Just been reading the story about U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret ‘Jesus’ Bible Codes via Jon Trott.
Apparently an ABC News investigation has found coded references to New Testament Bible passages are being inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the U.S. military in Iraq.
Critics have said, “It allows the Mujahedeen, the Taliban, al Qaeda and the insurrectionists and jihadists to claim they’re being shot by Jesus rifles” and “It’s literally pushing fundamentalist Christianity at the point of a gun against the people that we’re fighting.”
So, the gospel comes from a barrel of a gun? This sort of blaspheme makes me wanna rage against the machine.
32 thoughts on “Killing in the name of”
There’s something fundamentally contrived about the ‘outrage’ (= news) here, at least as represented in comments like:
> Critics have said, “It allows the Mujahedeen, the Taliban, al Qaeda and the insurrectionists and jihadists to claim they’re being shot by Jesus rifles”
The west are already cast as ‘Crusaders’ by the people who inflame Islamic militants; it’s the paradigm for anyone agitating against western history and action of any kind. There’s no question of some inscrutable code on distant weapons “allowing” Imams to make that claim in a way that they couldn’t or wouldn’t already.
Moreover, John 8:12, on the weapon in the photo, seems more intended to encourage the individual soldier on a night patrol than to threaten theocratic violence: “I am the light of the world. No follower of mine shall wander in the dark; he shall have the light of life.” (NEB)
Nevertheless, for a nation that prizes its constitutional separation of church and state, I find this uncomfortably close to inscribing a chi rho on a shield.
I don’t think there’s any ambiguity at all here. *NO* weapon or portion of a weapon used by the United States of America should have religious slogans on it. Weapons in war are to kill the enemy. The sight on a rifle is used to focus upon, bring into view, center, one’s target and make it easy to put a bullet through that person… a person for whom Jesus died.
I can perhaps see how it happened — a man honestly trying to express his love of God by imprinting verses on the things his company makes. But the minute that company sells materials to the United States, those Christian sentiments become part of a nation’s cause, not God’s cause.
Christian Jihad is not something of which we should want even the slightest hint.
Hi Jon —
I think we met once at the Mind-Body-Spirit festival in Sydney with Philip Johnson. And I think we’re on the same page here in sentiment. But let me ask a question or two about your final statement:
> Christian Jihad is not something of which we should want even the slightest hint.
As a non-American, I’m less interested in the specifics of the current news story than the general questions it raises. And I think concern for “slightest hints” gets us pretty quickly into marginal, disputable and generally highly individual judgments.
Can we agree that the basic question is: Should there be visibly Christian people in armies? If so, we can break it down into three smaller questions.
1) Should countries have armies? Or should they just let their citizens be oppressed by other people’s armies?
2) (a la Celsus) Should Christians serve in armies? Or should they just enjoy secure society through the sacrifices of non-Christians?
3) Should soldiers have a visible freedom of religious expression? For example, should a soldier (of any religious or non-religious alignment) be free to inscribe some personally significant symbol or statement on their (nationally owned) equipment?
If you answer yes to each of these questions, then the “slightest hint” of Christian “Jihad” will at times be unavoidable. If you don’t answer “Yes”, then at which step do you answer “No”?
(Also, what IS the current Christian term for “Jihad”, so as not to coopt other’s language in a rather pejorative way?)
I’ll take a stab at your questions, Kalessin:
1. For the most part, I think that maintaining a standing army for the purposes of defense is an unfortunate necessity these days. However, as a citizen of a country who so recently touted a preemptive war as a legitimate “defense,” I desperately wish someone would offer a compelling alternative to this.
2. I think Christians should be allowed to serve in the military. I consider the question of whether Christians actually should serve to be a matter of theology and conscience. As such, I’ll leave that to the Christian theologians and individuals to make that decision.
3. I think the “nationally owned” part gives the obvious answer away. The equipment does not “belong” to the individual soldier, so modifying it in any way is simply not something they should do. The fact that my friend lends me his car does not give me the right to paint it a different color, even if I’m going to be borrowing it for a year while he’s overseas.
I think this issue is a bit tricky. The U.S. military did not embed this code into the scopes, nor did they (so far as we know) ask for it to be done. The private corporation who makes the scopes chose to do it on their own (again, so far as we know). I do find myself wondering if the corporation doesn’t have a right to do what they wish with their product.
