Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Christian Statism: Killing for the Gospel?

"The War Prayer" is a short story that was written during the aftermath of the Philippine-American War by Mark Twain and published after his death. In 2007, Markos Kounalakis, the president of The Washington Monthly, adapted the text for this animated short film.

This could easily have been written in response to the current "war on terror." We really haven't changed all that much.

Consider how many churches display the American flag prominently in their pulpits. Is it any wonder why we seem to have such a hard time drawing a distinction between loyalty to Christ and loyalty to country?

A couple of months ago, I heard a comment that saddened me deeply. In the context of discussing how the brutality of bin Laden and other Muslim thugs may be turning people away from Islam, someone mentioned that it's good for Christianity to have the U.S. military involved in the Middle East, and that having Christian GIs in Iraq will help spread the gospel.

Oh. Is that why we invaded Iraq and killed hundreds of thousands of people? It was all part of furthering God's kingdom?

What we did was commit a naked act of aggression against a sovereign nation that neither attacked nor threatened us. Our "liberation" of Iraq has since given rise to terrorist groups that weren't there before and has resulted in a great amount of bloodshed. It has also displaced thousands of Christians who now face violent persecution from militant Muslims. Do American Christians now feel we must justify the actions of our government on the basis that it will help spread the gospel?

My friend Dave Black asks, "How is that we have allowed the Christian Right to be defined by delusional idealism and religious zeal? How is it that American evangelicals not only approved but actually glamorized the war as a form of Christian 'mission'?"

As a Christian and a Calvinist, I understand that God controls all things and does ordain evil for good (Genesis 50:20). But we as Christians should never equate the spreading of the gospel with the use of military force. We are fighting a spiritual war (Ephesians 6:12-13) and our weapon of choice is the "sword of the spirit" (Ephesians 6:17). We should be prepared to give our own lives for the sake of the gospel (Matthew 16:25, John 12:24-25), not to take the lives of others.


Anonymous said...

A bold post--and a message that urgently needs to be heeded if we are to truly be the ekklesia of Christ.

Several months ago I took a major hit when I removed the American flag from the platform in my church. We did place it in our large foyer (which I am not satisfied with). That, by far, has caused more controversy than any other factor. Many wanted it to be a church vote, but I insisted that I would not preach from the pulpit if the flag was there.

As you can imagine, I was labeled anti-American. I love our country, but having the flag there was nothing short of idolatry.

Anonymous said...

Is the U.S.A. the greatest country today? Do I love this country? Would I take up arms to fight against an attack by a foreign power? Is a church making a HUGE mistake if it displays this country's flag?

The answer to all of these questions is clearly "Yes". This country or any other country is not "Christian" and the church is making a mistake if it associates itself with any government.

Bill T. -- St. Louis

Anonymous said...

Dear Lee,
I agree with parts of your post , and I disagree with parts. I think you are correct to state that the church should not be so closely aligned with the foreign policy decisions of the US government. I also believe that it is wrong to see the US Military as a means of spreading the gospel (although individual soldiers can and should). However, I do take issue with your assertion that the US's motivation was out of "naked aggression" against a nation that had not "threatened" us. You may disagree with the justification for going to war with them. At the same time, the threat was very real. This threat was shared across a broad spectrum of people and nations. To assert anything else is untrue and unfitting for a Christian like yourself to declare. I pray that you will correct your statement to reflect a more honest assessment of the reasons the country honestly went to war even if there are or were dishonest intentions involved which, then, you can honestly address if you are aware of those facts. Otherwise it is speculation on your part and you should state it as such.

Michael Lee

Lee Shelton said...


Thanks for your comments. The reason I feel no need to modify my statement is because I believe it. As far as I'm concerned, it was and is an act of aggression on our nation's part. Yes, it is an opinion, and I think anyone reading it should take it for what it is.

If it helps, here are just a few of my reasons:

- Iraq did not attack us.
- Iraq did not openly threaten to attack us.
- Iraq lacked the capability to attack us even if they had threatened us.
- The justifications given by our government (Iraq-al Qaeda link, Saddam seeking to buy uranium, WMD, etc.) were proven to be false. No one in the administration even brings these issues up anymore.
- Even after those justifications fell apart, we still insist on staying there.
- There were some in Washington who had been pushing for war with Iraq even before 9/11.
- Saddam, as bad as he was, was a stabilizing factor in the ME -- especially compared to what we have there now.
- There was no constitutionally required declaration of war; Congress illegally ceded that authority to the president. As a constitutionalist, I have a HUGE problem with giving single individuals the authority to wage preemptive war on sovereign nations. That's the stuff of dictatorships.
- People still like to cite unconstitutional U.N. resolutions as justification. Well, having the world's most powerful military enforcing the will of a global organization sounds a little too much like world government to me.
- With all that has gone wrong in Iraq (and remember that we're also still bogged down in Afghanistan), we have folks wanting to strike out at Iran. Wars like that never end; they just send us into a perpetual cycle of violence.

You may disagree with me, but I thought I would just explain why I said what I did.

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