!” last week with the twist of positioning his denouncement as a defense of religious liberty. Moore doesn’t want the state to curtail the liberties of Muslims because then the state may infringe on the liberties of Christians next. He wants the state to provide security and order “but we must not trade soul freedom for an illusion of winning.”

I first have to give an obligatory statement since there are some who think that anything less than a full-throated attack on Trump must imply support for him: this post is not a defense of Trump or any of his pronouncements. I’m more interested in what religious leaders like Moore choose to spend their personal influence and political capital on.

In pronouncements like these, Moore seems to be at least partially motivated by his long-term project of giving the SBC a public relations makeover. We may be conservative Christians, but we’re not that kind of conservative Christian! I suppose denouncing Trump assists Moore in continuing to pivot away from the old Religious Right/Moral Majority movement with which the ERLC was associated under its predecessor, and towards a more Millennial-friendly form of engagement.

Another aside before I address my main concern, Mark Krikorian at National Review points out that under 8 USC §1182:
Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. Legality does not equate to morality. However, if Moore is concerned that Trump’s proposal is such a detriment to “soul freedom,” perhaps he should call for the repeal of this provision of the law.
One last aside: other candidates such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Rand Paul will likely call for some sort of temporary restriction on individuals coming from “high-risk” or “war-torn” regions – but not all Muslims. If those restricted regions are places like Syria, Iraq, Libya, etc., then such a measure would have the effect of banning law-abiding Muslims from entry into the United States. Will Dr. Moore also denounce these candidates, or will the rhetorical emphasis on “high-risk” rather than “Muslim” be enough to satisfy Dr. Moore’s concerns about religious liberty?

My main concern is that Dr. Moore is merely denouncing one particular possible solution to one particular consequence of a much larger catastrophe.

Why is there a Syrian refugee crisis? People are fleeing to Europe and America because ISIS is terrorizing the region and causing these individuals to escape and seek safe refuge. Why is ISIS doing this? According the 2014 statement of IraqRescue.org, A Plea on Behalf of Victims of ISIS/ISIL Barbarism in Iraq, a statement endorsed by Dr. Moore,
The so-called Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS/ISIL) is conducting a campaign of genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and others in Iraq. In its fanatical effort to establish a caliphate, ISIS/ISIL has engaged in crimes against humanity by deliberately causing mass starvation and dehydration, and by committing unconscionable acts of barbarism against noncombatants, including defenseless women, children, and elderly persons. 
So, ISIS wants to establish a caliphate, but why is this happening now? Why had we never heard of ISIS prior to the last couple of years? The statement from IraqRescue.org hints at the answer:
It is also worth bearing in mind that our own nation is not without responsibility for the plight of victims of ISIS/ISIL genocide. What is happening to these people now, and the further threats they face, would not be happening but for errors and failures of our nation’s own in Iraq. This can and should be acknowledged by all, despite disagreements we may have among ourselves as to precisely what these errors and failures were, and which political and military leaders are mainly responsible for them. The point is not to point fingers or apportion blame, but to recognize that justice as well as compassion demands that we take the steps necessary to end the ISIL/ISIS campaign of genocide and protect those who are its victims. 
The cited “errors and failures” occurred, obviously, during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent withdrawal in 2011. The authors of the statement acknowledge that the rise of ISIS can at least partially be attributed to U.S. intervention in Iraq. Why did the U.S. invade Iraq to begin with? Depending on who you ask, the answers range from “WMDs” to “blood for oil” to “9-11.” Generally speaking, the Americans who supported the war in Iraq were convinced of the importance of “hitting them over there before they hit us over here” despite whatever official reasons were cited for invading Iraq.

But why would “they” hit “us” over here? Why did al-Qaeda attack the United States on 9-11-2001? None of these events occurred in a vacuum. A common reason cited at the time, and is still believed today, is that the extremists “hate us for our freedoms.” They hate us for our western values. They won’t stop until Shariah law and a global caliphate are fully established worldwide. But American freedoms and western values have been established for centuries, so why would Islamic extremists choose that particular moment in history to strike?