Of course, now that the military is aware of the code, I think they only responsible for them to do is to ask the private corporation to remove the code from all future scopes they make for the military or take their business elsewhere. Then the private corporation can decide if exercising their right to put secret religious codes on their product is important enough to them to lose such a large customer.
In this case it is really quite simple:
Who would Jesus kill, or what gun(s) would he recommend?
Plus I would say that this seemingly minor incident is just one of countless examples of how sick religion has become, especially in right-wing America.
It was Augustine who wrote that the christian soldier should love the enemy he kills (more or less). I have family in the army and though they may not give me the time of day, it is their choice. It is not for me to judge them for joining the army.
As I have mentioned before is that the government will use force, but the Christian should not be complicit in it. My family members that are in the army are Christians, the reason I should not judge them is that I am just as vulnerable as anyine else is to join the army despite my convictions.
As for the ancient argument that why should Christians enjoy “freedom” while non Christians fight for freedom. There were no recorded incidents of Christians joining the army til about 170AD and some would thro down their weapons which at the time was seen to be noble, but that soon died out. It was not long before it was compolsury to be a Christian to join the army after the 4th Century, but joining the army at ant time was committing idolatory because it meant that you would be worshipping ceasar and all the other gods that made up Roman religion. It was because they would nt worship Caesar or the other gods that Christians were labelled athiests.
prior to 170AD, Christians are considered pacifists because of Jesus’ teachings on the subject which I think played an important role and the fact that they were persecuted about 9 times throughout the first three years of their existence is also considered a factor by some.
Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and this is what should define us Christians. Also there are other ways of contributing to the country other than joining the army such as welfare obviously welfare that is not contributed to by the government. For example Emporer Julian noticed that the Christians looked after their poor and also the poor on the street. I try not to judge my family members who are in the army so I try to concentrate on non violence as much as they do for war.
Kalessin, maybe it’s a storm in a teacup, but I’m reminded of the foot massage scene from Pulp Fiction:
Jules: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa… stop right there. Eatin’ a bitch out, and givin’ a bitch a foot massage ain’t even the same fuckin’ thing.
Vincent: It’s not. It’s the same ballpark.
Jules: Ain’t no fuckin’ ballpark neither. Now look, maybe your method of massage differs from mine, but, you know, touchin’ his wife’s feet, and stickin’ your tongue in her Holiest of Holies, ain’t the same fuckin’ ballpark, it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same fuckin’ sport. Look, foot massages don’t mean shit.
Vincent: Have you ever given a foot massage?
Jules: [scoffs] Don’t be tellin’ me about foot massages. I’m the foot fuckin’ master.
Vincent: Given a lot of ’em?
Jules: Shit yeah. I got my technique down and everything, I don’t be ticklin’ or nothin’.
Vincent: Would you give a guy a foot massage?
[Jules gives Vincent a long look, realizing he’s been set up]
Jules: Fuck you.
Vincent: You give them a lot?
Jules: Fuck you.
Vincent: You know, I’m getting kinda tired. I could use a foot massage myself.
Jules: Man, you best back off, I’m gittin’ a little pissed here.
I’m wondering if we’d be calling it a storm in a teacup had the hidden references been Wiccan of Muslim?
Muslim American: You know, I’m getting kinda spiritually tired. I could use a coded message myself.
American Military: Man, you best back off…
Jarod said, “I think Christians should be allowed to serve in the military. I consider the question of whether Christians actually should serve to be a matter of theology and conscience. As such, I’ll leave that to the Christian theologians and individuals to make that decision.” I agree, it is not for the state to discriminate. I am inclined to discriminate myself outa the running though, on the basis of affiliation.
Dissidentdiscipleship said, “It is not for me to judge them for joining the army.”
I agree, it’s not for us to judge them, judgement is for God alone. But I would still be counselling them to exercise discernment, particularly given their Christian commitments. This harks back to the earlier discussion we had on judgement vs discernment. To flip this across the political spectrum, I’d approach it the same way if they were talking of shacking up as unmarrieds. This is not to be holier than thou, it’s just an encouragement to strive for holiness.
As for the ancient argument of why should Christians enjoy freedom without fighting for it. My position is, if the cost of this freedom is the sacrifice of some of my most deeply held values, it’s not true freedom. Consciencious objection is a non-negotiable for a genuinely free society.
