To examine how the Just War theory applies to the contemporary context of corporate warfare, we need to acknowledge that theology is not a fixed or abstract field of study but a dynamic and concrete one. It is influenced by the situation and perspective of the theologian, who tries to comprehend and communicate their faith in relation to the reality they live in. Theology is, in a way, an art of imagination, as it attempts to depict the mystery of God and God’s action in the world through human language and concepts.
This imaginative dimension of theology can be seen in the works of different theologians throughout history, who have responded to the challenges and opportunities of their times with creativity and courage. For example, Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Dominican priest from Peru, is widely regarded as the founder of liberation theology, a movement that emerged in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s as a response to the oppression and poverty of the majority of the population. Gutiérrez’s theology was inspired by his personal encounter with the poor and marginalized, who showed him the face of Christ’s suffering in history. He imagined a God who is not indifferent or distant from human misery but who sides with the oppressed and calls for their liberation from all forms of injustice. He also imagined a church that is not a hierarchical institution but a community of disciples who follow Jesus in solidarity with the poor and who participate in God’s liberating mission.
Another example is Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II. He was born and raised in Poland, a country that suffered under Nazi and communist regimes for most of the 20th century. His theology was influenced by his experience of living under totalitarianism, which threatened human dignity and freedom. He imagined a God who is not a tyrant or a manipulator but who respects human free will and invites people to cooperate with his plan of love. He also imagined a person who is not a passive object or a mere cog in the machine but an active subject and a responsible actor who has an inherent dignity and value as an image of God. He developed his anthropology and ethics based on this personalist vision, which he applied to various fields such as culture, politics, economics, ecology, and sexuality. Read Bishop Karol Wojtyla’s Decree Against Communism (1949) or his manuscript The Acting Person (1960s).
A third example is Remigius de Girolami, a Dominican preacher and theologian from the 13th century. He lived in Florence, Italy, a city that was torn by civil strife between two factions: the Guelphs, who supported the papacy, and the Ghibellines, who supported the emperor. He also witnessed the rise of communalism, a form of government that gave more power to the citizens and less to the feudal lords. His theology was shaped by his concern for social harmony and peace, which he saw as essential for human flourishing. He imagined a God who is not a partisan or a rival but who desires the common good of all people and all creation. He also imagined a society that is not based on violence or self-interest but on justice, charity, and friendship. He proposed his theory of the common good as a way to overcome the conflicts and divisions that plagued his city and his church. Read The Political Works of Remigius Dei Girolami.
These three examples show how theology is an art of imagination that reflects the context and experience of the theologian. They also show how theology can be relevant and meaningful for today’s world, as it offers new perspectives and insights on God, humanity, and society. Theology is not only an academic exercise or a doctrinal system but a creative expression of faith that can inspire and transform us. The uniqueness of Catholic theology is that the magisterium affords the theologian a framework and barriers beyond which their imagination cannot extend. In other words, the Catholic theologian cannot be more imaginative than the deposit of faith allows him to be.
The environment in which one lives influences one’s imagination and the products of one’s creativity, including theology.
Therefore, being that we do not isolate the theologian outside of their life experience, in this essay, I will examine how Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, life and theology were impacted by a tumultuous period of the late Roman Empire when it was under constant threat from the barbarian invasions of the Visigoths, Vandals, and Huns. I will demonstrate how these barbarian invasions influenced Augustine’s theological and philosophical views on topics such as evil, suffering, sin, grace, free will, and the end of history. I will demonstrate why he developed the concept of the ‘just war’ theory as a mere justification for the use of violence in defense of peace and justice. Most importantly, I will put Saint Augustine’s ‘Just War Theory’ in conversation with modern war, which is just a corporate revenue line.
WHO WAS SAINT AUGUSTINE?
Augustine was born in 354 Anno Domini (AD) in Thagaste, a small town in North Africa. He was raised in a Christian family, but he was not baptized until he was 33 years old. He had a restless and curious mind, and he pursued various fields of study, such as rhetoric, literature, philosophy, and astrology. He was also involved in a long-term relationship with a woman who bore him a son named Adeodatus. He joined the Manichean sect, which claimed to have a superior knowledge of the nature of good and evil. He later became disillusioned with Manichaeism and converted to Christianity under the influence of his mother, Monica, and the bishop Ambrose of Milan.
