Killing Heartily in the Name of the Lord

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23).

When the Apostle Paul says “ye” in the above verses, he is writing to Christians. Depending on their particular ethical or religious beliefs, Muslims, atheists, Jews, and other non-Christians may have an option, but Christians have no choice in the matter. “Whatsoever” means “whatsoever.” No part of life can be excluded from the above commands — including military service. “Whatsoever” is all-inclusive; that is, it includes eating a meal, taking a walk, reading a book — and killing for the state.

The Christian solider in today’s military is not exempt; he must perform his assigned duties with these commands in mind. But can he? There exists the strong possibility that men (and sometimes women) in the military will be required to do things other than cleaning, painting, refurbishing, drilling, marching, attending schools, taking tests, playing war games, going on maneuvers, practicing on the firing range, reading pornography, and frequenting prostitutes.

Can a Christian soldier plant land mines “to the glory of God”? What about dropping bombs? What about firebombing cities like Dresden and Tokyo as the United States did to Germany and Japan during World War II? What about atomic weapons? Can a Christian soldier pilot an Enola Gay “to the glory of God” knowing that its cargo will incinerate thousands of women and children?

Can a Christian soldier obtain information from a prisoner “in the name of the Lord Jesus”? The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who is currently being sued in federal court for the torture scandal in Iraq and Afghanistan, was named in a report by Amnesty International as authorizing prisoner abuses like stress positions, sensory deprivation, hooding, stripping, isolation, the use of dogs in interrogations, and, if a “military necessary,” exposure to cold weather or water, inducing the perception of suffocation, and death threats. Whether one terms these things torture, cruelty, abuse, or, as one caller to the Michael Savage radio show recently said, “embarrassment,” is irrelevant — can a Christian soldier be an inquisitor “in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him”?

Can a Christian soldier kill “heartily, as to the Lord”? Knowing that “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14), knowing that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10), and knowing that “every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12) — can a Christian kill heartily in the name of the Lord?

Some people who don’t profess to be Christians have no trouble with killing. Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, who commanded the 1st Marine Division in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was recently criticized and admonished to choose his words “more carefully” after he publicly said that it was “a hell of a lot of fun” to shoot people. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg has written that “one of the most important and vital things the United States could do after 9/11 was to kill people.” But Christians who claim that they can kill heartily in the name of the Lord are saying something much worse than Mattis and Goldberg.

The war in Iraq in particular causes Christian soldiers to fail the “killing heartily” test. By no stretch of the imagination can the war in Iraq be considered a “just war.” This means that the Christian soldier cannot go to Iraq to the glory of God in the name of the Lord Jesus to kill heartily as to the Lord. But it goes much deeper than just the war in Iraq. Can a Christian soldier bomb, interrogate, and kill for the state in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Cuba, Nicaragua, Yugoslavia, Kuwait, or any of the other countries the United States has intervened in since 1890?

Yet, in spite of all the lies about the Iraq—al Qaeda connection and weapons of mass destruction, Christian soldiers in Iraq are still cheered on by Christian preachers in the pulpit and Christian laymen in the pew. Some of the same Christians who never hesitate to criticize the Catholic Church view the war in Iraq as a modern-day crusade against Muslims.

All Christians are certainly not calling for more bloodshed in Iraq, but why do so many continue to defend the necessity of the war, make excuses for the United States still being in Iraq, incessantly repeat the mantras of “God bless our troops” and “obey the powers that be,” support the president because “he is a Christian,” or remain silent about the evils of this war?

It is a shame that the unorthodox theologian, Karl Barth (1886—1968), had more sense than orthodox Christians:

The Church can and should raise its voice against the institution of standing armies in which the officers constitute per se a permanent danger to peace. It can and should resist all kinds of hysterical or premature war scares. It exists in this aeon. Hence it is not commissioned to proclaim that war is absolutely avoidable. But it is certainly commissioned to oppose the satanic doctrine that war is inevitable and therefore justified, that it is unavoidable and therefore right when it occurs, so that Christians have to participate in it. (Church Dogmatics, vol. III, pt. 4, p. 460).

