Military Christianity and the Way of Jesus

As I write these words my Dad’s dog tags are lying in front of me. He was in the Army during World War 2, serving in North Africa and Italy. My uncles also spent time in the military during these same years. One was a bombardier in the Pacific, earning the Silver Star. I was told by family members that when he returned from war he deeply grieved with the knowledge that the bombs he dropped surely killed innocent people. Consequently, despite my anti-war commitments, I have no inclination to demonize soldiers. I know they have made sacrifices that impacted them physically, psychologically and spiritually, whether their bodies were ever wounded or not. But just as I will not demonize them, neither will I glorify them or the military as a whole. Those who do so, too often foolishly and flagrantly blaspheme as they celebrate soldiers and soldiering, an example of which we find in the picture above.

Identifying battlefield deaths with the sacrifice of Jesus is part of a broader effort to blend American militarism and Christianity. There are those -both in the military and outside of it- who seem determined to associate the work of the armed services with the way of faith. Col. Bob Young, who served as commander at Kandahar air base, insisted, “Arguably the military is the last American institution that tries to uphold Christian values. It is the easiest place in America to be a Christian.” He is far from alone in this belief.  Popular motivational speaker and former Marine Lt. Clebe McClary, the center of controversy when he was invited to address the U.S. Air Force Academy’s National Prayer Luncheon earlier this year, declares that USMC stands for “US Marines for Christ.”  Several years ago Gen. Jerry Boykin made national news for his speeches in churches and before civic groups dressed in full uniform, claiming the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were “spiritual battles” and stating that “Satan wants to destroy us as a Christian army.” It should not be surprising that those who find this misguided militaristic Christianity commendable don’t hesitate to speak of the war dead as though they are martyrs who were killed in Christian service.

Whatever sacrifices soldiers have made are utterly unlike the sort we see in the self-giving of Jesus who died expressing nonviolent divine love. Any linking of the deaths of soldiers to the death of Jesus is an offense against the incomparable action of God in Christ. I cringe every time I hear the words from John 15:13 quoted to honor the death of a soldier: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I cringe, not because I don’t believe that the soldier’s death should be honored. Rather, it is because those words from Jesus have absolutely nothing to do with the deaths experienced on a field of mutual hostility. Immediately before speaking of laying one’s life down for friends, Jesus declared, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (vs. 12). What Jesus speaks of here is a love like his own nonviolent love which was not anything like an act of laying down one’s life in a bloody contest of kill or be killed.

Still, soldiers make substantial sacrifices. Presidents, politicians and the civilian cheer-leaders for war are quick to declare that the sacrifices soldiers are asked to make are for the noblest causes. Solders, we are told, lay their lives down for freedom or democracy or even the very preservation of civilization itself. In fact this is rarely the case. The reasons for war more often have to do with preserving a sphere of national influence, insuring access to natural resources and opportunities for profit. Nineteenth century religious reformer and Disciples of Christ founder Alexander Campbell speculated that if “the true and proper causes of most wars were clearly understood and the real design for which they are prosecuted could be clearly and distinctly apprehended” war efforts would in most instances fail. Propaganda is crucial both to inspire soldiers and to rally the support of the general population.

The often quoted line, “Truth is the first casualty of war” is accurate for more than one reason. But certainly among the most important is that truth would likely tarnish the sacrifice of soldiers by unveiling the real reasons for war. It should be no shock to anyone that politicians are stubbornly unwilling to honestly admit they blundered in entering into a war. To do so would insult the sacrifices made by uniformed men and women who gave their lives, to say nothing of revealing the needlessness of the destruction war caused to others. And so we see, for example, that even when the primary justification for attacking Iraq –the presence of weapons of mass destruction- was shown to be without basis, President Bush could not admit the invasion was a mistake. Rather a new reason for the war had to be created: regime change.  Assurances were issued by the President that regardless of the absence of the weapons that were the original basis for starting the war, it was all still “worth it.” Admitting that the sacrifices of soldiers were based on deception or political miscalculation is intolerable. Such an admission would be seen as dishonoring those who died.

Perhaps the greatest of the sacrifice made by soldiers is not the willingness to die but something more troubling. In war a soldier is told to do what everybody is taught throughout their life that they must never do: deliberately maim or kill other persons. To be fit for warfare soldiers must abandon that crucial lesson for other, more deadly lessons. They must be trained to be killers who are capable of killing on command. “No sacrifice is more dramatic than the sacrifice asked of those sent to war, that is, the sacrifice of their unwillingness to kill,” Duke University theologian and ethicist Stanley Hauerwas has observed. While the rigors of military life can have ennobling effects on a person’s life, at the same time, the experience of war, and specifically the experience of killing, is morally shattering, leading to guilt, shame and self-revulsion. The nature of the soldiers’ sacrifice is not genuinely honored by comparing it to the experience of Jesus any more than Jesus is honored by the comparison. Soldiers do not need glorification but they need forgiveness, acceptance and compassion. This cannot be done by claiming that killing –or dying while trying to kill- has anything to do with following in the way of Jesus.

