Sunday, August 10, 2008

Kroeker on Our War

In "Is a Messianic Ethic Possible?" Travis Kroeker looks at Jacob Taubes and John Howard Yoder's public and social nature of love of the enemy as opposed to Carl Schmitt's private conception. Kroeker quotes this statement by Schmitt,

Never in the thousand-year struggle between Christians and Moslems did it occur to a Christian to surrender rather than defend Europe out of love toward the Saracens or Turks. The enemy in the political sense need not be hated personally, and in the private sphere only does it make sense to love one’s enemy, i.e. one’s adversary

Before disagreeing with the substance of Schmitt's statement Kroeker notes that Schmitt is actually in historical error on the case of Christians and Moslems. Here he quotes the moving piece by Michael Sattler the sixteenth century monk turned Anabaptist a movement of Christians at times condemned to death for not fighting against the Turks,

If the Turk comes, he should not be resisted, for it stands written: thou shalt not kill. We should not defend ourselves against the Turks or our other persecutors, but with fervent prayer should implore God that He might be our defense and our resistance. As to me saying that if waging war were proper I would rather take the field against the so-called Christians who persecute, take captive, and kill true Christians, than against the Turks, this was for the following reason: the Turk is a genuine Turk and knows nothing of the Christian faith. He is a Turk according to the flesh. But you claim to be Christians, boast of Christ, and still persecute the faithful witnesses of Christ. Thus you are Turks according to the Spirit

There were indeed Christians who thought of surrendering rather than forcing surrender. Kroeker then states the type of 'war' this conception of the messianic advocates,

This messianic pacifism is therefore no liberal strategy of depoliticization through the individualization and privatization of the public realm. It is nothing less than a declaration of war, a war of messianic sovereignty over against all other political sovereignties (whether ancient or modern, religio-cosmological or secularist) that order human relations on non-messianic terms. But it is a war waged by martyrs who do not resist their enemies through violence, but witness to another way, the messianic path of enemy-love. Such a politics, of course, will have no moral grounds for boasting in its own strength or virtue or purity. Messianic sovereignty dispossesses the faithful, as is indicated in the hos me logic of I Corinthians 7:29–31:
I mean . . . the time (kairos) has become contracted; in what remains (to loipon) let those who have wives live as if they did not (hos me) have them, and those who mourn as if not (hos me) mourning, and those who rejoice as if not (hos me) rejoicing, and those who buy as if not (hos me) possessing, and those who use the world as if not (hos me) fully using it. For the outward form of the world (to schema tou kosmou) is passing away.
There is a particular kind of “making use” of the world that treats it in a manner appropriate to its ontology of “passing away”—a using that is not proprietary, not related to human sovereignty or juridical ownership, that dwells in the world (“remain in the calling in which you have been called” [7:20, 17]) in a manner that opens it up to being made new, to “being known by God” (I Cor. 8:3).

And further,

The identity of the “Christian” born by the Messianic community, in other words, is not a new universalism that somehow transcends or escapes particularity and difference. Indeed it is not to be related to a form of universal “knowing” of any sort (“if anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know”). It is rather an identity “in Messiah” that seeks the perfection of love not in the domination or possession of any part, but in the apocalyptic transformation of all partial things to their completion in divine love. This transformation occurs in the messianic body conformed to the “mind of Messiah” that willingly empties itself in order to serve the other, a pattern of radical humility and suffering servanthood. It is a pattern that can only be spiritually discerned, even though it is being enacted in the bodily realm that is “passing away,” and therefore appears as failure.

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