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Beowulf: Just War Is Born Out Of Pacifism

When Beowulf fights Grendel, he refuses the use of a sword and insists that God will determine the victor. We later learn the Grendel is protected by a hex and that no blade can harm him. Beowulf refuses every advantage in battle which he might take unto himself, and so doing he invites God to step in and fill up his own weakness. While Bewoulf has no way of knowing it, Grendel can only be defeated through a just and strategic weakness. If Beowulf was not dependent and confident in God’s judgment of the contest, he would have kept his sword and done his worst. The just warrior assumes he is blind to the true nature of the battle; he adopts a weakness as an invocation of the Almighty. “Be my eyes, Lord,” says the just warrior when he refuses torture. “Be my weapon, Lord,” says the just warrior when he refuses a sword, a bomb. “Be my wisdom, Lord,” says the just warrior when he refuses an underhanded tactic.

The just warrior is just because he is not scraping the bottom of the tactical barrel. The just warrior does not do everything he can to win. The just warrior makes room for God by assuming some token weakness. The greater the weakness assumed by the just warrior, the more prominent a role God will play in the battle. The warrior who refuses all weapons assumes the greatest victory; the warrior who refuses weakness leaves no room for God to fight on his behalf. True martyr cannot fight true martyr.

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