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“What is really true in any society is what is worth killing for, and what citizens may be compelled to sacrifice their lives for,” wrote Carolyn Marvin and David Ingle in their powerful book, Blood Sacrifice and the Nation (Cambridge University Press, 1999). By this measure what is really true in the United States is found in nationalism, before which every other form of “religion is best understood as a jealous competitor.” Not wanting to admit to idolatrous devotion, many in churches, ministers included, have merged their American nationalism with Christianity.  This has resulted in a militarized Christianity in which wars are seen as battles of good against evil and the violent sacrifice of both killing and dying in conflict can be viewed as expressions of faithfulness. But this sort of Christianity is a parody of the real thing.

What is missing in militarized Christianity is Jesus. Regardless of the frequency with which he is named, and despite the fact that his death and resurrection are proclaimed, still his life and teachings as found in the Gospels are largely marginalized.  Consequently, the wrong kind of sacrifice is celebrated. Sacrifice certainly has an important role in genuine Christianity. We are told to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1).  This is a sacrifice that comes directly from following Jesus in a hostile world. It entails that we “bless those who persecute” us  (vs.14), “repay no one evil for evil” (vs.17), “live peaceable with all” (vs.18), “never avenge one’s self” (vs.19), and “not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (vs.21). Little of Jesus as presented in the Gospels can be found in military Christianity precisely because following such a Jesus would be counter-productive. Those who follow Jesus can’t be taught to kill on command and don’t believe what is true is what is worth killing for. Rather what is true is what is worth defenselessly dying for.

—-
Craig M. Watts is the minister of Royal Palm Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Coral Springs , Florida and Co-Moderator of Disciples Peace Fellowship. He authored the book Disciple of Peace: Alexander Campbell on Pacifism, Violence and the State (Doulos Christou Press: Indianapolis, 2005) and his essays have appeared in many journals such as Cross Currents, Encounter, the Otherside, DisciplesWorld and more. Craig blogs on the Disciples Peace Fellowship’s, “Shalom Vision.”

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  • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

    Militarism and patriotism are idols within the American church for which many American Christians (myself included) are guilty for having bowed at their altars. It’s part of the American culture. Sadly, militarism and the Christian faith have become so intertwined that the dividing line between the two have become blurred. As a military veteran I am often congratulated and admired by fellow Christians not because of my faith, but my prior military service. I wish this wasn’t the case. It was as a result of my new found faith in Christ that I actually decided to leave military service after serving 10 years in the Armed Forces. I couldn’t reconcile the two no matter how hard I tried.

    From a theological standpoint, it is now believed that anyone who America fights against is not only our political enemy, but now also our spiritual enemy. Over the past few years I have heard many Christians say that Muslims are evil, instruments of Satan. They post anti-Muslim rhetoric on Facebook and bash all people from the Middle East. This mindset is likely the result of propaganda emanating from our government, certain news channels, and right-wing commentators that have not only infiltrated our homes, but have carried over into our churches as well. It grieves me when I see politicians from both sides of the political aisle be invited to speak at the pulpit in our churches. You never know what socio-political agenda will be promulgated amongst the flock.

    Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church talks about the war we as believers of Christ face. And, this is not the same war that is fought in the earthly realm. He further reiterates this point in his letter to the Ephesians as well.

    “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

    “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)

    If the American church desires to be a light to the nations, it has some idols needing to be demolished. First among them: militarism, patriotism, and nationalism. Until that time, it is my belief that America will continue to slide into oblivion. Not because of the poor choices non-believers are making, but the poor choices Christians in America are making.

    • http://jesusjusticeandjargon.blogspot.com/ Schuyler Stallcup

      You’re testimony is amazing. Thanks man. You should write a blog over this subject.

      • http://jesusjusticeandjargon.blogspot.com/ Schuyler Stallcup

        *Your 

  • Macroman

    I also struggled with this thread in the American Christian culture.  After much thought, prayer and interaction a number of strong Christians in their 80s and 90s, God finally revealed part of the problem.  I related this to a few biblical scholars at the time, including Tony C.
    Deut 6:5 is the greatest commandment “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind”.  The next verses are basically how to keep God central in your life, your main love.  This involves binding His word in your head, home and life etc.Overlooked and poorly translated in the KJV is Deut 6:13.  Simply stated it says “make no oath but unto God”.  If I am called into court and pledge in God’s name that with His help I am going to tell the truth this is correct.  If I pledge to anything or anyone else this becomes a problem, for your mind and possibly for your spirit.  Anything includes a country, nation or flag.

    Most American Christians would have a problem if the government placed a statue of Buddha in front of their child’s class and asked them to make an oath to the statue everyday, yet a piece of cloth seems to be acceptable.  More over I have seen the same acts done in churches.  Certainly this troubled me in the Spirit and started my prayer and thought on the problem.

