America and the Christian Theory of Just War
by John J. Dwyer article link
February 20, 2007 | LewRockwell
... For my good friends, I must tell you that there is an impostor among us in this day. It presents itself as a lovely and inspiring and even holy thing, but it is actually a pretender, an idol, a damnable heresy. It seeks to swell our hearts with pride and sentiment and certitude, but in the end it demands the right to anything of meaning we possess in this world – our property, our lives, the lives of our children, our faithfulness to the teachings of the gentle and humble Savior who is the Redeemer of our souls and the Captain of our salvation.
This impostor has distorted our perspectives on world affairs, our own country, and our history. It has twisted American Christians’ understanding of our God and the Holy Scriptures He gave us. It has silenced our pulpits regarding that about which they should be aflame with righteous outrage and prophetic utterances, and it has made a lie before the nations of the world of the professions of our sacred rules of law and what George Washington, the Father of our country, called, "our blessed religion."
This impostor, this new god of Moloch, has demanded the deaths, mutilations, and moral corruptions, the mental and emotional devastation, of legions of our young, through multiple generations. Even as we meet here today, it multiplies the enemies of our nation and faith, and crafts a dark and uncertain future for our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
This impostor, this detestable fraud and rapist and murderer, is American nationalism. It births its crimes in a flag, baptizes them with the anthems of bands, and seals them with 21-gun salutes and the rantings of wealthy demagogues who have come no closer to a battlefield than a television camera or studio microphone.
This impostor is not patriotism, though it would pervert that too. The patriot says, "I love my country," works for its good, and defends it if necessary – against enemies within and without. He strives and prays not primarily that God will bless his country, but that his country will bless God. The nationalist, meanwhile, says, "My country is better than yours." "My country is the greatest there has ever been." "The greatest nation on God’s green earth." "They hate my country because it is so good."
Of all citizens, the Christian should be the most faithful patriot. He should bloom where he is planted, and be a blessing to the country where God has placed him, whether America or New Zealand or Sudan. Yet we in America, especially we in the Church of Jesus Christ, have become the most faithful nationalists. If you do not believe me, talk to Bible-believing Christians from other countries. They wept and prayed for us after 9/11, then stood dumbstruck, with gathering incredulity, as they witnessed what has apparently become our true national character, unfold bloodily, mercilessly, recklessly, on the world stage in the years since.
But be not deceived, my friends, this impostor, and others that claim the place in our individual and national life that should be filled only by Almighty God, were working their will through our actions long before 9/11. In fact, they were in no small way helping to craft 9/11, and other calamities large and small, before and after.
I believe we must confront our idolatrous reverence for American nationalism – for United States nationalism – to escape leaving those who follow us to a multi-generational lot constructed, whether we wish to admit it or not, largely of our own making. And we must face the consequences of our assumptions and attitudes and in order to understand first that they truly exist within us, and second that they actually result in the actions that are the history we shall create and leave those who come after us.
Today I shall discuss some sad and sorrowful events. But these are not my primary message. They are a firebell in the night that something is wrong in this country, and has been, perhaps for a very long time. History – "His Story" as I tell my students, the story of God calling out a set-apart people for Himself from every tribe and tongue, through every generation – can teach us much. And there is no missing the repeated pattern of powerful nations like ours crumbling from within and without after engaging in the sorts of actions I shall discuss in the next few minutes.
But though this portion of the talk may seem to concern bullets and casualties and crimes of violence, these are only among the many symptoms of the true problem. "Power tends to corrupt," said the devout Catholic Christian Englishman whom we know as Lord Acton – and "absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely." John Adams said that "our constitution is wholly inadequate for the governing of any but a moral and religious people." As sinful human beings, we are all prone to blindness, shortsightedness, arrogance, and greed. Ceaseless corporate yielding to such pursuits will bring ruin upon a nation. But humility, patience, and suffering faithfulness can bring blessing.
I believe we still have a chance as a nation to count for good for the long haul. Regardless of our national destiny, we have the opportunity as the Church to shine a beacon of light and hope to every nation. Lest we come too close to despairing today, we shall remember the wisdom given to us as precious treasure by faithful, suffering servants of God in generations past.
