Modern American Christianity is far from synonymous with pacifism. Having grown up within the modern evangelical movement, I can testify that many evangelical leaders and churches encourage military service, including actively taking the lives of our country’s stated enemies. In fact, it is common for our country’s military academies to actively recruit from America’s Christian high schools. Apparently our military finds that many young Christian men and women believe self-sacrifice for country, including killing others, is reconcilable with following Jesus.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that military service runs deep in my family. My ancestors fought in the Civil War. Both my grandfathers served in the Army. My father is an ex-Marine who ran through Korean rice fields battling mostly the Chinese before President Truman declared “cease-fire.” My nephews pulled numerous tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If you’ve read Jim Webb’s “Born Fighting” (which I highly recommend) you’d know that Americans, like my ancestors, who immigrated from Scotland and Ireland basically grew up fighting. My own extended family generally prizes the ability to successfully “fight” more highly than academic credentials. In a dark alley (and trust me, lots of Stewarts have gone down some dark alleys) the fighter has a much better chance of coming out the other side than, say, the scholar. But importantly, in my own family, Jesus was not at the core of any intellectual decision to be willing to take another’s life for our country’s stated objectives.
Since America declared a “war” on “terror”, I’ve thought a great deal about the concept of Jesus’ followers willingly signing up to kill others. Frankly, I’m puzzled that pacifism isn’t a greater pursuit within the Christian crowd. Certain scriptures come readily to mind. Quoting Jesus: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those that hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Jesus continues a little later in the same vein, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Most folks, religious or not, would agree that Jesus specifically rejected His followers using violence to promote their ends. We find this out reading Matthew:
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”
So why have so many professed Christians swung their swords religiously in Jesus’ name or for secular political ends? I’ll tackle that topic in my next post on this subject.
 My surname “Stewart” is proudly Scottish and my family is straight out of “Born Fighting.”
 Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)
 Luke 6:35-36 (NIV)
 Matthew 26:50(b)-52 (NIV)