    • benmanben

      Though I disagree with much of what I see on this site,
      I think I can understand about this flag issue.
      I think a person could have a spiritually unhealthy commitment to his/her nation or flag.
      Still, I think a person can have a healthy commitment to his/her nation, and pledge allegiance.

      I am a bit bothered by the idea of the pledge of allegiance being done in Church, as it is a flag, and certainly the Church is for Christ and God.

      • Macroman

        BENMANBEN, what I do as an adult Christian and what we ask a child to do or what they do is something different.  My understanding of this is tempered by something that happened when I was a child.  I grew up in the north in a small community on Sunday a girl in my class was stuttering.  She had not stuttered before and at age 10-11 she was now stuttering.  Her mother was concerned and the elder women in the church contacted a pastor with demonic release experience.  Together they cast out a demon.  The demon stated that he was the demon of the stuttering tongue.  It also stated that she had mimicked a stuttering boy and this allowed him to enter.

        What we might consider innocent can be a door for the unseen.  Like I stated before we would not want our children pledging to an idol in the classroom, but what if the demon is named flag and not Buddha?  If the door has been opened and the trash has entered how then do we clean and allow the Spirit His proper place?

  • Midnightwatch
  • benmanben

     I believe that in certain circumstances, a man can kill another man while loving him.

    I believe that C.S. Lewis dicussed this in Mere Christianity.

    • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

      I’ve read Mere Christianity twice and don’t recall any allusion to this. But, I know he said something to this effect in God in the Dock. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t come as no surprise since Lewis was not a pacifist and he lived during a time of heightened British patriotism in their fight against the Nazi war machine.

      • http://twitter.com/KrissiCarson Krissi Carson

        It’s not Mere Christianity.  It’s a chapter in Weight of Glory.  And personally, I was quite surprised to see how poorly constructed Lewis’ argument was.  It was certainly not one of his better essays.

        • Shtrgrd96

          It is in Mere Christianity, the chapter on Forgiveness.

    • http://mikesnow.org Michael Snow

      In.. Mere Christianity, 
      C.S. Lewis very briefly voices his support for Christian participation in
      military combat. … Lewis goes on to imagine drawing a
      bead on a German soldier who is simultaneously aiming a rifle at him, and as
      eternity claims them both, they embrace in heaven. Now I, too, can imagine this
      happening, but it has nothing to do with the question of whether a Christian
      should have been there on the military battlefield in the first place.  [Lewis wrote this many years after he became
      a Christian, long after his service in WWI in which he was wounded.]
      Providentially for us, C.S. Lewis lived through the Great War and the world is
      much the richer–Quoted in 
      http://www.amazon.com/Christian-Pacifism-Fruit-Narrow-ebook/dp/B005RIKH62/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1

  • Holldoug

    “Several years ago Gen. Jerry Boykin made national news for his speeches
    in churches and before civic groups dressed in full uniform, claiming
    the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were “spiritual battles” and stating
    that “Satan wants to destroy us as a Christian army.”

    Doesn’t the bible state that ? –
    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against
    the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual
    forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph6:12

    That presumes a certain spiritual dimension to all earthly affairs.

    “Satan wants to destroy us as a Christian army.”
    What is difficult to understand about that ?  Why wouldn’t Satan want that ?

    No we don’t want to be latter day Crusaders but lets not ignore a spiritual dimension to the worlds conflicts.

    • Cmwrpcc

      “Lets not ignore a spiritual dimension to the worlds conflicts,” says Holldoug. Rather let’s not imagine that earthly war is spiritual conflict. Spiritual warfare is not a “dimension” of the “struggle against flesh and blood.” It is the alternative to that struggle. “Our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood.” Paul doesn’t say that what we engage in is something in addition to physical warfare, a deeper reality. Instead we reject physical war so that we can fight the real battle God calls us to fight, using the only gear that works when facing evil:  “Take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:13-17).

  • Wiljo

    So much to say about this article…  But first, let me introduce myself.  I am a Christian I do my best to be a
    follower of the Way – the teachings of Jesus.  
    I am a husband of 25 years and the father of two wonderful children (now
    young adults).  And, I’m a First Sergeant
    with 20+ years in the Army.  I’m about to
    deploy for a year tour overseas.   I just
    moved my family across country in order to have them nearer to my wife’s
    family, as my spouse is disabled, and needs the support.  This will result in my losing my full-time
    job upon my return from deployment.  I’m
    also the closest thing to a pacifist that one can be in the Army, without being
    a contentious objector.   I consider myself a man of peace.  So, how and why the Army?   I joined the Army in my late 20’s after
    serving 7 years as a Christian Educator in the Church.  I think what attracted me to the Army was
    idea of service.   I saw, and still see, those
    in uniform willing and ready to serve. 
    We serve others.  We serve someone
    or something other than, and/or higher than ourselves.  Our commitment to serve is pretty open-ended –
    we go when we are called.  

