The Hebrew Midwives vs. the Christian Soldier

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, With the cross of Jesus going on before. Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; Forward into battle see His banners go!

There is no denying the fact that the Bible likens a Christian to a soldier:

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).

“And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house” (Philemon 2).

“Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants” (Philippians 2:25).

As soldiers, Christians are admonished to “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). The Apostle Paul, who himself said: “I have fought a good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7), told a young minister to “war a good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18).

But this is not the Christian soldier I am referring to. The Christian soldier I am referring to is the Christian solider in the U.S. military. As I have pointed out again and again, the fact that the Bible likens a Christian to a soldier does not in any way justify American Christians bombing and killing foreigners for the U.S. military.

If the U.S. military was engaged in guarding our borders, patrolling our coasts, and genuinely defending the country instead of establishing and guarding a U.S. global empire, then perhaps a soldier would be a noble occupation that one could wholeheartedly perform as a Christian.

The Department of Defense is a euphemism. Its 700,000 civilian employees, its 2.3 million military personnel, and its $419.3 billion FY 2006 budget (up 41% since FY 2001) have very little to do with defense. The real defenders of the country are those who serve in the U.S. Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, neither of which is part of the Department of Defense.

The Christian soldier in the Bible fights against sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil. He wears “the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14) and “the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17). The weapons of the Christian are not carnal (2 Corinthians 10:4); his shield is “the shield of faith” (Ephesians 6:16) and his sword is “the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

But now more than ever, the Christian in the military faces the possibility of having to kill (in the name of freedom and democracy, of course) for the state in some foreign country that we are not at war with (there has been no declaration of war in the United States since World War II) and many Americans can’t even locate on a map.

Although I don’t agree with some of his theological tenets, the theologian Karl Barth (1886—1968) made a profound observation during his discussion of the sixth commandment:

Killing in war . . . calls in question, not merely for individuals but for millions of men, the whole of morality, or better, obedience to the command of God in all its dimensions. Does not war demand that almost everything that God has forbidden be done on a broad front? To kill effectively, and in connexion therewith, must not those who wage war steal, rob, commit arson, lie, deceive, slander, and unfortunately to a large extent fornicate, not to speak of the almost inevitable repression of all the finer and weightier forms of obedience? And can they believe and pray when at the climax of this whole world of dubious action it is a brutal matter of killing? It may be true that even in war many a man may save many things, and indeed that an inner strength may become for him a more strong and genuine because a more tested possession. But it is certainly not true that people become better in war. The fact is that war is for most people a trial for which they are no match, and from the consequences of which they can never recover. Since all this is incontestable, can it and should it nevertheless be defended and ventured? (Church Dogmatics, vol. III, pt. 4, p. 454).

The Christian in the military can’t hide behind the state as if he is not responsible for his actions, as Barth again says:

The state wages war in the person of the individual. In war it is he, the individual man or woman, who must prepare for, further, support and in the last analysis execute the work of killing. It is part of the responsibility that in so doing he must risk his own life. But the decisive point is that he must be active in the destruction of the lives of others. The question whether this is permissible and even obligatory is not merely addressed to the state; it is also addressed specifically and in full seriousness to the individual (Church Dogmatics, vol. III, pt. 4, p. 464).

Blind obedience to the state is not a tenet of New Testament Christianity.

Fortunately, Christians faced with killing in the name of the state have an example in the Bible to guide them — the Hebrew midwives:

And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah;

And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools, if it be a son, then ye shall kill him; but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.

But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.

And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?

And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.

Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.

And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses (Exodus 1:15—21).

The state said “kill”; the Hebrew midwives said “no.” The midwives did not repeat the “obey the powers that be” mantra that warmongering, Bush-worshipping, state-apologizing Christians incessantly repeat to justify their idolatry.

God give us more Hebrew midwives.