Unjust Drone Warfare, Part 4

How Christian Congregations Can Respond

by Joshua Carson

(Kheng Guan Toh / Shutterstock.com)

(Kheng Guan Toh / Shutterstock.com)

In past posts we talked about the criteria for a just war, examined how the US government conducts drone strikes, and determined that our use of such strikes fails to meet the just war criteria. We now take a look at the action steps that logically follow for Christian churches.

How can Christian congregations respond to the US government's unjust use of drones?

The church, which is intended to be a prophetic voice for justice in the world, has a responsibility to speak out against injustice in all of its forms and to mobilize its collective power to bring Christ's redeeming and restoring justice where injustice and abuse have reigned. The US use of drone strikes abroad certainly classifies as unjust, even by the standards of the just war tradition, and the church has a responsibility to respond against this injustice and to promote peace.

First, leaders and members should educate themselves on our nation's drone practices in the last decade and on the just war tradition. Even for "peace churches" and others that do not accept this tradition as an appropriate Christian ethic, an accurate understanding of it will help them to interact in political and theological arenas that do operate under just war presuppositions. The resources in this bibliography and other resources available through a simple internet search can help individuals and churches learn about US drone practices with relative ease. It is the responsibility of church leadership to preach and teach about these issues–to preach so that awareness of the issues are made known in the church, and to teach so that members can grapple with and understand the ethical implications of this issue in greater detail. A helpful tool might be the "Liturgy of Lament" that was developed by the "Theologies of Nonviolence and Social Change" class at Palmer Theological Seminary. With this liturgy, a church or group can lament the deaths of children killed in Yemen and Pakistan.[1]

Beyond training its own members, the church needs to make public statements against this unjust practice. Churches with denominational affiliations should write to their partner churches and denomination, asking them to publish statements publicly denouncing this practice. Thankfully, several groups have already done so.

  • In the summer of 2014 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) "…declared its opposition to targeted killings by military drones unless due process is followed."[2]
  • The Methodist Church in Britain has agreed to ask that the UK government urge the US to stop using drones in killing suspected terrorists.[3]
  • The National Black Church Initiative, which represents 15 denominations, 34,000 churches, and 15.7 million African Americans, issued a statement describing the administration's use of drones as "murder" and "evil."[4]
  • The Church of the Brethren adopted a "Resolution Against Drone Warfare" in 2013.[5]
  • The Office of International Justice and Peace within the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has written a document that provides background information on armed drones for its parishioners and the Committee on International Justice and Peace of that same conference wrote a letter to then-National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon raising several moral and ethical issues regarding the use of drones.[6]

Unfortunately, as of the time that this piece was written, no consensus has appeared from the larger Baptist denominations against the use of drones. However, these public statements from the denominations listed above, along with incredible and public displays of Christian love and support for our Muslim brothers and sisters,[7] will raise continued awareness of Christian opposition to this unjust practice and will open doors to reconciliation with the people around the world whose suffering we have caused.

(See this bibliography for a helpful list of introductory materials, many of which are cited in this series.)

Josh Carson is Pastor of Student Ministries at First Baptist Church of Bethlehem, PA, and serves as a Sider Scholar & Ayres Scholar for ESA while working on his M.Div. at Palmer Theological Seminary. Read also his "Demons of the Skies," an article that looks at drones as demons.


[1] Theologies of Nonviolence and Social Change, a class of Palmer Theological Seminary, found under "Drone Liturgy" at Evangelicals for Social Action, March 14, 2014.

[2] Pat Cole, "Assembly asks government to follow due process when drones are used," Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), June 21, 2014.

[3] Duane Shank, "DRONE WATCH: Methodist Church of Britain Opposes Use of Drones," Sojourners, July 5, 2012. s

[4] National Black Church Initiative, "NBCI Condemns Obama Administration's Drone Policy as Murder and Evil," Washington D.C., February 19, 2013.

[5] Church of the Brethren Mission and Ministry Board, "Resolution Against Drone Warfare," 2013.

[6] Office of International Justice and Peace, "Background on Armed Drones," U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington D.C., January 2014. Committee on International Justice and Peace, "Letter to Mr. Thomas E. Donilon," Washington D.C., May 17, 2013.

[7] Sarah van Gelder, Interview with Jim Wallis, "Meet the Refreshing Evangelical Who's Leading a Revival of the Common Good," YES! Magazine, May 30, 2013.

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