Why, then, do Christians — even Christians who don’t agree with President Bush’s Christianity — defend, promote, apologize for, excuse, tolerate, or ignore Bush’s unjust, immoral, and unscriptural war.

First, September 11th: Many Christians continue to believe that Iraq was behind the September 11th attacks even though the president himself now says otherwise: “We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th attacks.” And if Hussein was the mastermind behind the attacks, who is to say that invading and destroying Iraq was the appropriate response? If Hussein was an evil dictator who was hated by his people (as we are continually told), then how does that justify making war on an entire country of people who were Saddam Hussein’s enemies? But, of course, those of us who can read know that the September 2000 publication, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources For A New Century [see a summary and analysis of this 90 page document here], by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), shows that the attack on September 11th was merely the “new Pearl Harbor” that could be used to justify the United States taking military control of the Persian Gulf region regardless of whether Saddam Hussein was in power. There is also no evidence that Hussein was connected with al Qaeda, although there is plenty of evidence from mainstream sources that he was connected with our CIA until the first Persian Gulf War. There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein was a corrupt, evil ruler. But the world is full of corrupt, evil rulers. It always has been and always will be. In fact, many would say that the Bush administration is corrupt and evil.

Second, Israel: Evangelical Christians are typically supporters of Israel. But how this translates into supporting the war in Iraq defies comprehension. The arguments justifying the war are usually some variation of either: “God has America in Iraq to protect Israel” or “God has America in Iraq to ensure or bring about the fulfillment of biblical prophecies related to Israel.” To the first argument I would say: nonsense. Iraq was no threat to Israel. And if Israel thought Iraq was a threat then it would take action like it did on June 7, 1981, when it bombed a nuclear power plant near Baghdad that was believed (apparently falsely) to be designed to make nuclear weapons to attack Israel. Rather than protecting Israel, the opposite has occurred. The presence of the United States military in Iraq (and throughout the Middle East) increases Muslim hatred of both America and Israel and therefore increases terrorism. To the second argument I would say: more nonsense. God doesn’t need America to do anything. He could wipe out America tomorrow and it wouldn’t change a thing as far as His purposes are concerned: “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance” (Isaiah 40:15). That includes the United States of America. Gullible Evangelical Christians are being used by neoconservatives. Neoconservatives who defend everything done by the government of Israel and smear as anti-Semitic the slightest criticism of that government (which is propped up by billions of dollars of U.S. foreign aid) are not doing so because of their love of Bible prophecy. Evangelical Christians need to realize that the government of Israel is not the people of Israel. And I say this as a premillennialist and a dispensationalist.

Third, Islam: Although Bush thinks that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, Orthodox Christians consider Islam to be false religion. Although I don’t think that any pro-war Christian actually believes that it is okay for Christians to kill adherents of false religions, the thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths are regularly dismissed as collateral damage because they are Muslims. A variation of this is that it is okay to kill Muslims in Iraq because they are Muslims who are trying to kill Jews. Have Christians forgotten that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (2 Corinthians 10:4), and that we wield “the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17)? The references in the Bible to Christian soldiers (Philippians 2:25, 2 Timothy 2:3, Philemon 2) and Christian warfare (Ephesians 6:11, 1 Timothy 1:18, 2 Timothy 4:7) are references to spiritual warfare — The God of the Bible never called, commanded, or encouraged any Christian to kill, make apologies for the killing of, or excuse the killing of anyone that adheres to a false religion.

Fourth, “the Lord is a man of war” (Exodus 15:3): That this is a true statement there is no question, but how this phrase justifies the United States becoming a country of war shows how warped the Christianity of some people is.

