Demons of the Skies
Reflections on the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare, Princeton Theological Seminary
by Joshua Carson
I had the great privilege of attending the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare at Princeton Theological Seminary on January 24, 2015. Sponsored by the Peace Action Education Fund of the Coalition for Peace Action, the conference brought together people of various faiths to learn and dialogue about drone warfare.
Perhaps the most significant part of the conference for me was the talk from Rev. Isaac Villegas, pastor of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship in Chapel Hill, NC. You can find the video of his presentation below. Reflecting on the pacifist position on drone warfare, Villegas described drones as demons. Literal demons. He didn't say that they were like demons or that they were the personification of demons, but that they were literal demons.
As I listened, Villegas' suggestion began to make a lot of sense to me. Historically, spirits have been thought of as physical beings. In Ephesians 2:2 the apostle Paul refers to Satan as "the ruler of the kingdom of the air." Drones can cause psychological and physical torment for people who live in the regions where these "spirits of the air" patrol. The very names of these drones and their weapons are demonic. The two most common drone models go by the names of Predator and Reaper. Once these demons select their target, they fire on them with missiles called Hellfire.
While the majority of the speakers at the conference approached the discussion of drones from a legal, ethical, or theological perspective, Villegas' spiritual description of drones as demons was profound.
After spending the weekend in dialogue and hearing several lectures, the conference came up with a list of policy recommendations, including a call for greater transparency regarding past and ongoing drone strikes, acknowledging past strikes and their victims, and compensating victims. The conference also urged Congress to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which has been used to justify the use of armed drones across the world.
The conference schedule, an excerpt of the policy recommendations, and manuscripts and videos of the various speakers at the conference, including Rev. Villegas, are available at the Coalition for Peace Action.
Rev. Villegas is introduced at 41:15 in the video below.
Josh Carson (Eastern University, '13) is Pastor of Student Ministries at First Baptist Church of Bethlehem, PA, and is a Sider Scholar & Ayres Scholar with ESA while working on his M.Div. at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University.