Should We Fight?

At church Sunday we had a tribute to our veterans. They stood up, were recognized and received a round of enthusiastic applause. This is our custom on Veterans Day and Memorial Day surrounded as we are by five military bases. The American flag adorns our stage and numerous active and retired military personnel populate our congregation.

While I have no problem with this recognition I could not help but think about a rich part of our spiritual heritage in the churches of Christ that to some has been all but lost.

Beginning with both Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone there was a very strong pacifist sentiment within our movement from the start. Based upon a more literal understanding of Biblical teachings like the Sermon on the Mount, they developed a definitive kingdom outlook that encouraged pacifism.

Later such brotherhood luminaries as David Lipscomb and James Harding also considered Christ’s teachings such as “turning the other cheek”; “loving your enemies”; and John 18:36- where Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – as literal kingdom principles and believed it was a Christian’s duty as a citizen of the heavenly kingdom to not participate in warfare. Lipscomb, in particular, lived this out in a vivid way while the Civil War raged around him.

Other prominent but lesser known leaders such as R.H. Boll and J.C. Bailey followed in the footsteps of this tradition. Some of our colleges and publications in the early part of the twentieth century were well steeped in pacifist teachings. The Gospel Advocate actually came close to losing its mailing privileges during World War I because of its pacifist views. And then there was Cordell Christian College.

Cordell in Oklahoma was the largest college among the churches of Christ before WWI but because of its pacifist teachings was forced to close under government surveillance and community pressure. O.N. Enfield a leading preacher in Oklahoma was imprisoned in Leavenworth because of his anti-war sentiments during this time.

After WWI pacifist ideas- although not as common- still prevailed in some areas. This idea was still strong enough in parts of Canada that several preachers and church leaders sat out World War II on prison work crews instead of fighting.

For the most part the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor and the patriotic fervor of WWII effectively ended the active pacifist ideals within the churches of Christ. And while I am sure pacifist voices continued to be heard, growing up in and around the Church of Christ and attending an affiliated college in the south, I never heard this viewpoint.

Now as we participate in a Christian culture heavily involved in the politics of war and American patriotism, pacifist ideals are at best, dismissed and at worst, denigrated. To many now- pacifism is just completely foreign to the American Christian perspective of God and country and should not even be considered.

But the voices of the past remain with us. Do they still have any relevance? Were that many of our spiritual ancestors so wrong? Does their interpretation of Christ’s kingdom principles have any merit? Is there room for like-minded voices in our brotherhood today?

So many questions! Any answers?

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70 Responses to Should We Fight?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Danny,

    I will likely leave myself open to criticism for this suggestion but I believe this is one time when a Christian might consider segmenting the spiritual from the secular.

    I do not believe in passivism when a person is considering killing in defense of a sovereign nation. As long as they live within and enjoy the prosperity and liberty provided by that nation then I believe they should be legally and morally bound to defend it. Defense of a country, our country, makes possible the atmosphere where religious, and all other freedoms, can exist. Men (and women) die to secure these rights. When necessary, the burden of securing those rights should be shared by all that enjoy them.

    I believe this in much the same way I believe each of us are bound to one another through our faith. Faith, at times will call for sacrifice for the sake of my Christian brothers and sisters, and the greater a persons faith often times the greater the call to sacrifice. Christ, as my Lord, has the right to call upon me to make sacrifices – sacrifices that might even include my death. As a citizen, I believe this nation has the right to call for my sacrifice in her defense as well.

    If, however, we are considering expanding, or even defending, Christianity to a non-believing world then, I believe, a person should not only consider passivism as an option but indeed they are bound by it.

    Consider Saul of Tarsus and Paul the apostle. The same man but a very different man after his conversion. One of my favorite questions to ask of students during a study of Acts is this: What is the difference between Saul and Paul?

    I usually get all kinds of answers dealing with religious beliefs but at the core the answer is very simple. “And Saul was there, giving approval to his (Stephen’s) death.” Acts 8:1

    Contrast that passage with this one: 13Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:13

    Saul was willing to kill for his religion. Paul was willing to die for his. Because of this Paul was of much more use to Christ than Saul would have ever been.

    For me, the bottom line is this: Passivism as a defense of a nation does nothing to expand or win converts to that way of life. In fact, if enough people adopt this approach the nation will soon cease to exist and all that you hope to accomplish will fade into history. On the other hand, passivism is the only stance that makes any sense when trying to spread a message of peace, acceptance, love and mercy. Passivism in the face of persecution strengths this message and helps to ensure these ideals will live on into eternity.

    I don’t go to war as a Christian. Given the choice of killing for religion or dying for it – my Lord, through word and example, has bound me to die rather than kill. I do go to war as a Patriot. I believe that I am bound by the liberties that I enjoy and the sacrifice of those who secured them for me and my children’s children. Because of this, I am bound to kill in defense of my nation should I be called upon to do so. And I believe God’s word allows for both positions.

    “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
    Romans 13:1-7

    The same man who wrote that he had learned to die for the cause of Christ gave us the command to be subject to governing authorities. As an inspired writer, he saw no conflict – and neither do I.

  2. Danny says:

    Very interesting thoughts on this.

    Every Christian is a citizen of two kingdoms- the one in which they were physically born into and the one into which we are born again of the water and the Spirit. The clash of these two kingdoms and their values are at the heart of this discussion.

    Can they coexist? Steve says yes. Thanks for those thoughts brother.

  3. Danny Sims says:

    I’m with Steve.

    We’re not called to be pacifists.

    Neither are we called to be right wing hawks.

    There is a time for war and a time for peace.

  4. Danny says:

    Ah, the wisdom of Solomon.

    Thanks for that reminder Danny.

  5. jettybetty says:

    I don’t have this all figured out, but I participate with a group of Christians that discuss it–along with Lee Camp’s book “Mere Discipleship”–have you read that?

    Here‘s a post I wrote along those lines a while back. The whole discussion might be of interest to you?

    None of us claim to have anything figured out–we are just trying to be the disciples God called us to be.

    Blessings!

  6. Al Sturgeon says:

    With all due respect, we can’t be quoting Ecclesiastes in this discussion. Directly preceding “a time for war and a time for peace” comes the observation “a time to love and a time to hate.” Jesus didn’t subscribe to the “a time to hate” observation, so in all fairness to Jesus, we can’t simply cite “a time for war” and leave it at that.

    I believe the core issue Jesus leaves us to wrestle with is the very idea of loving our enemies. I, for one, have a hard time picturing the killing of someone I love. Self-defense is a valid point, but when we’re talking war, we’re rarely speaking about self-defense – definitely not in Iraq.

    When it comes to veterans of the armed forces, I have great respect for their courage. My dad was a WWII veteran, and I’m very proud of his courage. We need MUCH bigger doses of that courage in the Kingdom of God. But whether or not one can both be “willing to die” AND “willing to kill” in the Kingdom of God is a difficult and worthy discussion, and both sides of the issue need equal consideration. And you’re quite right, one viewpoint has been practically absent from the discussion.

    (I’ve read Camp’s book, along with his mentor, Yoder’s “The Politics of Jesus.” I would also suggest Walter Wink’s writings for anyone interested in considering the other side of the issue.)

  7. Stoned-Campbell Disciple says:

    Danny,

    Thanks for bringing up a vital subject … certainly one in which there is more Bible than instrumental music and other “important” issues. This is often a subject that quickly gets lost in powerful emotions and lampooning. I hope we can avoid that here.

    I wrote a book called KINGDOM COME that wrestles with some of the issues you raise. Let me share just a few observations if I may.

    First, I have serious problems with having the American flag in a worship service. I believe this comes very close to identifying God’s kingdom with the American nation and I want nothing to do with that point of view. It also seems to me to promote more of a “civil religion” than the Way of the Cross. This happened in Germany and the results were not pretty.

    Second, I do not know the Scripture that we are citizens of BOTH God’s kingdom and some earthly power. We certainly exist with a historical framework and live within certain laws but it seems clear to me that the NT (and the Hebrew Bible) affirms that allegiance to God’s kingdom trumps any other loyalty. The early Christians for example certianly did not believe they were citizens of Rome in some special sense but considered, as the Epistle to Diognetus puts it, every nation was a “homeland” to them. Further it is quite clear that the early Christians did not believe it was ok for a Christian to serve in the military. We are several centuries removed from Jesus before there is a kind word about the army. Whether this fact has weight I leave for each to judge.

