by Laurence M. Vance
The Christian's attitude toward the state, its leaders, its military, its wars, its imperialism, and its interventionism should be a no-brainer: contempt, disdain, disgust, revulsion, abhorrence, repugnance, loathing – take your pick. Yet, among Christians one continues to find some of the greatest apologists for the state, its leaders, its institutions, and its evil doings.
Biblical Christianity is becoming eclipsed by state worship. The "obey the powers that be" mantra is still recited incessantly. The state is revered by too many Protestants as a force for good or social justice instead of the criminal gang that it is. The state’s latest pronouncements about this country or that country being a threat to American interests are too often accepted by evangelicals at face value. The need for the invasion of, the bombing of, the imposing of sanctions against, or the need to take some other belligerent action toward other countries is swallowed by some Catholics like a communion wafer.
Biblical Christianity is also being eclipsed by leader worship. Instead of being viewed as a war criminal, President Bush is seen as the messiah in chief by many evangelicals, with Huckabee as his heir apparent. Any president will do, however, as long as he is a Republican, claims to be a Christian, and wants to continue killing Muslims lest they kill us first because they hate our freedoms. In spite of Bush’s horrendous violations of civil liberties, his doubling of the national debt, his debacle in Iraq, and his tremendous expansion of the power of the presidency, he is still revered by way too many Christians both in and out of the evangelical community.
Biblical Christianity has been partially eclipsed by war. Some of the greatest defenders of Bush’s war in Iraq are Christians. This was true when the United States first invaded Iraq, and it is just as true now, five years later. It doesn’t seem to matter how senseless the war, as long as it is a Republican war. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times the lies that the war was based on have been exposed, it is all just dismissed as liberal propaganda. It doesn’t seem to matter how long the war lasts, since if we quit fighting them "over there" we will end up fighting them "over here." It doesn’t seem to matter how much the war costs, since military spending is good for the economy. It doesn’t seem to matter how many thousands of American soldiers are killed, since that number is less than the number of people killed on American highways every year. It doesn’t seem to matter how many thousands of American troops are injured, since they joined the military voluntarily. It certainly doesn’t seem to matter how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are killed, since they all hate our freedoms. It doesn’t seem to matter how many thousands of Iraqis are injured, since they are all terrorists anyway. It doesn’t even seem to matter if the war is not in America’s best interests, since we should "obey the powers that be." It is war that breeds state worship and leader worship. Christians that are otherwise sound in the faith become idolaters when it comes to war and its architects.
Biblical Christianity has been almost totally eclipsed by the military. Although some Christians may denounce some of the abuses of the FBI, the IRS, and the BATF, they usually hold the institution of the military in high esteem. In fact, many Christians, and especially those who consider themselves evangelicals, have a military fetish. Even Christians who oppose U.S. foreign policy in general and the war in Iraq in particular are some of the most vocal defenders of the military. Churches publically honor veterans and praise them for defending our freedoms, not just on Veterans Day, but on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and special "military appreciation" days. Although they may decry women serving in combat roles, the feminization of the military, and the pregnancy rate of women on Navy ships, churches generally have no problem with their young men joining the military to bomb, maim, and kill for the state in some foreign war that has nothing to do with defending the United States. Because Christians are in love with the military, criticism of the military is strictly verboten, regardless of the nature of the latest U.S. foreign intervention that the troops are engaged in. Christian soldiers are expected to blindly follow their leaders when it comes to the latest country to bomb or invade. Those who question the morality of their orders, and civilian Christians who do the same, are viewed as unpatriotic, American-hating traitors who don’t appreciate their freedoms that the military protects.
It is the power of the state to wage war and engage in an aggressive, imperialistic foreign policy that ought to be eclipsed by Christianity. Instead, Christians have willingly supplied the state with cannon fodder for its wars and military interventions. They have bombed, maimed, and killed for the state without hesitation. They have showed no concern or compassion for the lives of foreigners for whom Christ also died. In the name of a career, they have given of themselves to be stationed or deployed where U.S. troops have no business in going. Those not in the military have become the military’s greatest supporters. Christians have become apologists for the state. They have deified its leaders instead of denigrating them as criminals. They have defended its actions instead of denouncing them as immoral. They have served the state instead of the Lord Christ.
Although there have always been (and will always be) men in history who have gloried in the state and its wars, Christians should not be numbered among them. After five years of seeing the lying, stealing, killing, liberty-destroying warfare state in action, one would think that Christians, of all people, would cease their support for the state, its military, and especially its wars. Unfortunately, and to the everlasting shame of Christians, I see no end to this statolatry in sight.
May 6, 2008
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from Pensacola, FL. His latest book is a new and greatly expanded edition of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. Visit his website.
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