I have maintained throughout the war in Iraq that, even though it is Christianity above all religions that should be opposed to the evils of war, in the Church will be found some of the greatest supporters of the current war. I have also maintained that much of the blame for Christian support for Bush and his war must be laid at the feet of the pastors, preachers, and priests who have failed to discern the truth and educate their congregations.
Yes, Christians are ultimately responsible for their support for or indifference to the latest government war. Yes, Christians should not blindly follow their governmental and religious leaders. Yes, Christians should be following the biblical admonition to “prove all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). And yes, Christians should be accessing the abundance of alternative news sources that are available. But it is Christian leaders – many of whom could double as Republican Party operatives without changing their sermons – that bear special responsibility for the attitudes of love for the military, respect for the government, adoration of the president, and contempt for human life that exists among many Christians in the pew.
A typical example of a Christian leader who spouts pro-war propaganda from the pulpit is Pastor Tod Kennedy of the Spokane Bible Church in Spokane, Washington. His attempt to justify Bush and his war can be seen in the seventeen-proposition presentation he calls “The Doctrine of God and War.” A better title would be “The Doctrine of a Christian Warmonger.”
Kennedy’s First Proposition: Three Sources of War
Kennedy does not get off to a good start. His three sources of war turn out to be just two: man and Satan. “Man has a sinful nature,” and Satan is “the temporary ruler of this world” and has “his own world system which he promotes.” Kennedy’s third source of war should have been God himself. How could he forget that “The LORD is a man of war” (Exodus 15:3)? What a perfect verse to bring up so that it could be twisted to justify the Iraq War! Jerry Falwell did exactly that. True, God brought the Jews “out of the land of Egypt by their armies” (Exodus 12:2), and true, God commanded the nation of Israel in the Old Testament to fight against heathen nations (Judges 6:16), but George Bush is not God, and America is not the nation of Israel. So, even if Kennedy were smart enough to include God as a source of war, it still would not follow that God sponsored the war in Iraq and that we should pray that he would bless our troops. It would not follow unless, of course, one was a Christian apologist for Bush and his war.
Kennedy’s Second Proposition: War: A Continuing Fact of Life
Kennedy correctly states that “wars will continue to be fought and rumors of wars will continue to spread throughout the world until Jesus Christ personally rules the earth in the Millennial Kingdom.” True, but what is implied here is that Christians shouldn’t oppose the war in Iraq. But just because wars have been fought since the beginning of time and will be fought until the end of time doesn’t mean that Christians should advocate them, defend them, or participate in them. Many evil things are continuing facts of life: murder, adultery, theft, assault. Should Christians just excuse them as inevitable and never speak out against them? Should Christians justify participation in them because they are expected? Obviously not. So why is war treated differently? Why do some Christians with an otherwise “sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7) turn into babbling idiots when it comes to the subjects of war, the military, and killing for the state?
Kennedy’s Third Proposition: Only Spiritual Peace Is Possible Now
Once again Kennedy makes a correct statement: “There will be no world peace before Christ returns, but there can be spiritual peace.” But once again it is obvious – based on the design of his whole presentation – that he is implying that Christian indifference to, defense of, and participation in war is acceptable because there will be no world peace before Christ returns. Not only should Kennedy have pointed out that “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1), he should have pointed out that, even though there will be no world peace until the return of Christ, Christians are admonished in the New Testament about how they can and should live in peace:
- “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9)
- “Live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18)
- “Follow peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14)
True, there will be no world peace before Christ returns, but this doesn’t mean that Christians should contribute to the lack thereof.
Kennedy’s Fourth Proposition: Preparation for War Reduces Warfare
History has shown that it is in fact the exact opposite that is true: Preparation for war increases warfare. Kennedy comments: “War is an unwanted but real part of human history, and those who recognize this and prepare for war will have more freedom, more prosperity, and more peace than those who do not prepare and try to avoid war at any price (Numbers 10.9; Judges 3.1-2; Ecclesiastes 3.8; Nehemiah 4.7-22; Psalm 144.1; Proverbs 20.18; Proverbs 24.6).” The U.S. government is preparing for war more now than at any time in history. After a study of Bush’s budget proposals for fiscal year 2008, economist Robert Higgs reported that “for now, however, the conclusion seems inescapable: the government is currently spending at the rate of approximately $1 trillion per year for all defense-related purposes.” It is preparing for defense that reduces warfare – just look at Switzerland. Has the United States preparing for war brought us more freedom? Mr. Kennedy must never have flown on an airplane in the last few years. The U.S. government has worked overtime to destroy our freedoms since the adoption of the tyrannical USA PATRIOT Act in 2001. American freedom, prosperity, and peace diminish the more that the U.S. government prepares for war.
