"Were it not for the support offered by several tens of millions of evangelicals, militarism in this deeply and genuinely religious country becomes inconceivable." ~ Andrew Bacevich (Colonel, U.S. Army, Ret.).

This is one of the most sobering statements in Dr. Bacevich’s important book The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Oxford, 2005). Whether you agree or disagree with evangelical support for militarism, the fact remains that the largest group of Americans that the government can count on to support the institution of the military, the empire of troops and bases that encircles the globe, large defense budgets, overseas military interventions, the perpetual war on terror, and now torture is evangelical Christians – and the more conservative the more bloodthirsty.


If there is any group that should oppose these things, it is conservative Christians who profess to be in subjection to the Bible. There is something gravely wrong with evangelical Christianity when socialists like Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky get it right and conservative Christians get it wrong.

Christian warmongers are looking in the Bible, but they are looking in the wrong place. Everything in the Bible is written for us, but not to us. Although there are some exceptions, most Christian warmongers are Janus Christians.

Janus was the two-headed Roman god of gates and doors. With faces that looked in two different directions, he could see forward and backward at the same time. Because he was considered the god of beginnings, our first month, January, was named after him.

So, what do many evangelicals have in common with the Roman god Janus?


Janus Christians are always looking backward to the Old Testament or forward to the Book of Revelation to justify Christian participation in U.S. government wars and military interventions.

We are continually told by every Christian apologist for war and the military that because God sponsored wars in the Old Testament against heathen nations (Judges 6:16), and used his chosen nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 7:11-12) to conduct them, that this justifies Christian killing for the state in some foreign war.

But since the president of the United States is not God, America is not his chosen nation, the U.S. military is not the Lord’s army, the Christian’s sword is the word of God, and the only warfare the New Testament encourages the Christian to wage is against the world, the flesh, and the devil, Christians who look backward to the Old Testament to justify their warmongering are looking in the wrong place. The Lord has made no promise since Old Testament times to any nations or individuals that he would fight and kill their enemies or help them to do so.

Savvy Christian warmongers not only appeal to the past, they also look to the future. Here is an example from, of all places, a theological journal:

That Christ Himself will engage in actual, blood-shedding, life-taking warfare when He returns to set up His kingdom is significant. He cannot be the Righteous One, the Holy One, if war is inherently evil and the combatant’s role satanic. When He comes, the Lord will instruct His people to engage in that future warfare (cf. Obad 15-21). Would He demand His people to commit sin? Of course not! Therefore, warfare cannot be inherently sinful. Rev 19:11-21.

Christ establishing his future kingdom by force is certainly significant, but completely irrelevant to men engaging in aggressive warfare today. It does not follow that because the Lord will instruct people to war on his behalf in the future that it is okay for people to war on their own behalf now. Just as Christ ruling all nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 20:15) does not mean that it is permissible for a world dictator to do the same now. Warfare without the express command of Christ is certainly inherently evil and sinful. Offensive war is nothing but wholesale murder; defending one’s country from attack is not waging war at all, it is self-defense – but only when it is truly defensive, which, of course, it rarely is. God is holy; men are sinners. No one is innocent in relation to God. The Lord could wipe out the bulk of mankind like he did with Noah’s flood (Genesis 7:21-23) and still be just as holy. No man has any right to kill his fellow man – on any scale – just because God has the right to do so himself or by the means of his choosing. It can’t be emphasized too much that Christ judges and makes war "in righteousness" (Revelation 19:11); man never does.

Oh, Janus Christians do appeal to the New Testament to try and justify Christian participation in U.S. government wars and military interventions, but when they do their arguments are worse than pathetic. For example, in the aforementioned theological journal, the following arguments are given "supporting the believer’s participation in the military":

  • Jesus’ approval of a king who waged war against a wicked people (Matt 21:33-41).
  • After Peter cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest (John 18:11), Jesus did not tell him to rid himself of his sword, merely to resheath it – for future use?
  • In John 18:36 Jesus stated that it would have been proper for His disciples to defend His kingdom with swords if it had been an earthly kingdom.

