This is going to be, by necessity, a multi-part post. There’s too much ground to cover. But here goes.
I’ve been trying to develop my thoughts on the topic of Christianity and War for a long time now. And, what I’ve found is that the reasons that I do not support any war for any reason have more to do with probabilities than scripture. On the topic of war the Bible is inscrutable. For instance, our Lord is mostly silent on the issue. And while the Old Testament is filled with war history. It’s simply that. History. There’s little to be found by way of guidance on whether the wars recorded are proscriptive for our own behavior as believers. And further, does it have any bearing on how we respond to wars carried on by modern governments in the church age. For that reason, arguments based on Old Testament references are simply not compelling.
When we consider war, modern American evangelicals, on the whole, tend to support them. They may say that certain wars, like Viet Nam, were ill advised. But, even the criticism of the Viet Nam war tends to be more about errors in prosecution rather than an aversion to the operation of the war itself. You often hear statements like, “we didn’t have a clear goal in Viet Nam.” Or, “we got bogged down.” Or even, “we weren’t committed to winning.” All of these statements may be true. But, they have no relevance to whether Christians should have supported the war itself.
So, why do modern American evangelicals support U.S. led wars in such large numbers? I believe there are two general reasons:
- More weight is given to the virtue of justice than mercy.
- The truth about war is obscured in propaganda.
Much can be said about each one of these. But, what I want to point out first is that they are both honest mistakes. There is a strong commitment to justice within evangelicalism, and within Christianity itself. The satisfaction of justice is the entire basis of our need of a saviour. It’s very easy to carry that over into many other areas of life. And, justifiably so. It would be strange for a Christian not to desire justice for something like 9/11.
On the second point, the old saying holds true: truth is the first casualty of war. The average prime time news viewer/newspaper reader is going to be fed a steady diet of highly curated news about war. By the time that news gets into the living room in the form of a news cast or syndicated article, it’s been passed through many filters(political, corporate, ideological) along the chain. Naked truth from the front lines is very hard to come by. Especially in this age of constant media manipulation.
From a thousand foot view, I think these two points are the reason so many American Christians support our wars. What I hope to do next is explain why I believe they are wrong to do so, and drill down into a little more detail on these two points. I’m not going to rely heavily on scriptural references. I’ll just touch on biblical points in passing when making a point that I think is obvious from a “mere christianity” standpoint.