by Laurence M. Vance: Nuke
’Em and God Will Bless You
was given on August 20 at the Florida Liberty Summit 2011 in Orlando,
Thank you Campaign
for Liberty for the opportunity to speak about a subject I feel
so passionate about. I would like to speak to you today about Christianity
and War. Although I am a Bible-believing Christian and a theological
and cultural conservative, I write extensively about the biblical,
economic, and political fallacies of religious people, and especially
on the topic of Christianity and war. This is a subject where ignorance
abounds in both pulpit and pew, and most of it willful ignorance.
This is a subject that exposes Bible scholars as Bible illiterates.
This is a subject that turns Christians into disgraceful apologists
of the state, its leaders, its military, and its wars. This is a
subject that reveals pro-life Christians to be two-faced supporters
of wholesale murder.
If there is
any group of people that should be opposed to war, torture, militarism,
the warfare state, state worship, suppression of civil liberties,
an imperial presidency, blind nationalism, government propaganda,
and an aggressive foreign policy it is Christians, and especially
conservative, evangelical, and fundamentalist Christians who claim
to strictly follow the dictates of Scripture and worship the Prince
of Peace. It is indeed strange that Christian people should be so
accepting of war. War is the greatest suppressor of civil liberties.
War is the greatest destroyer of religion, morality, and decency.
War is the greatest creator of fertile ground for genocides and
atrocities. War is the greatest destroyer of families and young
lives. War is the greatest creator of famine, disease, and homelessness.
War is the health of the state.
Christianity is in a sad state. There is an unholy desire on the
part of a great many Christians to legitimize killing in war. There
persists the idea among too many Christians that mass killing in
war is acceptable, but the killing of one’s neighbor violates the
sixth commandment’s prohibition against killing. Christians who
wouldn’t think of using the Lord’s name in vain blaspheme God when
they make ridiculous statements like "God is pro-war."
Christians who try never to lie do so with boldness when they claim
they are pro-life, but refuse to extend their pro-life sentiments
to foreigners already out of the womb. Christians who abhor idols
are guilty of idolatry when they say that we should follow the latest
dictates of the state because we should always "obey the powers
that be." Christians who venerate the Bible handle the word
of God deceitfully when they quote Scripture to defend the latest
U.S. military action. Christians who claim to be dispensationalists
wrongly divide the word of truth when they appeal to the Old Testament
to justify U.S. government wars. Christians who claim to have the
mind of Christ show that they have lost their mind when they want
the full force of government to protect a stem cell, but have no
conscience about U.S. soldiers killing for the government.
have a warped view of what it means to be pro-life. Why is it that
foreigners don’t have the same right to life as unborn American
babies? There should be no difference between being for abortion
and for war. Both result in the death of innocents.
Both are unnecessary. Both cause psychological harm
to the one who signs a consent form or fires a weapon. Why is it
that to many Christians an American doctor in a white coat is considered
a murderer if he kills an unborn baby, but an American soldier in
a uniform is considered a hero if he kills an adult? In January
of every year, many churches observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.
Fine, but we need ministers who are as concerned about killing on
the battlefield as they are about killing in the womb.
Much of the
blame for Christian support for war must be laid at the feet of
the pastors and church leaders who have failed to discern the truth
themselves so they can educate their congregations. They are blind
leaders of the blind. It is tragic that many so-called Christian
leaders moonlight as apologists for the Republican Party. Many pastors
are cheerleaders for current U.S. wars. We hear more from pulpits
today justifying American military intervention throughout the
world than we do about the need for missionaries to go into
all the world. Our churches have supplied more soldiers to the
Middle East than missionaries. It is appalling that instead of the
next U.S. military adventure being denounced from every pulpit in
the land, it will be conservative preachers who can be counted on
to defend it.
If there is
any group within Christianity that should be the most consistent,
the most vocal, the most persistent, and the most scriptural in
its opposition to war and the warfare state, it is conservative
Christians who look to the Bible as their sole authority. Yet, never
at any time in history have so many of these Christians held such
unholy opinions. The association they have with the Republican Party
is unholy. The admiration they have for the military is unholy.