     

    I suppose that not everyone in the Army looks at their
    service in the way I do.  As soon as I post
    this I understand that a Soldier may come along behind me and post something
    about killing to destroy evil, or responding with strength against terrorism,
    or “freedom  is not free” or something
    like that.   What I do know is that I
    have talked with many young people, new to the military service and some even
    prior to joining, and what I have seen most is that there is a desire to be a
    part of something larger than themselves.   Yes, there are those who joined knowing that
    they would be securing a good full-time job, with health and education benefits,
    etc.  But, I also know that Soldiers want
    to serve.  They want to know that they
    have they have contributed to the larger good.    

     

    When asked how I can be so committed to peace and still
    serve in the Army, I often respond with the question “well, what kind of person
    would you like to have serving in your military?”   Two quotes often come to mind when it comes
    to supporting a military:

    First, Edmund Burke – ‘All that is necessary for the
    triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ and more recently, Bishop Desmond Tutu – “If you are neutral in
    situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an
    elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral,
    the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” 

     

    I suppose I
    understand that as much as I may wish it not, there is still evil in this
    world, and there are those who need help from those that are more than willing
    to oppress and abuse.  

     

    So, I am off to
    deploy to Afghanistan.   Do I think of
    myself on my way to war and kill people? No. 
    My specific job is to take care of my Soldiers.   I will look out for them and do my best to
    make sure they are prepared to do their job and that their needs are taken care
    of.  My goal is to ensure that we
    complete our mission, in support of the larger Army mission.  And most of all, I will do my best to ensure
    each of my Soldiers comes home, healthy – physically, spiritually and
    emotionally.  I don’t think of myself as
    going off to war or to kill anyone.   I
    think of myself as going to serve my country, my neighbors, my family and to
    take care of my Soldiers. 

     

    And if in the event
    a Soldier is killed in the line of duty, it will not simply be a “kill or be
    killed” situation.  This Soldier will
    have entered into service, long beforehand, knowing that they may be put into a
    situation where they may be required to defend someone else, their buddy, their
    friend, their loved one, or their self.  
    And they will not have done it simply because they have been trained to “kill
    on command”, but because they prepared themselves to serve, protect and
    defend.  This commitment, this service
    will have become who they are, because they believed in what they were
    doing.  

     

    Personally, I
    believe that these principles, this kind of commitment and this kind of
    service, is a lot closer the teachings and example of Jesus then you give
    credit for.  

     

    Mr. Watts, I am well
    aware that there are a lot of points of view regarding the world of politics
    and foreign policy.   I usually give a
    lot of credit to those who will share an opposing point of view to my own.   But Sir, you talk about Soldiers as though
    you know them, their motivation and their training.  Sir, I can tell you clearly – you do not!  You should not feel free to speak for
    me.  You do not know what I do or why I
    do it.   If you want to speak about your
    opinion of war or foreign policy and national defense – so be it.   I’ll even do you the honor of listening and considering
    your point of view – but please Sir, do not speak about something of which you
    know nothing.      

  • Wiljo

    So much to say about this article…  But first, let me introduce myself.  I am a Christian I do my best to be a
    follower of the Way – the teachings of Jesus.  
    I am a husband of 25 years and the father of two wonderful children (now
    young adults).  And, I’m a First Sergeant
    with 20+ years in the Army.  I’m about to
    deploy for a year tour overseas.   I just
    moved my family across country in order to have them nearer to my wife’s
    family, as my spouse is disabled, and needs the support.  This will result in my losing my full-time
    job upon my return from deployment.  I’m
    also the closest thing to a pacifist that one can be in the Army, without being
    a contentious objector.   I consider myself a man of peace.  So, how and why the Army?   I joined the Army in my late 20’s after
    serving 7 years as a Christian Educator in the Church.  I think what attracted me to the Army was
    idea of service.   I saw, and still see, those
    in uniform willing and ready to serve. 
    We serve others.  We serve someone
    or something other than, and/or higher than ourselves.  Our commitment to serve is pretty open-ended –
    we go when we are called.  

     

    I suppose that not everyone in the Army looks at their
    service in the way I do.  As soon as I post
    this I understand that a Soldier may come along behind me and post something
    about killing to destroy evil, or responding with strength against terrorism,
    or “freedom  is not free” or something
    like that.   What I do know is that I
    have talked with many young people, new to the military service and some even
    prior to joining, and what I have seen most is that there is a desire to be a
    part of something larger than themselves.   Yes, there are those who joined knowing that
    they would be securing a good full-time job, with health and education benefits,
    etc.  But, I also know that Soldiers want
    to serve.  They want to know that they
    have they have contributed to the larger good.    

     

    When asked how I can be so committed to peace and still
    serve in the Army, I often respond with the question “well, what kind of person
    would you like to have serving in your military?”   Two quotes often come to mind when it comes
    to supporting a military:

    First, Edmund Burke – ‘All that is necessary for the
    triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ and more recently, Bishop Desmond Tutu – “If you are neutral in
    situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an
    elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral,
    the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” 

     

    I suppose I
    understand that as much as I may wish it not, there is still evil in this
    world, and there are those who need help from those that are more than willing
    to oppress and abuse.  

