Another Franciscan’s Take on The President’s Speech

I have received several email messages in recent days asking about what I thought of the President’s address to the nation about the military action in Libya. One reader of Dating God asked about my position of Christian nonviolence and how, in light of that view of Gospel living, I might respond to the President’s comments. In brief, I am still against any form of military violence. This, I believe as a Christian and a Franciscan friar at that, is central to the message of the Kingdom of God. Illogical though it may seem in political and global terms, it makes perfect sense according to the poetic vision Christ offers us of God’s in-breaking in the world.

Yet, I realize that not all people hold this view and the way in which political decisions are made in this country cannot reflect a position such as mine, which (unfortunately) remains a minority view. The structure of a liberal republic such as the United States — and this, I believe is an asset — creates the conditions for the possibility of military action such as we are currently witnessing in several arenas around the world.

Instead of offering my own analysis of the situation, I direct you instead to my friend, classmate and brother friar, Br. Steve DeWitt, OFM, who has written a good assessment of the President’s address. Steve is a passionate and knowledgable social-justice advocate who has worked for the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns in Washington, DC, and is currently spending the year working in the missions of Boliva and Peru. You can read his take on the President’s speech here: “Thoughts on Obama’s Libya Speech.

To give you a foretaste, here is Steve’s concluding paragraph:

Overall the President’s speech was full of inspiring rhetoric that addressed some of the concerns over U.S. actions in Libya. His failure to answer key questions concerning end-goals and broader U.S. policy in the Middle East, however, leave plenty of room for doubt about the ultimate wisdom of current U.S. actions. One hopes, probably in vain, that greater clarity and a more fully formulated policy concerning current events in the Middle East will be forthcoming.

Again, you can read the full text of Steve’s thoughts here: “Thoughts on Obama’s Libya Speech.

Photo: by Steve DeWitt, OFM
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5 Responses to “Another Franciscan’s Take on The President’s Speech”

  1. Thanks for the post, Brother! The obvious elephant in the room seems to be oil. Other humanitarian crisis are ignored by the United States. Clearly, there is also a media bias in which Obama is not held to the same standards as George W. Bush.

  2. I have a question!

    I am still against any form of military violence. This, I believe as a Christian and a Franciscan friar at that, is central to the message of the Kingdom of God.

    Do you believe it is a central element of the Kingdom of God that Christians should under no circumstances protect the weak from the oppression of the strong?

  3. Hi Simon,

    Good question. No, that’s not what I believe. I believe that we have an obligation to protect the weak, oppressed, marginalized, poor from the strong, wealthy and powerful — just never with violence . Jesus protected the oppressed (think of the woman about to be stoned), but he didn’t liberate her with violence. Advocacy, protest and civil disobedience can be very powerful — take Jesus, MLK and Gandhi as just a few world-changing examples.

    Thanks for the comment! Hope I was able to answer your question.

    Peace and good.

    • Brother–I certainly respect your right to an honest opinion, which you know from previous discussions I disagree with. Specifically, your assertion “I am still against any form of military violence” being based in Christian beliefs. It is a violation of the duty to love one’s neighbor when an aggressor is given free reign, such as the world did in Bosnia during the 1990’s. In fact, it contradicts Church teaching. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

      2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.[66]

  4. Thank you. Yes, I agree that Jesus dealt with individuals with non-violent means. He also stubbornly refused to advocate the overthrow of the Roman occupation, even though it was doubtless taking innocent Jewish lives. (e.g. his own!) So I see what you’re saying. It makes sense for you and I as individuals.

    But I guess my concern is that I’m not sure if we can take these individual actions and attitudes and use them as a prescription for state-to-state relations. I simply don’t think that’s what Jesus was referring to; he wasn’t talking about state actors. I think if you’re looking for how to do state-to-state ethics in a Kingdom way, you need to be looking more at the Old Testament than the New.

    In short, Judges 20 is as much a Kingdom response to oppression as Matthew 5.

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