The indifference they have toward war is unholy. The callous attitude
they have toward the deaths of foreigners is unholy. The idolatry
they manifest toward the state is unholy.
of Christian support for war reminds me of a story in the Old Testament
about two sons of the patriarch Jacob. In order to avenge the rape
of their sister by some foreigners, the sons of Jacob told their
leader that if his people consented to be circumcised, then both
groups of people could intermarry and the rapist could have their
sister to wife. However, after all the foreigners were circumcised,
when they were sore, two sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, came and
slew all the men who were incapacitated and spoiled their city.
When their father Jacob heard about this, he told his sons: "Ye
have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the
warriors, Christian Coalition moralists, Religious Right warvangelicals,
reich-wing Christian nationalists, theocon Values Voters, imperial
Christians, Red-State Christian fascists, God and country Christian
bumpkins, and other Christian warmongers have made Christians to
stink among the non-Christian inhabitants of the United States.
After almost ten years of the senseless wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq, some of the greatest defenders of these wars continue to be
Christians. The morality of going to war in the first place, as
well as the number of dead and wounded Iraqis and Afghans, is of
absolutely no concern to most American Christians. Every dead American
solider is, of course, a hero, no matter where he fought, what his
motive was, or how he died.
the war on terror among Christians remains so pervasive that I’m
inclined to agree with Mark Twain in saying that "if Christ
were here now there is one thing he would not be – a Christian."
I’m sorry to say that blind acceptance of government propaganda,
willful ignorance of U.S. foreign policy, persistent support of
the Republican Party, and childish devotion to the military are
the norm among the majority of conservative Christians instead of
Americans should know that Christian enthusiasm for war and the
warfare state is a perversion of Christianity, an affront to the
Saviour whom Christians worship as the Prince of Peace, a violation
of Scripture, contrary to the whole tenor of the New Testament,
and an unfortunate demonstration of the profound ignorance many
Christians have of history and their own Bible.
The early Christians
were not warmongers like so many Christians today. They did not
idolize the Caesars like some Christians do Republican presidents.
They did not make apologies for the Roman Empire like many Christians
do for the U.S. Empire. They did not venerate the institution of
the military like most Christians do today. They did not participate
in the state’s wars like too many Christians do today. If there
was anything at all advocated by the early Christians it was peace
violence, and bloodshed are contrary to the very nature of Christianity.
There is nothing in the New Testament from which to draw the conclusion
that killing is somehow sanctified if it is done in the name of
the state. As explained by the famed nineteenth-century British
Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon: "The Church of Christ is
continually represented under the figure of an army; yet its Captain
is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace,
and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of
war is at the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the gospel."
unfortunately, persisted throughout history the theologically schizophrenic
idea among some Christians that mass killing in war is acceptable,
but the killing of one’s neighbor violates the sixth commandment.
I have termed this the Humpty Dumpty approach. But as the aforementioned
Spurgeon said: "If there be anything which this book denounces
and counts the hugest of all crimes, it is the crime of war. Put
up thy sword into thy sheath, for hath not he said, ‘Thou shalt
not kill,’ and he meant not that it was a sin to kill one but a
glory to kill a million, but he meant that bloodshed on the smallest
or largest scale was sinful."
the so-called Civil War in the United States, a Baptist minister
writing in the Christian Review demonstrated that Christian
war fever was contrary to the New Testament: "Christianity
requires us to seek to amend the condition of man. But war cannot
do this. The world is no better for all the wars of five thousand
years. Christianity, if it prevailed, would make the earth a paradise.
War, where it prevails, makes it a slaughter-house, a den of thieves,
a brothel, a hell. Christianity cancels the laws of retaliation.
War is based upon that very principle. Christianity is the remedy
for all human woes. War produces every woe known to man." There
is nothing "liberal" about opposition to war. There is
nothing "anti-American" about opposition to militarism.
And what could be more Christian than standing firmly against aggression,
violence, and bloodshed?
So when did
the early church go astray? Undoubtedly, it was the accession to
power of the emperor Constantine. When the empire allied itself
with the church, it was the church that changed more than the empire.
Instead of spreading Christianity by persuasion and being persecuted
for it, some Christians began persecuting those who could not be
persuaded. This Constantinian mindset is alive and well today. When
Jerry Falwell said that America should chase down terrorists all
over the world and "blow them all away in the name of the Lord,"
expressing a sentiment widely held by conservative Christians.
came just war theory.