     

    So, I am off to
    deploy to Afghanistan.   Do I think of
    myself on my way to war and kill people? No. 
    My specific job is to take care of my Soldiers.   I will look out for them and do my best to
    make sure they are prepared to do their job and that their needs are taken care
    of.  My goal is to ensure that we
    complete our mission, in support of the larger Army mission.  And most of all, I will do my best to ensure
    each of my Soldiers comes home, healthy – physically, spiritually and
    emotionally.  I don’t think of myself as
    going off to war or to kill anyone.   I
    think of myself as going to serve my country, my neighbors, my family and to
    take care of my Soldiers. 

     

    And if in the event
    a Soldier is killed in the line of duty, it will not simply be a “kill or be
    killed” situation.  This Soldier will
    have entered into service, long beforehand, knowing that they may be put into a
    situation where they may be required to defend someone else, their buddy, their
    friend, their loved one, or their self.  
    And they will not have done it simply because they have been trained to “kill
    on command”, but because they prepared themselves to serve, protect and
    defend.  This commitment, this service
    will have become who they are, because they believed in what they were
    doing.  

     

    Personally, I
    believe that these principles, this kind of commitment and this kind of
    service, is a lot closer the teachings and example of Jesus then you give
    credit for.  

     

    Mr. Watts, I am well
    aware that there are a lot of points of view regarding the world of politics
    and foreign policy.   I usually give a
    lot of credit to those who will share an opposing point of view to my own.   But Sir, you talk about Soldiers as though
    you know them, their motivation and their training.  Sir, I can tell you clearly – you do not!  You should not feel free to speak for
    me.  You do not know what I do or why I
    do it.   If you want to speak about your
    opinion of war or foreign policy and national defense – so be it.   I’ll even do you the honor of listening and considering
    your point of view – but please Sir, do not speak about something of which you
    know nothing.      

    • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

      Wiljo – I don’t think Mr. Watts is pretending to speak for you or anyone else. He is merely expressing his views. What he speaks is truth. I know he is stepping on toes because patriotism and military service is so ingrained into American culture. Sadly, many Christians integrate their faith with national militarism and justify the possibility of killing. Sadly, there are many Christians (including yourself) within our Armed Forces who feel they can justify killing a political enemy simply because their commander has commanded them to do so. Or, because they took an oath to protect and serve their country.

      I served 10 years in the USAF, six years into my service I became a Christian. It was during this time that I was about to be deployed to the island of Diego Garcia during the first Gulf War in 1991. Although I would not be shooting at “enemies” directly, I was indirectly supporting the killing of people with million dollar killing machines called fighter jets (F-15 and F-16) and bombers (B-52 and B-1). Even though I would not be directly killing someone, I knew these planes (which I was supporting) would. I asked myself, “What Would Jesus Do?” Would He support killing someone? Did He or any of His disciples kill anyone? What about the Roman oppressors? Surely Jesus would support taking up arms against them. After all, they were “evil”. No matter how hard I looked, Jesus nor any of His disciples never took up a sword to fight against or defend Israel or any other cause. In fact, Peter was rebuked for attempting to do so.

      I or Mr. Watts cannot persuade you to leave your military service. But, what I would encourage you to do, is seriously ask yourself how you as a transformed believer of Jesus Christ could or can justify killing another human being that our God has beautifully created in His image? The world tells us to kill our enemies in time of war. The Lord tells us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek. I hope and pray that you, as a fellow brother in Christ are never presented with the scenario to pull the trigger. If you are presented with this, I hope you make the right decision… whatever that may be.

      Blessings and peace in Christ Jesus.

      • Holldoug

        Greg,
        So if the Klu Klux Klan were about to innocent some innocent black kid and you had the means of force to stop it you wouldn’t because in the resulting gun battle you could not  justify killing another human being to save the life of an innocent one ?

        You’d stand back and let the Jews or whatever be massacred ?

        • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

          Is it not possible to incapacitate someone without killing him? Or, must I kill him? Alternatively, if I do kill him I could only trust in God’s grace and mercy in hoping that I did the right thing. But, to blindly go in and swear an oath to kill anyone my country tells me to kill is I believe unChristian and unwise.

        • Anonymous

          Yoder’s, “What Would You Do If?” or, York and Barringer’s upcoming, “A Faith Not Worth Fighting For” are books that thoroughly address these hypothetical situations.

          Quick responses, however, include, 1) We should never assume that the only means to stop someone from harming another is through violence or killing. That’s a lack of imagination. 2) Christian pacifists do not just sit back, but offer their own bodies, get in the middle of conflicts and then use their creative peacemaking skills to disrupt the violence. So, no . . . the idea that Christian pacifists merely stand back is flawed and historically inaccurate. Simply google Christian Peacemaking Teams to see the level of bodily commitment (http://www.cpt.org/). Also, look at the example of Martin Luther King, the Berrigan brothers, Clarence Jordan, Dorothy Day, etc., for what it means to not just “stand back.” 3) Examine the life and work of Andre Trocme who did much to rescue Jews without resorting to killing.

