Who Would Jesus Kill? War, Peace, and the Christian Tradition

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Article Reviews

By Mark J. Allman (St. Mary’s Press, 2008)

“Who would Jesus kill?” asks author Mark Allman in this introduction to Christian thought on the ideal of peace and the morality of warfare. The answer is easy: No one! The unmarried, childless, propertyless, non-political Jesus of the canonical gospels kills no one.

Many of those baptized into the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus, however, as well as others who look to Jesus as a moral example, have engaged in warfare and killing with regularity. WWJK? presents a variety of positions, rationales, and critiques that disciples of Jesus have used throughout history to justify their personal and communal conduct that seems in such clear opposition to the words and example of Jesus.

This book seems to be intended for college classrooms, adult education programs, and thoughtful readers. A challenging teacher, Allman presents a great deal of information but does not do all the work for the reader. In addition to the reflection questions that close every chapter, Allman leaves open to discussion why the various moral theories presented early in the book exist. Also unexplained (because it is possibly unexplainable) is why various prayerful, thoughtful, sincere Christians might hold such different positions on issues so important—the matters of killing and the destruction of lives, cultures, and property that is of the essence of warfare.

There are places in the text where Allman leaves it to the reader to figure out the kind of pacifist, just warrior, or holy war he is discussing—but no one who reads WWJK? will ever want use the words “pacifism,” “just war,” or “holy war” again. Allman does not allow simplistic understandings of these complicated ideas to stand without critique.

WWJK? is a useful introduction to Christian positions on the objective morality of war and peacemaking. Those forming and reforming their consciences on matters of war and peace will profit from Allman’s thought-provoking explanation.


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