I graduated from one of the most conservative Christian campuses in America. The school was through and through Republican on nearly every account. We were in a very red county and were actually one of the deciding counties of the 2000 Bush v. Gore elections. Nearly all the people there are gun totin’, big business pushin’, Bush lovin’, war backin’ Republicans. Although none would ever admit to it, most seem more proud to be Republicans (or in reality, not Democrats) than being Christians. And purely by observation, one would attest to this. Actions do indeed speak louder than words. However, in their case both words and actions compliment each other. Unfortunately, it’s not Christian.
Now, I’m not necessarily against Republicans. On paper, I think I would align myself with them more often than not. But there are some major problems that jump out with me about the typical Republican’s philosophy of war and human rights that don’t align themselves with the Bible. The same philosophies that have existed all throughout church history and will more than likely not be changed anytime soon. But someone needs to say something, and it might as well be me.
Republicans are very patriotic. They love America. They love to pledge allegiance to the American flag and sing the national anthem. To most Americans this would seem like a good thing. It is promoted, and I think for the most part that this is a good thing. Now speaking from a Biblical perspective, I believe that there is a line that can easily be crossed which many times gets unnoticed. There is a line that can be crossed where being proud to be an American, and being proud of democracy and capitalism can be too strong. It is when patriotism becomes nationalism. When people start thinking that the way we do things is the best and only way to do them, and that everyone else should do things like we do, things begin to become unbalanced in our duty to God and our duty to country. The most glorified people are those who give “the ultimate sacrifice.” We are eager to go to war. We are eager to eliminate those who do not think like us and are oppressive governments which do not allow for democracy. The Bush administration reacted to 9/11 how they wanted to react. They saw what they wanted to see, and heard what they wanted to hear, and then told us that they saw and heard those things. They fought out of revenge and out of fear, and they got much of America to live in fear of another 9/11. So we decided to bully our way in the Middle East by shootin’ us some Arabs and taken down Sadam. Christians were all for it. It’s justice, right? That’s what the government is there for, right? JUSTICE.
We live in a justice seeking, give me my rights, everything should be fair society. We sue over every little thing, and are encouraged to do so. Work the system, you know? We are always concerned about our personal rights. And if someone messes with my rights or my property, our response is to ruin the other person for it. We are a society which knows nothing of mercy. We are a society that knows nothing of grace. Yet 70-80% of this society claims to be Christian. They believe that they are reliant upon God’s grace and mercy to get them to heaven. We want justice, until it comes to us. We expect forgiveness and give vengeance. We demand mercy for ourselves, but never justice. If God gave us what we deserved, and forgot about mercy and grace, we would all die pretty quickly. And there would be no way we would ever be allowed to spend eternity in heaven. When things are viewed and stated this way, it is not hard to get people to agree. Yes, we should be nicer and forgive more often. Why can’t we all just get along? Then we’ll get mad at someone cutting us off on the way to work, or worse, church. But those are the simple concepts, in which most Christians will hang their heads admit their mistakes, and think about changing. But when it comes to life or death issues, that is another story.
I have to up front state that I am against war. I am against murder. I am against killing. Period. No matter what the circumstance, I think it is always wrong to kill someone. It is not anyone’s place to kill anyone. (Nor to torture anyone…) I believe that Jesus Christ taught that killing in any circumstance was wrong, and that mercy should always be the first option.
Before I was a pacifist I always characterized pacifism with hippies. You know, naked, hairy, smelly, flower power, tie-dye, and riots against Vietnam. I never thought of Christianity. When I thought of pacifism as related to religion I thought of Ghandi. He wasn’t Christian. I thought of the Quakers, the Shakers, the Amish, and the Mennonites. I thought of small farming groups of non-mainstream protestantism. They were weird and they were draft dodgers. Plus, I never met one person who challenged war or did not think that the death penalty was a bad thing who was a Christian. If there were anybody like that, they were labeled liberals and unChristian. But in high school I watched the Fog of War, which is Robert McNamara’s apology to the world about what went on in Vietnam, and lessons he’s learned in life. Although today I don’t agree with all that was said in that film, it really planted some seeds about war in my mind. It planted some seeds about how the Christian should consider war. As I read the Bible and I read what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, and what Paul says about our enemies, and that we battle “not against flesh and blood.” I really began to think about war in a different way. I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship and was deeply stirred in a way that I had never been stirred before. I saw God’s mercy for us in a different way than I ever had before. At this same time I had an Italian roommate who was a very strong pacifist, and, get this, a Christian! Finally, I had met a living Christian who thought that killing people was always wrong. After much discussion, more reading, and much prayer I concluded that much of what I have been taught about war, revenge, and killing was wrong.
They always told us that these things (mercy, forgiveness, etc.) all apply on an individual basis. When we are told to turn our cheek, that is only on the individual basis. When we are told that we fight not against flesh and blood, that is only talking about the individual level. When we are told to love our enemies, pray for those who despitefully use us, and go the extra mile, that is only on the individual level. But when a country wants to get revenge, or fight back, or fight battles of flesh and blood we are to completely back our government. Perhaps not even question their judgment.
There is much that could be said that I do not have the time to comment about today, and will more than likely get into in the future. But I will end with this. We are a nation of people that expect mercy and never desire to give it. Usually on an individual basis, and nearly always on a national basis.
No pastor would ever last if he spoke out against war in the evangelical world today. There are too many veterans of war who risked their lives for this country. Too many people would get mad and wrathful. Too many people love their guns, and live in fear. But of all people in the world, why do Christians live in fear? What are we to be afraid of? What’s the worst that could happen? Dying? Really? I mean life is pretty nice, but living in heaven with God forever? That’s what happens when we die. If we really believe that, then we certainty are not living like it. We seem to want to get them before they get us. But I say, so what if they get us? They probably won’t anyway, but what if they did? Heaven? Sign me up.
People I think don’t want to associate themselves with pacifism because it sounds wimpy. It sounds like hippie philosophy that is completely unattainable. But so is evangelizing the world, yet we still believe in it. Christians need to stand up for mercy and forgiveness, and leave justice to God. He is pretty good at handling things. After all, He’s God. Remember if God forwent mercy as much as we want to forgo it, we’d have no hope of heaven, and would have a destiny in hell. We bear the name Christian, let’s for once act like Christ.