“Were it not for the support offered by several tens of millions of evangelicals, militarism in this deeply and genuinely religious country becomes inconceivable.” ~ Andrew Bacevich (Colonel, U.S. Army, Ret.).
This is one of the most sobering statements in Dr. Bacevich’s important book The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Oxford, 2005). Whether you agree or disagree with evangelical support for militarism, the fact remains that the largest group of Americans that the government can count on to support the institution of the military, the empire of troops and bases that encircles the globe, large defense budgets, overseas military interventions, the perpetual war on terror, and now torture is evangelical Christians – and the more conservative the more bloodthirsty.
If there is any group that should oppose these things, it is conservative Christians who profess to be in subjection to the Bible. There is something gravely wrong with evangelical Christianity when socialists like Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky get it right and conservative Christians get it wrong.
Christian warmongers are looking in the Bible, but they are looking in the wrong place. Everything in the Bible is written for us, but not to us. Although there are some exceptions, most Christian warmongers are Janus Christians.
Janus was the two-headed Roman god of gates and doors. With faces that looked in two different directions, he could see forward and backward at the same time. Because he was considered the god of beginnings, our first month, January, was named after him.
So, what do many evangelicals have in common with the Roman god Janus?
Janus Christians are always looking backward to the Old Testament or forward to the Book of Revelation to justify Christian participation in U.S. government wars and military interventions.
We are continually told by every Christian apologist for war and the military that because God sponsored wars in the Old Testament against heathen nations (Judges 6:16), and used his chosen nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 7:11-12) to conduct them, that this justifies Christian killing for the state in some foreign war.
But since the president of the United States is not God, America is not his chosen nation, the U.S. military is not the Lord’s army, the Christian’s sword is the word of God, and the only warfare the New Testament encourages the Christian to wage is against the world, the flesh, and the devil, Christians who look backward to the Old Testament to justify their warmongering are looking in the wrong place. The Lord has made no promise since Old Testament times to any nations or individuals that he would fight and kill their enemies or help them to do so.
Savvy Christian warmongers not only appeal to the past, they also look to the future. Here is an example from, of all places, a theological journal:
That Christ Himself will engage in actual, blood-shedding, life-taking warfare when He returns to set up His kingdom is significant. He cannot be the Righteous One, the Holy One, if war is inherently evil and the combatant’s role satanic. When He comes, the Lord will instruct His people to engage in that future warfare (cf. Obad 15-21). Would He demand His people to commit sin? Of course not! Therefore, warfare cannot be inherently sinful. Rev 19:11-21.
Christ establishing his future kingdom by force is certainly significant, but completely irrelevant to men engaging in aggressive warfare today. It does not follow that because the Lord will instruct people to war on his behalf in the future that it is okay for people to war on their own behalf now. Just as Christ ruling all nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 20:15) does not mean that it is permissible for a world dictator to do the same now. Warfare without the express command of Christ is certainly inherently evil and sinful. Offensive war is nothing but wholesale murder; defending one’s country from attack is not waging war at all, it is self-defense – but only when it is truly defensive, which, of course, it rarely is. God is holy; men are sinners. No one is innocent in relation to God. The Lord could wipe out the bulk of mankind like he did with Noah’s flood (Genesis 7:21-23) and still be just as holy. No man has any right to kill his fellow man – on any scale – just because God has the right to do so himself or by the means of his choosing. It can’t be emphasized too much that Christ judges and makes war “in righteousness” (Revelation 19:11); man never does.
Oh, Janus Christians do appeal to the New Testament to try and justify Christian participation in U.S. government wars and military interventions, but when they do their arguments are worse than pathetic. For example, in the aforementioned theological journal, the following arguments are given “supporting the believer’s participation in the military”:
- Jesus’ approval of a king who waged war against a wicked people (Matt 21:33-41).
- After Peter cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest (John 18:11), Jesus did not tell him to rid himself of his sword, merely to resheath it – for future use?
- In John 18:36 Jesus stated that it would have been proper for His disciples to defend His kingdom with swords if it had been an earthly kingdom.
In the first Scripture cited, there is neither a king nor warfare mentioned in the biblical passage cited. Strike one. In the second Scripture cited, the Lord told Peter to put away his weapon because he had to fulfill Scripture and be taken and crucified. Strike two. In the third Scripture cited, the author is exactly correct – it would have been proper if Christ’s kingdom were an earthly kingdom – but defending Christ’s kingdom is about as far removed as waging war for the U.S. military as one can possibly get. Strike three.
If there has there ever been a case of the word of God being “blasphemed” (Titus 2:5) or handled “deceitfully” (2 Corinthians 4:2) and more than this I have never seen it.
Janus Christians, because they are so blinded by the state and the military, have failed to notice the ethical instructions for Christians found throughout the New Testament.
Christians are admonished to “be patient toward all men” (1 Thessalonians 5:14), to not “render evil for evil unto any man” (1 Thessalonians 5:15), to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22), to “abhor that which is evil” (Romans 12:9), to “bless them” that persecute them (Romans 12:14), to “live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18), to “avenge not” themselves (Romans 12:19), to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21), to “follow after the things which make for peace” (Romans 14:19), to be “slow to wrath” (James 1:19), and to “seek peace, and ensue it” (1 Peter 3:11).
Christians should be marked by their love (John 13:35; 1 Thessalonians 3:12), quietness (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:12), holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:15), hospitality (Romans 12:13; Titus 1:8), meekness (Ephesians 4:2; Titus 3:2), longsuffering (Galatians 5:22; Colossians 1:11), forbearance (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13), subjection (Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 5:5), temperance (Galatians 5:23; 2 Peter 1:6), godliness (1 Timothy 2:2; 2 Peter 1:16), humility (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5), and good works (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8).
Christians should be more willing to accept suffering than to inflict it (2 Timothy 2:3, 4:5; James 5:10; 1 Peter 2:20-21, 3:17, 4:1, 16).
Christians should pray that they “may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men” (2 Thessalonians 3:2) instead of calling for U.S. military action against them.
The New Testament ethic for the Christian is one of peace, endurance, acceptance, non-violence, non-aggression, and non-retaliation. Does this mean that we invite foreign armies to bomb our cities and land on our shores? No, but it at least means that Christians have no business being part of the U.S. military and supporting or participating in the invasion, subjugation, and occupation of other countries, the bombing, maiming, and killing of foreigners on their soil, the doing of things that provoke hatred toward the United States and create terrorists, like nation building, intervening in the affairs of other countries, and policing the world.
It doesn’t matter how many people the Jews killed in the Old Testament or how many times the Lord ordered them into battle; likewise, it doesn’t matter how many people will die at some future Battle of Armageddon. What matters is right now under the New Testament in the Church Age. For a Christian to not know that is to manifest a tremendous ignorance of the Bible he professes to believe. Christians should be New Testament Christians, not Janus Christians.