As for loving those we kill, it’s interesting that we can talk of the false dichotomy between the sacred and secular in some missional discussions, but when we come to this subject there’s a perennial tendancy to separate sacred intention from secular action.
Heads up: turns out the Australian Defence Force has been using the weapons too. I don’t expect that will last long!
John (not Jon) wrote:
> Who would Jesus kill, or what gun(s) would he recommend?
It might be instructive to take a lesser question than “who would Jesus kill?”
Armies were the same thing as police forces in Roman-ruled Israel: Could Jesus have been not a carpenter/stonemason but rather a policeman, and still been Very God of Very God?
Who would Jesus have handcuffed? Who would he have forcibly subdued and disarmed, and in what situations? Who would he have incarcerated against their will, and taken to court to be sentenced? Had he served on a jury, would he ever have voted a criminal guilty? Would he have served as a judge?
Would he have taken a job upholding justice in human society? Your question implies that if he would not, then neither should we. Would you extend this principle to having no Christian police or judges in your own society if you cannot imagine Jesus in that role?
If you can imagine him in that role, what action would he have taken to immobilize a person threatening a group of people with a sword? Is that a person he would have killed? Or might he have availed himself of means of response on which we may not necessarily rely? And what then should we do in our situation?
If we have responsibilities of this kind in civil society, do they diminish when the threat consists of an organized army which may viably be subdued or repelled, but only by physical deterrence and opposition?
I think it’s fairly obvious that Jesus thought zealotry was at very least futile. He wasn’t planning a rebellion, so, under the Pax Romana in Israel, he was never faced with the question of joining an army.
But it doesn’t seem at all obvious that he was opposed to the existence of armies per se. In Luke 3:14 he advises soldiers who ask “what should we do” to merely refrain from using their position for extortion.
I’m with Janet in thinking I’d like there to be an alternative. But the p[rice of having NO defense or deterrence is greater, more preventable suffering as far as I can see.
If someone wants to eat meat they should be willing to kill an animal themselves; to pull the trigger on the bolt gun in the abattoir, if that’s how it’s done, since they do so by proxy in any case.
If someone wants a peaceful, just and equitable society for everyone, they should be willing to protect it, including by force of arms when threatened with force of arms.
The actions of others can put you in the position of having no morally good response; situations where the best response you can make is merely to minimize the total harm as best you can.
In a democracy, *we* are the rulers referred to in Romans 13. And we bear all their responsibilities for good.
I just wanted to add that when it became compulsory that only Christians could join the army those who were persecuted became the persecutors. There were baptisms at sword point, pagans were killed if they would not “convert” to christianity, someone once called this “flattery and battery” Reminds me of some types of mission even in (post)modern times.
As for my cousins I have asked them how they interpreted Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies a number of times when these things have come up, but since then they do their best to avoid me try to stop me from speaking on anything to do with my heresies. But their main concern is to do with my heresy on Genesis, we all grew up creationists so you know I confuse them when I talk about the creation narrative genre or as the genesis account as a rebuttal to the prevailing narratives of the time.
As a cop some 30 years I carried a handgun with intent to use it if I felt I had to. So I can hardly claim to be a Christian pacifist.
But it always left me with a big dillema, because if I had used it as intended I would also have had someone else’s blood on my hands.
That’s something I found I couldn’t live with myself, but I’m not about to judge those who decide otherwise in the service and protection of the innocent.
But I also believe that those who live by the sword or gun or other weapons designed to maim and kill, that you will die them eventually…perhaps physically, but most probably psychologically…You see that result in the countless veterans of numerous conflicts who become mentally ill because of PTSD following their encounters with war’s violent realities.
All I know is that Jesus’s “love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you” up until AD170 was most likely interpreted as not bearing arms against them, but focused toward finding better ways to resolve conflicts between people.
Coming to the Bible verses on weapons intended to kill people, I reckon its pretty unnecessary, stupidly provocative and unnecessarily callous.
My pistol back those 30 years ago did not have a verse on it to give me moral or spiritual “focus”. When it was pointed its only `vision’ on its sighting was to kill, albeit to kill back someone who would be trying to kill you.
Glad I hate guns now. Don’t like them or what they are about.
Just thinking about what someone said “There’s gotta be a better way”.