Kennedy’s Fifth Proposition: To Kill in Battle Is Not Murder
This is one of Kennedy’s most dangerous propositions. Yes, to kill in battle is not murder according to federal and state legal codes, but this is not what he is saying. Kennedy is trying to sanctify killing for the state. His first comment about his fifth proposition makes this clear: “The killing of the enemy in war is not murder, nor a sin of any kind. Exodus 20.13 refers to murder.” To prove that the sixth commandment is limited to just murder, Kennedy, like all Christian warmongers, refers to the Hebrew word underlying the prohibition against killing in the sixth commandment: “The Hebrew word RATSACH, Strong #7523 means murder or manslaughter.” [I should point out that "Strong" is a reference to Strong's Concordance, which contains dictionaries of Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible.] Since I have examined in great detail the “sixth commandment only prohibits murder” argument in a previous article, “The Unholy Desire of Christians to Legitimize Killing in War,” I would refer the reader to it, and also to the articles “Humpty Dumpty Religion” and “Is It or Isn’t It?” But what of Kennedy’s ghastly proposal that it is not “a sin of any kind” to kill someone in war? He did not say killing in a just war or a defensive war (as if there’s a difference) was not a sin, he said “in war.” He did not specify whether the “enemy” one could kill was real or merely a creation of the U.S. government. Is Kennedy saying that it is not a sin to travel thousands of miles from U.S. soil and kill someone who was not a threat to any Americans until the United States invaded his country because the government says he is the enemy and must be killed? I believe he is. But if killing the enemy in war is not a sin, then Iraqis who kill American soldiers are not sinning either. After all, they are fighting a defensive war against a real enemy who invaded them. Contrary to Kennedy, I believe that killing someone in a preemptive war is a grave sin, even if that someone is a Muslim infidel.
Kennedy’s Sixth Proposition: OT Biblical Words for Kill
Here Kennedy lists three Old Testament Hebrew words that refer to killing:
- NAKAH, Strong #5221 legitimate killing in battle, to smite, sometimes with penalty.
- RATSACH, Strong # 7523 command against murder. Also used for nonpremeditated killing.
- HARAG, Strong #2026, to kill by intention or accident.
And his point is? Although his intention is probably to show that “the original Hebrew” makes it clear that there are different types of killing in the Bible, Kennedy, like all wannabe Hebrew scholars, is saying nothing but look at how smart I am since I mentioned some Hebrew words.
Kennedy’s Seventh Proposition: NT Biblical Words for Kill
Here Kennedy lists two New Testament Greek words that refer to killing:
- PHONEUO, Strong #5407, murder.
- APOKTEINO, Strong #615, to kill, slay, put to death.
Once again, Kennedy is trying to impress us with his knowledge of the original languages. And once again he is saying nothing. In fact, he forgot to mention the other Greek words in the New Testament for kill: anaireo, thuo, thanatoo, diacheirizomai, and sphazo.
Kennedy’s Eighth Proposition: God Is Not Anti-War
This is a very vague and misleading statement. If God is not anti-war, then would it not mean that he would approve of China warring against Taiwan, India warring against Pakistan, and Russia warring against Chechnya? I presume it would also mean that God has not had a problem with any war that has ever been fought since he created man. Obviously, this is not what Kennedy means. So why doesn’t he just come out and say that he thinks God approves of the war in Iraq? Or if he really wanted to be honest, he could say that he believes God endorses all American wars. But did not Kennedy begin his presentation with the proposition that war occurs because “man has a sinful nature” and Satan rules the world and promotes his world system? How, then, can he claim that God is not anti-war? Kennedy’s proof that God is not anti-war is that he “sponsors just wars” in the Old Testament to:
- Remove degenerate nations (Jericho – Joshua 5.13 – Joshua 6; Ai – Joshua 8)
- To defeat the enemies of Israel (Hagrites – 1 Chronicles 5.18-22)
- To protect families and nations (Nehemiah 4)
- To gain peace (Ehud and Moabites – Judges 3.26-30)
God sponsored these wars, and used his chosen nation (Deuteronomy
7:6-7) to conduct them, it does not follow that God sponsors American
wars or that America is God’s chosen nation. It does not follow
unless, of course, one is a Christian apologist for the U.S. government
and its wars.
