Christianity and War

Laurence Vance is a prolific writer and author of many books on the subject of Christianity and war. Yesterday he published an interesting book review on on Philip Jenkins new book, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade.  In the article, Vance writes:

One would think that if there is any group of people that would be opposed to war it would be Christians. After all, they claim to worship the Prince of Peace. But such is not the case now, and such was not the case 100 years ago during the Great War that we now call World War I.

I have often pointed out how strange it is that Christians should be so accepting of war. War is the greatest suppressor of civil liberties. War is the greatest creator of widows and orphans. 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.

Just as it was easy for the state to enlist the support of Christians for the Cold and Vietnam Wars against “godless communism,” so it is easy now for the state to garner Christian support for the War on Terror against “Islamic extremists.” But World War I was a Christian slaughterhouse. It was Christian vs. Christian, Protestant vs. Protestant, Catholic vs. Catholic. And to a lesser extent, it was also Jew vs. Jew and Muslim vs. Muslim.

Although fought by nation states and empires, World War I was in a great sense a religious war. As Baylor historian Philip Jenkins explains in the introduction to his new book The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade:

The First World War was a thoroughly religious event, in the sense that overwhelming Christian nations fought each other in what many viewed as a holy war, a spiritual conflict. Religion is essential to understanding the war, to understanding why people went to war, what they hoped to achieve through war, and why they stayed at war.

Soldiers commonly demonstrated a religious worldview and regularly referred to Christian beliefs and ideas. They resorted frequently to biblical language and to concepts of sacrifice and redemptive suffering.

The war ignited a global religious revolution. . . . The Great War drew the world’s religious map as we know it today..

Not just incidentally but repeatedly and centrally, official statements and propaganda declare that the war is being fought for god’s cause, or for his glory, and such claims pervade the media and organs of popular culture. Moreover, they identify the state and its armed forces as agents or implements of God. Advancing the nation’s cause and interests is indistinguishable from promoting and defending God’s cause or (in a Christian context) of bringing in his kingdom on earth.

We can confidently speak of a powerful and consistent strain of holy war ideology during the Great War years. All the main combatants deployed such language, particularly the monarchies with long traditions of state establishment—the Russians, Germans, British, Austro-Hungarians, and Ottoman Turks—but also those notionally secular republics: France, Italy, and the United States.

Christian leaders treated the war as a spiritual event, in which their nation was playing a messianic role in Europe and the world.

Without appreciating its religious and spiritual aspects, we cannot understand the First World War. More important, though, the world’s modern religious history makes no sense except in the context of that terrible conflict. The war created our reality.

(Read the rest here)


Two Kinds of Americans Who Support the Troops

There are two kinds of Americans who support the troops in this country.

The majority, let’s call them group (A), passionately support the troops while they’re fighting and after they’ve come home from wars. The minority, group (B), supports and fights for them before they go off to war. There is a huge difference between these two types, so let’s break them down.

Group (A): This group consists of the typical everyday American; the ones who have “Support our Troops” bumper stickers on their SUV’s. Tears fill their eyes during the National Anthem at ball games. They have flags tacked nicely on the front of their houses. They watch CNN and Fox News and believe they’re getting the whole story. Their opinions usually coincide with a political party. They also have unwavering trust in their elected officials to make sound decisions. And they vote (for the lesser of two evils, of course).

This group of patriotic Americans  also believe “supporting the troops” means blindly supporting the wars and/or foreign interventions. No matter how costly the military actions are, or how much turmoil they cause, Group A will never dissent or speak bad about these wars. The government has got their full support, you can count on that.

But the ironic thing is, these folks, seemingly, have no real knowledge about the wars that the troops are engaged in. They never question the motives or the objectives for entering into these conflicts.  They don’t know the reasons for, and in some cases, even who the troops are fighting.

This group also loves to talk about the Constitution, but does not realize that every war since WWII has been waged without a declaration of war from congress, which is required by the document they love so much.

Now the soldiers, if lucky enough to make it home, are usually maimed, limbless, traumatized and at times, insane. The war, which has no real meaning for them, has destroyed their souls and minds. And a huge number of these troops believe suicide is their only way out. It’s very sad.

Now, to show so-called “support for the troops”, group (A) Americans welcome these deformed soldiers back into society by throwing parades, waving tiny flags, and saluting them for their service. But the harm is already done and this support is futile in the end.

Group (B): This group is the minority. These are the people in which group (A) looks at with scorn, hatred and unpatriotic vitriol. Group (B) consists of passionate and well-informed Americans who are supporting the troops by trying to stop the senseless wars that they are sent to fight in. These Americans understand who finances and benefits from these wars. They study and are reinvigorated by the inconvenient facts they find. They want to expose the lies. They inform people about the dubious reason that a war is being waged. They give names of corporations who are lobbying for the next war. And they try to explain to people the “just” war theory.

Group B Americans do this all the while being called vile and unpatriotic names by a war-conditioned society. In the face of all this,  they still push on in protest. They risk, at times their careers, freedoms and reputations, to preach the truth about the nature of these wars.

This minority group understands that every war since the War of 1812 was initiated with a lie to the American people. They understand that war is the health of the state. They recognize that these wars are not fought for national defense but are unprovoked acts of aggression against other lands. These are the folks who are tired of seeing soldiers die for the plutocracy; tired of feeding the financial interests of the Military Industrial-Complex with the blood of Americans. The folks in group (B) are people who are genuinely supporting the troops but are thought about otherwise.

In short, there is a huge difference between these two groups.

One group supports the troops by draping American flags over caskets.

The other is on a fervent campaign to keep our troops out of caskets.

Once group (B) has finally become the majority, group (A) would inevitably fizzle out. This is when true change would come.

That is what the troops want, and is what America needs.