    I do not believe the Hebrew Bible provides a precedent for a Christian to engage in warfare. And I am finding it very hard to find a precedent for it in the NT.

    But for me the real issue is not pacifism per se but religious nationalism. Religious nationalism is nothing short of idolatry and short circuits a Christians ability to judge the state prophetically.

    I think Lipscomb was on the right path though.

    Those who disagree with me I love them anyway. My brother is a career naval officer. My father in law is retired Air Force and now makes “weapons” for the military … My uncle was a Green Beret in Vietnam and is now a devoted pacifist. I love and cherish them all.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  8. Danny says:

    I agree with Bobby and Al that we must equally consider all points of view on this topic without becoming reactionary or too emotional. And I appreciate their input as well as Bettys.

    I find it interesting that our church history very much mirrors that of the culture around us. In pre-WWI isolationist America the churches of Christ had strong pacifist leaning in areas. Our introduction into that war changed things, but not as dramatically as our participation in WWII.

    The patriotism of the Post-WWII era and the rise of the communist threat shifted our culture and the church away from pacifism. In the 60s during the unpopular Vietnam war the moral and political persuasions of the anti-war crowd drove most Christians even further away from anything connected to pacifism.

    Then in the 80s with the rise of the Moral Majority and the politicizing of American Christianity- supporting “just wars”- became gospel to some.

    I do think we must make room in this climate however for these other voices- and respect all voices.

    A healthy discussion is always a good thing to help us think, grow and expand.

  9. JD says:

    Danny, this is a healthy topic that Al Sturgeon and I have talked over many times over lunch. I think I understand the pacifist viewpoint. I think the ‘rub’ in all of this is that if we were a country of pacifists, we would be a country of Islamists. I do understand that our reasoning is one thing, and the Bible’s teaching is something else. I think most people have a hard time embracing a teaching that ultimately leads one into the hands of a pagan leader willingly. Maybe that’s why we do not always understand Jesus. I’d rather talk about clapping in worship.

  10. jettybetty says:

    JD said, “we would be a country of Islamists’.

    Just trying to clarify what you are saying (BTW, I have the utmost respect for JD). If we don’t fight wars–this country would become Muslim?

  11. Dee O'Neil Andrews says:

    I studied the Bible extensively during (and because of) the Vietnam war and decided being a pacifist was the only “position” I could take as a Christian, although I also felt just as strongly that since our government allows for such, I must serve as a medic or in another pacifist activity wherein I saved lives and did not take lives.

    Then my older son grew up, was accepted into the U. S. Naval Academy and was part of the First gulf war as a Marine Corps officer. So I can see and appreciate both sides.

    I don’t know that I’ve changed my own personal views since I first studied the issues all of those years ago. I would still take the same position. But at the same time, I cannot (will not) really argue against “the other side” for those who are deep believers in that point of view because I believe they have valid reasons to believe as they do (perhaps including Cornelius? I’m asking here for thoughts on him and his life’s “profession.”)

    These are difficult issues and difficult times. I think the most important thing to remember is that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and must be ever seeking unity in our faith as we discuss the most difficult of “issues” that plague us. This is one of them that disquiets us the most.

    May we ever seek guidance and a clearer understanding.

    As for the conflicts in this world going on today between “good and evil” may God have mercy on us all.

    Dee

  12. Danny says:

    Dee brought up Cornelius. I wondered how long before he would be mentioned. There is no record of him being asked to resign from the Roman military. He must be in this discussion for sure.

    I think I may know what JD means Betty, but will let him explain.

  13. Stoned-Campbell Disciple says:

    While we may not know what became of Cornelius we do know what the earliest Christians outside the NT refused to serve in the military.

    Both Luke Timothy Johnson and Richard Hayes (The Moral Vision of the NT) have explored the role of military figures in the narratives and, especially Hayes, should be required reading for anyone who wants to wrestle with the text.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  14. Teresa Lewis says:

    Last Spring my daughter Rebekah did a History Day project on “The Conscientious Objectors of WWII.” It was so interesting! In the course of research we met with a retired Mennonite preacher who had served in the Civilian Corps during WWII. His insights really opened my eyes to the convictions and yes, bravery of those men.
    These days we tend to equate pacifism with lack of courage, whereas he emphasized what strong courage he had to have to sit on a train full of uniformed soldiers in his street clothes as he headed to his first assignment.

    Listening to his tales really opened my eyes to a perspective that I had never considered. In this debate, as in so many, it is so important to extend mercy to those with views different than my own.

  15. JD says:

    Betty, thanks for the question. It is my opinion that if America lays down arms, aggressive forces will overtake us. The most aggressive force in the world (again in my opinion) with the desire and means to overtake us would be the radical Islamists. Of course, if we decided to disarm, I feel that others could rise to the occasion. In no way would the aggressors of the world think we were cool for laying down our weapons. Without a military in place, we are vulnerable to the most powerful force – whoever that may be. If we choose only to defend self (a position some take), we ultimately will still be overcome because we give our enemies permission to manufacture weapons and prepare to defeat us. I really do not think the climate in our world today will permit us to sit idly, if we are to retain our freedom. That’s what I meant by that remark. I appreciate you sister!

  16. jettybetty says:

    JD,
    I’ve been around the blogosphere enough the past couple years to know and respect your servant’s heart! You encourage me to be like Jesus and I respect your words.

    I don’t have this topic figured–I continually seek to understand God’s plan on it all! I have more questions than answers right now.

    Do you think we (Americans) are ever involved in conflicts because someone did something to us, so we do something back to them?
    Do you think God would ever want us to use the *golden rule* in foreign diplomacy?
    Has any country every tried that?
    Has God promised us freedom to worship and serve Him?
    Does God prefer us to have freedom to worship and serve Him?
    If God is sovereign, isn’t He really the one Who decides what governments rise and fall?
    How much do we as humans help Him?

    JD, you could be totally right–thanks for allowing me to think through some issues!

    I think I appreciate my freedoms because I live in this country. What I really desire is to be like Jesus, too.

    Blessings!

  17. Danny says:

    There is the theology of all of this- then there is the real world where folks like the man Rebekah and Teresa met who have lived out our debate- with much courage.

    Much courage has obviously been shown on battlefields by those with other convictions too- and for many of the reasons mentioned by JD.

    But JD, JettyBetty has asked some tough questions- which I personally have wrestled with. I am anxious to hear your reply- or a reply from anyone who wants to answer them.

  18. Al Sturgeon says:

    I think the discussion of “America laying down arms” is a nice discussion to have over coffee, but that’s about as far as it goes. So although I’d like to point out that Switzerland isn’t Muslim, and that the Native American story begs the point that Christians have a bigger rap sheet on political aggression than anyone, we’d be discussing a road that isn’t even on the map.

    I think it’s a different matter entirely to discuss “Christians taking up arms.”

    I’ve done a lot of reading recently – particularly Walter Wink – that leads me toward understanding Jesus to teach a 3rd way (neither violence nor pacifism, but creative nonviolent resistance). It’s the first thing I’ve read that really addresses the major holes in the other two viewpoints – allowing for both police action and self-defense while refusing to resort to violence.

    I went through a bunch of posts on my blog at http://desperatehouseflies.blogspot.com about Walter Wink’s ideas. For a sample, check out my September 21 post.

    Not trying to deflect from the discussion here, but I just don’t have time/space to post all that again!

    Suffice it to say that the dichotomy of just war / pacifism might exist because neither are the way to go – both expose real problems in the other that prevents totally embracing either one. And just maybe that’s because they are both wrong.

  19. JD says:

    Betty, I want to be clear…I do not have all the answers. I do not even have the courage to put my foot down on one side or the other at this point. But I’ll answer your questions briefly. Switzerland or no, Al, you and I know that the Muslimi extremists want to hurt Americans … for reasons just or not. But you’re right…laying down arms is spending time in the nether regions of wishful thinking…not pertinent.

    Do you think we (Americans) are ever involved in conflicts because someone did something to us, so we do something back to them?

    YES.

    Do you think God would ever want us to use the *golden rule* in foreign diplomacy?

    YES.

    Has any country every tried that?

    I DON’T KNOW.