          Again, those are quick responses. If you are genuinely interested, again, check out John Howard Yoder’s “What Would You Do If?” if you are at least open to the possibility that Jesus may have meant what he taught (in relation to nonviolence, love of enemies, turning the other cheek, not returning evil for evil, living by the sword and dying by the sword, etc.).

          • Holldoug

            hi Amishjihadist,
            Thanks for your considered reply. Interesting take. Will check out the books in question. Again thx. God bless Doug

          • Anonymous

            No problem at all. Take care.

      • Wiljo

        Greg, did you really “blindly go in and swear an oath
        to kill anyone [for] my country”?  If you did, shame on you! 
        Both you and Mr. Watts naively assume that being in the military is all about
        “killing”.  For me, and I
        believe most of my comrades, joining the military was based on much more mature
        and substantial thinking.  (do you not
        see how condescending you are being when you assume that Soldiers “blindly”
        follow orders and “kill on command”?)  Nowhere
        in your arguments do you even consider that the U.S Soldier has been trained on
        and required to serve within the Laws of War. 
        Soldiers are trained on the use of force and escalation of force.  A huge piece of the current military
        operations are concerned with counterinsurgency (if you are not familiar with
        that term or operation, I suggest you Google it)  I’ve been in the Military for over 20+ years
        and have never killed anyone.  What’s more, I’ve personally communicated
        with and served with hundreds of Soldiers from dozens of different assignments
        in numerous states, working within 4 different occupational specialties and I
        could not tell you the name of one Soldier that I’ve served with that has
        killed someone.   However, I can tell you that I’ve had many, many
        opportunities to share my faith with many, many Soldiers.  I’ve served
        with hundreds of Soldiers who can tell story after story about how the service
        they performed helped others in need.  I
        don’t claim to have all of the answers and wish very much that the question of
        evil and oppression did not come up.   Congratulations to you for
        being able to not have to deal with it.  For me though, until
        thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of Christians are willing to throw themselves
        between the oppressed and the oppressor without fighting back, I just know I
        have to do something in defense of those who cry out for help.   I’m presently reading the book “Left to Tell”.  Perhaps you would find it interesting.  I would be interested in your answer to the
        genocide of Rwanda.   U.S Soldiers were
        not sent to help those people being slaughtered with machetes and burned to
        death in Churches.  Did we do the right
        thing by ignoring their cries?   What
        should we have done?

        • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

          Wiljo – I swore an oath to protect and defend our country at all costs. Even if this should entail killing someone. So yes, I blindly went in with this notion that I may very well be called upon to take up arms against a national enemy. But, I thank God that I never found myself in this position. However, I directly supported the planes that razed towns and villages where innocent civilians were likely killed in collateral damage. I pray and ask their forgiveness and for God’s mercy upon me. How could I, a disciple of Jesus Christ, could have done this? But, I am a strong believer in God’s grace and know that I am forgiven.

          • Wiljo

            I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend
            the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and
            domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and
            that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and
            the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations
            and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

            This is the oath.  I don’t see the word “killing”.  I don’t see the phrase “at all cost”.   I do see “obey orders”, but according to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (based on common law).  Moreover, I see “So help me God”.  Something of which I greatly depend on. 

            God’s grace is sufficient.  I am still curious though if you believe we should also ask for forgiveness  for ignoring the cries for help from our brothers and sisters in Ruwanda.  What would be your suggestions in responding to those desperate pleas for help.     

          • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

            When you support and defend something in the US Armed Forces, killing and taking up arms is assumed as a necessary means to an end. Why do you think we are all trained on how to shoot an M-16 rifle?

            Rwanda? I’ll turn the question back to you… Is it the job of the US military to involve themselves in every conflict in the world?

          • Wiljo

            I have accomplished many missions as a service member and I have only fired my weapon during training exercises and qualification courses.   I can’t speak to your personal military experience but quite honestly you remind me of someone who watches way too much TV.  Have you done in research or reading of any kind on modern military doctrine?  All forms of law enforcement have to train with weapons, however do you believe that every policeman goes onto duty every night assuming that they are going to have to kill someone in order to have completed their daily tour of duty?   Do you have any idea how many law enforcement officers (military members for that matter) have completed entire careers without ever having to fire their weapon at anyone?   Greg, for a veteran, your understanding of the military mission is really very sophomoric.  I don’t expect everyone to understand the service of a Soldier, but it does bother me when the attitude, values, commitment and motivation of the Soldier are so poorly represented.  

