The language of the imago dei has the capacity, in my view, to subvert the legal and ethical justifications for war, and focus dialogue and conversations on the ways in which killing, tragically, allows us to glimpse the diminishment of our own humanity in the death of another.
A transformative justice approach with restorative mechanisms works to break this logic of de-humanization and build more humanizing social processes. Accountability, as distinct from punishment, is about better understanding the harm, growing in empathy, acknowledging responsibility, and moving in the direction of changing harmful behavior.
The significance of protest lies in challenging the “policing” realities of death that plague our world and exposes the contingencies on which such logic rests whilst reasserting our own political agency by re-claiming the power we have to embody now the future God desires for this world. This is the form of politics to which Jesus calls us.
A full-scale war might spectacularly display the deaths and violence that immediately bring people’s attention. However, an excessive profit-driven business may also kill as many people as war does, while in many cases, these deaths are invisible.
By working to abolish policing and prisons as we know them today, prison and police abolitionists are engaging in the kind of activism that can resist and dismantle these interconnected evils at the same time. In other words, transformative justice and prison abolition are ways to resist the military-industrial complex.
Transforming war into a capitalist imperative, the expanded use of PMSCs makes it more difficult to place democratic checks upon military power, commodifies war in a fashion that obscures its tragedy and misery, and threatens to further constrict the role of justice in determining military engagements.
Above all, the Christian tradition urges us to reject the application of war metaphors to the market, as if it were a bloody realm of unavoidable tragedy and exclusively self-focused interest. It is not—or should not be—and the temptation to accept economic “tragedy” is really just the temptation to fail to love God and the neighbor, theologically speaking.
Though theologies and practices vary, many Christians commit to sacred times of relation, mutual care, and patience as a form of devotion to God’s promise of justice, believing that this promise is their work to carry out, too. In the Sabbath lives a wider, eternal perspective and sacred release from daily rhythms, obligations, and productivity, an invitation into the transcendent.
Christian-affiliated people who want to heed and hear victim-survivors’ voices and seek justice with violence affected groups need to contend with histories of support for racist, colonial, and sexist policies and programs. This blog post is an expression of my effort to do that.