Kennedy’s Ninth Proposition: Military Service Is Necessary
Necessary for what? Necessary for whom? All Kennedy says is this: “It is necessary to gain national freedom, then to preserve national freedom (Numbers 1.2-3; Numbers 31.1-5; Joshua 1.6-11; 11.23; Judges 8.1; 1 Chronicles 5.22; Psalm 18.34; Luke 14.31).” First of all, the fact that Kennedy listed a number of Scripture references here means absolutely nothing. Satan quoted Scripture when he tempted the Lord (Matthew 4:5). The first five Old Testament references given by Kennedy all concern the necessity of military service for certain members of the nation of Israel. The verse in First Chronicles simply states that a particular war “was of God.” The verse in Psalms concerned King David personally. The lone reference in the New Testament was to an illustration given by the Lord in which he mentioned a king warring against another king. Kennedy is “handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Corinthians 4:2). Americans have only twice in their history served in the military to “gain national freedom”: the Revolutionary War and the War for Southern Independence. One of the greatest myths in America today is that the U.S. military exists to “preserve national freedom.” The U.S. military is focused on fighting foreign wars, peacekeeping operations, regime changes, nation building, providing security for factions in foreign countries, humanitarian concerns, disaster relief, enforcing UN resolutions, and otherwise intervening in the affairs of other countries – anything but defending our freedoms. It is not necessary for any American Christian to join the U.S. military for any reason – except, of course, to get money for college.
Kennedy’s Tenth Proposition: Military Service Is Honorable
Kennedy is on shaky ground here. He begins with the statement: “There is nothing in the New Testament prohibiting military service, training, or war.” Well, there is nothing in the New Testament prescribing them either. Just like there is nothing in the New Testament condemning or commending abortion or smoking marijuana. Kennedy continues: “Christ, Luke, and Paul assume that military service is an honorable profession; they accept the normal function of the military for national readiness, defense, and waging of legitimate war.”
- Christ (Matthew 8.5-10; Luke 14.31)
- Luke (Acts 10.1-3, 22-25)
- Paul (Acts 23.11-35; 1 Corinthians 9.7; 2 Timothy 2.3-4)
The bare fact that Christ, Luke, and Paul mentioned soldiers and warfare does not necessarily mean that they considered military service to be an honorable profession. Christ elsewhere referred to publicans and harlots (Matthew 21:31). Does Kennedy consider them to be honorable professions? Likewise, Solomon in the Old Testament mentioned the drunkard and the glutton (Proverbs 23:21). Should we aspire to be like them? In the above Scripture passages, Christ and Paul each cite warfare in a neutral sense when giving an illustration. Paul additionally refers to spiritual soldiers of Christ. We know from Paul elsewhere that the weapons of these soldiers are not carnal (2 Corinthians 10:4), and that they are armed with “the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). But what about the actual soldiers described by Christ, Luke, and Paul? These are centurions. There are at least eleven of them mentioned in the New Testament. They are generally spoken of in a positive or neutral sense, except for the one who stood by when Paul was beaten (Acts 22:25) and the one who “believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul” (Acts 27:11). I wonder why Kennedy didn’t bring up some other soldiers in the New Testament, like the ones who mocked, stripped, spit on, smote, and crucified the Lord Jesus (Matthew 27:27-35), the ones who cast lots for his garments (John 19:23-24), the ones who took bribes to say his body was stolen (Matthew 28:12-15), and the one who thrust a spear in his side (John 19:34)? Kennedy is very selective about which soldiers are honorable. If military service is an honorable profession, then was serving as an SS officer an “honorable profession”? What about serving as a guard at Auschwitz? Kennedy is implying that it is honorable to serve in the U.S. military. But regardless of whether it was at one time honorable to serve in the military of some country, and regardless of