            Rwanda?  I’m not sure how the US military involving itself in “every conflict” in the world applies to my question.  To answer, no I do not believe the U.S. should involve itself in every conflict in the world.  My question was about Rwanda?  The cried out for our help, and for the help of any nation that would offer it.   The response was that the U.N. pulled almost all of their peacekeepers out.  There was a true bloodbath.   Lt Gen Dallaire, Commander of the UN Peacekeeping force stated that “we could have actually saved hundreds of thousands”.   Wow!  “hundreds of thousands!”  And these people weren’t quietly put to rest – they were tortured, slaughtered, burned!   I don’t know how anyone could believe that these cries for help were rightly ignored. Do you think they were rightly ignored?  Do you believe there is ever a justification to protect or defend another through the use of force?  Is there a clear line in your mind?  Is it fuzzy?  And, I’ll ask you the same question I ask others.  If there is going to be a military or some form of law enforcement, who would you rather be serving as Soldiers  in that capacity – the Soldier believes in Christian values who loves peace, or the Soldier who is anxious for war, or the Soldier who doesn’t much care, one way or another? 

          • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

            Wiljo – The reason I asked about the US military being involved in every conflict in the world is because too often Americans think that the US military should involve themselves in acting as the world’s policemen. Instead, I would like to see more Christians brother with no military uniform on (i.e. the church) helping our brothers and sisters around the world, including Rwanda. Rather than sending armed “peacekeeping” soldiers on the front lines, I would rather see the church getting thier hands dirty in the trenches and helping others just as Christ commanded us.

            In regards to military service it seems we’re going in circles here. The reason we are trained on weapons is because we must be ready at a moments notice to take up arms against an attack or counter-offensive. You, I, and many others took an oath with the understanding that we may risk our lives in armed conflict. You may never fire a weapon, and I hope you don’t. But, this doesn’t negate the fact that you may be called upon to shoot, defend, or kill another human being if needed. Sophomoric? No, just a simple reality check.

          • Wiljo

            Greg,  you are dancing around some very direct questions.  Of course it would be wonderful if all Christians behaved in a way that led the world to live in peace – then when we would truly be living in the Kingdom of God – on earth as it is in heaven.  And I think I mentioned a while back that until thousands, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of Christians are willing to throw themselves between the oppressed and the oppressor without fighting back, something must be done.  Don’t you agree?  Is it ok with you that hundreds of thousands of women, children and men were slaughtered – and that they begged for our help and we ignored them?   Sure, it would be nice if Christians were more willing to get their hands dirty in the trenches, but they are not.  Isn’t it ironic, that they are often more willing to spend their time telling those of us in the military, who are willing to sacrifice everything in defense of those who cry for our help,  that we shouldn’t do that.  Don’t you see?  It’s kind of like those who are willing to spend hours and hours, every single day holding up anti-abortion signs, but are not nearly as willing to spend those same hours helping a young pregnant mom do the things necessary to care for her baby.  It drives me crazy that people are so willing to tell me what I shouldn’t do, but they are not willing to do the things necessary so that I’m not in position to feel the need to do it.  Because, so long as women are being stoned to death as ordered by a court because her husband called for it, or so long as little girls are not allowed to read or write, considered property and even sold into slavery, or where foreign aid can’t get to a refuge camp to provide food for those starving to death due to armed tribal militias attacking the convoys, or sol long as we live in a world where there are still of thousands are being slaughtered in a genocide, I feel like I have to do more then just telling others not to participate.    

          • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

            Wiljo – We are in agreement, in most part, with the comments of your last statement. But, I still don’t think the military is the ideal substitute for what the church should be doing, primarily because redemptive violence is the status quo. But, you are right, until Christians step up to the task, what other alternatives are there? This is why I am so disenfranchised with today’s church in America, primarily because American Christians are so apathetic and lukewarm in their faith. They live comfortable lives in their multi-thousand dollar homes, drive nice cars, and bicker over petty issues.

          • Wiljo

            And I agree that the military is not the ideal substitute…   and I agree the status quo is not good.   We always need to do better.   And I think in many ways we are.   There is a huge difference between the foreign policy of today and that of just a few years ago.   And I don’t think military action is glorified today, though thankfully there is an appreciation for the commitment of our service members.   Thanks for the conversation.  I also think that that is key to moving forward from the status quo. 