II. OUR HISTORY ... (excellent historical review follows in article)
... after many years of studying and teaching history, and not from a liberal or politically correct diet of source, I have come to fear that for all our affluence and prosperity and power and even Christianity, we Americans are in a bad way. Our history washes over us like a sea of blood. We now view our supposed enemies as so many digital figures on a computer screen. We urge our children to share and play and don’t hit, and yet our national identity is holding a rifle in one hand and a Bible in the other. (And by the way, I will always support – with Bible and rifle if necessary – our Biblical and Constitutional right to carry both.) We tell our children to find peaceful solutions even as we continue to bomb cities full of women, children, old folks, and babies. Old and young, black and white and brown, we make very good fighters and very good haters. ...
III. JUST WAR
Where to turn but for a remedy to Him who is not a respecter of persons – or nations. To Him who opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. To Him who delights not in the strength of the horse or chariot, but takes pleasure in those who fear Him. In the fifth of Matthew we read of the Beatitudes – the "be happy-tudes" – from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount.
"And seeing the multitudes, (Jesus) went up into a mountain: and when he was set, His disciples came unto Him:
And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying,
'Blessed are the poor in spirit: For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.'"
Some Bible commentators attempt to dismiss any temporal applications of this famed passage and suggest Jesus’s intentions regarded strictly spiritual matters, as if the two are not part and parcel of one another. Many others just sort of scoot past the issue. Some, however, unpack, in the case of the "peacemakers" of Matthew 5:9, the implications for the believer in relations with others that are not limited strictly to evangelism.
The splendid Reformed theologian William Hendriksen, for instance, while declaring that the gospel of peace is the preaching of Christ Crucified, wrote:
"’Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called sons of God.’ A blessing is here pronounced on all who, having themselves received reconciliation with God through the cross, now strive by their message and their conduct to be instrumental in imparting this same gift to others. By word and example such peace-makers, who love God, one another, and even their enemies, promote peace also among men. . . . True peace-makers are all those whose Leader is the God of peace, who aspire after peace with all men, proclaim the gospel of peace, and pattern their lives after the Prince of Peace." ... (excellent review follows in article)
... So what are the key tenets of the theory of Just War? Well, many have been put forward in many different forms through the centuries. However, thanks to the efforts of the aforementioned men and many others (refer to article), including some contemporary men such as conservative evangelical Presbyterian minister and economist Ron McKenzie of Christchurch, New Zealand, we can arrive at a consensus catalog of guidelines by which to estimate a war or a proposed war.
First, a Just War must be waged by a legitimate government authority. That is, not by private citizens, pirates, or usurpers. Also, its cause must be justifiable self-defense – as opposed to seeking the territory or property of others or furthering one’s own economic, social or political interests – and its intent to restore a just peace, fair to all. And it must have a reasonable expectation of success in accomplishing that goal.
A Just War must only be fought as a last resort, when every conceivable alternative has been exhausted. Its use of force must be proportionate in response to the wrongs committed. For example, burning every home within a five-mile radius of a partisan ranger ambush of uniformed regular soldiers would not be a proportionate response. Or bombing those homes from 15,000 feet in the air when they contain no soldiers.
Other tenets of Just War with solid Biblical basis include not having a large standing army (Deuteronomy 17:16, 1 Kings 10:26-29, Isaiah 31:1) and not possessing offensive weapons (Deuteronomy 17:16), Just War does not allow for the attacking and damaging of the land that is God’s creation (Deuteronomy 20:19), for "the tree of the field is man’s life," and "the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof." This item alone precludes the use of nuclear weapons, which by nature harm both the land and non-combatants. And, the defensive military alliances so common in recent generations – and so loathsome to America’s Founding Fathers – are decried in Isaiah 31:1–3 and elsewhere.
Rev. McKenzie, the New Zealand minister, further illumines the Just War philosophy when he writes how "God determines the appointed times of the nations and the timing of their rule. (Acts 17:26). No nation has the authority to invade another nation to change its government (even if it is evil). A nation cannot even be invaded to establish democracy. "Democracy," McKenzie continues, "must come from the hearts of the people, it cannot be enforced from the outside." Most attempts by great powers to establish ‘better’ government by force in other nations have failed, because the spiritual forces that control the nation have not been defeated (Daniel 10:13)."
And finally, non-combatants must be preserved from harm. That is, "collateral damage" is not allowed for, nor acceptable, however "regrettably." The first Geneva Convention on War in 1863, and others since, have minced no words: attacking defenseless cities and towns, as well as plundering and wantonly destroying civilian property, are war crimes, performed by war criminals.
May Christians remember that a crucified Jesus Christ was God's remedy for the evil powers that animate wicked men and nations. Let us purpose to fast, pray for and serve lands like Iraq – and Iran – caught in the grip of such forces. Let us commit to go to those lands and, if necessary, lay down our lives while armed not with an M-16 but with John 3:16.
