On Oct. 19, Logan M. Isaac spoke at Eastern’s Windows on the World event. Isaac integrated his experience as a veteran with his identity as a Christian to offer a new perspective on war. He engaged with Augustine’s Just War principles and asked how a Christian can justify war. His talk offered students, faculty, and staff a unique opportunity to engage with difficult topics in a way that was accessible and thought-provoking.
As a former Iraq veteran, Isaac is hyper-aware of what is called the Civil Military Divide. The Civil Military Divide is known as the isolation of military personnel and communities from the civilian counterparts. Isaac used this idea to explain that both the military and civilians are often unaware of what is going on in each other’s worlds. He described the divide as being the way a civilian views military soldiers and vice versa. He explained this through the difference of “good and bad theology.”
During the first portion of his presentation, he explained Augustine of Hippo’s term, “Just War,” which is the theory that some wars are justified because they are used to amend evil. In this theory, St. Augustine argued that some wars from the Bible, when taken out of context, can be seen as amending evil. Isaac proposed that this theory is misleading because wars are not normally seen as amending evil, but creating evil and he believed this kind of thinking constitutes as bad theology.
Isaac went on to explain his reasoning by describing the term “Just wars” in further detail. He believed that the term “Just War” from Augustine’s narrative could have been used to preemptively justify war, that is to make an excuse to go to war without feelings of guilt rather than finding a way to delay or avoid war altogether.
“But the wise they will say, they will wave Just Wars,” Isaac said.
He made it clear that although beginning a war to end a dispute once and for all may sound like a good idea in theology, it is not. According to Isaac, Augustine was using an ancient Greek political tradition, appropriated by the Roman jurist Cicero. Cicero was one of the leading political figures of the era of Julius Caesar; he discovered the riches of classical and rhetoric philosophy.
It is important to think of the justification of war without using the context or theology behind the reasoning for war. If the war cannot be justified on its own terms, adding in details from context and theological backgrounds can make the situation more confusing than it was at the beginning. The idea of a “just war” ought to be simple enough on its own; the damage caused by the war should outweigh the damage already done.
As college students it is important to recognize our education on the topic of war and theology. Theology is often explained in connection to several hundred years of philosophy and historical context that can make it confusing, especially for people who may not have read major works of thought yet.
College students are in a unique position where they are still learning about major issues and deciding where they stand, but they are expected to know and be knowledgeable about these things already. This makes seeking out more accessible discussions even more important for college students. Listening to Logan’s presentation was one way to become educated on a topic that is rarely discussed among college peers.