Lawrence Vance hits the above concept with full force in a recent speech:
If there is any group of people that should be opposed to war, torture, militarism, the warfare state, state worship, suppression of civil liberties, an imperial presidency, blind nationalism, government propaganda, and an aggressive foreign policy it is Christians, and especially conservative, evangelical, and fundamentalist Christians who claim to strictly follow the dictates of Scripture and worship the Prince of Peace. It is indeed strange that Christian people should be so accepting of war. War is the greatest suppressor of civil liberties. War is the greatest destroyer of religion, morality, and decency. War is the greatest creator of fertile ground for genocides and atrocities. War is the greatest destroyer of families and young lives. War is the greatest creator of famine, disease, and homelessness. War is the health of the state.
But modern-day Christianity is in a sad state. There is an unholy desire on the part of a great many Christians to legitimize killing in war. There persists the idea among too many Christians that mass killing in war is acceptable, but the killing of one’s neighbor violates the sixth commandment’s prohibition against killing. Christians who wouldn’t think of using the Lord’s name in vain blaspheme God when they make ridiculous statements like “God is pro-war.” Christians who try never to lie do so with boldness when they claim they are pro-life, but refuse to extend their pro-life sentiments to foreigners already out of the womb. Christians who abhor idols are guilty of idolatry when they say that we should follow the latest dictates of the state because we should always “obey the powers that be.” Christians who venerate the Bible handle the word of God deceitfully when they quote Scripture to defend the latest U.S. military action. Christians who claim to be dispensationalists wrongly divide the word of truth when they appeal to the Old Testament to justify U.S. government wars. Christians who claim to have the mind of Christ show that they have lost their mind when they want the full force of government to protect a stem cell, but have no conscience about U.S. soldiers killing for the government.
Many Christians have a warped view of what it means to be pro-life. Why is it that foreigners don’t have the same right to life as unborn American babies? There should be no difference between being for abortion and for war. Both result in the death of innocents. Both are unnecessary. Both cause psychological harm to the one who signs a consent form or fires a weapon. Why is it that to many Christians an American doctor in a white coat is considered a murderer if he kills an unborn baby, but an American soldier in a uniform is considered a hero if he kills an adult? In January of every year, many churches observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Fine, but we need ministers who are as concerned about killing on the battlefield as they are about killing in the womb.
Much of the blame for Christian support for war must be laid at the feet of the pastors and church leaders who have failed to discern the truth themselves so they can educate their congregations. They are blind leaders of the blind. It is tragic that many so-called Christian leaders moonlight as apologists for the Republican Party. Many pastors are cheerleaders for current U.S. wars. We hear more from pulpits today justifying American military intervention throughout the world than we do about the need for missionaries to go into all the world. Our churches have supplied more soldiers to the Middle East than missionaries. It is appalling that instead of the next U.S. military adventure being denounced from every pulpit in the land, it will be conservative preachers who can be counted on to defend it.
If there is any group within Christianity that should be the most consistent, the most vocal, the most persistent, and the most scriptural in its opposition to war and the warfare state, it is conservative Christians who look to the Bible as their sole authority. Yet, never at any time in history have so many of these Christians held such unholy opinions. The association they have with the Republican Party is unholy. The admiration they have for the military is unholy. The indifference they have toward war is unholy. The callous attitude they have toward the deaths of foreigners is unholy. The idolatry they manifest toward the state is unholy.
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There has, unfortunately, persisted throughout history the theologically schizophrenic idea among some Christians that mass killing in war is acceptable, but the killing of one’s neighbor violates the sixth commandment . . . But as the aforementioned Spurgeon said: “If there be anything which this book denounces and counts the hugest of all crimes, it is the crime of war. Put up thy sword into thy sheath, for hath not he said, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ and he meant not that it was a sin to kill one but a glory to kill a million, but he meant that bloodshed on the smallest or largest scale was sinful.”
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Wars of self-defense (in apprehension of certain, immediate, and grave harm) are acceptable to me, as are those in defense of others. Not a single U.S. war since WWII can be said to have done so. To say that the U.S. is acting to preserve life in Libya, while historically ignoring Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, etc. is disingenuous. The interests of the politicians in Washington are never human life, unless the soldiers wear an American flag on their shoulders. If life were the goal, we would not be lobbing bombs – weapons that cannot discriminate between women, children, noncombatants, allies, or enemy combatants – like cowards from the safety of our million-dollar airplanes and warships…
[Vance’s column goes on to condemn the flexibility of Just War Theory. He thinks, for example, that it can be used to justify even the Iraq War. I have to disagree. When applied closely and strictly (i.e. not like they apply the Constitution in the law today), it is a useful tool for determining when a war is acceptable. And the bar is VERY high, of course. As it should be. In the court of law, we will not kill a man (or even punish him) if the evidence does not show his guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Generally, lawyers hold this to be 95% certainty that the person committed the crime. In war, we seek to kill thousands, or even millions, for the actions of a few rulers. You had better be damn certain that the war is just before you engage in it and kill the fathers, brothers, cousins, and sons of so many who give their lives for the international political disputes of their “betters”…]