Augustine became a priest in 391 AD and a bishop in 395 AD. He settled in Hippo Regius, a coastal city in North Africa, where he spent the rest of his life. He had to deal with the attacks and persecutions of the Donatists, a schismatic sect that opposed his authority and doctrine. He also had to cope with the famine, disease, and violence that plagued his region. He died in 430 AD while his city of Hippo was besieged by the Vandals.
SAINT AUGUSTINE: THE WARTIME BISHOP
The barbarian invasions challenged Augustine’s pastoral and ecclesiastical duties. He had to administer the affairs of his diocese, which included ordaining priests, resolving disputes, writing letters, preaching sermons, and organizing charity. He also had to defend the orthodox faith against various heresies, such as Manichaeism, Pelagianism, and Arianism. He was involved in several councils and synods that shaped the doctrine and discipline of the church.
One of the most pressing issues that Augustine faced was how to reconcile the Christian message of love and peace with the reality of war and violence. He witnessed the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 AD, which shocked the Roman world and provoked questions about the fate of civilization and Christianity. He also saw the rise of the Huns, who were feared for their brutality and savagery. He had to advise his fellow Christians on how to respond to these threats and how to live in a world that seemed to be falling apart.
Augustine developed the concept of the just war theory, which provided criteria for determining when war is morally permissible and how it should be conducted. According to Augustine, war is always a result of sin and should be avoided if possible. However, he recognized that sometimes war is necessary to protect innocent lives, to restore justice, or to defend the faith. He argued that war can be just if it is authorized by a legitimate authority, if it has a just cause, if it has a right intention, if it is waged with moderation and proportionality, and if it is done with love for one’s enemies.
Augustine also wrote The City of God, which is considered one of his masterpieces and one of the most influential works in Western history. It was written as a response to the pagan critics who blamed Christianity for the decline and fall of Rome. Augustine argued that there are two cities in human history: the earthly city and the heavenly city. The earthly city is based on self-love and seeks worldly glory and power. The heavenly city is based on love for God and seeks eternal peace and happiness. The two cities are intermingled in this world but will be separated at the end of history.
Augustine claimed that Christians belong to both cities, but their true citizenship is in heaven. He urged them not to be attached to or despair over the fate of Rome or any other earthly kingdom. He encouraged them to live according to their faith and hope in God’s providence and judgment. He assured them that God will ultimately triumph over evil and that those who love him will enjoy eternal life in his presence.
THE CONFLICT BETWEEN AUGUSTINE’S JUST WAR AND THE MODERN CORPORATE INDUSTRY
According to Saint Augustine, a just war is one that meets four conditions:
- It must be waged by a legitimate authority, such as a sovereign state or a ruler who has the consent of the people.
- It must have a just cause, such as defending oneself or one’s allies from aggression, restoring justice or order, or punishing wrongdoing.
- It must have a right intention, such as seeking peace, protecting the innocent, or advancing the common good.
- It must use proportionate means, such as avoiding unnecessary violence, respecting the rights of non-combatants, and minimizing collateral damage.
These conditions (subjective to interpret) are meant to ensure that war is only used as a last resort to defend or restore justice, peace, and order. Saint Augustine believed that war is always a result of human sin and that it should be avoided as much as possible. He also believed that war could sometimes be a necessary evil to prevent greater evils or to promote greater goods. He based his theory on the teachings of the Bible, especially the New Testament, which emphasizes love, mercy, and forgiveness as the highest virtues.
However, the modern war industry, which includes corporations that sell weapons, equipment, and services to countries that are waging war, or that exploit the resources and markets of war-torn regions, seems to contradict these conditions. Some critics argue that the war industry fuels conflicts, violates human rights, undermines democracy, and harms the environment. They claim that the war industry has a vested interest in perpetuating war (e.g., Ukraine 2023), rather than promoting peace, and that it influences political decisions and public opinion to justify unjust wars.
Today, Saint Augustine would have found his four criteria for war being justified in direct conflict with reality. Today, wars are not waged by sovereign states or rulers, but by corporations such as and by asset managers at firms such as BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street.