War is mentioned
over two hundred times in the Bible. The overwhelming majority of
these instances concern in some way the nation of Israel. This fact
is extremely important, because the president of the United States
is not God, America is not the nation of Israel, the U.S. military
is not the Lord’s army, the Christian’s sword is the word of God,
and the only warfare the New Testament encourages the Christian
to wage is against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
But just war
theory has nothing to do with war in the Bible. Christian just war
theory began as the attempt by Augustine to reconcile Christian
participation in warfare with the morality of New Testament Christianity. In
its essence, just war theory concerns the use of force: when
force should be used and what kind of force is acceptable.
The timing of force relates to a country’s justification
for the initiation of war or military action; the nature
of force relates to how military activity is conducted once a country
commits to use force. The principle of the just war is actually
many principles, all of which must be met for a war to be considered
just. A just war must have a just cause, be in proportion to the
gravity of the situation, have obtainable objectives, be preceded
by a public declaration, be declared only by legitimate authority,
and only be undertaken as a last resort. A war that is not justifiable
is nothing short of mass murder.
Yet, just war
theory is untenable because it is difficult to know with sufficient
confidence whether all of its conditions have been met, because
some of its tenets are impossible to realize, because the criteria
of just war theory are too flexible, because it contradicts itself
in that it sanctions the killing of innocents, which it at the same
time prohibits, and because it is used to justify rather than to
prevent war. Indeed, just war theory can be used effectively by
all sides to justify all wars. Every government, every ruler, every
soldier, every citizen – they all think their country’s wars are
Just war theory
says that a war is just if certain conditions and rules are observed.
But how can you make rules for slaughter and mayhem? By sanctifying
war while attempting to curtail its manner and frequency, just war
theory merely allowed Christians to make peace with war. That just
war theory is used to defend the war in Iraq shows just how useless
it is. Waging the war in Iraq is against every Christian just war
principle that has ever been formulated.
But not only
is just war theory not based on Scripture, it is rooted in blind
obedience to the state, which, the last time I read my Bible, is
not a tenet of New Testament Christianity. War is nothing but a
form of state-sponsored violence. It is the state that decides to
go to war, not the people, most of whom want nothing to do with
war. The state always claims that it is acting defensively, has
the right intention, has the proper authority, is undertaking war
as a last resort, has a high probability of success, and that a
war will achieve good that is proportionally greater than the damage
to life, limb, and property that it will cause. What good is just
war theory if it can be used by both sides in a conflict?
war theory came the Crusades, where conquest was conflated with
conversion, followed by the continual wars of religion among European
Christians. The ultimate picture of the folly of war is the bloodbath
perpetrated by the Christian nations in World War I. From 1914 to
1918, in battle after senseless battle, Christian soldiers in World
War I shot, bombed, torpedoed, burned, gassed, bayoneted, and starved
each other and civilians until twenty million of them were wounded
and another twenty million lay dead. The conduct of Christians in
the United States before and during the Great War was shameful.
even without the massive government propaganda campaign that was undertaken
during World War I, we see the same shameful conduct among Christians
regarding the war in Iraq. When Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq
in March of 2003 with the announcement that our cause was just, Christians
lined up in droves to support their president. They enlisted in the
military. They put "W" stickers and yellow ribbons on their
cars. They implored us in church to pray for the troops. They began
reciting their patriotic sloganeering, their God-and-country rhetoric,
and their "obey the powers that be" mantra. They dusted
off their books on just war theory. They denounced Christian opponents
of the war as unpatriotic, anti-American, liberals, pacifists, traitors,
Why? Why have
so many religious people gotten it so wrong? As I have explained
in many of my articles on Christianity and war over the years, there
are many reasons: thinking that the war in Iraq was in retaliation
for the 9/11 attacks, believing that Saddam Hussein was another
Hitler, supposing that Iraq was a threat to the United States, seeing
the war in Iraq as a modern-day crusade against Islam, assuming
that the United States needed to protect Israel from Iraq, viewing
Bush as a messiah figure, equating the Republican Party with the
party of God, blindly following the conservative movement, deeming
the American state to be a divine institution, failing to separate
the divine sanction of war against the enemies of God in the Old
Testament from the New Testament ethic that taught otherwise, having
a profound ignorance of history and primitive Christianity, reading
too much into the mention of soldiers in the New Testament, possessing
a warped "God and Country" complex, holding a "my
country right or wrong" attitude, and adopting the mindset
that brute force is barbarism when individuals use it, but honorable
when nations are guilty of it.