Dr Martin Luther King’s activism was not pacifism. It was non-violent resistance of injustice. I reckon that he and Ghandi, and Jesus in fact, through non-violent resistance of human evil in all its ugly power proved that it was highly effective in confronting and overcoming the violence of unjust systems wrought upon the innocent and vulnerable by corrupt principalities and powers. MLK certainly regarded non-violent resistance as a means of loving one’s enemies, whilst at the same time challenging them to change their minds and ways in a direction toward their repentance and redemptive transformation. He also coined a term “vicarious suffering”, which was about being prepared to lay aside one’s own safety in non-violent resistance against people systems fully prepared to force their own ways violently upon them, in order to shame them into self-examination with a view toward their repentance. He saw it as loving one’s enemies by demonstrating to them “another way” – “a far better way” – than forcing them or defeating them through overwhelming physical violence.
Jonathan Bartley in his book Faith and poltcs After Christendom sees Romans 13 as Paul’s way of showing the early Christians the difference between revolution or zealotry and anarchy. Though normally it is also understood that it was written because Christans were being persecuted by the Romans and some say that Paul basically did not want to rock the boat so to speak and bring about more persecution.
Whenever we look at WWII, we look at it from the luxury of retrospect, the war could have gone either way which is something I think that we forget. WWII was just Christians killing other Christians.
To Andrew Park
Thanks for putting the record staight. May I also add the Prophets from the Hebrew Bible, Dorothy Day, John Woolman to your list of Jesus, Ghandi, & MLK.
I also wanted to mention that I do hate the word pacifism, but I was trying to recall a quote I read and that included the word pacifism in it from a book by Stuart Murray, Mission After Christenom. It may help in future if I reference these things. I was up at 3am writing most of that first part which didnt help much, I fnished work at midnight.
I would put it slightly different – WW2 was people from one Christendom-based system slaughtering another. But it was also a Christendom-based system acting genocidally toward Jewish and non-Jewish peoples in order to eradicate them off the earth. Then there were the Japanese (Buddist, Bushido) vs the West from Christendom-based systems. I think religion and racism always seem to configure somewhere into the warfare configurment.
From my reading of the Hebrew Bible many of the prophets actually participated as warriors in warfare violence such as Samual, Elijah, Joshua.
I would add to your list though St Francis of Assisi after he left military service following his time as a warrior in the crusades. He adopted non-violence, not pacifism, in his example of service activism toward the needy, but did not adopt a vow of prophetic silence toward the perpetrators of injustice. Mostly that was through his praxis of humble service – his actions speaking louder than words.
To Andrew Park, all I can think of at the moment is ha ha ha, thanks! Apologies!
and I just wanted to mention that when I posted: May I also add the Prophets from the Hebrew Bible, I was referring more to Isaiah and Jeremiah, but point taken.
When I posted: WWII was just Christians killing other Christians, I was quoting from A Culture of Peace: God’s Vision of the Church; though before I wrote that though I was looking at other ways other than Christendom for instance I wrote that it was one nation that thought they were Christian killing another nation that thought it was Christian, etc.
At the moment I am looking to spread my wings to blog on other religions in a more crosscultural aspect, but I thought I would try Francis of Assissi and his conversations and friendship with Egypt’s Sultan Malik al-Kamil, by approaching him unarmed in the midst of the Fifth Crusade in 1219.
Kalessin, very good questions. A discussion of state violence would not be complete without a discussion on policing. But there seem to be a few assumptions behind your questions that I would question.
Firstly, you seem to be suggesting that we can’t legitimately distinguish between soldiers and police given they both use force. Extrapolating from that I expect your next question would be, can parents use force with their children? Now, as it turns out, I was recently reading up on parenting advise for Anabaptists and I’ve found no general injunctions against parental discipline. Moreover, in all my readings I have seen very little pacifist angst spilt over police work. I am aware that, historically, some have interpreted New Testament teachings against violence as an injunction against employment as magistrates and the like, but moreoften I’ve encountered differentiations between military action (where maximum harm is the goal) and police work (where minimum harm is the goal) in pacifist writing. So at worst you could accuse pacifists of inconsistancy in their attitudes towards police, but that’s a far cry for establishing an irrevocable conflict between policing and pacifism. Pacifist theology is more subtle than a simple “force equals bad” claim.
