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Friday, August 13, 2010


I was in college and at the same time, I was in the National Guard. In the Guard, I was an infantryman. Those are foot soldiers. To give you an idea of the mentality instilled in the infantry, during basic training bayonet classes, a company of 54 soldiers are spread in a field, each with a bayonet affixed to the muzzle of their M-16's. They go through a series of violent moves as they shout at the top of their lungs "Kill, Kill, Kill, with the cold blue steel." That's just one small way men are trained to be killers. And in war, it is necessary to be that focused on the job, which is to kill the enemy.

As I said, I was in college at the same time I was in the Guard. I knew that there was the possibility our country would go to war and my college education would be interrupted. I would be called to go to another nation and do what I had practiced in basic training and on weekend drill duty every month. In fact our country did go to war - the Desert Storm. Our unit was not mobilized. So, I never faced war. But I tried to prepare for it mentally. And I ran into the teachings of Jesus. I mean teachings like "blessed are the peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9), "turn the other cheek" (Matthew 5:39), and "love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44).

Any serious Christian has to consider these teaching of Christ when considering war and violence. I never resolved the issue in my own heart. My unit was never mobilized and my 6-year stint in the Guard ended in 1995. In 2003, I could not resolve the issue as our country went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, I regret that I could not see then ('03) how foolish those wars (Iraq, Afghanistan) have turned out to be. Thousands have lost their lives with very little gain for the greater good of humanity.

In America, we have not prayed for those who persecuted us. We have sought to destroy them with extreme prejudice and we call it "patriotism." We have not turned the other cheek. We have responded to violence with greater violence and more destruction. We have not done as the Apostle Paul prescribes in Romans 12:17-21
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"d]">[d]says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."e]">[e] 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We have not overcome evil with good, but rather we matched evil with more evil (Abu Grhaib). It certainly was not and is not the Jesus way.

Three things bring this to my attention.

First, all my Republican friends (I am, politically, an independent) do two things. First, they lash out at a Democratic president and paint a picture of him as evil and anti-Christian, but they never acknowledge the good things he does. And they refuse to look at the foibles of the Republicans. The Republicans are depicted as being appointed by God and the Democrats as agents of Satan. It's a ridiculous caricature in both directions.

Second, my good friend's wife from another country is applying for citizenship. She's a pacifist and has trouble swearing an oath to support our nation's use of force. It's not that she's anti-American. She wants to be a citizen of our nation. She just doesn't support military force any time or any where. She's for peace - always. Yet, the military zealots in our country would call her a "pinko liberal commie fascist coward" if did anything other than uncritically support every action of our military. The right-wing elements of our nation claim to defend freedom by fighting enemies abroad (who generally aren't attacking our freedom), but at home these same right-wingers attack anyone who expresses that freedom (freedom of speech) if that expression is critical of the military. It's not right.

Third, I have been reading the book God's Politics by Jim Wallis, a pacifist. He's also an evangelical. I don't always agree with him or his approach, but I am finding I agree more and more with his anti-war stance. He's laid a vision for how terrorism can be fought with international police cooperation rather than unilateral wars. His arguments on these issues are compelling and worth consideration.

All of this - my conservative friends, my liberal friends, my pacifist friends, the foolishness of our nation, the anti-Christian nature of our nation, and finally the reading I have done - it all has me thinking. It has me reliving arguments I had with myself while in college some 20 years ago. Those arguments were never resolved and still aren't. I received army infantry training. My father served in the infantry in Vietnam, and I believed he served honorably. My father-in-law was a navy captain, my grandfather a navy enlistee. My uncle was a career air force my and my sister-in-law was a Jag officer. One of my best friends from high school is in his 21st year in the national guard. I am not anti-military.

But, I am finding more than ever that I see the Gospel as closer to pacifism than any other philosophy out there related to the issues of war, nationalism, and international commerce. The pacifists are in step with the Lord. And I want to be in step with the Gospel of Jesus. So, in side me, deep in my soul, the argument continues.


  1. Thanks for sharing your struggle, Rob! As a pacifist with a Grandpa who served honorably in WWII and friends who have been in the military recently, it certainly brings up some conflicted feelings for me, too. I pray for their safety and am thankful for their selflessness, but know that I myself could not serve in the military in good conscience.

    -Dave D.

    Although I don't always agree with their views, I respect Christian Peacemaker Teams because they put their lives on the line in a Christian witness of alternative service.

  2. 1962, Tragedy and Hope, Professor Carroll Quigley, an adviser to almost every president in his day wrote about our 2 party system: The argument that the two parties could represent opposed ideals and policies, one perhaps of the right and the other of the left, is a foolish idea, acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead the two parties should almost be identical so that the American people can throw the rascals out at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.

    God bless the soldiers, God bless the pacifists. We need to keep ourselves safe from the power of corruption under which many governments have fallen.

    I don't believe that the word of God endorses Socialist Nationalism or International commerce that in any way leads ties us down to to a global economy.

    Ideals are noble, but we must take care in the steps we make to preserve our liberties.