The war in Iraq has divided American Christians much as it has divided the rest of the nation. Whatever our view of the war, however, we should be consistent in our view of the enemy. He is a human being and a part of God's creation. As difficult as the task may sound, our obligation, always, is to look on him with the eyes of love.

Centuries ago, Augustine of Hippo argued that a Christian may not harm another person, even in war, unless he does so with love in his heart. Augustine did not oppose Christian service in war—pacifism was widely preached at the time—but supported it. He believed war is sometimes necessary. He did not quarrel with Christians who chose to fight. But he insisted that the Christian fight out of love, not hatred. His advice was solidly rooted in the Gospels, for Christ's teaching that we should love the enemy was offered without any exceptions (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:35). Arguing that this world is less important than the next, Augustine struggled to explain how a Christian, acting out of love, could nevertheless kill. Although his argument is too complex to encapsulate here, I will say that Augustine's position, especially as refined by Thomas Aquinas, became the basis of just war theory and, ultimately, of today's international law of war.

I go over this ground not to join the fray over the justice of the war in Iraq, the war on terrorism, or any other conflict on this troubled globe. Rather, I want to remind us of the importance of acting out of love, even when, reluctantly and as a last resort, we decide to fight. To put it simply, it matters, in Christian terms, how we think about the enemy, and, therefore, how we talk about the enemy. (It also matters, of course, how we decide who qualifies as the ...

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Civil Reactions
Stephen Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University. He is the author of The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln (2012), The Violence of Peace, The Emperor of Ocean Park, and many other books. His column, "Civil Reactions," ran from 2001 until 2007.
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