Secondly, your concerns about civil society seem to be slipping into what we would call the “What if everyone did this?” trap. The obvious answer being, well if everyone practiced pacifism there wouldn’t be any violent criminals to incarcerate, so no need for police QED. Now, you may retort, “Well that’s not going to happen short of the second coming!” But pacifist Christians would merely reply, “We know!” So in all seriousness, why worry about something we both know is never going to happen? So long as the present age continues to exist, there will be criminals and there will be police and judges and whotnot … and pacifists will continue to be challenged for imagining the world could ever be otherwise. We do not doubt this, our only questions is, do we just go with the flow or stand against it?
Now, Andrew, given your statement that, “Dr Martin Luther King’s activism was not pacifism. It was non-violent resistance of injustice,” I’m now worried that you may be misinterpreting much of what I’m saying here now and in the past. Because when I speak of pacifism, “nonviolent activism” is precisley what I mean. What you’re rejecting here is what I would instead call “passivism” or “withdrawalism” or “quietism”, a position I reject almost as strongly as warmongering. A true pacifist is anything but passive; a true passifist actively engages in conflict situations. So, in light of your comments, please translate anything I’ve said on pacifism to be meaning “nonviolent activism”.
Actually, there is something I need to make clear if it isn’t already from what I’ve written. In my experience pacifists do not reflect deeply on what a “pacifist Christendom” could look like as they do not see a pacifist Christendom as a practical possibility. Indeed, it’s a bit of an oxymoron. Christendom was founded on forced conversion, something which pacifists (sorry, nonviolent activists) reject explicitly. Where conversion is voluntary there will always be an element of society which rejects Christianity and the challenging path of nonviolent discipleship we advocate. So we’re quite confident that the world will always have ample troops without the church supplying them. Revelation predicts as much so who are we to question it?
Matt, just to clarify, I read your usage of pacifism as “nonviolent activism”, rather than just doing nothing or “quietism”.
My reference to nonviolent activism with respect to MLK above takes into account how he addressed the US Church in his “letter from a Birmingham Jail”. He was harshly criticised by fellow clergy for his “scandalous” political activism leading to his arrest by police at the time. He confronted them about wanting to be seen as so “moderate” that they would do nothing to confront entrenched institutional racist injustice honestly, prophetically, clearly and strongly as what it really was. MLK correctly interpreted the mainstream churches conformity to unjust laws as ethically and morally flawed and cowardly.
Here’s a quote to give you some idea:
“There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principlkes of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the arly Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”. But they went on with the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven” and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated” They brought an end to such ancient infanticide and gladitorial contest” (Washington, James ed. Martin Luther King Jr. Writings & Speeches that Changed The World, (1992), Harper, New York, p. 97).
So hopefully that should give a bit more of a context from where I was coming from since it speaks to the subjects of “withdrawalism” and “quietism” somewhat. He says too much about the general topic for me to condense here.
Just a further comment on MLK…in a previous blog on Obama you mentioned his drawing on Niebhur for his pro-war rational. Obama also constantly referred to MLK as another major influence.
Robert Inchausti in his book “Subversive Orthodoxy: Outlaws, Revolutionaries, And Other Christians in Disguise” argues that MLK rejected Niebhur’s pro just war stance for Ghandian non-violence because it was far more consistent with “loving one’s enemies” viz Sermon on The Mount and other Johannine teachings of Christ. He rejected Niebhur’s overly negative view that only private individuals, not whole public communities, could effectively act in moral conscience against things like entrenched institutional injustice. MLK’s collective activism of perhaps millions against racism in the 1960’s proved that whole communities could develop a collectively just and effective moral conscience. Again, it would take a far better summariser than me to fully tease out what Inchausti says (p.100-112).
One quote from that book gives an idea:
“Taylor Branch argues that King turned Niebuhr;s philosophy on its head. Niebuhr’s doctrines argued that rpivate virtue was possible, but public virtue impossible, and yet King’s experience in Montgomery had taught him the reverse lesson: he had performed a miracle of public virtue, and yet he was more aware than ever of his won personal capacity for sin. personal evil seemed more intractable than social evil, contradicting the key thesis in Niebuhr’s “Moral Man and Immoral Society”. (p.107).