    Has God promised us freedom to worship and serve Him?

    NO. Not even the first Christians enjoyed this privilege.

    Does God prefer us to have freedom to worship and serve Him?

    I DO NOT KNOW.

    If God is sovereign, isn’t He really the one Who decides what governments rise and fall?

    YES.

    How much do we as humans help Him?

    I THINK HE USES US, RATHER THAN US HELPING HIM.

    Good questions, Betty … wish I had more thorough theological answers. But I do not.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking post. I have become more and more uneasy with patriotism and nationalism among Christians. I think that we sometimes forget where our first loyalty lies! When discussing foreign policy, most Christians use pragmatism more than they use theology. “Whatever it takes” to maintain our way of life… is that what the Bible teaches? That’s what many argue.

    Thanks again Danny.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim

  21. Al Sturgeon says:

    You’re right, JD, about Muslim extremists feelings toward America. It would be an interesting discussion to flesh out WHY they feel so strongly about America as opposed to places like Switzerland, along with whether or not the militaristic aspect of our foreign policy (comparatively) contributes to those sentiments.

    Another thing…

    Pronouns are important in all this. There are many “we’s” and “theys” floating around the discussion. This is the advantage folks like Lipscomb had – knowing who “we” and “they” were when it came to matters like war.

  22. Anonymous says:

    At the risk of drawing the ire of some and sincerely not wishing to divert the discussion, I none-the-less feel I must address one side comment that has been made.

    Teresa wrote, “His (the Conscientious Objector) insights really opened my eyes to the convictions and yes, bravery of those men. These days we tend to equate pacifism with lack of courage, whereas he emphasized what strong courage he had to have to sit on a train full of uniformed soldiers in his street clothes as he headed to his first assignment.”

    Let me first say that I have never avoided war as a conscientious objector nor have I found myself on the battlefield during a war. Having never been in either position I disqualify myself from passing judgment on a man’s courage or lack there of. Far be it from me to label a man of convictions a coward. That is a matter of the heart that only he could know.

    I do however have a problem with a conscientious objector speaking of his bravery when comparing himself to the men who are going into battle. Comparing his ‘discomfort’ wearing street clothes, while riding on a train full of uniformed soldiers, to the courage of men who will soon find themselves dying on the shores of Normandy, flying over and dropping into Germany and fighting in the Pacific seems well… disingenuous at best.

    Let the conscientious objector speak to the spiritual convictions that lead to his decision. Let him tell of the torn feelings he had about divided loyalties to which kingdom he should serve. Let him speak of being ostracized by those in the community. Let him speak to these issues – and he may win me over to his way of thinking. But don’t let him speak of bravery in the face of men dying to protect his liberties. In my opinion it does a great disservice to the men who valiantly fight and die in battle. Men I might add who you never hear speak of bravery or courage as it relates to their own actions. But men who speak of honor, duty and doing what needed to be done – in spite of their fear! Men who only reference bravery and courage when speaking of other men’s actions. Let us not cheapen their sacrifices by comparing them to feelings of discomfort.

    Oh, and before anyone ask: Yes, I do believe it is possible for a passivist to display great bravery. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one example. He lived his convictions in such a way as to place his life in as much danger as found on any battlefield of any war. If he spoke of bravery I would listen to him – ironically, he never had to either.

    I do not automatically equate passivism with a lack of courage. There is at least as much opportunity – as it relates to the situation in the world today – to display courage and conviction as a pacifist than there is as a hawk. I just haven’t seen any propose what those actions might be. Any suggestions?

  23. Al Sturgeon says:

    Steve, I think your wording makes a wonderfully unintendend point. You write of “passivism” instead of “pacifism,” which to most folks are interchangeable words. But they aren’t synonyms, which is an important distinction to make.

    Passivism means “not resisting” while “pacifism” refers to “not using violence as a means to settling a dispute.” There’s a difference, but since no one catches the distinction much anymore, I side with those who feel we need to come up with a different word to communicate the real meaning of pacifism.

    Your example of Dr. King is the perfect example: He most definitely resisted oppression, and as you point out, courageously, but he did so nonviolently. He was not passive, yet technically a pacifist.

    Now to your final question, I’d like to try to answer, but I’m not exactly sure what you mean: Are you referring to Iraq specifically?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Al,

    Thanks for the clarification. I was meaning ‘pacifist’.

    No, I am not speaking of Iraq specifically but the solution I hope to see would have application there.

    This discussion has led me to do some serious thinking about the ways that a Christian might seek to bravely serve his country while at the same time remaining true to his growing conviction to “love thy enemy.” I now believe it is possible to accomplish both.

    Steve

  25. jettybetty says:

    I am back to thank JD for his answers. (I pretty much agree with you 😉

    Also, I don’t want to leave the impression I am not thankful for the men and women who serve in the armed services right now and in the past. I really am!

    Great discussion–I enjoy comments from different perspectives–and I especially appreciate the mercy shown while discussing a controversial topic!

    =-)

  26. Anonymous says:

    Much has been made of theory here. Consider these undeniable facts.

    Had our forefathers been pacificsts there would be no America, no United States. And, they were fighting for religious freedom.

    History records no great times of peace that did not come as a result of war. Am I for war? Absolutely not. Neither am I for policeman having to shoot dead criminals in the act of their crimes. Would any of you hint that a good cop cannot also be a good Christian with God’s blessing?

    Will the pacificist’s idology protect his wife and children when a thug is kicking in the front door to do them harm?

    The only true peace will only be realized when the Prince of Peace rules as King. Until then Satan’s willing servants must be controlled, sometimes by the judicial system and sometimes by deadly force.

    I wonder if those who witnessed Ananias and Sapphira fall dead for lying to the Holy Spirit thought God and His apostles were pacificsts? I rather doubt it.

    It is fine to be a pacificst so long as you have many brave men who are willing to die fighting for your right to be passive. Otherwise passivism is only a theory or what some dead man belived.

    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle

  27. Danny says:

    Very good contributions to this discussion every one,

    There is no doubt that there are many complexities involved here and ultimately we each have to form our own convictions.

  28. Al Sturgeon says:

    Royce,

    I really hate to deny an undeniable fact, but… 🙂

    The American Revolution was not fought for religious freedom. Read the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson cited close to thirty reasons for severing ties with England, and not one of them involved religious freedom. Now many colonists CAME to North America to flee religious persecution (among many other reasons), but that was not the reason they took up weapons and started shooting people. The main reason given is money (i.e. taxation without representation). If we want to justify that from a Christian perspective, I think we’ll have a hard time.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to live in America, and I think many of the Framers were flat brilliant. But to justify the American Revolution as a Christian act is far-fetched.

    And the pacifism (not passivism) that I’ve been referencing does allow for police forces and self-defense (e.g. thug kicking in the door). It recognizes a difference between legitimate force and violence. It rejects the latter, but allows the former.

    I don’t understand your point in regard to Ananias & Sapphira.

    And your last statement addresses “pacifism” and “passivism” as interchangeable. Which they’re not. But either way, one would have the right to practice either regardless of any preceding military action.

    And Steve,

    Thanks for responding to my question!

    Al

  29. jettybetty says:

    Royce said:
    “Had our forefathers been pacificsts there would be no America, no United States.”
    Not meaning to be argumenative, but IF that statement where true, what scriptural impact would that have on us today as we seek to follow Jesus?
    Blessings!

  30. Danny says:

    Al is raising an interesting discussion thread- Can we oppose aggresive violence and love our enemies but still be able to defend our families? Many would define what we are now engaged in in Iraq as defending our families. I guess the questions is- does the thug have to be physically at our door?

    Betty brings up another pertinent question about Christianity and America. Does the USA have to exist for us to be Christians? We have long been taught that America is God’s country, but is that really true? Doens’t God’s country (if you will- his kingdom) transcend geography?

    Good stuff here to consider from all posts.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Had I realized how much fun others have when I don’t use spell check I might just misspell some words on purpose. 

    Brave men must be willing to die for conscientious objectors and pacifists to live.

    Al, I disagree that war is not self-defense. Isn’t the idea usually to kill them before they kill us? I am curious as to what if anything some of you think should be done about millions of wicked people who want nothing more than to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and kill as many Americans as possible?

