A while back, I wrote a column entitled, “Toy Soldiers,” about the on ongoing need for our people to be defended and how we encourage our children to grow up to provide that protection. Let’s not mince words. The “protection” about which I am writing is war.
The United States, our nation, supports the most powerful military in the history of the world. Militaries have but one function: to kill the enemies of the people who are defended by that military. Thus, in order to protect the American people, the enemies of the American people must be killed. That is what we who have served have done, and that is what we are preparing our children to do.
Many in this country refer to the United States as a “Christian nation.” I disagree, in that the founders of this government were clear that they wished to create a national society that enjoyed freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion. That is not central to this discussion, however. It is just a point to keep in mind any time we are discussing Christianity. Whether we are a Christian nation or there are many self-identified Christians in this nation is largely a moot point in this discussion, however, because both descriptions mean that most of us are followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught peace and nonviolence with no exceptions. Look it up. Jesus believed that violence was simply not an appropriate response, anywhere, anytime, to anything.
How then, do we square the business of defending ourselves and our loved ones with Jesus’ explicit command to not engage in violence? The answer is, of course, that we cannot. We cannot obey Jesus’ command to remain nonviolent and engage in battle to protect our families. That was pretty much the consensus during the first century of Christianity. Over the centuries, that position has been conveniently modified so that Christians may, now, engage in “just warfare”. When the term “just” is applied to a warring party by the international community, allegedly said party is justified in settling the disagreement through lethal means. The agreed-upon restrictions are that the lethal response must be proportional to the original grievance and the warring parties must try not to harm non-combatants. How is that working out for us?
The restrictions can be much more lengthy and complicated, depending upon whom one asks. I am unable to find justification for any of this in any of Jesus’ teachings, however.
As far as I can tell, the explicit nonviolent commandment continues to stand. We who stand to protect our people sin against God. I don’t see that we get a pass. That leaves a warrior right where we started: alone, with his or her God, praying for guidance, praying for wisdom, praying for forgiveness. I have been wrestling with this issue for over half a century. You are all welcome to join me.