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An essay against war

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  • Robert Waldrop
    The essay below is by a conservative evangelical, who writes clearly and compellingly about the bankruptcy of war and its contradictions of Christianity. It
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2006
      The essay below is by a conservative evangelical,
      who writes clearly and compellingly about the
      bankruptcy of war and its contradictions of
      Christianity. It is a source of great sorrow to
      me that the Catholic bishops of this nation can
      produce nothing even remotely similar to this.

      Bob Waldrop, Romero House, Oklahoma city

      Christianity and the War
      by Laurence M. Vance


      This talk was delivered, at the request of
      Congressman Ron Paul, to Republican and Democratic
      staff aides of the US House of Representatives in
      Washington, DC, on May 25, 2006.

      Never in my life did I ever think that I would
      find myself agreeing with Senator Ted Kennedy on
      anything. But what he recently said about the war
      in Iraq is right on:

      In his march to war, President Bush exaggerated
      the threat to the American people. It was not
      subtle. It was not nuanced. It was pure,
      unadulterated fear-mongering, based on a devious
      strategy to convince the American people that
      Saddam's ability to provide nuclear weapons to Al
      Qaeda justified immediate war.

      I find myself agreeing with more and more
      Democrats now-a-days, at least in their criticisms
      of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.
      Democratic Representative John Murtha, a decorated
      Vietnam War veteran, has called for the pullout of
      U.S. troops from Iraq, labeling the president's
      Iraq policy "a flawed policy wrapped in illusion."
      Another Democrat, Representative Dennis Kucinich,
      has strongly criticized the president for being
      responsible for the death and destruction that has
      taken place in Iraq.

      Are these Democratic criticisms of the president
      just the result of the usual partisan politics
      that we see everyday on the House and Senate
      floor? Perhaps. I suspect that the Republicans
      would be leveling the same criticisms of the war
      as the Democrats if it was a Democratic president
      that had launched this war.

      But politics or no politics - the war in Iraq is
      an unconstitutional, unnecessary, immoral,
      senseless, unjust, and unscriptural undertaking.
      It is unconstitutional because only Congress has
      the authority to declare war. It is unnecessary
      because Iraq was no threat to the United States.
      It is immoral because it was based on lies. It is
      unjust because it is not defensive. It is
      senseless because over 2,400 U.S. soldiers have
      died in vain. But this war is also unscriptural,
      and, because I am a Christian - a conservative
      evangelical Christian - I intend this to be the
      focus of my remarks.

      The percentage of Americans who identify their
      religion as Christianity is higher than that
      needed in Congress to pass a constitutional
      amendment or override a presidential veto. The
      percentage of members of Congress who identify
      themselves as Christian is even higher. But as we
      have now passed the third anniversary of the
      invasion of Iraq, support for the war among
      Christian Americans continues, funding for the war
      by a Christian Congress continues, and
      justification for the war by a Christian president
      continues. And we wonder why Muslims hate us?

      The subject I want to address is Christianity and
      the war. What does Christianity have to say about
      this war? What should the attitude of Christians
      be toward this war?

      If there is any religion that should be opposed to
      war it is Christianity. And if there is any group
      of people in America that should be opposed to war
      it is Christians. All wars are, in the words of
      George Washington, a "plague of mankind," but this
      war in particular is a great evil. Waging the war
      is against Christian "just war" principles.
      Conducting the war is contrary to the whole spirit
      of the New Testament. Fighting the war is in
      opposition to the practice of the early church.
      Participants in the war violate the express
      teaching of the sixth commandment: "Thou shalt not
      kill." Supporters of the war violate the first
      commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before

      Waging this war is against every Christian "just
      war" principle that has ever been formulated. A
      just war must have a just cause, be in proportion
      to the gravity of the situation, have obtainable
      objectives, be preceded by a public declaration,
      be declared only by legitimate authority, and only
      be undertaken as a last resort. If there was ever
      a war that violated every one of these principles
      it is this war.

      The only just cause for war is a defensive one,
      but this war is clearly both preemptive and
      offensive. Governments never find this to be a
      problem, however, and routinely offer up a myriad
      of reasons why their particular cause is just.
      Propaganda and demonization of the enemy play a
      large part in garnering public support for the
      war. But contrary to government propaganda, it
      really is just as simple as G. K. Chesterton once
      said: "The only defensible war is a war of

      The "shock and awe" campaign waged by American
      forces is certainly out of proportion to the
      gravity of the situation considering that Iraq - a
      country with no navy or air force and an economy
      in ruins after a decade of sanctions - was never a
      threat to the United States. Iraq was merely the
      new enemy the U.S. military/industrial complex
      selected after the end of the Cold War.