    Was Iraq a good idea? Hindsight is 20/20 isn’t it? A majority of our elected officials voted to go to war in Iraq based on the info they had at the time. I think they made the best decision they could at the time.

    One thing is for sure. If we as a nation pretend the threat does not exist, our great grandchildren will be wearing turbans and bowing toward Mecca.

    Alexander Campbell had the utopian idea that because of Christian influence the world would get better and better and usher in the reign of Christ. He was wrong about that and he was wrong about war and peace as well in my view.

    The idea that freedom, God’s gift to man, is not worth defending is absurd.

    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle

  32. Justin says:

    All of this discussion comes back to the resurrection and whether you really trust in it or not.

    If I truely believe that I will rise with Christ, I will not kill a person to save myself.

    If I truely believe in the resurrection, the principalities and powers have no power over me. They wield the sword, but it is to no avail. No militant muslim with an AK 47 is going to convince me that Christ isn’t my Lord because I believe that Christ rose from the dead and that one day I will too.

    All these fundamentalist Christians (James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, etc) are actually theological liberals because THEY DON’T BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION. If they did, they wouldn’t say things like “We need to blow away the terrorists in the name of the Lord”

    I am all for relativity… i think there are a lot of things with wiggle room, and I think grace covers a multitude of sins, but it is absolutely impossible to use Jesus to promote violence of any kind. IMPOSSIBLE. And I will stand with that and call a spade a spade. It is disgusting to hear Christ followers who support violence against anyone. We are all children of God and we are called to love even our enemies.

    Someone brought up Romans 13. I challenge you to read the end of Romans twelve, and then view 13 in that context. It changes the meaning a little.

  33. TCS says:

    our “minister of song” (we can’t call him a worship minister, likes to lead “God bless America” and “America the Beautiful” fairly regularly. I know that that extreme is not an arguement against anything, but it makes me shake my head.

    Man, you’ve hit a nerve here apparently.

  34. Al Sturgeon says:

    Royce,

    First, I’ve no desire to be the world’s spell checker. That’s trivial, but spelling that ends up in a different word with a different meaning begs pointing out. Do you see the difference in “passivism” and “pacifism?” Best example: Dr. King. He was not passive (the Letter From a Birmingham Jail came in response to those who told him to be passive, which he refused). But he was a pacifist. He refused to resort to violence in his quest for justice, but he fought a very real fight.

    A few of your statements (brave men must be willing to die… and wearing turbans and praying to Mecca… and not defending freedom is absurd…) are what I referred to as “glittering generalities” when I used to teach Civics class. They sound good, but I don’t see the relevance as to whether or not it is okay to commit acts of violence according to the teachings of Jesus.

    To your question regarding what should be done about millions of wicked people who want to kill Americans, my suggestion is the words of Jesus: love your enemies, pray for them, etc. Jesus claimed that in this way we become like God (“so that you may become sons of your Father in Heaven”).

    You mentioned that hindsight is 20/20 and your belief that the federal government made the best decision at the time. Personally here, I was very much against that decision at that time, and I think they made a bad one. Thought it then, and I still do.

    The self-defense issue is worth discussing. Maybe more later, but I’ve got an appointment to keep right now. Suffice it to say at this point that disarming an assailant seems a good starting definition of self-defense. Any other thoughts as to this anyone?

  35. JD says:

    Can we talk about clapping now?

  36. Anonymous says:

    JD, when it comes to clapping I would have to say that I am more of a Passivist than a Pacifist.

    Al, how do you propose disarming an aggressive nation?

  37. Danny says:

    Yea, Tommy I have had the same thoughts about singing those songs. I mean we are worshipping God- not country. They have a place but not in worship- in my opinion.

    Now to the real question- do you clap when you sing them? 🙂

  38. TCS says:

    Danny, only at ballgames.

  39. Al Sturgeon says:

    JD is a militant clapper. I’m more with Steve on that one. 🙂

    The foundation of my proposal for disarming an aggressive nation is the same as disarming an aggressive anything: Make laws, and enforce them.

    When you specify an aggressive “nation,” then what is necessary is “international” law. (I’m speaking Romans 13 language here.) Woodrow Wilson saw the necessity of this after what was then called “The Great War.” The USA didn’t buy the concept until after an even bigger war resulted(WWII). And after 9/11, we junked history’s wisdom and went back to the idea of international anarchy. I think we’re seeing how well that’s going.

    God creates governments to govern (duh, huh? Colossians 1:16 & Rom 13), but governments rarely perform very well their God-given ministry of justice. They are fallen, and need redemption of course. So if the governing body (international, federal, state, county, city, whatever) brings about injustice, then a Christian should stand up for justice, but without resorting to violence (imho). Case in point again, Dr. King.

    But you just can’t ignore the governing body. I don’t see where the NT justifies that. One must respect the God-given position.

    Invading Iraq wasn’t justified any way you slice it. America thumbed its nose at international law & efforts to deal with Iraq. The war has left somewhere in the neighborhood of 100s of 1000s dead. The violence has fueled the monster of hatred for America even more. What is justifiable in all this from a Christian perspective? All we have are empty phrases like “defending freedom” et al.

    Disarming an assailant isn’t easy on any level. But there needs to be an international police force to deal with international lawbreakers, federal officials to enforce federal law, state, city, etc.

    We don’t justify an individual disregarding a city ordinance, nor the same at the state or federal level. Why we put “war” in a different category and justify the federal government taking massive weapons and killing tons of people when we decide to is beyond me.

    Unless we worship country as god.

  40. Al Sturgeon says:

    And put a flag in our church building.

  41. Al Sturgeon says:

    And sing My Country Tis of Thee.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Al said earlier, “I’ve done a lot of reading recently – particularly Walter Wink – that leads me toward understanding Jesus to teach a 3rd way (neither violence nor pacifism, but creative nonviolent resistance). It’s the first thing I’ve read that really addresses the major holes in the other two viewpoints – allowing for both police action and self-defense while refusing to resort to violence.”

    And later Danny asked some direct questions that I haven’t seen addressed: “Can we oppose aggressive violence and love our enemies but still be able to defend our families? Many would define what we are now engaged in in Iraq as defending our families. I guess the question is- does the thug have to be physically at our door?”

    Good questions! What scriptural basis do you use to justify self-defense or police actions and yet oppose killing in war? I have already commented on how my dull intellect seeks to justify serving both kingdoms, but it seems to me that a conscience objector who can justify self-defense is also ‘justifying’ a position that compromises Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek.

    It seems to me that someone who would take the position to live up to the high ideals that Jesus taught – so as to avoid war – and then compromise those same teachings when the violence enters his front door is someone who is less committed to the teachings of Jesus than they are to just avoiding war. I may not agree with the Amish position but I at least respect their consistency in upholding the teachings of Jesus.

    I would love to hear the ‘scriptural’ rationale.

  43. Al Sturgeon says:

    And clap.
    🙂

  44. Al Sturgeon says:

    I’m headed out of town right now, Steve, and won’t be back until tomorrow evening. I’ll answer more later.

    As to police, etc., Romans 13/Cornelius/John the Baptizer’s instructions to soldiers, etc. all point to a legitimate God-given role from God to enact justice.

    But as to “personal” self-defense, I’ll have to go into a more lengthy explanation of turning the other cheek, etc. The short of it is that Jesus counsels resistance w/o resorting to violence. Turning the cheek, going the extra mile, and giving your underwear away with your coat was much more than the popular interpretation of being passive.

  45. Anonymous says:

    Al,

    Thanks for your responses but so far but I am left with more questions than answers. You wrote, “The short of it is that Jesus counsels resistance w/o resorting to violence. Turning the cheek, going the extra mile, and giving your underwear away with your coat was much more than the popular interpretation of being passive.”

    My question is: How do any of those options qualify as “resistance”? What resistance is involved in turning the other check, going the extra mile or handing over all that I have? Sounds pretty passive to me.

    I know you are on the road and I look forward to your response but perhaps the other conscience observers among us won’t leave you with the burden of trying to provide all of the answers.

    Danny, this is all your fault! 🙂

  46. Tony Arnold says:

    Royce wrote: Neither am I for policeman having to shoot dead criminals in the act of their crimes.