      • Wiljo

        Greg, did you really “blindly go in and swear an oath
        to kill anyone [for] my country”?  If you did, shame on you! 
        Both you and Mr. Watts naively assume that being in the military is all about
        “killing”.  For me, and I
        believe most of my comrades, joining the military was based on much more mature
        and substantial thinking.  (do you not
        see how condescending you are being when you assume that Soldiers “blindly”
        follow orders and “kill on command”?)  Nowhere
        in your arguments do you even consider that the U.S Soldier has been trained on
        and required to serve within the Laws of War. 
        Soldiers are trained on the use of force and escalation of force.  A huge piece of the current military
        operations are concerned with counterinsurgency (if you are not familiar with
        that term or operation, I suggest you Google it)  I’ve been in the Military for over 20+ years
        and have never killed anyone.  What’s more, I’ve personally communicated
        with and served with hundreds of Soldiers from dozens of different assignments
        in numerous states, working within 4 different occupational specialties and I
        could not tell you the name of one Soldier that I’ve served with that has
        killed someone.   However, I can tell you that I’ve had many, many
        opportunities to share my faith with many, many Soldiers.  I’ve served
        with hundreds of Soldiers who can tell story after story about how the service
        they performed helped others in need.  I
        don’t claim to have all of the answers and wish very much that the question of
        evil and oppression did not come up.   Congratulations to you for
        being able to not have to deal with it.  For me though, until
        thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of Christians are willing to throw themselves
        between the oppressed and the oppressor without fighting back, I just know I
        have to do something in defense of those who cry out for help.   I’m presently reading the book “Left to Tell”.  Perhaps you would find it interesting.  I would be interested in your answer to the
        genocide of Rwanda.   U.S Soldiers were
        not sent to help those people being slaughtered with machetes and burned to
        death in Churches.  Did we do the right
        thing by ignoring their cries?   What
        should we have done?

  • Cmwrpcc

    Regarding the comments made about C.S. Lewis’ views on war and soldiering, I’d urge folks to take a look at Stanley Hauerwas’ very insightful chapter on “C.S. Lewis and Violence” found in his newest book War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity. The fact is that Lewis really didn’t know much about pacifism and his criticism were relevant only to oldline liberal pacifism.

  • Cmwrpcc

    Regarding the comments made about C.S. Lewis’ views on war and soldiering, I’d urge folks to take a look at Stanley Hauerwas’ very insightful chapter on “C.S. Lewis and Violence” found in his newest book War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity. The fact is that Lewis really didn’t know much about pacifism and his criticism were relevant only to oldline liberal pacifism.

  • klingpeaches

    You want America without militarism and patriotism? How would America even existed? George Washington said “firearms are second only to the constitution in importance; they are the peoples liberties teeth”.  Which actions would you prefer we had not been involved in? Should we have not fought to end slavery(civil war), to stop the expansion of the the axis powers in Europe and the Pacific rim, or to stop North Korea from overrunning South Korea. You want pacifism but from where you are living now which wouldn’t have existed without warfare. The world would have been very different without these actions. While attending Eastern College(now university) in the late 1980s i took a philosophy course. The professor discussed a scenario were you could see your family on a hill top and also a man who was going to harm them. You could either allow the man to harm your family or shoot him. Was saving a life worth taking one? As to the discussion of pacistic alteratives. Martin Luther King had the ability to protest and act in 1960s America. Had he done so in WWII Germany he simply would have disappeared into a prison. There were people in axis controlled areas that helped save Jews however their wholesale slaughter only was ended when allied armies overran the camps. Pacifism often only works when there is someone protecting your right to be a pacifist.

    • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

      Pacifism doesn’t work? Tell that to Jesus and His kingdom who somehow outlived the Roman Empire without lifting a single sword. Pacifism doesn’t work? Tell that to the millions of Christians who were martyred for the sake of the Gospel and somehow the Gospel still prevails. Did you know historically when the church suffers persecution the church has always prevailed? Pacifism doesn’t win wars but it does have long term effect. 40 years after MLK was assassinated the first black man was elected as US President. Only after Gandhi was assassinated did India finally gain its independence. There’s a reason why Jesus called us to live differently than the world. I think He may have known something we don’t.

  • http://mikesnow.org Michael Snow

    In his new book, War and the American Experience, Stanlye Hauerwas describes war as “America’s central liturgical act…”

    This liturgy influenced my own journey and goal to be a Marine. The struggle to be a faithful Christian utltimatley led me to pacifism…You can read about that struggle using the amazon “Look Inside” feature, here: http://www.amazon.com/Christian-Pacifism-Fruit-Narrow-ebook/dp/B005RIKH62/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1

    This liturgy suppresses even the acknowledgment of pacifism as part of our  Christian heritage in most evangelical churches.

    This liturgy is also described in Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” which I would characterize as truly inspired.  My use of it in Oh Holy NIght: The Peace of 1914 has made the book libra non grata in much of my own Christian community.

    That aside, I truly appreciate the Craig Watts’ commitment to not “demonize soldiers.”  Those who do so are not acting out of Chists’ love, either.

  • dan

        Great article. I do not see  how any country can rule its people and somehow follow Jesus. It makes complete sense to me that it is absolutely in our nation’s best interest to somehow enlist the Christians to their way of thinking. They try pretty hard. Certainly the greatest sacrifice is the destruction of the souls of our soldiers who have to somehow learn to kill. I do believe we all need forgiveness, thank God it is available. 

       It is in our best interest, as Christians, to resist the temptation to believe that killing our enemies is somehow going to glorify Christ. 

        We have all spoken of our “order of values”. We all say, “God first, then family, then country”, or something to that effect. I used to believe it was a moot point. God first, country – up there somewhere. Not a big difference. Actually, there is a very wide gap between doing what God wants and what our country wants. I say, “God first”. 

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