      What were our objectives in this war? Finding
      weapons of mass destruction? Removing Saddam
      Hussein? Enforcing UN resolutions? If one stated
      objective was found to be a lie another could
      quickly be offered in its place. The number and
      scope of these objectives shows that there were no
      legitimate objectives. So why did we invade and
      occupy Iraq? A student at the University of
      Illinois documented 27 reasons put forth by the
      Bush administration or war hawks in Congress
      before the war began. There have been even more
      since then. A report issued by the U.S. House of
      Representatives Committee on Government Reform
      found that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and
      Rice made a total of 237 misleading statements in
      a two-year period about the threat posed by Iraq.
      And unlike some members of Congress who do not
      read the bills they vote on, I have read the

      A public declaration is for the purpose of giving
      fair warning and an opportunity for conflict
      resolution - not a rubber stamp on something that
      was already in the works.

      Was the Iraq war declared by legitimate authority?
      Since when does Congress have the authority to
      delegate its congressional war-making authority to
      the president? As the "father of the
      Constitution," James Madison, has said: "The
      Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in
      the Legislature the power of declaring a state of
      war [and] the power of raising armies. A
      delegation of such powers [to the president] would
      have struck, not only at the fabric of our
      Constitution, but at the foundation of all well
      organized and well checked governments." And is
      our authority to go to war the Constitution or the
      United Nations? The "Joint Resolution to Authorize
      the Use of United States Armed Forces Against
      Iraq" that was issued in October of 2002 mentions
      the UN twenty-one times but the U.S. Constitution
      only twice.

      Was the war in Iraq undertaken as a last resort?
      Hardly. As I just said, it was in the works. All
      that was needed was the "Pearl Harbor" of
      September 11th to give it some semblance of

      But not only is this war against Christian "just
      war" principles, conducting this war is contrary
      to the whole spirit of the New Testament. Although
      the Bible likens Christians to soldiers, and the
      Christian life to a battle, the Christian's
      weapons are not carnal and his battle is a
      spiritual one. The Christian is admonished to "put
      on the whole armor of God." His only weapon is
      "the sword of the spirit, which is the word of
      God." Avoiding conflict and strife and seeking to
      do good are recurrent themes in the New Testament;
      for example: "See that none render evil for evil
      unto any man; but ever follow that which is good."
      If there was anything at all advocated by the
      early Christians it was peace, as we again read in
      the New Testament: "Live peaceably with all men."

      These themes used to be on the lips of Christian
      ministers. Back before the Civil War, a Baptist
      minister writing in The Christian Review
      demonstrated that Christian war fever was contrary
      to the New Testament:

      Christianity requires us to seek to amend the
      condition of man. But war cannot do this. The
      world is no better for all the wars of five
      thousand years. Christianity, if it prevailed,
      would make the earth a paradise. War, where it
      prevails, makes it a slaughter-house, a den of
      thieves, a brothel, a hell. Christianity cancels
      the laws of retaliation. War is based upon that
      very principle. Christianity is the remedy for all
      human woes. War produces every woe known to man.

      Another Baptist minister, writing in the same
      publication, lamented about the terrible truth of
      Christian participation in war:

      War has ever been the scourge of the human race.
      The history of the past is little else than a
      chronicle of deadly feuds, irreconcilable hate,
      and exterminating warfare. The extension of
      empire, the love of glory, and thirst for fame,
      have been more fatal to men than famine or
      pestilence, or the fiercest elements of nature.
      The trappings and tinsel of war, martial prowess,
      and military heroism, have, in all ages, been
      venerated and lauded to the skies. And what is
      more sad and painful, many of the wars whose
      desolating surges have deluged the earth, have
      been carried on in the name and under the sanction
      of those who profess the name of Christ.

      One of the most celebrated preachers of all time,
      the Englishman Charles Spurgeon, known as "the
      prince of preachers," remarked about Christianity
      and War:

      The Church of Christ is continually represented
      under the figure of an army; yet its Captain is
      the Prince of Peace; its object is the
      establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men
      of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of war is at
      the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the

      If there is any war in history that is contrary to
      the whole spirit of the New Testament it is this
      one. All adherents of Christianity, of any creed
      or denomination, should be opposed to this war. So
      why aren't they? Much of the blame must be laid at
      the feet of the pastors, preachers, and priests
      who have failed to discern the truth and educate
      their congregations. We need ministers who are as
      concerned about killing on the battlefield as they
      are about killing in the womb.

