Is there any reason a Christian who was opposed to the war in Iraq could in good conscience still join the military? I have previously explained why Christians have no business joining the military, even to serve as a military chaplain. I have also expressed my opposition to the National Guard. But what about a Christian joining the military to be a witness for Christ or to serve his fellow soldiers? What could possibly be wrong with that? My short answer is that one would be an accomplice to murder, that’s what wrong with it. My long answer follows below.
Because I often
write about the incompatibility of Christianity and military service,
I receive many e-mails from servicemen who wish to get out and
young men who wish to get in. (For the record, I also get e-mails
from super-patriots calling me a traitor or a communist because
I dare question the activities of the military.) For those desiring
to separate from the military or become a conscientious objector,
I refer them to James
Glaser, a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, or to Mike
Reith, a retired Air Force major. Because they recognize that
war is the health of the state, both of these veterans discourage
young men from following in their footsteps. For those thinking
about joining the military, I try to answer myself because of
how strongly I am opposed to not just Christians, but anyone
enlisting in the military.
Here is a note I received recently from a sincere young man who is thinking about joining the military. He opposes the war in Iraq, and is concerned about having to take human life. I have omitted his name from his letter, which is reprinted below in its entirety with his permission:
Hello, I am a self-professed Christian (to better define my Christianity: I am a firm believer in Christ, and my faith dictates my actions, and I strive to better myself in my walk, and live a Christ-centered life). I am also looking towards the military to become a navy corpsman (a field medic attached to a marine unit). As a medic, I would not be fighting for my country (because I cannot fully agree with the reasons we are at war), but rather I would be there for my fellow soldiers who do in fact believe in the cause. I would view my job as serving the troops, and applying my skills of medical aide to help the troops. I also am very missions minded, and would view my deployment as a mission field, and a way to share the gospel with troops and/or whoever I come in contact with as a witness of God’s love. Anyway, I have not joined yet, but am seriously considering it. I am a high school grad, almost 18 years old from California, just trying to seek the opinions from intelligent and respectable people before I make my decisions. I would appreciate a response with any information, verses, or insight you may have. Thank you so much for your time. God Bless.
P.S. I know that I would be in a defensive position as a medic, and would only shoot to defend myself or others, but what if I was given a direct order to kill (or cause death), I still am thinking about things like this. Again, thank you.
I am not sure if you have read my book, Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, or any of my articles on this subject archived at LewRockwell.com. If so, then you probably have some idea of the negative things that I am going to say about Christians joining the military. Either way, I would encourage you to read the fourteen articles I have written specifically about Christianity and the Military.
You have expressed a desire to be a medic to take care of your fellow soldiers. On the surface that seems like a noble thing to do. There are, however, some things you ought to consider.
First of all, there is no guarantee that by joining the military you would be assigned to care for wounded soldiers in Iraq (or Afghanistan). Don’t listen to what the recruiters tell you. You can’t trust them. They have been caught lying too many times. There is no way they can guarantee that you will wind up a medic in a war zone.
Second, even if you did wind up in Iraq, there is no guarantee that you would stay there. Military personnel are constantly moved from place to place. You may be placed in a situation where you will be doing anything but helping wounded soldiers.
Third, although you have acknowledged that the troops in Iraq have no good reason for being there, there is more too it than that. The troops are not merely neutral observers caught in a crossfire. The troops in Iraq are responsible for death, destruction, and genocide against the Iraqi people. If you think that genocide is too strong a word to describe what is happening in Iraq, see Lew Rockwell’s “None Dare Call It Genocide.” To serve as a medic so you can help your fellow soldiers means that you would be an accomplice to murder. What would you think of a physician who was willingly employed by a criminal gang to patch up the gang members after they were injured in the course of committing crimes? What is the war in Iraq if it is not a crime against the Iraqi people? Although he was not a Christian, Mahatma Gandhi did make a scriptural statement when he said: “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good.”
Fourth, if you didn’t serve as a medic in Iraq then someone else would. Over 181,000 people joined the U.S. military last year. It’s not as though U.S. troops would be going without medical care just because you didn’t enlist.
And fifth, if you really want to attend to people that need medical care, then you should consider helping Iraqis wounded by American bombs and bullets. After all, the United States invaded Iraq, not the other way around. Now, don’t get me wrong. Even though I don’t support what the troops are doing in Iraq, I don’t want to see any U.S. soldier injured or killed. But I also don’t want to see any Iraqis injured or killed either. It would not, of course, be wise for you to actually attempt to treat wounded Iraqis. The U.S. government would label you as an enemy combatant and ship you off to Guantanamo Bay. And right or wrong, the Iraqis would try to kill you because you are an American.
You have also expressed a desire to share the gospel. Your attitude of viewing your deployment as a mission field is one that all Christians should have. You sound like a clean young man who is committed to serving our Lord. Joining the military will corrupt you. Yes, some Christians emerge unscathed and remain faithful to Christ, but many more do not. You should not enlist because “no man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Joining the military means that you will be expected to unconditionally follow orders. You will be pressured to practically make a god out of the military. Because the purpose of the U.S. military has shifted from defending the country to intervening in other countries, the role that the U.S. military plays in the world is an evil one. To enlist would violate the admonition to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Remember the words of Bob Jones Sr.: “It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.”
You mentioned in closing that you would only shoot in self-defense. Joining the military means that you may be put into a position where you will have to kill or be killed. But is it really self-defense if you kill an Iraqi who is trying to kill you? How can it be considered self-defense when American soldiers travel thousands of miles from their homeland to invade a country that not only never attacked their country, but was never even a credible threat to their country? Is it self-defense if a thief kills you because you catch him with a gun in your house in the middle of the night and you fire your gun at him? You indicate that you are hesitant about following an order that might result in the death of someone. Since U.S. troops are the invaders, you should be just as cautious about justifying the shooting of someone in Iraq with the self-defense excuse. You are the one who is ultimately responsible for the people you kill, not the president and the secretary of defense. Not only will you have to live the rest of your life with the memories of the people you killed (or think you killed), you will also have to give an account of yourself to God at the judgment (Romans 14:12).
Don’t enlist; don’t be an accomplice to murder.