whether it was at one time honorable to serve in the military of the United States, it is certainly not honorable now to serve in the U.S. military in any capacity. Moreover, is it “normal” for a nation’s military to station its military in three fourths of the world’s countries? What do U.S. troops overseas in 150 different regions of the world have to do with “national readiness, defense, and waging of legitimate war”? Kennedy also remarks that “God even commends those who wage war against aggressors (Hebrews 11.22-34).” Does he think that no one will bother to check the Scripture passages he lists to buttress his propositions? Hebrews 11:22-34 is part of a series in which is mentioned instances of the faith of some famous Old Testament characters. Hebrews 11:22 is about Joseph and his bones. Hebrews 11:23-27 concerns Moses being hid when he was born, refusing to be called Pharaoh’s grandson, choosing to suffer with his people, forsaking Egypt, and keeping the Passover. Hebrews 11:29 refers to the nation of Israel going through the Red Sea. Hebrews 11:30 tells about the walls of Jericho falling down. Hebrews 11:31 brings up the harlot Rahab receiving spies with peace. Hebrews 11:32 mentions the names of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and “the prophets.” It is only when we get to Kennedy’s last two verses that we see something that is remotely related to someone waging “war against aggressors.” Hebrews 11:33-34 tells us that these individuals “subdued kingdoms,” “waxed valiant in fight,” and “turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” True, they did wage war against aggressors, but that is not the whole story. They were Jews who waged war against the people that God told them to wage war against. They were not Christians fighting a crusade against Islamofascism. And by no stretch of the imagination do their actions imply that God wants the U.S. military to wage war against Iraqis. If God “commends those who wage war against aggressors,” then he should be pouring out his blessings on Iraq since it is the United States that is clearly the aggressor. Does this mean that Iraqis are justified in killing U.S. soldiers? It would have to. So Kennedy is not only dishonest, he is once again “handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
Kennedy’s Eleventh Proposition: Jesus Christ is a Battlefield Commander
This proposition seems to be provocative, but is nevertheless true, as Kennedy explains:
Jesus Christ has in the past and will in the future serve as a battlefield commander. He is called “LORD of Hosts” or “LORD of the Armies” and “a warrior.” He has killed thousands of enemy soldiers and will do so in the future (Exodus 14.13-14, 25; 15.3; Isaiah 37.33-37; Zechariah 14.1-5; Revelation 19.11-15).
The enemy soldiers referenced in the past are the Egyptians and the Assyrians; the ones in the future are rebellious nations at the Second Advent of Christ. The problem here is a simple one: American military officers are not surrogates for Jesus Christ. Whatever Jesus Christ did or will do has absolutely no relevance to what the U. S. military does in Iraq or anywhere else, except, of course, in the depraved mind of a Christian warmonger. The Bible says that “in righteousness” Jesus Christ “doth judge and make war.” There is nothing righteous about the actions of U.S. battlefield commanders.
Kennedy’s Twelfth Proposition: Bully Nations and Aggressors
Here Kennedy makes a true statement: “Bully nations and aggressors use propaganda to persuade other nations not to resist their attacks. The propaganda appeals to the cowards and u2018peace at any price people’ (Isaiah 36-37).” The chapters he references in Isaiah concern Sennacherib the king of Assyria and Hezekiah the king of Israel. Assyria was the bully and aggressor nation, and did use propaganda. However, Hezekiah prayed to the Lord and the angel of the Lord smote the Assyrians, not the Israeli army, so no parallel can be drawn to the U.S. military fighting against bully and aggressor nations. And regarding bully nations, with hundreds of bases on foreign soil and troops in 150 different locations around the world, it is the United States that is the biggest bully on the block. We are the largest and most dangerous aggressor nation – just ask two million dead Vietnamese and Cambodians if you ever get the chance.
