Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Should a Christian fight in a War?

This is a very difficult question.  Should a Christian fight in a war?  Should a Christian serve in the military?  And what about on a national level?  Is it ever appropriate for nations to go to war from a Christian perspective?  

I would've considered myself a pacifist back in 2012-2014.  I held to a very libertarian viewpoint of war, that wars should only be fought defensively by a nation.  And that a Christian should never, under any circumstances fight, even to defend him or herself.  

Then I listened to a transcript from a C.S. Lewis book, which included one of his lesser known works called "Why I am Not a Pacifist."  If was a transcript from a speech that C.S. Lewis gave to a pacifist society in Great Britain during World War II.  

C.S. Lewis pointed to a simple question: When Jesus said turn the other cheek, could he really have been referring to every conceivable situation possible?  Or can we have a wider view of things, and understand it from a greater vantage point?

Yes, we must.  Because I realized that perched from my high, smug moral superiority on the issue of peace and war, that if I were prime minister of Great Britain, during World War II, faced by the scourge of Nazism, and the horrifying, precision of the death camps where Jews and Christians were being systematically exterminated, what then would my policy be?

Would I have been like Neville Chamberlain, meeting diplomatically with Hitler, and be so excited when I returned to Great Britain in 1938, to cry: "Peace in our time!"  Only to find moments later, Hitler breaks his diplomatic promises and invades Poland anyway.  Pacifists tried to cow Hitler, they tried to be diplomatic. I'm sure the media praised them, for being so diplomatic and so reasonable.  But, they were wrong.  They were fools.  And their endless demands for diplomacy left Europe near helpless as Hitler marched through Poland and France and the Scandinavian nations.  

I realized over time that C.S. Lewis was right.  It's not as simple as pacifism. It's not as simple as anti-war.  It's not a simple as 'never, ever fight back.'  It's not as simple as 'turn the other cheek', surprisingly enough.  

A certain part of me wants to cry out "Yes it is that simple!" I'm a black and white kind of guy.  I don't see a lot of gray area.  In fact it bothers me when people try to push this idea of "rays of sunlight shining through the glass" and "many ways to the summit" sort of crap.  To me, it's dishonest and betrays a desire to shift the truth to fit our own desires.  It's often a lot of fancy language and high sounding ideas that are a cover up for a simple desire to change what the word says, and change it to fit our preferences.  I cannot abide it.  But with this issue of war and the just war, it's not as black and white.  

I realize there is no simple answer, in most situations.   But it's not a question of personal convictions either.  It's a question of God's word.  That's the unmovable rock.  Every stupid opinion is my head is sloshing back and forth, most of them wrong and dumb, always changing, susceptible to all kinds of biases, and nonsense. But the word of God says what it says.  I may not be understanding it quite right, but I can always go back to studying verse after verse, chapter after chapter, attempting diligently to put each piece together, to understand what God is saying.  

Should nations go to war? I think, yes, nations can go to war, if it's a defensive war.  I would even say that a pre-emptive action is sometimes necessary, think of the Six Day War, when Israel was about to be invaded, and the Israeli Air Force destroyed their enemies air forces in a surprise attack.  This leveled the field, so that when the Arab nations invaded, Israeli had a chance to win.  

Should a nation invade a sovereign country for the purpose of conquest?  No, I don't believe so.  An offensive war, for the goal of military gain is not ethical.  

Should Christians fight in the military?  I think that Christians can certainly do that.  In fact many Christians do just that.  I think the only denomination/cult that teaches against military service are Jehovah's Witnesses.  I recall in the scriptures that Roman soldiers came to John the Baptist and asked him, "What should we do?"  

From Luke 3:14 (NIV) Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

John the Baptist, the second greatest man ever to live, who prepared the way for Jesus, was asked by soldiers, what they ought to do, in regard to repentance.

John could've said, "You need to leave the profession of soldiering, you need to give up your life of soldiering. You need to become a pacifist."  John the Baptist didn't say that.  Instead he gave instructions within their profession: "Don't extort money, and don't accuse people falsely, and be content with your pay."

Should Christians fight in the military?  They may do so.  I would not want to do so, unless I was serving as a military chaplain, or a medic.  I strongly desire not to kill anyone, ever.  

Now, should Christians serve in the military, in an evil army?  Say, Nazis?  I don't believe so.  When people are being exterminated by the millions, a Christian must resist that. 

These ethical situations are not simple. But they are navigable with God's word, and a discerning Spirit within.  

This post was part of the July 2018 Synchroblog on the topic of Just War and Pacifism. Here are links to others who contributed this month. Go read them all!

K. W. Leslie – Just War: Vengeance Disguised as Righteousness
What God May Really Be Like – Is God a Warmonger or a Pacifist?
Layman Seeker – Disarmed and Harmonious
Tim Nichols – If you Love Sheep …
Scott Sloan – Holy War and Manifest Destiny in Light of the Cross
Done With Religion – For God and Country
Justin Steckbauer – Should Christians Fight in a War?
Jeremy Myers – It’s Not Personal; It’s Just War

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