Ukraine: Käßmann, Kurschus, just war

Warsaw Old Town 1945 from the Polish public domain news agency

“They need something more than our sympathy and our prayers,” said the president of the State Church of Westphalia, Annette Kurschus, at the beginning of March of the media group Funke. From November 2021 Kurschus is, what Margot Käßmann was until February 2010, President of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, says: “Your country”, that of the Ukrainians, “has been arbitrarily and maliciously attacked, you have the right to stick up for.” And then this sentence: “Who am I to tell him to use plowshares?”

Putin has dishonored everyone and everything, pop and politics, science and business, media and commentators, culture and church, Käßmann and “concrete” and so on: not that Putin is waging this war, but as he lets it do, he throws everyone he thought to be updated, behind him. Hardly anyone was as smart yesterday as they are today, precisely because the images of Ukraine today resemble those of yesterday’s Nazi newsreel. The “turning point of the era” that everyone feels goes back to an impression, a sensory impression that changes thinking. Example: the evangelical church.

Their ethics of peace has always been very broad, there is a wide field between a military bishop and a radical pacifist. More recently, the pacifist faction had conquered free territory, triggered less by the epoch-making 1989 than by an impression, the first war in screen format: in 1991, CNN reported live how a coalition commissioned by the United Nations prevented Saddam Hussein from occupying Kuwait.

At the time, the feuilletons outdid each other in their outrage over images – minus Saddam Hussein firing dozens of rockets into Tel Aviv and forcing Jews to take refuge as they once did in ghettos, much more about how connected it feels. watching from the sofa as cruise missiles find their targets in Iraq. In front of the televised images, Heinrich Albertz, pastor and former governor of Berlin, said: “Yes, talking about a ‘just’ war is blasphemy”. Bitterly angry at the time was Eike Geisel’s comment: Peace activists viewed the war video aesthetic as a “bluff”, hoping that, as TV users, “they would be robbed of mountains of corpses.”

The massacres were piled up from the FAZ to the TAZ. The number of civilians actually killed is then estimated at 3,500: the first media war was not a war of images, but of imagination.

“No blank slate”

This is not the war that Putin is waging in Ukraine, Mariupol actually looks like Warsaw. If there was an undeniably right war in history, it was against our ancestors who created such cityscapes. And today the one with which the Ukrainians defend themselves against the fact that their cities are again reduced to ashes and rubble, this time by the Russians. Annette Kurschus’ theorem – “who am I to tell him to use the plowshares” – summarizes this distinctly changed perception:

Kurschus puts his sentence in the first person very emphatically, the first representative of German Protestantism makes it more than clear that anyone who claims non-violent resistance in this situation can only speak in the first person, everything else is merciless.

Secondly, Kurschus’s phrase means: Swords can be forged into plowshares, yes, but they cannot be replaced. By doing so, he rectifies something that has recently been tarnished in the ethics of peace: the fundamental difference between a God-made peace – no swords, only plowshares – and a man-made one, which is always just fewer swords and more plowshares can. go.

Thirdly, this means that the Council of the Evangelical Church – as well as the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church – consider the surrender of arms to the Ukrainian army “generally legitimate”. The issue of arms exports is the Fort Knox of the church’s peace ethic.

Four days after his interview with WAZ, Kurschus became even clearer, in an interview with the epd, he explained: “We cannot keep the slate clean in this situation. (…) But as you asked, we must not avoid it by remaining silent and absolving ourselves of responsibilities “. The Protestant ethic of peace, which in any case is not timeless, must be subjected to a “critical examination”.

just war doctrine

What is happening here – and it is happening in a very quiet way compared to previous debates; The EKD commissioner for peace, regional bishop Friedrich Kramer, boldly retorts this, but it also reads more as if it were recorded: what is happening right now are theologically eminent, but not tectonic, changes.

President Annette Kurschus 2019 on the Day of Peace in the town hall of Bochum (c) Press office of the city of Bochum

Looking back: Augustine had his in the 4th century just war doctrine designed, whose classical form derives from Thomas Aquinas, 13th century, its strong point is that it withdraws any religious consecration from war. A just – however unjust – war is the opposite of a “holy war”, an armed conflict ordered by divine authority. In this profane theology, so to speak secularized, war is bound to a juridical order and measured solely by the standards of human law, the three criteria:

Only a legitimate governing authority has this right to war; driving it requires one right reason; the goal must be to (re) establish peace.