Nonviolence the method became nonviolence the way of life, which not an isolated and private psychological experience, but far more – an agape which could not exist as a form of communication “in isolation from community”. (p.107).
Martin Luther King is one of my dead mentors (I hesitate to say patron saint, given sainthood has a tendency to religiously distance and politically domesticate heros of the faith). Since he’s being invoked it’s well its worth noting at this point that the “What if everyone did this?” arguement was also used against anti-slavery activists. Somehow, however, life went on even after everyone did this.
Incidently, on reflection I think I would hesitate to equate “nonviolent activism” exclusively with my own “pacifist” position, principally because nonviolent activism should also be logical outcome of the just war tradition in situations of acknowledged injustice. Thus I would differentiate between consistant nonviolent activism (by pacifists) and situational nonviolent activism (by just war advocates). This leaves pacifism as a still useful word, provided pacifist interventionism is distinguished from passive noninterventionism.
Your army/police distinction seems a little like picturing nations as people in community. By that analogy, war is like street fighting, while policing is like the action of the body’s immune system. But what’s the ideal for an individual in society, and how would that appear in this analogy?
I’m thinking rather of nations as individuals having sufficient strength and judgment to care for their dependents, and contribute to the well-being of their (international) community. That’s a positive ideal for each member of a “community of nations” — but it depends on individual national strength and judgment.
> Pacifist theology is more subtle than a simple
> “force equals bad” claim.
Indeed, but most of the slogans have that as the punchline. And as soon as you accept more complexity, then the question of Just War arises. My point is that a more nuanced view of force is a universal requirement; the question of “what to do” doesn’t suddenly resolve into perfect simplicity just because governments become involved.
(As an aside, the Just War requirement of “limited and proportionate means” denies that “maximum harm is the goal” in military action.)
> Secondly, your concerns about civil society seem
> to be slipping into what we would call the “What
> if everyone did this?” trap. The obvious answer
> being, well if everyone practiced pacifism there
> wouldn’t be any violent criminals to incarcerate,
> so no need for police QED. Now, you may retort,
> “Well that’s not going to happen…”
If I were advocating a certain position as Christian, and it were not possible for everyone to do it, don’t you think it would be automatically discredited as a Christian position?
Kalesin, nah, not sure that’s the analogy I would have gone for.
I mean, in one sense your analogy is apt, in that I AM challenging the ethical dichotomy that Christendom makes between public ethics and private ethics, between how we expect states to behave and how we expect families to behave. So yes, if a person is bound by “love your enemies” then so is the body politic, that is, if they both claim to be Christian.
But in another sense, that is precisely why this analogy fails to represent my thought. Because to my way of thinking the claim of the state to be fully Christian is self-delusional at best. Because no state can be FULLY Christian by FREE choise when humans are as divisive as they are. It is either fully Christian by force, or free but only partially Christian. Never anything more. So in picturing nations as people the state / church distinction is lost, unless the bride of Christ is recognized as a separate person in the international community to the whore of Babylon. Moreover, in the street fighting analogy my critical distinction between harm maximization and harm minimization is lost.
Maybe further clarification is required at this point. I advocate the separation of church and state, not because I recognize the church and state as having different spheres of responsibility, but precisely because I see them as having overlapping spheres of responsibility, and therefore, sometimes, competing spheres of responsibility. The church is, in effect, an alternative state, but one which rules through God’s weakness and foolishness rather than man’s strength and wisdom.
So before answering, “what’s the ideal for an individual in society”, I have to first explain that I see myself belonging to a society within a society, and therefore am unable to speak of “society” in so monolithic a fashion. I see myself as having a dual citizenship, and sometimes my loyalty to one society makes me look like an irresponsible citizen within the reference frame of the other. Such is life. How do we contribute the wellbeing of the international community? By modelling alternative community.
As for just war theology, it’s my contention that most Christians hold to neither just war nor pacifism in any meaningful sense, but instead a far more relativistic ethic of “whatever the state wills is God’s will”, an ethic which owes far more to Machiavelli than the Bible. You see, as soon as a war is declared to be unjust or unable to be successfully concluded by just means, the practical distinction between pacifist and just war theology collapses, for both require nonviolent alternatives where violence becomes unjust. So, if you’re serious about just war position, you’re still not let off the hook of exploring non-violent alternatives to war.