      But not only is this war against Christian "just
      war" principles and contrary to the whole spirit
      of the New Testament, fighting this war is in
      opposition to the practice of the early church.
      Not only did the early Christians, following the
      example of the Lord himself, refuse to advance
      their ideals by political or coercive means, they
      condemned war in the abstract and did not
      participate in the state's wars. Lactantius
      describes Christians as "those who are ignorant of
      wars, who preserve concord with all, who are
      friends even to their enemies, who love all men as
      brothers, who know how to curb anger and soften
      with quiet moderation every madness of the mind."
      According to John Cadoux, the author of the
      definitive investigation of the early Christian
      attitude toward war and military service:

      The early Christians took Jesus at his word, and
      understood his inculcations of gentleness and
      non-resistance in their literal sense. They
      closely identified their religion with peace; they
      strongly condemned war for the bloodshed which it
      involved; they appropriated to themselves the Old
      Testament prophecy which foretold the
      transformation of the weapons of war into the
      implements of agriculture; they declared that it
      was their policy to return good for evil and to
      conquer evil with good.

      The early Christian aversion to war was revived
      and amplified in the Reformation age by the
      celebrated Dutch humanist, Erasmus. Although he
      lived many centuries ago, Erasmus's age was not
      unlike our own. Wars and international conflict
      were the order of the day. Contention was brewing
      between the West and the Muslim world. According
      to Erasmus, the only just and necessary war was a
      "purely defensive" one to "repel the violence of
      invaders." And because he believed that war is by
      "nature such a plague to man that even if it is
      undertaken by a just prince in a totally just
      cause, the wickedness of captains and soldiers
      results in almost more evil than good," Erasmus
      insisted that "all other expedients must be tried
      before war is begun; no matter how serious nor how
      just the cause." He chastised Christians for
      reproaches vomited out against Christ by nations
      of unbelievers "when they see his professed
      followers" warring "with more destructive
      instruments of mutual murder than pagans could
      ever find in their hearts to use." Erasmus also
      recognized that rulers incite war "to use it as a
      means to exercise their tyranny over their
      subjects more easily." As our Founding Father
      James Madison has said: "If tyranny and oppression
      come to this land, it will be in the guise of
      fighting a foreign enemy." The authority of the
      legislature and the force of law that thwart
      government power in peacetime quickly diminish
      during times of war. "Once war is declared," says
      Erasmus, "the whole business of the state is
      subject to the will of a few." He even noted how
      the issues of national security and public safety
      were used by the government to elicit support for
      war. Although Erasmus had never heard of George W.
      Bush, he nevertheless remarked in his The
      Education of a Christian Prince that "it happens
      sometimes that princes enter into mutual
      agreements and carry on a war on trumped-up
      grounds so as to reduce still more the power of
      the people and secure their own positions through
      disaster to their subjects." Here again is
      Madison: "Of all the enemies to public liberty,
      war is perhaps the most to be dreaded because it
      comprises and develops the germ of every other.
      War is the parent of armies; from these proceed
      debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes
      are the known instruments for bringing the many
      under the domination of the few." Would the
      Founding Fathers even recognize the bloated
      monstrosity we call the federal government - a
      government that spies on its citizens, confiscates
      30 to 40 percent of their income, and regulates
      every part of their life?

      Participants in this war violate the express
      teaching of the sixth commandment: "Thou shalt not
      kill." I have been told that this commandment does
      not apply to killing in war. Not to killing in a
      just war or a defensive war, but to killing in
      war. The result of this warped reasoning is the
      teaching that if even the war in Iraq is
      unconstitutional, senseless, immoral, and
      unnecessary, Christians can still in good
      conscience join the military and go to Iraq to
      bomb, maim, interrogate, and kill for the state
      simply because the state says so. U.S. soldiers
      killing for the state in Iraq cannot claim to be
      acting in self-defense because the war itself was
      not for self-defense. It was an act of naked
      aggression that was supposed to be a cakewalk, but
      it backfired with disastrous results for the
      United States. Is killing someone in a foreign
      country instead of on U.S. soil what distinguishes
      killing from self-defense and murder? Or is it the
      wearing of a uniform?

