November 19, 2018
When is violence justified? When should we fight? How should we fight? Soldiers and police officers face these questions every day. But private citizens could face them at any moment. What should they do?
Jeffrey K. Mann, associate professor of religious studies at Susquehanna University, attempts to answer these questions in his latest book, May I Kill, in which he uses the ethics of nonviolence and just war theory to examine occasions for the use of violence from a moral perspective-whether between nations at war or in violent encounters in our own neighborhoods.
“We live in a safe time,” Mann acknowledges, “but we could face violence at any moment. My hope is that this book, which I’ve written for a general audience, addresses the questions that I’ve heard a lot of people asking.”
First, Mann examines moral reasoning itself-how is it that we determine right from wrong? He then guides the reader through virtues and vices associated with Western pacifism, Eastern nonviolence and just war theory, which deals with the justification of how and why wars are fought.
Following the presentation of just war theory, Mann considers how this model can apply to situations of civilian self-defense by delving into ethical dilemmas that civilians may face at some point in their lives when compelled to act in the defense of themselves or others.
Finally, Mann makes a case for the moral obligation we all have to cultivate ourselves-body, mind and spirit-to facilitate greater peace and flourishing in our communities.
“If our ultimate goal is to eliminate violence, and if we wish to cultivate peace in our communities, it is necessary to become a person who is capable of acting with good intent, knowledge and skill,” Mann said. “I argue that we all have a moral obligation to cultivate goodness and peace.”
Mann teaches world religions, church history and ethics at Susquehanna. He is also the author of Shall We Sin? (2003) and When Buddhists Attack (2012).
May I Kill is published by Wipf & Stock and is available for purchase.