Evangelicals in America, according to my own personal observations, have a mighty, powerful love of the United States military. I have been in any number of churches from a few different denominations and have seen multiple times worship services become mingled with homage to the military. This disturbs me. What is the military? It is the physical force of the government manifested in the earth. What is military propaganda doing in a church service?
As I used to say as a toddler: “I don’t sure, Mom.”
In the case of this country, the military has served to protect our freedoms and way of life, has in many places freed people from oppression, and in others kept horrific despots from taking power. I would not denigrate the service of our soldiers who have fought and died for us; for me to be able to sit here and write this blog post. I have dear friends who are active duty or retired, and my own dad is a Vietnam veteran. Thank you, Dad.
Here’s the rub: the military is a morally neutral force. It is pure power without brains or heart. The moral quality of it is determined by the commanders who utilize it in action, and in America the will of the people which should in theory be the will of the commanders. We could review various wars the U.S. military has conducted and judge the good or evil means and ends of each, but I ask a different question: why are Evangelicals so deeply loyal to the military? Is it as an institution beyond criticism per Romans 13? (Obey the government and submit to the authorities, Paul teaches us). I believe there is something more behind this than just biblical loyalty and submission to authority.
My thoughts are complex, but to boil it down, I am afraid we, as theologically conservative Christians are wedded to the military in such a way that we readily excuse anything done in the name of the United States of America by the military, especially when there is a Republican in the White House. I fear we have been mute in the face of atrocity and injustice perpetrated by the Pentagon. I fear we can justify any bullet, any bomb as being “a fight for our freedoms.”
If you are a Christian, have you stopped to ask questions about our national use of force in the world? Would you be willing to speak against injustices committed in your name, as so many in the world think of us as a “Christian nation?” Where are the lines drawn between moral and immoral use of force? Are unmanned drone attacks warranted simply because there are terrorists out there? What about when we consistently take the lives of civilians inside of countries which we have never declared war against? What if Yemen launched an unmanned drone attack on someone in Nebraska and killed 15 school children? What would be our response?
What happened in your heart and mind when our government announced it would help out Al-Qaeda in Libya to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi? Things getting blurry yet? Why is it that our nation spent $768,000,000,000 on the military last year, almost $600,000,000,000 more than the next country on the list?
I believe this is one place where American Christians are far off of the message of Jesus, whose focus was not a kingdom of this world, but rather the restoration and redemption of people and cosmos – healing the broken and preaching the gospel. What is our focus, my fellow American Christians?
One more question: when the modern, secular, godless State of Israel lobs missiles into Palestinian areas which are upwards of 8% Christian, do you mourn for the deaths of your Christian brothers, sisters, and their children who have died by explosions your tax dollars paid for? We must stop to weigh the nuances of our national actions, and decry those that are unnecessary or unjust.
It grieves me to think of any use of deadly force. It grieves me when some Evangelicals seem to laud the military without even a hint of agony for what it truly is: a necessary but terrible part of life in our fallen world.
This world was made for us to cultivate, beautify, and steward. The Church is meant to help restore those things to humanity, to shed light on Christ’s redemption of the cosmos – and in reality the military breaks, destroys, and pollutes the earth. Totally different missions, hm?
Thanks for reading,