    Neither am I Royce. Shooting someone who is already dead is just wrong, brutal, and wasteful. Also it is right out of a horror flick imagining a dead criminal in the midst of committing an crime. Night of the living dead that. 🙂

    On a serious note, very good discussion here. I find personally that putting into practice the theology of Christ to be difficult and frightening. And that is what is driving this conversation and our problems in the world. The fear of Christians to actually be Christ. We will probably have to die doing it.

    I really love the distinction between passivism and pacifism. Gandhi and MLK were pacifists whose peaceful, but forceful resistance brought about great change at the expense of their life. The greater example of this is Christ.

    Tony

  47. Danny says:

    Steve, I never anticipated this kind of response, but am glad of it. Healthy discussion in the spirit of Christ is always productive.

    And I think Tony touched on why this is a struggle for us. It is a part of our larger struggle to model Christ.

    As I sit in my nice, warm home surrounded by comfort this challege smacks me in the face.

  48. CFOURMAY says:

    I am a bit late on the action, but I have been trying to keep up with this discussion because I can’t back up my beliefs with a biblical reference. But I do want to ask this question(s).
    God is the same person today as He was yesterday as He was in the NT as He was in the OT. Why did He help in so many wars and support so many battles?
    And I am hoping that none tells me that things were different then because God could communicate directly to people and tell them what to do and which battles to fight.

  49. Anonymous says:

    In trying to wrap my little brain around a very deep and spiritually challenging issue I would like to present some thoughts for consideration and/or any feedback anyone cares to offer:

    It seems to me that there are 3 entities that we are talking about and 3 different philosophies that we can adopt dealing with the 3 entities.

    The entities:
    God’s Kingdom
    Man’s Kingdom (Governments)
    Individuals

    The philosophies:
    Passivism
    Pacifism
    Defender (perhaps someone else can offer an official term for ‘someone willing to forcefully defend themselves, their families and/or their country’)

    In the strictest sense, all of the teachings of Jesus, that I can recall, would be categorized under the philosophy of ‘passivism’. I can think of none of his teachings that offer even Pacifist teachings. I further don’t see him offering any distinction that would allow for the adoption of the Pacifism or Defender philosophy, when the threat is made to the individual, and yet prohibiting the adoption of these philosophies when it comes to defending God’s or Man’s kingdom. It seems that some are proposing a distinction between the 3 entities that would allow them to shift between the 3 philosophies when they feel personally threatened. According to what I read in scripture, we are to both fully submit and go beyond whatever demands are placed upon us, to whatever or whomever the threat originates from (another nation overseas or an intruder in your home) or you are compromising the teachings of our Lord. In this regard, I believe the Amish have it right – if indeed a person subscribes to the Conscientious Objector beliefs. Am I wrong in my assessment that all of Jesus’ teachings fall under the passivism philosophy?

    Next we have the Pacifist philosophy: This seems to be a highly effective, courageous and admirable approach to bringing about change and it is certainly non-violent. BUT is non-violence the standard that Christ called Christians to live up to? I don’t see Jesus teaching resistance in a non-violent sense. The examples given earlier of Jesus teachings about turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile and giving away your underwear do not fall into the Pacifist teachings or action. So as attractive as Pacifism might be I cannot label it biblical unless someone can show me otherwise. Pacifism is as much a judgment call that compromises Jesus’ teachings as does the position of the Defender.

    Jesus left no room for resistance, whether saying ‘no’ or killing someone that I can see. This distinction seems a ‘justification’ by some, to me, but no more a biblical perspective than the position of the defender. Much like some among us will build a fellowship hall to avoid eating in the building. But Paul never said don’t eat in the building he said ‘eat in your homes’. So is not the person who eats in the fellowship hall just as guilty of not ‘eating in your homes’ as the person who eats in the building? (Sorry for that diversion! Please don’t get sidetracked!!!)

    Finally we have the Defender’s position. I have more to say about the obvious compromise to Jesus teachings that this philosophy offers even though it is the one I subscribe to but I will save that until after the Passivist, Pacifists and Conscientious Objectors among us can answer.

    Thanks for all the patience exhibited by everyone – this is truly a challenging discussion.

  50. Al Sturgeon says:

    I just checked into my hotel, but it has FREE WIRELESS!!! Woo Hoo!!!

    C4 brings up the most thorny of questions, but I’ve got my hands full with the rest right now.

    Steve, for a fuller description of how turning the other cheek was, in fact, an act of resistance, please read my post at http://desperatehouseflies.blogspot.com from August 31 (I’m in the slow learners class when it comes to html links!).

    Instead of typing all that in, I’d rather offer an example to try to tie a lot of this together:

    Imagine you have a 19-year-old son, and your relationship has been a rocky one. You’ve made mistakes, he’s made mistakes, and it isn’t very pretty. But you love him.

    One day you have a really ugly disagreement, and he leaves mad. He surprises you later that evening when he walks in the door brandishing a knife and says he’s tired of your *&*% and is going to take care of you once and for all.

    What options do you have on the table? Since this is your child and you love him, of course…
    * Run and call the police
    * If you’re big enough, get the knife from him and restrain him and talk to him – maybe call the police, maybe not, depending on the conversation…
    * Try to talk to him
    * Other creative ideas?

    What options are definitely NOT on the table? Since this is your child, and you love him, of course…
    * Shoot him in the head
    * Knock the knife from his hand and beat the stew out of him in anger
    * Lay down and let him carve you up, leaving him with your murder to deal with for the rest of his life

    These are the options for people you love. And to Jesus, we are to love everyone. This is His point. Including the thug kicking in your door. Including Iraqis. Everyone. Your options flow from whether or not you love someone.

    On one hand, if you love someone, you won’t take a hammer and beat his head in. On the other hand, if you love someone, you won’t stand by passively without doing what you can to prevent his evil acts either.

    This is what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:
    * Don’t just let the socialy superior person away with backhanding you across the RIGHT cheek – offer him the LEFT to expose his unjust behavior.
    * Don’t just let the rich and greedy get away with suing you for the clothes on your back – strip naked and walk out of court to shame him into noticing his unjust behavior.
    * Don’t just let the lazy and arrogant Roman soldier get away with forcing you into their service – keep on walking and make him nervous about breaking the law and make an unforgettable point about his unjust actions.

    You see, there’s Good News to the poor & oppressed! You don’t have to just take it anymore! Not in the Kingdom of God! But God’s Kingdom is different – not the violent kind. This isn’t a “we get to be the boss now” kind of kingdom. It’s a kingdom that teaches what transforms the world: Love.

    Jesus followed up his creative ideas in Matthew 5 (as a few examples of how to think) with the instruction: Don’t hate your enemies (today, read “thug breaking in my door” or “Saddam Hussein), but love them.

    We do this by not allowing them to do their evil actions without being called on it, while at the same time refusing to resort to violence. After all, we love them. We want to see them transformed, and we believe that violence doesn’t transform people, but love.

    Oh, one other thing. This was the message of the Cross, too. It “exposed” the powers of this world in an unforgettable, creative way (Colossians 2:15). It was a form of resistance.

  51. Al Sturgeon says:

    And C4, to briefly address the OT question, it is w/o a doubt a hard one to reconcile.

    Suffice it to say that Jesus’ set of teachings in Matthew 5 didn’t gibe well with the OT. The “you’ve heard it said” stuff was at times verbatim God’s Law (eye for eye, adultery, murder, oaths, divorce – even “hate your enemies” was recorded in David’s psalms). Jesus countered with several “but I say unto you’s” that teach a NEW way of approaching said subjects.

    Why God acted as He did in the OT and then taught through Jesus what He taught in the NT doesn’t have an easy answer – at least not one of which I’m aware. Nevertheless, those who subscribe to Christianity as opposed to Judaism have a different prism through which to understand how to live this life.

  52. Anonymous says:

    Al, you wrote earlier that, “…the pacifism (not passivism) that I’ve been referencing does allow for police forces and self-defense (e.g. thug kicking in the door). It recognizes a difference between legitimate force and violence. It rejects the latter, but allows the former.”

    So I am guessing that violence – even involving the taking of another life – is acceptable if all other ‘love thy neighbor’ options are exhausted. Is this what you (and Wink) are proposing?

  53. Al Sturgeon says:

    No.

    As in the quote you cited, “reject violence, but allow legitimate force.”