Kennedy’s Thirteenth Proposition: Unjust Aggression Is Wrong
Since Kennedy remarks here: “The Lord is against unjust aggression,” he ought to be speaking out about how God is against the United States since the Iraq War is nothing but unjust aggression. But like many pastors, preachers, and priests, Kennedy is saying just the opposite. He simply doesn’t believe that the United States commits unjust aggression. How could he? If the war in Iraq is not unjust aggression, then nothing the United has ever done, or will do in the future, could possibly be labeled unjust aggression.
Kennedy’s Fourteenth Proposition: Anti-War People Misuse Scripture
This is an incredible proposition since it is Kennedy who has misused Scripture throughout all of his propositions thus far. He comments: “There are certain passages that anti-war people use to try to condemn all warfare. Each passage can be explained. None say that military service, war, or killing the enemy in battle is wrong.” Kennedy cites Exodus 20:13, Isaiah 2:4 with Joel 3:9-10, and Matthew 5:9, 43-44. Well, since none say these things are right either then Kennedy has not proved his point. Exodus 20:13 is, of course, the sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” I have discussed this above under Kennedy’s fifth proposition, “To Kill in Battle Is Not Murder.” The references in Isaiah and Joel are prophetic passages about people beating swords into plowshares and plowshares into swords. I may have missed something, but I am not aware of any “anti-war people” misusing these passages to condemn all warfare. The verses in Joel can actually be used to their advantage by “pro-war people.” The verses in Matthew are part of the well-known Sermon on the Mount. Kennedy doesn’t like them because they talk about being a peacemaker and turning the other cheek. But I, one of the “anti-war people” that Kennedy speaks about, would be among the first to acknowledge that they would not prevent a nation from waging a just; that is, a defensive war. On the Sermon on the Mount, see my article “The Warmonger’s Beatitudes.”
Kennedy’s Fifteenth Proposition: Warfare and the New Testament
Kennedy asks and then answers a good question. He asks: “Why does the New Testament not emphasize physical warfare?” He answers: “New Testament addressed primarily to believers, residents of God’s spiritual kingdom, who engage in spiritual warfare. The spiritual battle is still set within context of nations in conflict, nations who continually replay the story, begun by Satan, of pride and rebellion.” It would have been better, of course, if Kennedy had said that the New Testament doesn’t emphasize physical warfare because it is contrary to the tenor of the New Testament, an affront to the Savior, and a blight on Christianity.
Kennedy’s Sixteenth Proposition: Just War Doctrine
Kennedy’s sixteenth proposition actually consists of five segments: a brief introduction to just war theory as articulated by Thomas Aquinas followed by four groups of quotes from Aquinas, Augustine, and Luther. Aquinas’s three requirements for just war are stated to be:
- The leader of a nation has the authority and responsibility to wage war to protect the citizens from external enemies.
- A nation wages war to avenge an attack or a wrong inflicted.
- A nation must wage war to advance good or to avoid evil.
The quotes he gives by Aquinas and Augustine back up these requirements. There are two problems here. One, Kennedy begins with Aquinas and backs him up with Augustine instead of beginning with Paul and backing him up with Jesus; that is, he appeals to men instead of Scripture. And two, as I have previously pointed out:
This war in particular is a great evil, for a just war, rather than being an offensive, preemptive, open-ended, “shock and awe” campaign, must have a just cause, be in proportion to the gravity of the situation, have obtainable objectives, and only be undertaken as a last resort. If there was ever a war that violated every one of these principles it is the Iraq war.
To supplement Aquinas and Augustine, Kennedy quotes Luther: “Without armaments peace cannot be kept; wars are waged not only to repel injustice but also to establish a firm peace.” But since the American invasion of Iraq was itself a great injustice, and has done anything but establish a firm peace, nothing Luther said can be used to defend the actions of the United States in Iraq. Kennedy must have missed Luther’s statement about a soldier obeying God rather than men and refusing to go to war if the cause is unjust.
Kennedy’s Seventeenth Proposition: Protection of America
Kennedy’s seventeenth proposition contains six segments: an introduction, two selections from the Constitution, three groups of quotes by President Bush, and a conclusion to the entire series of propositions that should have been his eighteenth proposition. He begins:
The leader or leadership of a nation must protect that nation. The king, president, premier, constitution, or other authority has the God-ordained responsibility to protect the people under his authority. If an aggressor makes plans or does attack, the leadership must take military action to protect his nation. Failure to do so is failure to fulfill his biblical mandate (Romans 13.1-6).