I tell my students that we discuss such sorrowful events not because we hate America or we are nihilists without hope. To the contrary, it is because we believe in a sovereign, all-powerful, all-good God – Creator of the universe, Redeemer of us His elect company, and Sustainer of our weak needy souls – and we want to better know how we may please Him, and what are the obstacles and temptations to our doing so.
It is the truest patriot who loves his country enough to call her to task when she is in the wrong. Let the brave soldier who wears the uniform descended from Washington and those who froze at Valley Forge; from those who charged – and stood – at Cemetery Ridge; from those who scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc and those who drove their torpedo planes into the teeth of the Japanese carrier force at Midway – let that soldier refuse the order which calls him to war on the innocents. For such an order is an immoral order and should not be obeyed by any American soldier.
And let the Christian clothed in the white robes of righteousness and descended from the Lord of eternity declare that attacks on innocent women and children are a blot on history and on the nation who commits such atrocities. Ultimately it is our humanity that is the collateral damage, we Americans, especially we American Christians – if we remain silent. ...
Christianity and Avatar
by John J. Dwyer article link
February 24, 2010 | LewRockwell
... I support discussions of Avatar that enfold Cameron's "religion" and its flaws and dangers. That being said, recent attacks by professing believers – some of them Christians working in or around the motion picture industry – accusing the film of being "Anti-America, Anti-Military" announce the speakers’ own cultural and nationalistic idolatry, if not their ignorance of the gospel itself. Of course, if a Christian chooses Fox News, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter books, and National Review magazine as their primary news sources, they'll be surprised to learn that our country's "military-industrial complex" – to use the famous words of that war hero and Republican President Dwight Eisenhower – has for generations acted as Cameron depicts it in Avatar.
Conservatives who deny the undeniable truth of our (often "well-intentioned") violent, rapacious, money- and power-fueled imperialistic behavior all over the globe are – well, they need some good teaching of the true "Christian history" sort. We should be thankful Cameron did not make Stephen Lang's villainous character in Avatar a Bible-spouting fundamentalist, as so many of our "noble warriors" actually are. (I was particularly struck by the recent story of a leading American arms manufacturer engraving Bible verses inside the barrels of the guns it made to kill people with.)
Christians moan and groan over the Church's ineffectual impact on the world in general and our country in particular. Christians who make (tax-deductible) money off other Christians moan the loudest about it. But why should a holy God honor the efforts of fools? (The biblical sense of a fool is one who refuses to learn.) Those spouting "Anti-America, Anti-Military" epithets about Avatar – and other recent films that criticized our tragic attack on Iraq – behave as stubborn, stiff-necked fools, and place themselves in the perilous role of opposing the Christian gospel of peace, humility, gentleness, purity, sacrifice, suffering, repentance, reconciliation, and redemption. So far as they labor in that direction, they act as enemies of Jesus – not because they criticize non-Christian films, but because of the unbiblical views they hold that animate this portion of their criticism.
Let us criticize those aspects of James Cameron's work – and anyone else's – that fall short of Scriptural precepts. And let us learn from such work when it casts light on our own blindness. We Christians who elect and re-elect warmongering politicians; who sacrifice our sons to serve as hired killers for Caesar; who confuse and terrify a watching world of unbelievers as we baptize our brutal military colossus with Christian symbols, imagery, song, and emotion; who cow our own pulpits into silence when they should be aflame with holy zeal and jealousy for God over such wicked idolatry – we are the villains of Avatar.
Christians should be men and women enough to own up to our shortcomings and assess where we need work to become more conformed to the image of Christ (Isn't that what we teach our children and grandchildren?), even when God chooses to use His enemies and ours to teach us some of those lessons. After all, He was no friend of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, or Romans, as is evidenced by "Where are they now?" But He used them all in His sovereign, Providential plan for sanctifying His people.
As I wrote seven years – and a couple of wars – ago, it is past time for the followers of Jesus Christ to put down our M-16s and to go forth into all the world with John 3:16 as soldiers of the cross and not Caesar.
John J. Dwyer serves as Adjunct Professor of History at Southern Nazarene University and Oklahoma City Community College. He is former chairman of history at Coram Deo Academy near Dallas, Texas. He is author of the new historical narrative The War Between the States: America’s Uncivil War. His website includes a five-minute preview video about the book. He is also the author of the historical novels Stonewall and Robert E. Lee, and the former editor and publisher of The Dallas/Fort Worth Heritage newspaper.
