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We handle cases across the United States. Allen Stewart is licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Arizona.

Killing in Jesus Name (Part II)

Why do American Christians presently feel comfortable volunteering for military service, especially during a time when actively killing our country’s stated enemies is an openly stated objective? I would argue it’s because American Christians routinely conflate perceived patriotism with religious virtue. I offer this example. For years, I’ve watched evangelical churches honor military veterans during their worship services. The music plays the battle hymn of each branch of service, veterans present then stand to impressive ovations from adoring fans…all occurring during the portion of the service where congregants normally worship God for saving them. The church then formally thanks these veterans for protecting their freedom and sacrificing for their country. Make no mistake, this is very patriotic and would make any American Legion Post proud. The problem is it has nothing to do with worshipping Jesus. But many churches routinely fuse Americanism and Christianity so that support for certain American principles is given Christian imprimatur.

The concepts that America started as a Christian nation and that God has uniquely blessed America for its faithful adherence to God’s principles are popular notions within American Christianity. Neither is objectively true, but both help the government actively recruit Christians into military service. If God started this nation, and this nation needs a military, then volunteering for military service is somewhat akin to working for God. It’s the tough guy priesthood. Many evangelical pastors tell their congregants to follow Jesus, and then encourage their young men and women to serve their country’s military. The fact that volunteering for military service for a Christian means a follower of Jesus is volunteering to join an organization that deliberates on killing others should cause all believers pause. If our country conscripts us into service, that can possibly be viewed as God using the government to “select” you into service and as such, arguably giving the Christian “permission” to engage in deliberate killing.[1] But to volunteer to kill others for one’s country seems to put one’s country before the Scriptural mandate to forego deliberately killing others without God’s express permission.

American evangelicals can and often do view pacifism[2] as covert communism. The reasoning goes something like this: “Socialists want us to become pacifists because then there’s no one left to protect us from socialism (or communism or terrorism just insert here whatever “–ism” moves the argument along).” However, American evangelicals should consider the positions taken by the Christian church during its first three hundred years. Daniel H. Shubin’s, Militarist Christendom and the Gospel of the Prince of Peace is worthy reading and includes the following:

“For the first three centuries, no Christian writing which has survived to our time condoned Christian participation in war.[3] But as a matter of fact, there is no trace of the existence of any Christian soldiers between these cases mentioned in Acts and say, 170 AD.[4] It is thus not surprising that there was no military question in the congregations until roughly the time of Marcus Aurelius.[5] The baptized Christians did not become a soldier, and those who were converted to the Christian faith in the camp had to determine how they might come to terms with their soldier’s life.[6][7]

So why did the early Christian church seem devoid of a large contingent of soldiers within its community? I’ll address that topic in my next post on Killing in Jesus Name Part III.

[1] It should be noted that this is not a classical Christian pacifist view; it is simply a rationale for considering the manner in which God could otherwise select a Christian to engage in deliberate killing.

[2] I would be remiss to omit that I am not a classical pacifist. I presently adhere to a philosophy that begrudgingly accepts responsive Christian violence as a last option to stop great evil. An example, though not exclusive, is Christians protecting themselves and their families from active violence against them.

[3] Latourette, K.C., A History of Christianity, Vol. 1, pg. 242-243.

[4] Cadoux, C. John, The Early Christian Attitude toward War, pg. 229.

[5] Roman Emperor, 161-180 AD.

[6] Harnack, Adolf, Militia Christi, pg. 69.

[7] Shubin, Daniel, pg. 33.

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