A useful summary of known motives for 9-11 is noted on Wikipedia:
“In Osama Bin Laden’s November 2002 ‘Letter to America’, he explicitly stated that al-Qaeda’s motives for their attacks include: Western support for attacking Muslims in Somalia, supporting Russian atrocities against Muslims in Chechnya, supporting the Indian oppression against Muslims in Kashmir, the Jewish aggression against Muslims in Lebanon, the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, US support of Israel, and sanctions against Iraq.” [see page for various citations] 
One phrase arguably captures Bin Laden’s stated reasons for attack: America’s foreign intervention.

America was “hitting them over there” long before 9-11. The First Gulf War began in 1990 after Saddam Hussein invaded and annexed Kuwait, placing the Iraqi military within striking distance of the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. President George H.W. Bush deployed U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia, along with others from a 34-nation coalition. President Bush promised Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd that the troops would be withdrawn once the war to free Kuwait was ended. That promise was not kept. In 1990 the United Nations Security Council also adopted Resolution 661 which imposed economic sanctions on Iraq that lasted for over a decade. American intervention in the Middle East stretches much further back including, for example, the U.S.’s admitted role in the assassination of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953.

When an average American says we’re “fighting them over there,” “them” means terrorists, Islamic radicals, religious zealots. However, the record of what the U.S. is actually doing “over there” suggests something quite different. The United States has actually been opposing secular, non-Islamist regimes in Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Syria resulting in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and the ongoing efforts to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

During these campaigns the United States has actually found common cause with various groups of “rebels” in the regions, sometimes consisting of al-Qaeda affiliates and, of course, Islamic extremists. The U.S. has armed, trained, and financed various “rebel” groups in order to bring about regime change in these nations. The rise of ISIS itself came about largely because of American intervention in the region, as the signers of “Iraq Rescue” admit. Among America’s allies, wealthy financiers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar are funding ISIS and the Al Nusra Front in order to help Sunni Muslims “suffering under the atrocities of the Assad regime.” Another American ally, Turkey, is suspected of being complicit in the sale of ISIS oil which provides millions of dollars to the organization. And going back to the Soviet-Afghan War of 1979-89, American support of the Mujahideen and Osama Bin Laden is well-known.

What’s the point of the history lesson? And what does this have to do with Russell Moore’s call to denounce Donald Trump’s proposal to close the borders to Muslims? All of this is important because the issue of what to do with refugees and other migrants from the Middle East and beyond is not an isolated problem. Only so much good can be accomplished by deciding how best to handle the refugees apart from understanding what’s causing the refugees in the first place. The rise of ISIS (including “homegrown” sympathizers) and the subsequent Syrian refugee crisis are directly related to the U.S.’s foreign policy commitment of interventionism.

“Fighting them over there” is a myth. The U.S. has repeatedly sided with Islamist extremists in order to carry out its policy of regime change. Once regime change is accomplished, everything changes and the temporary allies become enemies. Rebels become terrorists. The people we financed, armed, and trained are now using all of this against us. This dynamic has directly led to the rise of ISIS which has caused the mass exodus of refugees from Iraq and Syria. The answer to these related challenges is not more war and more intervention. The interventionist policies of the Unites States government is directly related to all of these problems in the first place.

A final word concerning liberty. Dr. Moore rightly champions the cause of religious liberty for all people, but what about the rest of our liberties? Moore makes two contradictory statements regarding freedom and liberty:
The U.S. government should fight, and fight hard, against radical Islamic jihadism. The government should close the borders to anyone suspected of even a passing involvement with any radical cell or terrorist network. But the government should not penalize law-abiding people, especially those who are U.S. citizens, for holding their religious convictions. 
Moore also states,
We are in a time of war, and we should respond as those in a time of war. But we must never lose in a time of war precious freedoms purchased through the blood of patriots in years past. We must have security, and we must have order. But we must not trade soul freedom for an illusion of winning. 
“But the government should not penalize law-abiding people.” That’s a big “but.” Surely Dr. Moore can see that the entire War on Terror has been one long exercise in penalizing law-abiding people with warrantless wiretapping, torture, kidnapping, detention, the expansion of the surveillance state, seemingly random no-fly lists, the Patriot Act itself along with the abuses of the act, the end of habeas corpus rights, and more.