Now you asked, “It were not possible for everyone to do it, don’t you think it would be automatically discredited as a Christian position?” My answer is no, because the Christian position is not prefaced on everyone becoming Christian. In fact I would suggest that the very expectation that this is somehow essential is a Christendom hangover.
Kalesin, interesting article here from Sacred Tribes Journal on “Peacemaking and the Just War Theory”:
It draws out many of the issues we have been discussing here, including a distinction between ‘passive pacifism’, ‘active pacifism’ and the ‘historical pacifism’ occasioned by a just war stance where no wars are found to meet just war criteria, with ‘nuclear pacifism’ being a subset of this.
It also covers looser interpretations of just war theory, for justifying war, over and against stricter interpretations of just war theory, for minimising war.
Though I differ with the author on his final conclusions, given he bases them more on Niebuhrian pragmatism than New Testament exegesis, I like some of his peacemaking suggestions and see much common ground between what he calls ‘active pacifists’ and ‘strict just war’ advocates.
I think a lot of people (especially in the media) need to take a deep breath about this whole issue.
1) We’re not talking about a big, visible sign on the gun saying “The user of this gun is embarked on a Holy War, praise be the Great One!”. We’re talking about a Bible reference (not the verse itself), cryptically encoded as part of the SERIAL NUMBER on the sight, for goodness sake! You’d really have to be looking at the gun up close to find it, and indeed the sights have been used for a number of years without anybody noticing.
2) The creator of the sight isn’t blessing war or killing, either in general or specific terms. If anything he’s making lame puns. I don’t like scripture being used that way (it’s basically blasphemy), but you’re drawing a reeeeeeeally long bow (no pun intended!) if you think that this in ANY way flags any kind of Crusade or Jihad.
3) There’s a catch 22 in Christians being involved in the military.
a) A military cannot work if its members choose not to obey orders for whatever reasons. The whole system depends on individual soldiers obeying any order they are given, subject to it being given by legitimate authority. Obviously this is tricky ground – if you are in the US Marines as they go into Iraq, and you genuinely believe it to be for unjust reasons, what should you do? Resign? Refuse to follow orders? Sabotage the operation?
b) On the other hand, the point has already been made that it’s not right for Christians to sit around enjoying freedoms purchased with the blood of non-Christians.
One thing I will take issue with is the idea that Police do minimum damage whilst military attempt to cause maximum damage. This may have been true at times in the past, but it is simply untrue today. It is true that the military certainly do not shrink from killing if the situation demands it, but they do everything they can to minimise casualties, especially to the civillian population. As an aircraft enthusiast I can give a lot of objective evidence that this is true (it’s not just soldiers’ rhetoric); probably the most striking is the deployment of riot-squad styled less lethal weapons, or the re-opening of the production line for Mk 81 “Firecracker” bombs (previously closed during the Vietnam era as they were deemed too small to be useful, but with laser-guided seekers they are now considered ideal for avoiding unnecessary death and destruction.
You said, “The creator of the sight isn’t blessing war or killing, either in general or specific terms.” How so? Where would you draw the line? How do you define blessing? Are you saying there are verses which could constitute a blessing? If so, could you give an example? Are you saying there is a specific size beyond which it would become unacceptable? What size then? At what point does it become unacceptable? How would you know you’ve arrived at that point?
Maybe the bow I am drawing would be long for some, maybe even many in the military, but it seems clear to me that at least some are displaying more than simple just war logic, that at least some have tipped over into a crusader clash of religions mentality.
I agree there’s a Catch 22 of Christians being involved in the military, but it’s a Catch 22 I see as being born of trying to twist the gospel of grace to support what is antithetical to grace. I agree a modern army cannot function without soldiers obeying without question, but this is precisely the problem. How can you claim to be pursuing war morally on the one hand, but claiming moral judgement must be suspended for the sake of operational effectiveness on the other? It is a Catch 22.
As for freedoms, as I said earlier what sort of freedom is it that demands you abandon the Christian lifestyle commitment to enemy love? For sure, I prefer democracy to dictatorship, but the freedom it offers is only relatively better, it’s not absolutely free. We are still slaves Neo. We’re trapped in a matrix of death. If we were truly free this conversation would not be so unsettling.
All this talk on policing has got me reading, thinking and imagining. Here’s three articles on pacifism and policing that I’m now mulling over.