It sounds concise, but it excludes a lot: private feuds and personal interests, arbitrary purposes and any appeal to divine legitimacy. In addition to the “right to the War “enters the” right In the War ”applies here: the way it is conducted must be appropriate, force used proportionately, civilians should be spared, prisoners should be treated with humanity.

As with all legal proposals, it also depends on your interpretation here, the literature on this has grown over the centuries. Sure, the doctrine of war has been mistreated at times, but the bottom line is: according to God’s will, there should be no war, but there must be defensive warfare, not for the individual Christian to protect himself, but certainly all of those. who are defenseless at the mercy of aggression.

World War I meant a cut to this longstanding teaching, too obviously the dilemma that seemed plausible on both sides of the front. US President Woodrow Wilson was the first to try to think the theory from his demise, the goal of a “just peace”. Here too the link to a legal system, but unlike the just war doctrine, the idea of ​​a just peace can be linked directly to divine authority beyond human legal thought. An advantage?

A disadvantage? First, just a small change in pious conscience: war objective don’t be according to God’s will, peace got to be according to the divine will itself. The birthplace of modern Christian pacifism lies in this leeway between duty and duty. He was baptized when the atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, since then the commandment of God and that of reality seem to have become one: if there are atomic bombs, there can be no more just wars.

“No means of self-defense”

but what? “Living in God’s Peace – Ensuring a Just Peace” is the title of a memorandum published by the EKD Council in 2007. The title says it all: here peace and one’s mission are thought directly by God. On the other hand, the doctrine of just war – which does not argue from God, but from human discretion – is categorically rejected: “In the context of the just peace model, the doctrine of right bellum there is no more space, “he says now.

Instead, the memorandum – is Käßmann’s position – is based entirely on “civil conflict management”, “universal institutions” and “promoting learning processes”. There is no more room for the attempt to “ensure peace in freedom through the existence of nuclear weapons”, the time of nuclear deterrence is finally over, literally: “From the point of view of the Protestant peace ethic, the threat of nuclear weapons can no longer be considered a more legitimate means of self-defense today ”.

Helsinki 26-02-2022 by rajatonvimma /// VJ Group Random Doctors CC BY 2.0

It is easy to make fun of Margot Käßmann of Hanover’s idea of ​​negotiating women’s rights in learning processes with Taliban warriors in a tent. What must be admitted to this ethical position of peace: that it clearly saw the failure of the politically sober and militarily experienced much earlier and acutely. “Nothing is good in Afghanistan”, the phrase of one of Käßmann’s sermons, much debated at the time, comes from New Year’s Eve 2010 and not from 29 June 2021, when the last soldier of the Bundeswehr flew away and the country was left to the Taliban.

Alignment with the NATO objective

Everyone is sober today, whether they have backed up their swords or plowshares. This has consequences for the Protestant peace ethic – this is what Kurschus made clear with his clever phrase:

_ on the question of how to evaluate rearmament – the federal government’s $ 100 billion program – under current conditions,

_ for the issue of arms exports,

_ for an ethical reflection of peace on geopolitics: according to the Westphalian theologian Ulrich Körtner, professor at the University of Vienna, its importance has not yet been understood,

_ for a very fundamental reflection on the fact that, as Körtner once again says, the “category of the enemy” that the Russian government sees in the West has become very real in our worldview,

_ Consequences for the issue of nuclear weapons: as the reason why nuclear deterrence no longer works, the EKD memorandum of 2007 explained that it could not be “calculated from the start with an opponent prone to rational calculations”. Today this justification triggers its opposite: in the case of a rationally misled opponent like Putin, the nuclear threat exists. Final reportit relies on a last remnant of reason, on what else.

_ Consequences for the issue of conventional weapons: in 2019, the EKD synod based its ethics of peace on climate policy and called on the federal government to “spend at least two per cent of the gross domestic product on development”. The 2% demand, it was said, “is based on NATO’s goal of spending two per cent of gross domestic product on defense.” However, this alignment with NATO’s goal presupposes, or at least indicates, a secret agreement: anyone who wants to bring development and defense policy tasks on an equal footing cannot ask for disarmament.

The evangelical church, which loves to confess, will have to show its colors, it will not be that of a clean slate.

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