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MM Book 1 Chapter 3-19
WAR *IS* TERRORISM, a “war on terrorism” is a contradiction, and belies our spiritual illness: fighting terror with terror reduces man-kind to beasts without conscience, lashing out in the/our darkness !! – war is a taking, it cannot “give” peace [as result], especially if sought “as lie” by a weaponizing of excuse or opportunity: THOSE WHO TAKE, WAR !! – the absence of external conflict is NOT evidence of peace; engendered hatred remains, held within: OUR GOD(-ing) IS PEACE, there is NO other definition !! – war in the service of privilege and claim; asking God to guard the troops while conducting war [a crime *against* God] is to ask amiss; GOD WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN, OR SUPPORT, OUR SINS [deicide in the cause of Mammon] !! – those who conduct war [and those complicit] will be taken in war !! — the Word of God is NOT a “Sword of Conquest” to be wielded in the selfish hands of mankind; God’s “conquest” is a conquest of love NOT war and death !! – [Isa 1:4-5 "sinful nation ... the *whole* head is sick ..."] !! — every war, every conflict is about us, no matter where it is, or whom is involved: HUMAN FAMILY !! – the *excuse* of the other “forcing our hand” into striking, violence/war, criminal acts is exactly that, an excuse; THERE IS *NO* EXCUSE FOR EVIL !! – our awareness of complicity demands our repentance; our “false” family is sacrificing its members: ** FRATRICIDE ** [the crime of "murdering" a brother] and DEICIDE [putting Christ to death; His Way of Love] !! — the systemic APOTHEOSIS [n. of God; deification; consecration]: the Bush/Obama Admin., National Interest, etc., demanding sacrifice; AMERICA USED AS IDOL, “GOD BLESS AMERICA” !! – “America” (the people, their hopes and dreams) used as “divine sanction” by the Nation-State (US Inc.) to enslave the very same !! – America ceased in “being” many decades ago, usurped and misrepresented by the “State”.
MM Book 1 Chapter 3-20
WAR IS *NOT* MORALLY JUST; lack of morality “builds” war – traditional Christian “Just War Theory”, “just cause” determinations, sense of “imminent threat”, “social [corporate] obligations”, etc., all *excuse* mass slaughter in the cause of group selfishness – WAR IS BUILT, DEVELOPED – the US/UK seen as the “messianic” nation(s), in God’s service [generally held public view]; WAR IS *NOT* AN AGENCY OF GOD, MAN DOES *NOT* HAVE JUST AUTHORITY TO WAR !! – God is NOT (self)propaganda, GOD IS TRUTH; developed sin, imposed evil must be overcome by good !! – AGAPE TRUTH, PURE MOTIVE vs. self-serving propaganda of any variant; the LIE told, claimed for benefit/deception; even God’s Word taken/used for LIES !! – using Christ [in vain (in self)], and “being and doing” Christ are NOT the same !! — WAR IS BIG BUSINESS [business is war; cause/effect; resultant] !! — OUR COLLECTIVE SINS/EVIL MUST BE LAID BARE, REALIZED AND REPENTED OF, WE MUST (RE)TURN TO GOD !! — State imposed legality is NOT God’s legality !! — war does NOT ennoble a generation, it does NOT give it meaning; violence is NOT a means of communication; WAR IS NOT ENDURING, ONLY LOVE IS ENDURING !! – war “media” is complicit in the myth making, the excuses for dehumanization: human beings turned into objects – the CARNAL LUST OF/FOR WAR vs. the *ugly* truth about ourselves: WAR IS ORGANIZED DEATH !! – WAR DOES NOT UNIFY, IT DOES NOT GIVE US VALUES vs. State exaltation, heroic idolation – WAR *PERVERTS* SOCIETY AND INDIVIDUALS: PATRIOTISM IS SELF-GLORIFICATION, IT IS PREJUDICE vs. THE OTHER – WAR IS *NOT* SELF-PRESERVATION, IT IS SUICIDE !! – VIOLENCE BEGETS VIOLENCE UNTIL SOMEONE SAYS ENOUGH, STOP !! – the COURAGE of FORGIVENESS, a GOD-LEVEL AWARENESS is evidenced when the “strongest” surrenders to PEACE !!
MM Book 1 Chapter 3 web page (widescreen)
MM Book 1 Chapter 3 graphics (widescreen)
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