    This may (as if often does) come down to some definitions. Here’s the two applicable definitions of violence from American Heritage Dictionary on-line: (1) physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing; (2) abusive or unjust exercise of power.

    This would not be acceptable.

    Now the definition of “force” is “the use of power or violence to compel or restrain.” I’d have to take out the “or violence” part to fit the way I’m using the word.

    Love can be a force, but it cannot be violent (unless you’re into that sort of thing!). Back in Romans 13 again (v 10), “love does no harm to his neighbor.”

    See the difference?

    And, it’s my opinion that “love thy neighbor” options are never exhausted. Romans 13: 8, “Let no debt remain outstanding EXCEPT the continuing debt to love one another.”

  54. CFOURMAY says:

    I guess I see Matthew 5 in a different way than that. I see Matthew 5’s “I say to you”‘s not as a command, but as how a Christian would act in those situations. The whole point to me of Matthew 5 is not to worry about rules and laws. The point is to do what you know is right in your heart. You don’t have to have laws as a Christian to do the right thing. The Spirit of God lives in me and I know what I am supposed to do when certain situations arise.
    I am in total agreeance on the “using force and using power but not violence” statement.
    But that is just in theory. In real life some people resist force and that is when some type of violence or disciplinary actions have to be used.
    And speaking of discipline- Some see spanking as a violence and not a discipline. Not to change subjects here, but the perception of power and force vs. violence can be very different by individuals.
    Some may say that our war is not a violence but a power and force. And that violence is what Saddam was doing before dethroned if you will. Hitler was violent and America used power and force to stop him.
    Does that make sense? Maybe killing isn’t a violence. Maybe it can be a force or power to stop violence. Maybe that is hypocritical. Maybe I am not making sense. I am just trying to understand all points of views on this topic. I am by no means a theologian or even a bible expert.
    I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments.

  55. jettybetty says:

    I’ve thought about the OT wars a lot in struggling how, as a disciple, I am to believe/act about war.

    This is where I am right now. The physcial OT wars are a foreshadowing of the spiritual wars we fight today.

    In the OT, God told his people to go into battle and destroy everything. If they didn’t then the sin from that people would infiltrate them–and end up defeating them.

    Today, we are in a huge battle with Satan. God tells me that I must go to battle (in God’s power) to destroy every last sin–if I don’t it will defeat me.

    The visual image of battles in the OT helps me immensely as I am in my battles today.

    I don’t think “love your neighbor” can be a law thing either. True love can only come from the heart–so I don’t think it can be legislated. I hope my comments here allow the grace to others that God has given me. I do NOT have this one totally figured. I have enjoyed keeping up with the comments. (Even the ones on clapping!)

  56. Anonymous says:

    I will admit to having a real problem accepting what I will label ‘Radical Pacifism.’ (No justification for killing – ever!) In spite of the case presented, I just don’t see Jesus trying to teach a ‘radical pacifist’ theology.

    I do clearly see him teaching his disciples to think and act very differently when dealing with confrontation. But without Wink trying to explain away Jesus’ passivist comments I would never have viewed teaching extreme concessions to an aggressor as a pacifist plan. I do believe that Jesus lived and died as a result of his pacifist activities but I just don’t buy the argument that the scriptures cited leave no option for ever killing. I do believe Jesus was trying to teach an alternative way of dealing with hostilities. How far Jesus intended us to take these teachings is clearly the point of contention in this discussion. But the larger question I have is why do the conscientious objectors apparently take so strong a position as ‘radical pacifism’ and yet compromise other teachings of Jesus that are far less controversial and are at least as clear in their meaning.

    For example, Jesus said, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor,” (Lk: 12:33) and “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Lk: 14:33) And just above the “love your enemies” comments in Matthew 5 we are left with these instructions, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” These are very radical statements, as well, and surely I should love myself enough to save myself from hell. If a conscientious objector is willing to die before killing another should they not also be willing to sell everything they have and gouge out an eye for their very souls preservation? I don’t see too many poverty stricken, one-eyed disciples. Now I know this argument seems absurd but if the conscientious objector is so compelled as to not compromise the words of Jesus then, for consistency’s sake, should they not also give equal consideration to these teachings? This inconsistency always puzzles those of us in the non-conscientious objector camp and begs the question, “Are they truly and radically committed to the teachings of Christ or are they just radically opposed to killing and simply use the teachings of Jesus when convenient?” Again, I at least respect the Amish for a more consistent approach to scripture (non-violence in all cases and a life devoid of many material trappings.)

    Or perhaps, just perhaps, Jesus expects his disciples to conduct themselves in radically different ways. Both in how I view the possessions and earthly body that God has given me stewardship over, and in how I deal with people that I find myself in direct conflict. I agree with C4 “The whole point to me of Matthew 5 is not to worry about rules and laws. The point is to do what you know is right in your heart.” I will only add, ‘measured by your understanding of God’s Word.’

    Stoned-Campbell Disciple said, “I do not know the Scripture that we are citizens of BOTH God’s kingdom and some earthly power. We certainly exist with a historical framework and live within certain laws but it seems clear to me that the NT (and the Hebrew Bible) affirms that allegiance to God’s kingdom trumps any other loyalty. The early Christians for example certainly did not believe they were citizens of Rome in some special sense but considered, as the Epistle to Diognetus puts it, every nation was a “homeland” to them. Further it is quite clear that the early Christians did not believe it was ok for a Christian to serve in the military. We are several centuries removed from Jesus before there is a kind word about the army. Whether this fact has weight I leave for each to judge. I do not believe the Hebrew Bible provides a precedent for a Christian to engage in warfare. And I am finding it very hard to find a precedent for it in the NT.”

    While I again do not agree with his conclusions, I do respect his position. But I have a question, as a Christian and also as an American, for anyone who ascribes to this philosophy. If your loyalties are not divided and you “do not know the Scripture that we are citizens of BOTH God’s kingdom and some earthly power” then why do so many sit comfortably within the bounds of liberty and freedom that they are not willing to defend? I know that is a tough question but it seems to me that the ultimate issue isn’t ‘war’ but ‘spreading the kingdom of God’ so as to eliminate most wars and enemies. Is that not what Jesus clearly commanded us to do? It seems to me that if the conscientious objectors among us were – even now – smuggling bibles into Iraq, Iran, North Korea and China, many wars and lost lives might be avoided. The very goal of the conscientious objector! Is not war the result of broken down relationships? Instead of arguing that war is, or is not, the answer to keep America from being overrun by radical Islam, should not the conscientious objectors instead be discussing how they can spread the gospel before they are confronted with war or police force options?

    I absolutely respect the convictions of the Pacifist who upholds their understanding of Jesus teaching to ‘love your enemy’ so as to hold a position to never kill. But a life of Pacifism, as described by Wink earlier and exampled by Jesus, King and Gandhi is not possible within the safe confines of America’s borders. That philosophy tucked safely in America is Passivism at best. Forget theoretical International Police Actions and take the gospel where pacifist convictions should be leading you. Today the convictions of Pacifism can only be lived out on foreign soil where injustice and the threat of imprisonment and death exist!!! That is the Pacifism that was exampled by Christ.

    I do strongly agree with Stoned-Campbell Disciple when he said, “First, I have serious problems with having the American flag in a worship service. I believe this comes very close to identifying God’s kingdom with the American nation and I want nothing to do with that point of view. It also seems to me to promote more of a “civil religion” than the Way of the Cross.” Amen! There is a big distinction between the two kingdoms! But I also believe that both deserve some measure of my loyalty that could ultimately result in my death.

    Like I said early on, “I don’t go to war as a Christian. … I do go to war as a Patriot.” Two kingdoms. Two different standards of conduct. My loyalties are first to God’s kingdom – second to man’s. I wear many hats in life: husband, father, employee, manager, friend, enemy, and patriot, to list a few. Being a Christian means I measure my conduct in each of these relationships against the word of God and try to do my best in all of these areas. No doubt I have failings in all areas but hopefully I am doing better than I was before, and prayerfully, I will continue to mature in the future. May we all do the same to whatever degree of understanding God has revealed to us.

  57. Al Sturgeon says:

    I hate to turn PASSIVE here, but I think I’m going to let the discussion die from my end. But I’ve enjoyed the interaction, especially the tone by everyone involved. That’s a marked improvement than most discussions I’ve been a part of on this topic.