For example, some critics point out that the war industry has profited from wars such as the Iraq War (2003-2011), the Afghanistan War (2001-present), and the Yemen War (2015-present), which have caused millions of deaths, injuries, displacements, and human rights violations. They also point out that the war industry has contributed to global warming, environmental degradation, and resource depletion by producing and using weapons and vehicles that emit greenhouse gases and consume fossil fuels. They also point out that the war industry has corrupted democratic institutions and processes by lobbying politicians, funding campaigns, and spreading propaganda to support their interests.
The major corporations that profit from the waging war industry include Lockheed Martin (44.9 billion in arms sales in 2017), Boeing (26.9 billion in 2017), BAE Systems (22.9 billion in 2017), General Dynamics (19.5 billion in 2017), and Raytheon (18.5 billion in 2017). These are the five largest corporations that profit the most from the war industry, and the top three shareholders in all of them are BlackRock (9.57 trillion assets under management in 2022), Vanguard (8.1 trillion in 2022), and State Street (4.02 trillion in 2022).
Not only is war connected to a revenue line today, but it is also aligned with partisan policy-making and elections. In the 2020 election cycle. In 2020, BlackRock contributed a total of $8,387,590 to politicians and political action committees (PACs), with $4,955,590 (59.1%) going to Democrats and $3,432,000 (40.9%) going to Republicans. State Street contributed a total of $2,144,823, with $1,353,823 (63.1%) going to Democrats and $791,000 (36.9%) going to Republicans. Vanguard contributed a total of $1,605,898, with $1,005,898 (62.6%) going to Democrats and $600,000 (37.4%) going to Republicans.
In addition to donating to political parties and candidates, BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard also vote on behalf of their shareholders in proxy votes at the companies they invest in, but their political interests may not always be aligned. For example, BlackRock and State Street supported a resolution at AT&T that called for an independent investigation into the company’s political spending after it was revealed that AT&T donated to politicians implicated in the peaceful protest on January 6th, 2021. Vanguard opposed the resolution. Similarly, BlackRock and State Street supported a resolution at Chevron that asked for a report on how the company’s lobbying activities align with the Paris Agreement’s goals on climate change. Vanguard opposed the resolution.
The theory of just war developed by Saint Augustine of Hippo was influenced by his personal and historical experience of living in a turbulent and violent era. He witnessed the collapse of the Roman Empire and the invasion of North Africa by various barbarian tribes, such as the Vandals, Huns, and Visigoths. These invaders posed a constant threat to the security and stability of the Christian communities that Augustine served as a bishop. For Augustine, war was a tragic but inevitable result of human sinfulness and a means to restore order and peace in a fallen world. He did not glorify war, but he recognized its necessity in some circumstances (i.e., the ends justify the means).
However, the context of war in Augustine’s time was very different from the context of war in our time. In his time, war was not a lucrative enterprise, and the invaders did not have the support or sponsorship of powerful financial or military institutions. They had to bear the burden and risk of war themselves, and they had to face their enemies directly on the battlefield. In contrast, in our time, war is often motivated by the sins of greed, pride, and usury, and it is often fueled by the interests of corporations, banks, and politicians who profit from war. These actors are usually insulated from the suffering and destruction that war causes, while innocent civilians and soldiers are the ones who pay the price.
This poses a serious challenge for applying Augustine’s theory of just war to modern conflicts. It raises questions about the moral and political legitimacy of those who start and benefit from war, as well as the ethical and humanitarian responsibility of those who are impacted by war. It also challenges us to examine our own conscience and actions in relation to war and peace and to seek ways to promote justice and reconciliation in a world that is still plagued by violence.
The critique of Saint Augustine’s ‘Just War Theory’ challenges the validity of paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which needs to be revised by the Magisterium in light of the changing historical and social contexts. The Catholic Church can no longer rely on a theory that is not sourced from the deposit of faith, not based on Veritatis, and that was developed in a different era when war was sometimes used to defend the Church and her moral authority from hostile rulers. This new world order is dominated by corporations that exploit the war for their own interests and that threaten the Church, her faithful, and her deposit of faith with their immoral practices.
 https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/03/10/10-companies-profiting-most-from-war/1970997/, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/02/21/military-spending-defense-contractors-profiting-from-war-weapons-sales/39092315/