4
| News |

When Talking About Destroying North Korea, Dallas Pastor Jeffress Sounds Like ... Barack Obama?

When Talking About Destroying North Korea, Dallas Pastor Jeffress Sounds Like ... Barack Obama?
FoxNews
^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

It's not every day that a religious leader with the ear of the U.S. president advocates raining hellfire down on another nation. But that's what happened yesterday when Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, released a statement that seemingly gave President Donald Trump religious permission to attack North Korea.

"When it comes to how we should deal with evildoers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” Jeffress said. “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Jeffress took to the airwaves, including an appearance on Fox News, to explain his position, saying that Trump prefers other methods of solving the North Korea problem — namely, the country is threatening neighbors and even parts of the United States with long-range, possibly nuclear missile attacks. But the Bible, he said, grants the president the "moral authority" to conduct assassinations or make war to fight evil.

Pretty radical stuff, huh? Bringing holy books into the discussion notwithstanding, this rant from the divisive Dallas Baptist is actually echoing something that has been at the core of United States policy for decades, the concept of the "just war." And one recent adherent was former President Barack Obama.

Like most questions of philosophy, the central question is simple, but the answers are infinitely thorny. When is war justified? When is the destruction and waste of a conflict worth the possible societal benefit? Are there rules that must be adhered to, even in war, or is it better top keep warfare terrible so as to discourage its practice?

Often, the answer is: You'll know when you see it.  

That seemed to be Obama's message when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after winning the presidency. Instead of sounding off like a peacenik, he used the stage to argue, surprisingly, in favor of the tenets of a just war.

"We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes," Obama said. "There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."

Here's more from Obama, using the kind of good vs. evil language that has put so many on edge it comes from the mouth of Robert Jeffress:

"I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: 'Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem; it merely creates new and more complicated ones.' As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of nonviolence. I know there's nothing weak — nothing passive — nothing naive — in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

"But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."


More eloquent, sure. But at the end of the day, Obama and Jeffress are in broad philosophical agreement. Some people are bad enough that they need to be killed.

The concept of just war existed well before Christianity. A 2017 study says the ancient Egyptians studied the causes of war and tried to create boundaries for waging it. The study claims to revise "the standard history of the just war tradition by demonstrating that just war thought developed beyond the boundaries of Europe and existed many centuries earlier than the advent of Christianity or even the emergence of Greco-Roman doctrine."

But Christians have dwelled on and justified war for centuries. One of the most influential thinkers in this was St. Augustine. He coined the phrase: "Who is but the sword in the hand of him who uses it, is not himself responsible for the death he deals."

The always-helpful Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy includes a passage that demonstrates the juggling of faith and application of violence is nothing new and changes over time. "In chivalrous times, the Christian crusader could seek priestly absolution for atrocities committed in war, a stance supported by Augustine, for example," the site reads. "Today, the law courts are seemingly less forgiving: A violation of the conventions assumes that the soldier is responsible and accountable and should be charged for a crime."

Nothing stays the same when it comes to judging the moral correctness of war. There is one exception. Since its inception, a truly just war has always been one that can't be avoided. If the missiles and artillery shells start to fly into and out of the Korean peninsula, the first question that even St. Augustine would ask is: Was there a way to avoid it? 

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.