    Up to 58 comments now, Danny! I only get credit for 15 of them, though, not half!!!
    🙂

  58. Anonymous says:

    First, let me offer my sincerest apologies to all for my last post but most of all I wish to personally apologize to Al.

    My post disturbed me through the night Saturday and I tried for the better part of an hour Sunday morning to get the trash can icon to appear so that I could delete it but my browser would not cooperate. My second regret is waiting until this morning to apologize. I should have typed this yesterday afternoon.

    Al, you were gracious enough to give me the vocabulary I needed to intelligently debate the issue of being a conscientious objector and I used that vocabulary against you and all who hold your convictions. It is with the utmost regret that I must admit that my arguments were more the product of ‘clever debating’ rather than the ‘spirit of Christ.’ It is not my place to tell another where their convictions should lead them.

    I will say that the whole issue of “loving my enemy” is a very difficult issue for me. To some degree the justification I hold that allows my willingness to kill during war comes from the conviction I feel to “love my neighbor.” If they are dying to defend me then I feel compelled by this teaching of Christ to also do what is necessary for them. The inconsistency of my position comes from knowing that I would also kill to defend my family and even myself. And possibly the former and certainly the latter have absolutely nothing to do with “loving my neighbor.” So you see, I have at least as many inconsistencies as those I find myself disagreeing with.

    Al, if you ever find yourself in Jackson it would be my great honor to buy lunch for a brother that exhibits a maturity in Christ, and hold convictions, that I have not yet attained.

    Steve

  59. Danny says:

    Steve, you and Al shoud meet. You guys are a lot alike in some ways and probably would become fast friends.

    Thanks- to everyone- for all the very honest attempts to answer one of the most challenging discussions confronting us.

  60. Stoned-Campbell Disciple says:

    I have been out of town for the weekend and have missed out on some discussion.

    As I read through what has gone on I raise the question that came to my mind: Is America necessary for the survival of Christianity?

    I do recommend some reflection on war in the “Old Testament.” Israel does represent a “nation” like a modern state but represents the Kingdom of God. God does battle with HIS enemies. Israel goes to war at the direction of Yahweh … as of yet I have not seen God giving a modern nation state such signals.

    Justin called attention to the context of Romans 13, a great point. Most of the time Romans 13 is read in isolation but ch 12 and 13 form a literary unity and must be read together. John Howard Yoder has the best exposition of Romans 13 I have ever read (cf. The Politics of Jesus).

    I agree with Al in his call for law and the enforcement of law. Alexander Campbell called for this many years ago. In the wake of U.S. aggression towards Mexico AC was simply appauled. He called for the creation of an international tribunal for the peaceful settlement of national differences. If you have never read Campbell’s ADDRESS ON WAR it is worth your time to investigate. Here is a link: http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/acampbell/ac2.html

    Campbell was both patriotic and a pacifist. He was able to critique his nation in light of fundamental teachings in Scripture. I respect him for that.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  61. TCS says:

    just so this record # of comments never ends… Bobby’s question “Is America necessary…” No. Its not and is no longer the center of Christianity in the world. America is now a mission field not the “headquarters”. That realization which is easily backed up however you count who is a “christian” may serve to change many people’s perception on this and other matters.

  62. Al Sturgeon says:

    Thanks, Steve. No apology necessary from my end – I appreciated all the interaction with you.

    Unless the lunch offer was tied to the apology, then I may reconsider.
    🙂

  63. Anonymous says:

    Al, I very much look forward to the lunch.

    I also printed Alexander Campbell’s ADDRESS ON WAR. I briefly skimmed the first half but I found it interesting enough that I may have some comments to offer after I fully digest it. Of course, any comments will have to wait until I return from a mini vacation and a chance to digest a good Thanksgiving meal.

    May you all have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving.

  64. Anonymous says:

    Final observations:

    Al: My brother, you are out of touch with reality if you believe some “international” body can convince millions of radical Islamic nuts to lay down their weapons.

    Jesus did not offer one word of criticism of Nero, nor did the apostles criticize Roman government. Paul did however, mention in Romans 13 “for he is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn’t bear the sword in vain; for he is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil”. One of the motives for keeping the law of the land other than conscience was the fear of having your head cut off by the enforcer of the law. And, Paul said the person is “a servant of God to you for good”. Therefore, it is clear that in Paul’s view, (the inspired view) deadly force has a place and is approved by God.

    Tony Arnold: The phrase I used “shoot dead criminals” amused you. If you really want a hoot, Google the phrase “shoot dead”, and you can laugh about 111,000 times reading quotes such as this one, “Saudi forces shoot dead six al-Qaida men”. 🙂

    TCS: America my not now be necessary for getting out the gospel. And you correctly pointed out that the African continent now has more Christians than the North American continent. I would only point out that the United States still leads the world by far in spreading the gospel world wide. Our own World Radio has broadcasts in 74 countries at last count. We are only one tiny ministry. Africans for the most part who are believers are dirt poor and can to little outside their own neighborhoods. There are some minor exceptions though.

    The heart of world evangelism, people and money, have come from our shores far more than any other country in modern history.

    This is not directed at you TCS, but I am weary of the daily put down of one of the greatest countries in the history of mankind. Multiplied millions have heard the gospel of Jesus and have been able to live in freedom because of the USA. I am proud to be a citizen of the USA, and of heaven. Some of us seem to pretend we are already in heaven.

    We do not war against flesh and blood according to Paul in Ephesians. But, in our time, many of those demons behead unbelievers for sport and they can not be ignored in the name of Jesus.

    My “sword” is a 9mm. I will pray, walk in the Spirit, and be kind to my neighbor. But if the time comes when someone wants to inflict harm to me or my family I will unashamedly ask God to steady my aim.

    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle

  65. Al Sturgeon says:

    Royce, your comment speaks for itself, but I cannot help pointing out that Paul’s (inspired) view about how acceptable it was for the Roman government to decapitate people proved a bit ironic in the end, eh? I guess this passage validates Nero’s murders of Christians, too (since Paul, after all, said he was God’s agent to do you good)?

    Then again, maybe Paul was “out of touch with reality” too.
    🙂

  66. Anonymous says:

    Al, glad to see you once again engaged in the conversation. More than probably any others I would have missed your comments. And Bobby, thanks for the link to the Address on War. This probably offers the best starting point for a discussion of the topic.

    After returning from the holidays I was finally able to sit down and fully read Alexander Campbell’s Address on War and here are my thoughts. Here is the web address for those interested: http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/acampbell/ac2.html

    Let me begin by saying that I will be the first to admit that I have not the vocabulary, scholarship or intellect of Alexander Campbell. It is with a great deal of intimidation that I even seek to understand his writings much less offer a conflicting opinion. Never-the-less, I find myself in such stark disagreement with so much of what he wrote that I feel compelled to offer a rebuttal. Whether my attempt is worthy of consideration, or is the product of vain ignorance, I will leave for each reader to determine.

    This is not to say that I could not find any areas of agreement with Alexander Campbell. In fact, there were a few points where our thoughts seemed so similar, and yet radical in their utterance, that I was amazed to find their existence.

    I will not attempt to answer his entire address, in this response, but instead I would like to focus on two paragraphs in the exact middle of the address.

    Alexander Campbell wrote: “If a heathen man, or persecutor, smite you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If he compel you to go with him one mile, go two. If he sue thee at law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy mantle also,” etc. These and whatever else of civil treatment they might receive, as Disciples of Christ, they must, for His sake, endure without resistance or resentment. But if in their citizen character or civil relations they are defrauded, maligned, or prosecuted, they might, and they did, appeal to Caesar. They paid tribute to civil magistrates that they might protect them; and therefore they might rightfully claim their protection. In this view of the matter, civil magistrates were God’s ministers to the Christian “for good.” And also, as God’s ministers, they were revengers to execute wrath on those who did evil. Therefore, Christians are in duty bound to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s – to reverence, honor, and support the civil magistrate, and, when necessary, to claim his protection.