All of this has been done in the name of fighting radical Islamic jihadism. All of this has been done in the name of responding as those in a time of war. Civil liberties are being lost in the name of security and order. Preserving religious liberty is much easier to accomplish when we protect all of our liberties.

I encourage Christian leaders such as Dr. Moore along with all Christians to examine the root causes of our present challenges with ISIS and the Syrian refugee crisis. These are not isolated incidents and cannot be treated as such. More war is not the answer. More intervention consistently makes things worse, not better. Denounce reckless, demagogic rhetoric if you want. But don’t stop there. Denounce the actual actions, not just rhetoric, of the politicians whose policies have resulted not only in the loss of religious liberty but also in the wanton destruction of innumerable lives in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East.

This article originally appeared at the Libertarian Christian Institute.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Forgive Us That So Little of Your Love Has Reached the Muslims Through Us

In light of all that has been revealed today regarding the murders in San Bernardino I decided to pull out an old book generously given to me by the former president of the Voice of the Martyrs, Christian Witness Among Muslims.

Events like this can make it easy to get caught up in emotions and political disputations. I re-read the book today as a form of spiritual discipline to help me refocus my perspective through the lenses of the kingdom of God.

The book concludes with this prayer to which I say, Amen and Help us, Lord Jesus:

Jeff Wright, Jr. is a Chaplain in a "city of lost souls" and holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from Dallas Theological Seminary. His other areas of interest include the kingdom of God, American evangelicalism, the ministry of the local church, obstacle course racing, and all things Star Wars. He blogs at JeffWrightJr.com and the Libertarian Christian Institute. You can also find him @jeffwrightjr.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Is the Fight Against ISIS Obviously a "Just War"?

Drone Warfare and the Principle of Discrimination in the "War on Terror"

Americans seem to have fully regained their appetite for war in the wake of the latest terrorist attacks in Paris this past weekend.

Conservative evangelicals have been especially vocal about fighting ISIS and are ready to lead the charge.

David French writes at National Review, "May God bless and comfort the families of the fallen, and may God strengthen the hands of France’s warriors. It is time to grant ISIS the apocalypse it longs for." In response to Francois Hollande's promise of a "pitiless" war against ISIS, French says, "Good" and calls for the warriors of France to be unleashed.

Unsurprisingly, the pastor of First Baptist Dallas, Robert Jeffress, used the opening moments of his Sunday sermon to call for war against ISIS.

"It is government's responsibility to punish evildoers. Romans 13 says God has empowered the government, the military, to bring wrath against those who practice evil. You may not agree with everything that Donald Trump says, but Donald Trump was absolutely correct Thursday night when he said, 'It is time to start bombing the you-know-what out of ISIS!' That is a biblical response!" [wild applause and cheering ensued]

Executive Director of LifeWay Research, author, and popular conference speaker, Ed Stetzer, wrote a piece for Christianity Today entitled, "We Are All Parisians Now: A Christian Response to Global Terror and Radical Islam." Stetzer lays out three uniquely Christian ways believers can respond to the attacks in Paris: pray, love the hurting, and love your enemies (citing Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount).

After quoting Matthew 5:43-45, Stetzer immediately added, "But in moments like this, that response can be hard to come by." Perhaps this is why less than two days later Stetzer commented on his Facebook page, "France is willing to call this a battle with radical Islamists and to engage in the fight-- to actually lead. If there ever was a just war, the fight against ISIS qualifies. Evil must be defeated, not contained." [emphasis mine]

Stetzer's view that the fight against ISIS is a just war if there ever was one seems to be the dominant view within American evangelicalism. But is this obviously the case? And do Christians even care whether wars are "just" or not anymore?

Let's assume Christians do want to consider whether a potential war would or would not be a just war. Two categories within Just War theory have developed from the foundational work of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas: jus ad bellum which identifies the conditions required for justly going to war and jus in bello which spells out just conduct within a war.

For the sake of discussion, I want to focus upon the "principle of discrimination" within the category of jus in bello: the idea that a just war requires the combatants to discriminate between opposing combatants and civilians in their fighting. This principle establishes the requirement that attacks cannot, of course, be directed at civilians.

