"War" to end all wars?

By Kate Guthrie
September 8, 2009

As I struggle to write the conclusion of my project on Remembrance, it has struck me what a strange concept "war to end all wars" is. This phrase was used by the American President Woodrow Wilson of World War One. It hardly needs be pointed out that his description of this particular conflict was wrong - there have been many wars subsequently.

However, what seems more flawed than the use of this phrase is the ideology in the phrase itself. The suggestion that war could end wars is circular - you ultimately end up with war. This testifies to the fact that violence cannot be finally redemptive. Even if it provides a way of intervening in an unjust situation and through this some justice is brought about, the violent conflict can never provide a final solution of redeemed peace.

The counterpart to this phrase is obvious - "peace to end all wars". As I have been interning with Ekklesia over the past six months, I have become increasingly convicted of the need for a commitment to peace if it is ever to become a reality. War may seem like the obvious option, because it is what we always do. But it is an option - something we choose - and, therefore, we have the power to choose otherwise. The church in particular should be promoting this position, as peace is at the heart of the Gospel. Moreover, to uphold violence as a means of bringing peace is to ignore the reality of Jesus' death as a non-violent sacrifice and to shun the power that is offered to the Church if it will live in accordance with his new way of life.

War will never end all wars; only peace has the redemptive power to do that.

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