Stanley Hauerwas has written an article explaining the non-pacifist position of C.S. Lewis and arguing that he ought to have been a pacifist. His exposition of Lewis's writings on war and pacifism is helpful, concise but rather complete. This first half of the article is worth reading both for those who are unfamiliar with Lewis and those who know him well.
Hauerwas then shifts gears from this excellent summary to a strange claim. Having given the many and well thought out reasons why C.S. Lewis was not a pacifist, he says that he ought to have been. His argument is that Lewis was only opposed to the facile claim that "war is so horrible it has got to be wrong", but that it never occurred to Lewis that a Christian ought to oppose war on the grounds that "we were not created to kill", a sense revealed by the life of Jesus Christ.
I think it unlikely that Lewis never noticed that Jesus Christ was nonviolent. That is a central feature of the Gospels, though not without some inconsistency: "Let him who does not have a sword sell his cloak and buy one." Clearly with regard to his own suffering and death, he allowed no violence nor fought, because he was drinking the cup that the Father had given him, but is this an example that Christians ought to follow absolutely? No. And C.S. Lewis tells us why, and Hauerwas nicely sums up Lewis's reasons, then fails to answer them sufficiently.
Lewis argues that we are not Christians in a vacuum. St. Augustine, St. Thomas, and many other great figures of Christianity did not think that war was always wrong. Hauerwas would have us look to the martyrs instead, but the martyrs were private citizens. Just as Jesus Christ offered his life to the Father, and would have been foolish to violently resist the offering, the martyrs offered their lives in witness to Jesus Christ. No private person is obligated to use violence in their own defense, but they are often obligated to use violence in the defense of others. The responsibility of a leader of a people cannot be abrogated with a willingness to be sacrificed. That would be the leader's choice, but then he must stop being the leader, for he has sworn off the world and cannot be expected to defend it. What country of Christians ever said to the violent invaders, "Kill us, our wives, our children. Rape, pillage, torture. We will not resist."? Few monasteries have ever taken up that position.
Lewis says that we must protect the innocent from "homicidal maniacs". Hauerwas shunts this aside by saying that he does support a largely peaceable police system. It is as if he does not know the context in which Lewis wrote those words. Hauerwas must get over the impregnable argument in favor of war that is the person of Adolf Hitler. What police force would have stopped him? Would the world be a better place if they had just let him run rampant, if the English had handed over their country to him, if the Russians had welcomed his armies into Moscow?
Hauerwas then pulls out his most powerful argument, all the more powerful because he lets Lewis express the argument himself (Learning in War-Time): "a more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving futurity in God's hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not." How can we know that the world is better for having fought wars? World War II is the classic case of a good war: evil Axis powers versus Allies fighting for freedom. I, and most of the world, believes that the world would be a far worse place if the Allies had been pacifists, but how do we know?
This is the problem that we confront in every war, and it cuts both ways. Perhaps, if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq they would have unleashed terrorism and chemical warfare against the world; there is no evidence that this is true, but it might have happened. Perhaps if the Allies had followed the course of France, Hitler would have never started up the concentration camps and would have been a just ruler of Europe; there is no evidence that this is true, but it might have happened.
Hauerwas, having glided over these powerful arguments, says that Lewis's strongest argument is that people are used to war and cannot imagine a world without it. Then he suggests that he, Hauerwas, has an imagination strong enough for the task. Perhaps he does, but unless he can share that imagination with the rest of the world it will not have global consequences. Until people no longer want to fight, there will be war; there will most certainly be war. Should we Christians really have nothing to say about this fact of the world as it is? Has not chivalry and just war made one of the worst facts about the world a little better?
A Christian was not made to kill another man, but he will if he has to, because some things are worth defending, not only at the cost of one's own life but even at the cost of another's. War is horrible, we all agree, and unfortunately, in this life, that is not sufficient proof that it wrong. Hauerwas would have us bring the Kingdom into this world, and I support his intention. Let him be part of the Franciscan Crusade that went without weapons and had longer success in conquering the Holy Land than anyone else, but we should not pretend that the Franciscans would have saved Europe at Lepanto, nor that God would have intervened. Someone had to stop the invasion, and how was that going to happen if not by waging war?