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War: Just or Unjust?

Today’s reading: Genesis 34:1-36:30

My selection: Genesis 34:31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”

My reflections: This is a sad story of human depravity. The incident brought great loss to everyone involved. Dinah foolishly (in retrospect) takes a tour of the land, apparently, unchaperoned and unprotected. Shechem, the spoiled, self-indulgent, and perverse prince of the land, captures and rapes her. He then appeals to his father, Hamor, to get her for his wife at any cost. [At least Shechem didn’t pull an Amnon and reject her after raping her. See II Samuel 13:15].

Jacob acts in cowardice to make a deal with Hamor while apparently ignoring the great sin that was committed against Dinah. The brothers make a deceptive deal that appealed to the whole kingdom of Hamor because it promised easy wealth. Next Simeon and Levi kill the men who had been circumcised and take all the spoils including the women and children. Jacob finally shows a little backbone in objecting to what they had done but his complaint is too late and makes no difference. Its hard to see any good in all of this story. It is hard to find a wise person or a godly action anywhere here.

There is a political view that says all war is evil or that all who die in war should be honored equally. Certainly this is based on a relativistic view of morality. If there are no absolutes then who is to say that anything is wrong? Was Dinah wrong? Was Shechem wrong? Were Simeon and Levi wrong? Were all of them partly wrong? Were all of them partly right? This doesn’t work. We know that no matter how you judge Dinah for her naivete or her father for failing to protect her, Shechem was scum. Perhaps the right thing would have been to declare war against Hamor and attack for the action of their prince, with his execution being the objective.

We need to beware of unjust wars while recognizing that there are some just wars. But neither side in a war is perfectly just. One side may be more just (or less unjust) than the other but there are no perfect holy nations or armies. It seems that there is a difference between a Hitler and an Eisenhower. World War II was more clearly a war of an evil tyrant who was taking people and nations captive and executing a whole race of people without cause. The US acted quite altruistically since the war in Europe never spread to our land. We ought not take it lightly when we send troops to Afghanistan or Iraq. Was Vietnam justified? Was the Korean War justified? Was the Gulf War justified? Are we becoming a nation which more easily sends troops into battle not to defend freedom but to protect our economic interests? Or are our motives mixed and, while not perfectly altruistic, not completely unjustified or unjust?

My challenge: Pray for our president and political leaders who must make decisions about sending our troops into war. May they fight whenever necessary and only when necessary.

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 36:31-38:30

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