With the exception of the last sentence (Romans 13 has nothing to do with national defense), there is nothing wrong with Kennedy’s opening statement. However, he goes downhill from there. He next makes the claim that “the Constitution gives the President the responsibility and the authority, as commander in chief of the military, to wage war for the protection of the nation and its citizens.” But this is not backed up by the two selections he makes from the Constitution. Kennedy quotes the passage from Article II, Section 2, where the president is designated the commander in chief of the armed forces. This he says to “compare with Article I, Section 8, “The Congress shall have power … to declare war.” It is Congress that has the responsibility and authority to “wage war for the protection of the nation and its citizens.” Kennedy has the proverbial cart before the horse. The quotes from Bush are pathetic:
We don’t need anybody’s permission [to defend our country]….I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons.
But [Saddam should disarm] in the name of peace and the security of the world. If he won’t do so voluntarily, we will disarm him.
I’m convinced that a liberated Iraq will be important for that part of the world.
My faith sustains me because I pray daily, I pray for guidance and wisdom and strength….If we were to commit our troops – if we were to commit our troops – I would pray for their safety, and I would pray for innocent Iraqi lives as well.
These statements are pathetic because, first of all, the United States was never in danger from the Iraqi dictator and his weapons. He was a monster of our own creation, contrary to the foreign policy of John Quincy Adams. Secondly, why don’t we disarm China, Russia, Israel, or the other countries that have real weapons of mass destruction? Who are we to demand that Iraq disarm? And thirdly, that is some liberation job we did in Iraq. There are 500,000 dead Iraqis who care not a whit for our liberation of their country. Oh, and I wonder how many innocent Iraqi lives that Bush ever prayed for? Perhaps Kennedy should have quoted Bush on how Iraq was not responsible for the September 11th attacks, and how most of the intelligence he relied on turned out to be wrong.
The last part of Kennedy’s seventeenth proposition asks the question: “So What does this mean to me?” He answers:
- Military service is honorable.
- It is not sin or wrong to kill the enemy in war; it is right and it is my duty.
- Just wars must be fought to protect and preserve life and freedom.
- Aggressors who threaten our life and freedom must be removed – most often by death in war.
- Those who refuse to fight or support our military in just wars are either cowards or confused.
- The President of the United States has a responsibility to seek out and kill those who attack us.
- I am responsible to pray for my President and leaders.
I would rephrase this somewhat:
Military service in the current U.S. military is not honorable. It is a sin and a wrong to kill an enemy in an unjust war that has been created by the government. It is not right and it is not the duty of any Christian to fight the state’s unjust wars. We should stop giving aggressors who threaten our life and freedom just cause to aggress against us. But even this doesn’t apply to Saddam Hussein since Iraq was no threat to our life and freedom. Those who refuse to fight or support our military in unjust wars like the war in Iraq are heroes and informed. I am responsible to pray for my President and leaders, but I should pray that he and they stop the unjust aggression that is the war in Iraq.
Following Kennedy’s seventeenth proposition, he concludes with what he calls “Freedom’s Call” – an excerpt from Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty, or give me death” speech. The implication is that the current war in Iraq is somehow on the same level as the American Revolutionary War. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.
Tod Kennedy may be a godly man, a dedicated pastor, and a gifted Bible teacher, but he is a terribly deceived Christian warmonger. He owes his congregation an apology for leading them astray because he is such an apologist for Bush and his war. The presentation by Pastor Kennedy that I have critiqued is dated 2003. Perhaps he has changed his views. If he has then he should change his presentation or remove it from his church’s website. But even if he has changed his mind about Bush and the war, many other evangelicals haven’t, and would make the same arguments that Kennedy has made. A recent poll conducted by Christianity Today magazine asked the question: “Do evangelicals need a time of repentance for the Iraq war?” I am sorry to have to report that 38 percent of respondents (a plurality) answered: “No. The war in Iraq was necessary and justified.” Such is the doctrine of Christian warmongers.