What if Mennonite pacifists and Roman Catholic just war theorists could find a point of convergence on the subject of armed conflict? What if a third theoretical construct could be found for these Christians as they grapple with the moral requirements of life in a violent world? In this slim volume, writers from various Christian persuasions consider just policing as their alternative response to world violence. Among the various models of policing considered, “community policing” emerges as the model of choice, and it is examined primarily from Mennonite (pacifist) and Roman Catholic (just war) perspectives. Authors carefully note that each position may be described from several perspectives For example, selected Vatican statements are examined for their nuanced acceptance of the just war tradition, and significant representatives of the pacifist tradition (most notably John Howard Yoder) are critiqued for their insights into nonviolence in the face of war.
Schlabach opens the book in Part I with an introductory chapter on the nature of the just policing proposal. He situates it between pacifism and just war thought on a spectrum that he devises. Clearly, he insists, he is not pushing for “premature compromise” but, rather, for “mutually challenging attention to the place of policing in each tradition” (vii). In Ivan J. Kauffman’s essay that follows, the author contends that Pope John Paul II’s embrace of active nonviolence has been “under-noted” (viii). In fact, Kauffman and most of the contributors to this book stress the convergence of thought between the most respected voices of each tradition. Glen H. Stassen’s contribution expands Kauffman’s argument through the use of case studies that describe why successful anti-war movements must offer more than protest against wars. The public wants and needs a workable alternative to absolute pacifism, he observes.
Part II begins with Schlabach’s chapter entitled “Warfare vs. Policing: In Search of Moral Clarity.” Here he encourages the diehards of each tradition to struggle with the potential benefits of just policing. With careful definitions articulated in very respectful tones, Schlabach lays out his just policing proposal. A second essay follows in which he explores the model of “community policing” that is designed to appeal to Catholics who subscribe to the just war tradition and Mennonites who espouse pacifism.
Margaret R. Pfeil takes on the Turner Johnson/Weigel school of just war thinking in the first essay of Part III by comparing approaches to justice in non-European cultures. Appealing to biblical shalom as the final model, she shows the merits of restorative justice. Former-police-officer-turned-scholar Tobias Winright emerges throughout the volume as a spokesperson for just policing. In his chapter he depicts community policing as a paradigm with much promise for twenty-first century world citizens. Reina C. Neufeldt inserts the concept of just policing into the arena of international relations. Relying on various lenses such as realism and globalization, she envisions just policing in practice.
Finally, Part IV offers conclusions. In some incremental measures, just policing is possible. John Paul Lederach presents the “doables” of just policing, i.e., the small steps needed to put this model into practice in instances of armed conflict. Lastly, Drew Christiansen, S.J. identifies the points of convergence between the Mennonite and Catholic traditions. He challenges willing members of both communities to consider carefully the distance between them and to take steps together to make this world a just piece of God’s creation.
The sticking point identified throughout the volume is that just policing permits the use of minimal violence as a last resort. Christiansen echoes Schlabach when he writes, “the real issue for the vast community of the Catholic Church, is how to make just policing a truly Christian charism and not simply the baptism of the warrior ethos.” Concomitantly, “for Mennonites, recognition of just policing would mean accepting as members of their communion those who, as part of the Christian commitment, would participate in policing missions” (210).
Surely, each side must be willing to work toward an authentic compromise if just policing is ever to become a genuine alternative for each faith tradition. The authors thoughtfully present the concept of just policing in a manner that gives reason to hope that such an approach might, if adopted, improve our world. The editor chose his authors well, their work is accessible for undergraduates. I plan to use the book in a graduate class soon.