      There has persisted throughout history, quite
      unfortunately, the idea among some Christians that
      mass killing in war is acceptable, but killing of
      one's neighbor violates the sixth commandment. I
      have termed this Humpty Dumpty approach. We can
      see this attitude in the ancient Romans. The
      aforementioned Lactantius said of the Romans of
      his day:

      The more men they have afflicted, despoiled, and
      slain, the more noble and renowned do they think
      themselves; and, captured by the appearance of
      empty glory, they give the name of excellence to
      their crimes. Now I would rather that they should
      make gods for themselves from the slaughter of
      wild beasts than that they should approve of an
      immortality so bloody. If any one has slain a
      single man, he is regarded as contaminated and
      wicked, nor do they think it right that he should
      be admitted to this earthly dwelling of the gods.
      But he who has slaughtered endless thousands of
      men, deluged the fields with blood, and infected
      rivers with it, is admitted not only to a temple,
      but even to heaven.

      Writing before Lactantius, Cyprian speaks of the
      idea held by some that "homicide is a crime when
      individuals commit it, but it is called a virtue,
      when it is carried on publicly." Erasmus addressed
      his fellow Christians about this same thing, and
      Charles Spurgeon has likewise said:

      If there be anything which this book denounces
      and counts the hugest of all crimes, it is the
      crime of war. Put up thy sword into thy sheath,
      for hath not he said, "Thou shalt not kill," and
      he meant not that it was a sin to kill one but a
      glory to kill a million, but he meant that
      bloodshed on the smallest or largest scale was

      Supporters of this war also violate the first
      commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before
      me." Many American Christians have a warped "God
      and Country" complex which inevitably elevates the
      state to the level of God Almighty. If the state
      dictates that an intervention, invasion, or war is
      necessary then by God we must support the
      president and the troops no matter what. But the
      government of the United States and Christianity
      is a most unholy alliance. It has been soundly
      argued by the Foundation for Economic Education
      president, Richard Ebeling that "there has been no
      greater threat to life, liberty, and property
      throughout the ages than government. Even the most
      violent and brutal private individuals have been
      able to inflict only a mere fraction of the harm
      and destruction that have been caused by the use
      of power by political authorities."

      When it comes to defending, believing in the
      legitimacy of, and carrying out the evil dictates
      of the state, Christians are under a higher
      authority. There are numerous examples of this in
      the Bible that the Christian can look to, like the
      Hebrew midwives, who were commanded by the state
      to kill any newborn sons, but because they "feared
      God," they disregarded the command of the king.

      Christian warmongers are idolaters, as the famed
      Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote in
      Omnipotent Government:

      Modern war is not a war of royal armies. It is a
      war of the peoples, a total war. It is a war of
      states which do not leave to their subjects any
      private sphere; they consider the whole population
      a part of the armed forces. Whoever does not fight
      must work for the support and equipment of the
      army. Army and people are one and the same. The
      citizens passionately participate in the war. For
      it is their state, their God, who fights.

      The attitude of the Christian toward the state
      should be no different now than it was in the days
      of the apostles. Peter and John were brought
      before the authorities and asked: "Did not we
      straitly command you that ye should not teach in
      this name? And, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem
      with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's
      blood upon us." It was then that the apostles
      uttered that immortal line: "We ought to obey God
      rather than men."

      There is much more that could be said in
      opposition to this war besides the fact that it is
      contrary to every precept of Christianity. It was
      based on lies. It has created more terrorists than
      existed before the war. It has increased religious
      tension around the globe. It has done irreparable
      harm to the Middle East peace process. It has
      increased the hatred of America and Americans the
      world over. It has cost the taxpayers of this
      country over $200 billion, plus billions more for
      the forgotten war in Afghanistan. It has hurt the
      reputation of evangelical Christianity among
      non-Christians because of Christian support for
      the war. It is against the noninterventionist
      foreign policy of the Founding Fathers. It has
      wasted the lives of over 2,400 American soldiers.
      It has horribly wounded thousands more American
      soldiers. It has caused American families untold
      grief over their dead loved ones.

      There can be no doubt whatsoever that this war is
      abhorrent to Christianity. The attitude of each
      individual Christian toward this war should be
      likewise. Unfortunately, however, this is not the
      case. Why? Why do some Christians continue to
      defend, tolerate, or make excuses for this unjust,
      immoral, and unscriptural war?

