Monday, December 13, 2010

Q: "Am I going to hell for supporting war?"

I've had some questions sent to me lately, all of which sum up to: "Is it a sin to be part of war?"

The world has an answer to that. Even almost all of the Christian religious world has an answer to that.

And in both cases it's the same:
"No. It's not a sin, as long as it's done for a good/godly reason."
For most of my life, that was my answer, as well.

The reasonable human answer

Centuries ago, the Roman church hierarchy (historically a lover of war and apologist for death and oppression) came up with its "Just War theory" to document when it's said to be godly to go to war and when it's not -- and, as is nearly always the case in matters of money, oppression, and war, nearly all Protestant organizations are and have always been in agreement with the Roman church in this.

So, for example, here's what the great learned Pharisees and Sadducees scholars in theology and hermeneutics from the Roman hierarchy have to say in their current document of official self-justification about when it's godly to kill other people with war:
  1. "The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  3. there must be serious prospects of success;
  4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition."

Jesus' answer

Here's the thing, though: absolutely none of that is justified by anything in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. None.

Those four reasons do sound great -- even to me! I was never a pacifist (if the Navy would have taken uncloseted Gay people when I got out of high school, I would have finished my twenty years about 12 years ago). I mean, if some nation is attacking us, and doing "lasting, grave, certain" harm, and diplomacy and bribes aren't making it stop, and attacking back just might work, and we can kill bad people but not too much -- why not go to war? That's certainly what I was saying on the morning of September 11, 2001. I was even nodding my head back then when others were saying that going to war would actually save lives, by killing other people who are killing other people. And if those bad people are killing innocent people (and I was just as certain as everyone else I knew exactly who they were), then our going to war against the bad people could even make us heroes!

But that's all human reasoning. Once again, none of it is justified by anything Jesus or anything in the New Testament covenant says that's meant for all those who claim the title "Christian" for themselves. 

Instead, we as Christians are given instructions completely different from what makes sense in and to the world, and completely different from what God's people were told to do while under the Old Covenant:
You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:38-48

But are you really "not conformed to this world"?

I had to learn this myself:

One of the big deals about following Christ is that it is supposed to make us different from the rest of the world. And the rest of the world? It's all about "good" reasons for going to war (meaning, killing people and helping others so they can kill people). The rest of the world is never about refusing to return evil for evil, never about taking the spiritual high road above one's attacker, and never about loving and caring for those who attack and hate you, even while they're attacking and hating you. In fact, the rest of the world thinks -- including nearly all the "Christian" world -- thinks Jesus' commands on this are foolishness.

So, if we go the human way (even the Christian human way), and attack back or support attacking back? That's actually against Jesus -- or, as the Bible calls it: 
So if we stoop to believing that being "different" than the world is in how we dress, or what lingo we use, or where we went to college, or whether we get up regularly on Sunday mornings to spend a few hours at our favorite religious building, then truly -- we're spiritually sunk, and we've not qualified for heaven!

Being different under the New Covenant means that our hearts and minds are so transformed by the Holy Spirit within us that we don't accept the world's reasoning any longer. As true Christians, we're supposed to be past going after the old world-ways of doing things that were part of us before we were saved (including the old world ways of resolving disputes and responding to evil). 

All because if we still love the world's ways of being and doing, we aren't loving God.

Counter-arguments for being able to kill people and go to heaven anyway

Now, some put forward the argument that since Jesus is God, and God doesn't change, and God OK'd war sometimes in the Old Testament, and when Jesus comes back He and the good angels are going to war with the evil people and demons still left on the planet (whew! taking another breath!) -- all that means it is ok for Christians to go to war.

This is one of those answers that looks really smart on the surface because it quotes lots of Bible verses and talks about doing God's work and so on. But no matter how many scribes ThD's it took to come up with this argument, it just totally poo's on the commands God gave Christians. Nowhere does Jesus say that we are to attack those who attack us, or hurt those who hurt us, or hate or be angry at those who hate or are angry at us. NOWHERE. In fact, He says just the opposite! And He emphasizes that He's making a new way for God's people when He's saying all that stuff like "You have heard... but I say...". So the only place there is justification for Christians to go to war and believe it's God-sanctioned is within our own pathetically sinful and dark hearts. And the only way to argue for war being OK is to pretend that what God said to us when we were spiritual babes (Old Covenant) overrules what God says to us when we are (supposed to be) spiritual adults (New Covenant). Arguing this, then, is like a grown man claiming that it's OK to still use diapers instead of the restroom because Mom told him it was OK when he was two years old.

Others argue that since governments order war, and Christians are told not to disobey the government, that means we have to go to war when our government says to.

This is always an interesting argument, because the people who use it never really mean it, because if their government told them they had to become communists, or give their money to pay for poor kids' schools, or stop discriminating against people who are different from them, they'd either die first or act ferociously to change the government, rather than obeying it! So, yes, this argument is a crock, simply because it's fake from the beginning.

Even so, there is a very simple answer to it, and it's one they use themselves whenever it works for them in other ways: God's commands overrule human laws and governments. Since Jesus commands "turn the other cheek" and "love (not kill) your enemy" and "do unto others...", any human government order to hurt or kill people is to be lovingly, peacefully disobeyed (while human government orders to pay taxes, for example, are to be obeyed).

I recently heard another argument for supporting war: if we don't, then our soldiers will become demoralized and more likely to be killed. But shouldn't someone doing something sinful be demoralized about it? When we sin, shouldn't we get that "Uh oh, this ain't right!" feeling in our gut? In fact, we're not only supposed to get it, we're also supposed to listen to it and act on it. It's the pain that's telling us to get our spiritual hand off the hot stove burner -- NOW. It's supposed to make us stand up and make a different choice. And if we realize killing other people (even our enemies) is against God's commands for Christians, then our repentance -- our turning around -- as Christians involves no longer killing (even if that means being punished for it by our human government, etc).