I believe the
two greatest reasons religious people have gotten things so wrong
are American exceptionalism and American militarism.
are guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry. They have bought
into a variety of American nationalism that has been called the
myth of American exceptionalism. This is the idea that the government
of the United States is morally and politically superior to all
other governments, that American leaders are exempt from the bad
characteristics of the leaders of other countries, that the U.S.
government should be trusted even as the governments of other countries
should be distrusted, that the United States is the indispensable
nation responsible for the peace and prosperity of the world, that
the motives of the United States are always benevolent and paternalistic,
that foreign governments should conform to the policies of the U.S.
government, that most other nations are potential enemies that threaten
U.S. safety and security, and that the United States is morally
justified in imposing sanctions or launching military attacks against
any country that refuses to conform to our dictates. These are the
tenets of American exceptionalism.
of this American exceptionalism is a foreign policy that is aggressive,
reckless, belligerent, and meddling. This is why U.S. foreign policy
results in discord, strife, hatred, and terrorism toward the United
States. We would never tolerate another country engaging in an American-style
foreign policy. How many countries are allowed to build military
bases and station troops in the United States? It is the height
of arrogance to insist that the United States alone has the right
to garrison the planet with bases, station troops wherever it wants,
intervene in the affairs of other countries, and be the world’s
policeman, fireman, social worker, security guard, mediator, and
other reason religious people have gotten things so wrong is American
militarism. Americans love the military, and American Christians
are no exception. There is an unseemly alliance that exists between
certain sectors of Christianity and the military. Even Christians
who are otherwise sound in the faith, who treasure the Constitution,
who don’t support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who oppose
an aggressive U.S. foreign policy get indignant when you question
the institution of the military. It doesn’t seem to matter the reason
for each war or intrusion into the affairs of another country. It
doesn’t seem to matter how long U.S. troops remain after the initial
intervention. It doesn’t seem to matter how many foreign civilians
are killed or injured. It doesn’t seem to matter how many billions
of dollars are spent by the military. It doesn’t even seem to matter
what the troops are actually doing – Americans in general, and American
Christians in particular, believe in supporting the troops no matter
what. Americans are repulsed by the serial killer who, to satisfy
the most basest of desires, dismembers his victims; but revere the
bomber pilot in the stratosphere who, flying above the clouds, never
hears the screams of his victims or sees the flesh torn from their
bones. Killing women and children from five feet is viewed as an
atrocity, but from five thousand feet it is a heroic act. It is
sometimes suspicious when a soldier kills up close, but never when
he launches a missile from afar.
of all branches and denominations have a love affair with the military.
To question the military in any way – its size, its budget, its
efficiency, its bureaucracy, its contractors, its weaponry, its
mission, its effectiveness, its foreign interventions – is to question
America itself. One can condemn the size of government, but never
the size of the military. One can criticize federal spending, but
never military spending. One can denounce government bureaucrats,
but never military brass. One can depreciate the welfare state,
but never the warfare state. One can expose government abuses, but
never military abuses. One can label domestic policy as socialistic,
but never foreign policy as imperialistic.
It is the U.S.
government that is the greatest threat to American life, liberty,
property, and peace – not the leaders or the military or the people
of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, or Yemen. And as James
Madison said: "If tyranny and oppression come to this land,
it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." Christians
should vigorously dissent the next time some warmongering
politician says there is some great evil in the world that must
be stamped out by the U.S. military. As John Quincy Adams said:
"America . . . goes not abroad seeking monsters to destroy."
Christians should stop regarding the state’s acts of aggression
as benevolent. Christians should stop presuming divine support for
U.S. military interventions. And because just war theory merely
allows Christians to make peace with war, they should reject it
just as they would any theory of just piracy or just terrorism or
just murder. It is Christians that should be leading the way toward
peace and a foreign policy of nonintervention. It is Christians
that should be leading the way toward the ideas of Ron Paul.
M. Vance [send him mail]
writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity
and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, The
Revolution that Wasn't, and Rethinking
the Good War. His latest book is The
Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. Visit his
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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