A Sound Critique of the Warfare State from a Christian Perspective,
October 7, 2005
"We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of our great nation," proclaimed President Bush. Former Pentagon official and National Review columnist Michael Ledeen has proclaimed: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business." Sadly, a good little war has become as American apple-pie, and the modus operandi of our establishment. The United States doused the flames of the Yugoslav civil war with gasoline. As biased intermediaries, the West gave the Albanian KLA the tacit go ahead to invade Kosovo. The KLA has been longed classified by the CIA as white-slave runners and narco-terrorists. The Yugoslav war also turned out to be a proving ground for international mujahideen fighters, our alleged allies at the time, which now fill the ranks of terrorist Al-Qaeda cells. Rep. Ron Paul has rightly characterized U.S. foreign policy as "schizophrenic."
Sadly, many American evangelicals are in the amen corner of the war-hawk party. Laurence Vance rhetorically asks, "Under what circumstances, then, is a Christian justified in or excused from killing another human being? Is it ever all right for a Christian to be a `killer'? As I see it, there are four circumstances under which a Christian could justifiably kill or be excused from killing: capital punishment, self-defense, accidents, and `just' wars." He speaks from a Christian perspective and not as a mere reactionary pacifist. "No one, Christian or otherwise, would fault a man for killing another man in self-defense." However, Vance does not acquiesce in the rollover and play dead interpretation of Romans 13, which is no divine right of kings or a Hobbesian mandate for unfettered obedience to the powers that be. When the State demands that the Christian defy God's immutable standards of righteousness, and fight an unjust war and commit bloodshed, it is the Christian's duty to resist. The Christians of the early church would not worship the image of Caesar. Yet many Christian evangelicals are blind cheerleaders for the State and its war. "To justify their consent or silence, and to keep their congregations in line, Christian leaders repeat to their parishioners the mantra of `obey the powers that be,' a loose paraphrase of Romans 13:1, as if that somehow means that they should blindly follow whatever the president or the government says, and even worse, that it overturns the commandment `Thou shalt not kill' (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17), which is repeated in the New Testament (Matthew 19:18; Romans 13:9)." Vance takes issue with Jerry Falwell and other prominent evangelical leaders that are cheerleaders for the warfare state. Vance reflects upon the Biblical doctrine of sin, and sketches a more prudent understanding of war from a Biblical perspective. As Bob Jones Sr. has opined, "War is God's judgment on sin here; hell is God's judgment on sin hereafter".
Vance's anthology of essays against the warfare state is multi-faceted. Vance offers a thoughtful critique of the overblown American empire and spells out the implications of imperial blowback. George Santayana has reminded us that "Those who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat them." Itinerating lessons from history, Vance echoes the principles of America's founding generation and their thoughts on the evils of standing armies, interventionism, militarism and empire. He offers a thoughtful exposition of the Cato's Letters by Englishmen Gordon and Trenchard, and their thoughts on war and militarism. Cato's Letters embodied the Old Whig tradition of liberty and had profoundly influenced America's founding generation. As Cato's Letters declare, "Standing armies are standing curses in every country under the sun, where they are more powerful than the people." Likewise, Vance builds on the wisdom of the Anti-Federalist pamphleteer Brutus which has been ascribed to Robert Yates. Brutus speaks on at length on the evils of standing armies. Brutus observes that "A free republic will never keep a standing army to execute its laws. It must depend upon the support of its citizens." Brutus traces the unfortunate history of Europe where confidence in standing armies as the long-arm of the high magistrate was ever where the parent of despotism. This wisdom has not fallen on deaf ears to modern political leaders. The late U.S. Army General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned that, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." Eisenhower reluctantly admitted that a new powerful interest had become entrenched in our nation, in the aftermath of the massive collectivist mobilization of economic and human resources to fight the Second World War. It should go without saying that a powerful interest in the war business may lead the way for more war.
Christians that have seen the horrors of war have soberly looked upon it with neither reverence nor affection. Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson declared, "It is painful enough to discover with what unconcern they speak of war and threaten it. I have seen enough of it to make me look upon it as the sum of all evils." Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has opined, "Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence." The pains of war leave many of its survivors scarred, disillusioned, and some are overwhelmed with the burden of guilt. All things considered, Laurence Vance has pieced together a powerful, yet succinct collection of essays confronting the ill effects of the warfare state. Moreover, he tackles the naivety of evangelicals that mindlessly lend their support to the wars of the state. War represents God's judgment against sin, and it should be avoided at all costs. The only just war is a war of self-defense against an aggressor and an invader.
"From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?"