Monday, August 13, 2007

American Militarism Injures Foreign Missions

For the purpose of this article, we will define “Militarism” as an attitude among followers of the Christian Right and other conservative Americans, which favors an aggressive, military approach to foreign policy problem solving.
Militarism is that which favors “pre-emptive first strikes” and military intervention in foreign nations, based on such justifications as total obedience to the President, looking for weapons of mass destruction, revenge for 9-11, war on terrorism, nation building, clash of civilizations, bringing democracy to the Third World, fulfillment of Bible prophecy, etc. The Christian Right in general has become known for its support for militarism.

This attitude is widespread among fundamentalists, evangelicals, charismatics and other segments of the Christian Right. The impression is sometimes given that, all Bible believing, conservative Christians support militarism, or that they ought to do so as an expression of their Christian faith. The perception of the public, nationwide and worldwide, is that evangelical Christians in America provide the main bulwark of support for our war in Iraq. Of course, there is nothing new about the role of organized religion in supporting war.
In World War I, churches on both sides of the conflict dutifully supported that disastrous war, and some observers feel that this use of religion to promote war is partly to blame for the lack of interest in God and religion on the part of the disillusioned masses of Europeans from that time until now. Should we make support for the war in Iraq a test of fellowship, when at most only 27% of Americans now support the war as it is currently being fought?

Perhaps we should also pay attention to the possibility that the effectiveness of American missionaries to foreign countries may be adversely affected by the perception that American Christians are promoting militarism.

Recently I spoke with an independent Baptist missionary to a Third World country, who criticized the militaristic emphasis of American Christianity. This sense will aid the American missionary to drop his need to control. The control-syndrome has plagued some missionaries of the past. There is currently an innate American need to control the world.

This requires a military establishment capable of controlling the hostile impulses of other societies who must also have military establishments aimed at controlling our covetous impulses.

As the years drag on and the war continues with no end in sight, support for the war dries up, except among evangelical Christians who perceive the war as beneficial for purposes of fulfilling Armageddon scenarios and “setting the stage” for Christ’s return. Evangelicals who do not believe in killing, bombing and torture for purposes of “fulfilling prophecy” are regarded as infidels by the Christian Right.

Gordon MacDonald of World Relief has sounded forth a warning on what our support for militarism is doing to the image of American Christians in the Third World:

“We are now part of an evangelical movement that is greatly compromised - identified in the eyes of the public as deep in the hip pockets of the Republican Party and administration. Our movement has been used. Any of us who travel internationally have tasted the global hostility toward our government and the suspicion that our President’s policies reflect the real tenets of Evangelical faith."

Some militarists cite the teaching of a prominent conservative radio entertainer, who appears to hold the position that once the Commander in Chief has committed us to war, it is our duty to support that war without question. Voters in our November elections heavily repudiated militarism as expressed in our war in Iraq, voting out of office many conservative legislators who supported our views on abortion, the homosexual agenda, cloning and embryonic research, and who supported conservative Supreme Court justices.

Surely it is not a sin to ask questions about the militaristic emphasis of modern evangelical Christianity, to determine whether such a policy is in harmony with the Bible or in conflict with what the Bible teaches.

The purpose of such an inquiry is not to spread discord among Christians, but rather to promote unity. We need to do one of two things - we need to develop and promulgate a Bible-based theological justification for militarism, one that all of us can understand and unite on. Or if we cannot do that, then we need to allow each other soul-liberty to disagree on this controversial issue, and to avoid demanding conformity of belief over this complex political issue on which good Christians disagree.


Steven Garren said...

George Bush and his blind 'Christian' idolaters have done more to discredit genuine Christianity than anything else in my lifetime. Trying to reach these blind people with common sense and truth is almost impossible. Even unbelievers have more sense about all the lies and corruption in government headed by a phony christian. I've often thought George Bush could be the instrument to bring about real persecution to Christians in America. And if it happens what poetic justice it would be. It certainly would separate the sheep from the goats in the Church. Those that have supported American imperialism and genocide will one day give account for doing so.

Judith Sharpe said...

It's important for all to know that Pope St. Pius X (1904-1914) was vehemently opposed to the First World War. He would not bless the Archduke as requested. The Pope knew it would be the end of Christendom, and he died of a broken heart.

God bless...

Judith Sharpe

Fuller said...

Jesus never promoted war, nor did the apostles. "...for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." (Matt 26:52). We fight a spiritual battle, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph 6:12). The older I get in the faith, the more of a conscientious objector I become. I'm not a complete pacifist politically, but I am one according to faith. Stephen and James were killed and they did not fight back (Acts 12:2, 7:59-60). Stephen even prayed his murderers be forgiven! We will always have wars until Jesus Returns. I just pray that God's people and his word will persist in doing good until he returns.