And finally, some argue that going to war is OK for Christians because Jesus wasn't a "sissy" or a pacifist. And it's true that Jesus wasn't a sissy, and He wasn't a pacifist -- quite the opposite, in fact. Anyone who thinks it takes more courage and honor and discipline to hunt someone with a gun or drop a bomb on a city or poison people with chemical or radiation weapons than it does to refuse to stoop to violence even when hurt by violence has no idea what real courage and honor and discipline are all about. And -- sorry -- you just can't say that standing up to human evil requires returning violence for violence-- unless you are also prepared to call God a wuss.

God is smarter than we are, when it comes to human violence (and everything else)

The world done even "good" human ways is a sorrowful, ugly place -- for everyone:

For the soldiers themselves: 

  • No one can join a mass killing venture and not have their hearts hardened so they can do and make it through what isn't normal for normal people to do. Normal people have to be put through techniques similar to those used by cults, to break down their normal aversion to killing other human beings and harden their heart. 
  • But the hardened heart (and the psychological games used to keep one's feelings locked away) is a terrible, risky thing for its owner, leading even individuals who've participated in "good" wars to all sorts of mental and emotional issues, including alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, murder at home, violence at home, even more love and glory (or the opposite: ignoring the implications) of violence, domination, and killing, and more.  
  • War hurts and kills the people who soldier in it.

For non-soldiers caught among soldiers:  
  • There's no glory for a normal, healthy, godly heart in the light of bodies and minds mangled, burned, poisoned, and otherwise attacked by bombs, bullets, chemicals, biological weapons, radiation, war-caused famine, war-caused diseases, and psychological attacks. Even in "just" wars always - always, always - far more civilians are killed and hurt than soldiers. In World War II, for example, between 50 million and 70 million people were killed -- yet only about 20 million of those were actual fighting soldiers. So somewhere between 30 and 50 million non-soldier adults, children, and babies (figures don't even count the unborn babies) -- meaning mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, coworkers, and so on -- all died at the hands of individuals who had decided to be soldiers. That's the same as if people who decided to be soldiers killed every single man, woman, and child now living in the states of  California, Illinois, AND New York. Have a friend in Chicago? Dead forever. Mom live in San Francisco? Gone, never to draw breath again. Pregnant sister living in upstate New York? Sorry, both gone. But hey - it was all part of a "just" war, right!
  • And of course, that only counts the deaths. War always also means women, men, and children are raped and gang-raped by those who decided to be soldiers (even by those supposedly on their side!). More, women's, men's, and children's bodies are tormented and tortured, resulting in lifetimes of mental and physical disability, by people who decided to be soldiers. The ability of the earth and local infrastructure to provide for local people's food, water, and shelter is destroyed by people who decided to be soldiers. 
  • All civilians dead and physically, psychologically, and spiritually mutilated by those who choose to be soldiers in order to do "good", in "glory" and "honor", for "God".

For God: 
  • Many of these hurt and killed non-soldiers are people who've never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ -- but they have heard the "Good News" of "Christian" Militarism in the bombs, bullets, torture, rape, and murder of themselves and their people. The name of God is blasphemed because of the actions of "Christians" who have re-written the Lord's commands so that they are indistinguishable from the world's way of doing things, so they "justify" war and all the atrocities that always, always, always come with it. 
  • When we are "Christians" who go to or support war, we are woeful stumbling blocks to God's plan. 

So what's the better way?

If we really mean to be Christians, then how about Jesus' way!
  • Those who've hurt themselves -- mentally, physically, spiritually -- by being soldiers need our love. By killing and participating in all the other ugliness that comes from even "just" war, they are sinners. But so are we who haven't decided to war -- not only in how we've supported war or those participating in its horrible sin, but also in the millions of other ways there are for human beings to separate themselves from God (if you're partnered, have you cheated on your spouse? if you're a police officer, have you lied or tricked someone to get them in jail? if you're a doctor, have you written prescriptions for drugs that did more harm than good? If you are a Christian, have you avoided helping others see the real Jesus Christ?).We need to help people get out of soldiering, and to heal the wounds they've inflicted on their minds, bodies, and souls by choosing to soldier. We need to give and help them find forgiveness, confessing sin to God and turning to and obeying our Master, Jesus Christ, as we all must do.
  • Those who've been hurt (mentally, physically, spiritually) by our killing actions, or our support for killing actions, need not only our love, but our reparations. As individuals and as a nation, we have not taken responsibility for our evil actions against them. We've stolen their lives and living from them. We've stolen their loved ones away from them. We've stolen their future away from them. In the ways we can find possible, we need to put our money, time, and hearts into making it right for them. And from now on, we need to truly love them even if they are our enemies. We need to love them especially if they are our enemies, just as God loves us when we are His enemies.
  • And to God -- to God we owe deep, on-our-faces repentance for our disregard for life that leads us to ignore the reality of war and glorify its horrors; for our anger that leads to hate; for our lack of faith and disobedience that prompts us to hurt others back; for our killing what He created in His own image. 

Will we go to hell for supporting war? 

Yes, if we allow it to be an unrepentant sin. Yes, if we allow it to harden our hearts, so that we can feel justified as a Christian who murders, or so that we can ignore the terror and death it brings to all concerned. Yes, if we allow it to be a way of disobedience, and of re-writing God's way to make it appear to match our own.

Yes, if we can't or won't become the Christians we claim to be. 

This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at