    But as respects the life peculiar to a soldier, or the prosecution of a political war, they had no commandment. On the contrary, they were to live peaceably with all men to the full extent of their power. Their sovereign Lord, the King of Nations, is called “The Prince of Peace.” How, then, could a Christian soldier, whose “shield” was faith, whose “helmet” was the hope of salvation, whose “breastplate” was righteousness, whose “girdle” was truth, whose “feet were shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,” and whose “sword” was that fabricated by the Holy Spirit, even “the word a Hannibal, a Tamerlane, a Napoleon, or even a Victoria?”

    Note that in the first paragraph AC (Alexander Campbell) clearly associates each individual with having two distinct identities. First he identifies the person(s) “as Disciples of Christ” and then he identifies the person(s) “in their citizen character or civil relations.” Also note that he separates these two identities for the purpose of determining how they may conduct – no, more pointedly, he is addressing how they may ‘defend’ – themselves in certain situations.

    I found this reasoning most interesting because it speaks to the very first sentence that I wrote to open this blog, “I will likely leave myself open to criticism for this suggestion but I believe this is one time when a Christian might consider segmenting the spiritual from the secular.” I found comfort in reading that my reasoning might not have been so controversial, or spiritually immature, as one might first suppose. Or at the least I find myself in good company in sharing this sentiment with AC.

    Alexander Campbell also stated that when a person or people are identified “as Disciples of Christ, they must, for His sake, endure without resistance or resentment.” Note that AC states that once a person is persecuted ‘as a Disciple of Christ’ that person is bound by the teachings of Jesus to “endure without resistance or resentment”. I could not agree more. In fact, I earlier wrote, “If, however, we are considering expanding, or even defending, Christianity to a non-believing world then, I believe, a person should not only consider passivism as an option but indeed they are bound by it.”

    If AC and I agree in concluding that a Christian can and does carry multiple identities then one might ask; does the bible itself ever give credibility to this line on reasoning? I would say ‘yes.’ Jesus himself had this to say, “I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. (Mk 9:41) And Luke wrote that, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41) I would propose that the inclusion of these terms “in my name” and “for the Name” leave open the possibility that good deeds and suffering, even as a Christian, are possible without bringing glory to Christ, if the actions are not identified with Christ’s name.

    This is an important point and one that I addressed early on, “I don’t go to war as a Christian. Given the choice of killing for religion or dying for it – my Lord, through word and example, has bound me to die rather than kill. I do go to war as a Patriot.” I believe I have, among others, two identities ‘Christian’ and ‘patriot’. AC called them ‘disciples’ and ‘citizen(s)’ and we both believe it is possible to live by two differing standards of conduct – depending on how I am being identified at the time. Also, as cited earlier, scripture seems to indicate that Christian conduct can be neutral without being either pro-Christian or necessarily anti-Christian depending on the name it is being done in.

    AC also wrote, “Christians are in duty bound to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s – to reverence, honor, and support the civil magistrate, and, when necessary, to claim his protection.” I would only add that part of that ‘duty bound to render’ can include a call to engage in war.

    The second paragraph is where our conclusions sharply differ. AC wrote, “But as respects the life peculiar to a soldier, or the prosecution of a political war, they had no commandment. On the contrary, they were to live peaceably with all men to the full extent of their power.” I do not find in scripture where AC justifies the distinction between ‘civilian’ and ‘soldier’. I would conclude that part of my ‘rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s’ is a civic duty to defend the nation that I find myself living in. I see nothing in scripture that would allow my being able to pick and chose when and where I decide to ‘render unto Caesar.’

    I believe AC and I would agree that suffering under Caesar, as a disciple, certainly calls for my ‘endur(ing) without resistance or resentment.’ But in the case of war, as a ‘citizen’ I am being summoned as a ‘soldier.’ I find no justification in scripture to draw a line where my civil service ends. And as far as AC citing the command to “live peaceably with all men to the full extent of their power” I can only say that we would likely always disagree on the definition of what constitutes “the full extent of their power.” He would say ‘always’ and I would say until called to ‘render unto Casaer.’

    To conclude: AC and I agree that each Christian carries more than one identity in this life and how that person is being identified, at the time (Christian, civilian, etc.), is the determining factor for their actions (i.e. defense or lack there of). Where we differ is that he proposes segmenting the civilian identity in a way that I would not.

    I could write much more and no doubt have left some with more questions than answers. I can only offer that if anyone has specific questions about my arguments, or would like to further explore other thoughts as given by Alexander Campbell that they would like me to respond to, I will be more that happy to attempt a response.

  67. Anonymous says:

    “The American flag adorns our stage”?

    Odd, I don’t recall an Imperial standard gracing our spiritual ancestors’ house churches of the first century.

    Now, after Milvian Bridge, that’s an entirely different question.

    Bottom line is that the Lord’s advice is always welcome: Render to Caesar (the State) its due; Render to God His.

    As a veteran, I have little difficulty segregating the matters similarly in this day and age.

  68. Danny says:

    Steve, I gotta say that you do your homework. Thanks for your contributions to this ongoing discussion.

    And thanks to t2082p1 sharing his perspective as a veteran.

    This has been an extremely interesting dialogue.

  69. Anonymous says:

    Danny,

    I must admit that even I am not sure if my study is the result of a quest for knowledge or just a case of undiagnosed OCD!

    Like you, I have found the dialogue interesting and educational. I believe I have also come to a somewhat better understanding – and yes, appreciation – for the convictions of a conscientious objector. I also find that even as I had old questions being answered I found new ones to take their place. Two of my nagging questions follow:

    I wonder why the conscientious objectors see so clearly a distinction that should be preserved between God’s and man’s kingdoms (a position that I agree with) and yet at other times they appear to wish to combine the two?

    For example, Alexander Campbell had these comments to make about biblical standards that should be held as the only basis for all moral and religious questions (including the question of war). “All questions on morals and religion, all questions of origin, relations, obligations, and destiny of man, can be satisfactorily decided only by an appeal to an infallible standard. I need not say that we all, I mean the civilized world, the great, the wise, the good of human kind, concede to the Bible this oracular authority; and, therefore, constitute it the ultimate reason and authority for each and every question of this sort. What, then, says the Bible on the subject of war?” He went on to say, “The very basis of the Christian religion is that Jesus Christ is now the Lord and King of both earth and heaven…It is positively declared by Him that all legislative, judiciary, and executive power is now committed into the hands of One who is both our kinsman and God’s only begotten Son.” In other words, he proposed that the Bible is the only recognizable standard for nations to use in determining matters of state, including decisions of war. And that Jesus, as Lord of earth, is the final authority in all these matters.

    But later in the same address he had this to say, “Suffice it to say that the church, and only the church, is under the special government and guardianship of our Christian King. The nations, not owning Jesus Christ, are disowned by him; He leaves them to themselves, to make their own institutions, as God anciently did all nations but the Jews.”

    I have seen similar positions put forth during this dialogue when proposing that we shouldn’t indulge in ‘flag waving’ during our assemblies so as to maintain the separation of the kingdoms, and yet, proposing that the nations should adopt Christian standards of conduct, as it relates to pacifism, in dealing with international matters. While the latter may be ideal, does not the recognition that “the church, and only the church, is under the special government and guardianship of our Christian King” preclude expecting the nations to act as if they were also? It seems on one hand they would keep the nation out of the church and on the other they would inject the church into the nation. Perhaps that isn’t an erroneous position but it is one that I will have to give further thought.

    My bigger questions have to do with a more personal commitment ‘to love my enemy.’ For example: Three men break into my home and announce that they intend to rob, rape and kill my family. They do so for no more reason than my house looked like the easiest to break into. Next we have essentially the same scenario where three men break into my home and announce that they intent to rob, rape and kill my family because we have broken a law prohibiting the practice of Christianity. Same outcome, same persecutors, same victims, the only difference is how the victims are being identified at the time. As a Christian can I defend my family – including killing the intruders – in neither, one, or both scenarios? Is there an absolute law that should govern my actions or is there a principle that should do so? What is the difference? Is there a difference? What part does ‘in the Name’ and ‘for the Name’ play in how I may defend my family? Does my outward identification have any significance in the matter? Does my inward identification have any significance in the matter? Is Christ gloried if I submit in the first scenario, without an outward Christian identification, or is this just meaningless persecution? These are the real questions for me and they are so much more personal than the questions that I started the dialogue with. And doesn’t that make the dialogue worthwhile?

    Steve

  70. hiutopor says:

    Hello

    Very interesting information! Thanks!

    Bye

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