A mantra of the Obama Administration has been "no boots on the ground." This is due to the negative backlash against the war in Iraq which was responsible, in part, for sweeping President Obama into office. Therefore, the current administration has focused it's war-fighting on alternatives such as the heavy use of drones. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports, for example, that as of January 2015, "there have now been nearly nine times more strikes under Obama in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia than there were under his predecessor, George W Bush."

The United States government has also applied the no-boots-on-the-ground approach to ISIS in Syria by deploying a "systematic campaign of airstrikes."Whether it is against ISIS in Syria and Iraq or against other organizations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and beyond, it is safe to say the current administration will continue its robust drone warfare and airstrike strategy.

This leads us to the question, does the government's use of drone warfare and "targeted airstrikes" in the war on terror, including it's fight against ISIS, uphold the principle of discrimination under the category of jus in bello in just war theory?

According to data gathered by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, drone strikes in Pakistan from June of 2004 through September of 2015 have resulted in 3,341 casualties:
  • 52 (1.6%) high profile targets, 
  • 190 (5.7%) children,
  • 534 (16%) civilians,
  • 2,565 (76.8%) other. 
The 21.7% rate of children and civilian deaths would be extremely troubling if accurate. The true number, however, appears to be far greater.

According to the "Out of Site, Out of Mind" report: "The category of victims we call 'OTHER' is classified differently depending on the source. The Obama administration classifies any able-bodied male a military combatant unless evidence is brought forward to prove otherwise. This is a very grey area for us. These could be neighbors of a target killed. They may all be militants and a threat. What we do know for sure is that they are targeted without being given any representation or voice to defend themselves."

The assumption that able-bodied males are to be considered military combatants unless evidence proves otherwise is highly dubious, morally-speaking, and should raise a red flag for any Christian concerned with considering whether a war is just or not. 

Civilian death rate currently at 10% in Iraq & Syria. Airwars.org
Further clarification on the number of civilian deaths due to drone strikes has recently been provided by The Intercept's The Drone Papers: "The Intercept has obtained a cache of secret documents detailing the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The documents, provided by a whistleblower, offer an unprecedented glimpse into Obama’s drone wars."

The papers reveal, "The White House and Pentagon boast that the targeted killing program is precise and that civilian deaths are minimal. However, documents detailing a special operations campaign in northeastern Afghanistan, Operation Haymaker, show that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. In Yemen and Somalia, where the U.S. has far more limited intelligence capabilities to confirm the people killed are the intended targets, the equivalent ratios may well be much worse." [emphasis mine]

The civilian causalities from drone warfare have been far from minimal. Whether the percentage of non-combatant deaths is closer to 20% or 90%, either figure is morally unacceptable, to say the least.  The situation becomes even more troubling when factoring in airstrikes such as the one against the hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) in Kunduz, Afghanistan which resulted in the deaths of 12 MSF staff and 10 patients.

Is the fight against ISIS the quintessential just war? Thus far, the fight in Syria has almost exclusively been executed through air strikes. Those who believe the fight against ISIS is obviously just must reconcile a decade's worth of high civilian death rates from drone and other airstrikes with the principle of discrimination. 

Civilian deaths could conceivably be reduced to zero on paper by simply calling everyone an enemy combatant. However, calling a civilian a "combatant" until evidence can be provided proving otherwise is a bureaucratic trick that in no way alleviates the moral obligation to avoid targeting non-combatants.

How a nation goes to war matters just as much as why a nation goes to war. Even if Christians think the "why" is obvious (Is it?), the "how" of fighting ISIS must be considered as well. The civilian death toll from drone warfare and targeted air strikes must be taken into account for Christians who are legitimately concerned with Just War.

For further consideration:
The Drone Papers
Unmanned: America's Drone Wars (full documentary)
Out of Sight, Out of Mind interactive infographic
Just War Theory: A Primer

Jeff Wright, Jr. is a Chaplain in a "city of lost souls" and holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from Dallas Theological Seminary. His other areas of interest include the kingdom of God, American evangelicalism, the ministry of the local church, obstacle course racing, and all things Star Wars. He blogs at JeffWrightJr.com and Evangelicals for Liberty, in addition to Libertarian Christian Institute. You can also find him @jeffwrightjr.