      Here are five reasons why I think some Christians
      continue to support this war.

      First, the September 11th terrorist attacks. Some
      Americans, including Christians I have talked to,
      continue to believe that Iraq was behind the
      September 11th attacks - even though the president
      himself now says otherwise.

      Second, support for the nation of Israel.
      Evangelical Christians, as am I, are typically
      supporters of Israel, as am I. But what they fail
      to realize is that the nation of Israel is not the
      government of Israel - a corrupt government
      propped up by billions of dollars in U.S. foreign
      aid. And Iraq was no threat to Israel anyway.

      Third, the religion of Islam. Some Christians are
      indifferent toward the war because it is just
      Muslims who are being killed. But what about the
      blood of over 2,400 dead American soldiers? Does
      killing Muslim infidels make their sacrifice worth

      Fourth, the military. There is an unholy alliance
      between evangelical Christians and the military.
      Yet, the military in its present form does little
      to actually defend the country. Why isn't the U.S.
      military guarding our borders and patrolling our
      coasts instead of guarding the borders and
      patrolling the coasts of other countries? The
      president recently called for the stationing of
      some National Guard troops along our border with
      Mexico. It is too bad these troops sent to guard
      the Mexican border weren't taken out of Iraq.

      And fifth, the conservative movement and the
      Republican Party. Many Christians, who by nature
      are conservative people, are in bed with the
      conservative wing of the Republican Party. But
      this is clearly a case of spiritual adultery. I am
      sorry to say that Conservatives have of late been
      known for their readiness to engage in military
      adventure throughout the world and the fact that
      they never met a federal program they didn't like
      as long as it furthered their agenda. Conservatism
      is fast becoming a movement that puts love of the
      state and its leader above all else, including
      liberty. Lew Rockwell, president of the Ludwig von
      Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, has
      brilliantly summarized what is wrong with modern

      The problem with American conservatism is that
      it hates the left more than the state, loves the
      past more than liberty, feels a greater attachment
      to nationalism than to the idea of
      self-determination, believes brute force is the
      answer to all social problems, and thinks it is
      better to impose truth rather than risk losing one
      soul to heresy. It has never understood the idea
      of freedom as a self-ordering principle of
      society. It has never seen the state as the enemy
      of what conservatives purport to favor. It has
      always looked to presidential power as the saving
      grace of what is right and true about America.

      The Republican Party has historically been the
      party of militarism, big government, plunder,
      compromises, and sellouts. Not in his wildest
      dreams could Lyndon Johnson have ever imagined his
      Democratic-controlled Congress increasing total
      spending or the rate of increase in spending as
      much as George Bush and his Republican-controlled
      Congress have done. And he too was fighting a war.

      I do believe that the support of Christian
      evangelicals for the president and his war is
      waning. Perhaps it is not out of principle, but at
      least support for this war has diminished somewhat
      (although gullible Christians can be counted on to
      support the next intervention or war if a
      Republican president undertakes it). But it is a
      blight on Christianity that many of those who
      continue to support Bush and his war are
      evangelical Christians. To their everlasting
      shame, I suspect that it is evangelical Christians
      who will support Bush until the bitter end - no
      matter how many more U.S. soldiers are killed, no
      matter long the war continues, no matter how many
      more billions of dollars are wasted, and no matter
      what outrages the president commits against the
      Constitution, the rule of law, and Christianity

      What, then, should be done? We should immediately
      withdraw our forces from Iraq, not because the war
      is not going as planned, not because we have
      suffered too many casualties, not because we have
      removed Saddam Hussein, not because we have
      accomplished our mission, not because there are
      too many insurgents, and not because Iraq had an
      election. We should withdraw our troops because
      the war was a monstrous wrong from the very
      beginning. How many more dead American soldiers
      and billions of dollars will it take before we
      finally say enough is enough? How many more dead
      American soldiers and billions of dollars will it
      take before the members of Congress say enough is
      enough? King Solomon, the wisest man who ever
      lived, said that there was "a time of war." This,
      my fellow Americans, is not the time.

      June 3, 2006

      Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] is a freelance
      writer and an adjunct instructor in accounting and
      economics at Pensacola Junior College in
      Pensacola, FL. He is also the director of the
      Francis Wayland Institute. His new book is
      Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the
      Warfare State. Visit his website.

      Copyright © 2006 LewRockwell.com
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