Fifth, the war on terrorism: Some Christians, who are supposed to be non-aggressive (I didn’t say cowardly or pacifistic), argue that aggressive warfare is justified because we must do something to fight against terrorism; a pre-emptive war is acceptable because we must get them before they declare a jihad against us. But this ignores two things that have been eloquently pointed out before. First, as Tom Fleming has said: “We cannot defend Americans at home by killing Iraqis in the Middle East.” And second, as Pat Buchanan has said: “Before we invaded Iraq, not one American had been killed by an Iraqi in a dozen years. Since we invaded, 1,500 Americans have died and the number of insurgents has multiplied from 5,000 to 20,000. By Don Rumsfeld’s own metric, our intervention is creating more terrorists than we are killing. We are fighting a guerrilla army that our own invasion called into being.” To which I would add: the past interventions of the United States around the world are the root of terrorist acts against us. Wouldn’t it be easier, cheaper, and safer for American troops if the United States quit making terrorists instead of trying to war against them? Turning off the bath water always yields better results than bailing out the tub. Like the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on tobacco, and the new war on fat, the war on terrorism is a tragic joke.

Sixth, conservatism: Since most conservative Republicans support the war and most of the “evil” liberal Democrats are opposed to it, many Christians, who are by nature conservative people, are in bed with the conservative wing of the Republican Party because they view the Republican Party as honest, trustworthy, anti-Communist, limited government, anti-abortion, pro-family, pro-religion, or some other defining characteristic. Yet, conservatives have historically been known “for their blind nationalism, their readiness to engage in military adventure throughout the world, their envious Puritanism.” And the Republican Party has always been the party of big government, plunder, and sellouts. Christians have been deceived.

Seventh, the military: as I have previously and recently pointed out, and intend to explore in more detail in the future, the military, which in its present form does little to actually defend the country, is held in great esteem by too many Christians.

Eighth, the state: As a class, Christians are law-abiding people. Yet, many of them are under the impression that Christians should support the war in Iraq because Christians should always do what the government says. But Christians who hold to that opinion are not thinking. No Christian in the United States has been commanded to fight in Iraq or to support the war. The government would like everyone to “support the troops,” but no one has been put in jail (not yet) for refusing to support the war or for denouncing the war. So actually, Christians can repeat the “obey the powers that be” mantra every minute of the day and still oppose the war. So why don’t they? What many pro-war Christians are really subscribing to is the false notion that they should never oppose anything that the government says or does. Yet, even Christians who regularly ignore the dictates of the state (seatbelt laws, speed limits) lose their mind when it comes to war. They still think that the only problem with the war in Vietnam was that we didn’t win. Why is something so destructive as war the great exception? Why is it alright in the minds of some Christians for someone to put on a uniform and kill someone half way around the world when it would be murder here in the United States? Christian warmongers are idolaters, as Ludwig von Mises wrote in Omnipotent Government:

Modern war is not a war of royal armies. It is a war of the peoples, a total war. It is a war of states which do not leave to their subjects any private sphere; they consider the whole population a part of the armed forces. Whoever does not fight must work for the support and equipment of the army. Army and people are one and the same. The citizens passionately participate in the war. For it is their state, their God, who fights.

The great mystery to me is why any Christian would be concerned about the state in the first place, for as FEE president Richard Ebeling explains:

There has been no greater threat to life, liberty, and property throughout the ages than government. Even the most violent and brutal private individuals have been able to inflict only a mere fraction of the harm and destruction that have been caused by the use of power by political authorities. Can a Christian kill heartily (or defend those that do) in the name of the Lord? If it is acceptable then go ahead and bomb, destroy, interrogate, maim, and kill (or defend those that do) — as long as you do it heartily to the glory of God in the name of the Lord Jesus as you give thanks to God and the Father by him. Just be ready to give an account of yourself at the judgment. If it is not acceptable to kill heartily or defend those that do, then don’t do it — regardless of the consequences. It will spare you from having blood on your hands at the judgment.