I was thinking today about how American Christians are often too quick to support war with another country. A few years ago Pat Robertson advocated the assassination of Hugo Chavez. Though Chavez is a horrible dictator that has taken away the freedom of his citizens and is quickly turning into a destabilizing feature in northern South America, should a Christian – one called to be a witness of the kingdom to come – be calling for the assassination of a foreign leader? Or what about the overwhelming support for the Iraq war by the evangelical community, which even the most ardent supports must admit has been poorly planned and executed (by the administration, not by the military).
Before proceeding, I must say that I am not a pacifist and do believe there are wars that simply must occur. The Bible shows very clearly that God had no problem using war to aid Israel and also to punish Israel. God did not just guide Israel into war, but also brought foreign nations against her when she sinned greatly against Him. Likewise, Paul states that power has been given over to the governments of this world to wage war. The best example of a justified war is World War II – if ever there was a just war, this was it. Regardless, the Bible does show that God uses war and that governments have the right to defend themselves if attacked.
All that being said, even in the most justified wars Christians should walk with caution. When a nation goes to war it puts Christians in a very precarious position – we should submit to our government (especially if justified), but at the same time be in deep prayer not only for our own nation’s soldiers, but even the soldiers of the opposing side. Imagine praying for a Taliban fighter or the Mujahideen. We do not pray for their victory, but instead that God would keep them as safe as possible and hopefully change their hard hearts. This, of course, seems like an odd concept to the American reader.
War is not a natural course for humanity – when humans were created, God did not intend (in His perfect Will) for humans to fight amongst one another. Since the fall of man, however, war has become a necessary evil in this world, one that we cannot overcome. We should never buy into these Utopian ideas of a world without war; so long as humans are selfish (read: sinful) there will always be war. The civilized nations of NATO and the European Union today will one day be at war with each other again. This does not mean, however, that this is the intended status quo of society, or that God is pleased with such actions.
In the Kingdom of God war will no longer exist, but the Kingdom has not come about yet. Christians, in the mean time, are to give people a taste of the Kingdom to come, which means we are to try our best to live peaceably with the people around us. It means we should always support diplomacy over strategic strikes, even when it seems that such diplomacy is superfluous and will go unheeded.
We must always remember that we are Christians before we are Americans. When America begins to beat the war drum we should avoid being swept up in such patriotic fervor – not because all war is unjustified (because some wars are justified) – but because the image of God will be utterly destroyed in the coming conflict. Whether the soldier is American, Iraqi, Iranian, German, or any other nationality, that soldier is in the image of God. When the nation beats the war drum, Christians should soberly begin to pray that God will soften the hearts of the enemy (or if America is the aggressor, that God will soften the hearts of the American leadership).
If America does commit to an unnecessary war, Christians should do everything they can to get the government to end that war. The American mentality is that once you commit to a war you must finish it, otherwise you lose. The Christian mentality, however, is that if one is not just in one’s dealings then one has already lost. If we win an unjustified and unnecessary war, did we really win? Christians should oppose all unnecessary wars in a peaceful and civil manner.
I know this is not a very popular idea or common idea within conservative Christianity, but it is time orthodox Christians began to act more like Christians and realize it isn’t anti-Biblical to disagree with American politics or society; in fact, it is often the most Biblical thing to do. We are called to love our enemies and pray for them, not salivate at a chance to kill them.