In the first Scripture cited, there is neither a king nor warfare mentioned in the biblical passage cited. Strike one. In the second Scripture cited, the Lord told Peter to put away his weapon because he had to fulfill Scripture and be taken and crucified. Strike two. In the third Scripture cited, the author is exactly correct – it would have been proper if Christ’s kingdom were an earthly kingdom – but defending Christ’s kingdom is about as far removed as waging war for the U.S. military as one can possibly get. Strike three.

If there has there ever been a case of the word of God being "blasphemed" (Titus 2:5) or handled "deceitfully" (2 Corinthians 4:2) and more than this I have never seen it.

Janus Christians, because they are so blinded by the state and the military, have failed to notice the ethical instructions for Christians found throughout the New Testament.

Christians are admonished to "be patient toward all men" (1 Thessalonians 5:14), to not "render evil for evil unto any man" (1 Thessalonians 5:15), to "abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22), to "abhor that which is evil" (Romans 12:9), to "bless them" that persecute them (Romans 12:14), to "live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18), to "avenge not" themselves (Romans 12:19), to "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21), to "follow after the things which make for peace" (Romans 14:19), to be "slow to wrath" (James 1:19), and to "seek peace, and ensue it" (1 Peter 3:11).

Christians should be marked by their love (John 13:35; 1 Thessalonians 3:12), quietness (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:12), holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:15), hospitality (Romans 12:13; Titus 1:8), meekness (Ephesians 4:2; Titus 3:2), longsuffering (Galatians 5:22; Colossians 1:11), forbearance (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13), subjection (Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 5:5), temperance (Galatians 5:23; 2 Peter 1:6), godliness (1 Timothy 2:2; 2 Peter 1:16), humility (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5), and good works (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8).

Christians should be more willing to accept suffering than to inflict it (2 Timothy 2:3, 4:5; James 5:10; 1 Peter 2:20-21, 3:17, 4:1, 16).

Christians should pray that they "may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men" (2 Thessalonians 3:2) instead of calling for U.S. military action against them.

The New Testament ethic for the Christian is one of peace, endurance, acceptance, non-violence, non-aggression, and non-retaliation. Does this mean that we invite foreign armies to bomb our cities and land on our shores? No, but it at least means that Christians have no business being part of the U.S. military and supporting or participating in the invasion, subjugation, and occupation of other countries, the bombing, maiming, and killing of foreigners on their soil, the doing of things that provoke hatred toward the United States and create terrorists, like nation building, intervening in the affairs of other countries, and policing the world.

It doesn’t matter how many people the Jews killed in the Old Testament or how many times the Lord ordered them into battle; likewise, it doesn’t matter how many people will die at some future Battle of Armageddon. What matters is right now under the New Testament in the Church Age. For a Christian to not know that is to manifest a tremendous ignorance of the Bible he professes to believe. Christians should be New Testament Christians, not Janus Christians.

Originally posted at LewRockwell.com on March 11, 2013.

  • msm3165

    Excellent article Laurence. It is heart breaking how people who claim to be disciples of Christ prefer to send bombs instead of Bibles. I see a tremendous amount of hypocrisy in criticizing Islam for conversion by the sword when “believers” scream to kill the heathens. Christ must be heartbroken over this.

  • Pingback: Janus Christians | ChristianBookBarn.com()

  • David

    Dead on…
    I am a bit curious how Laurence Vance would respond to a situation in which, say, a nation allied with the US was attacked (Note: was attacked, that nation is in a situation of self-defense) and we went to war on behalf of that nation. I don’t think its a good idea but I think there’s a distinction to be made between a defense pact and outright warmongering.

  • AustinMum

    This is a straw man argument, and such arguments are not becoming people with sound logical minds. “We are continually told by every Christian apologist for war and the
    military that because God sponsored wars in the Old Testament…” This definitely does not characterize the opposition. Calling your opponents names (warmongers) is also a second-grader stunt. Almost every Christian I know who believes that some wars are “just” cites the Christian principle of defending the helpless. While many wars are not justified (Afghanistan, for example), it is unconscionable that the world refused to put a stop to the genocide in Rwanda. I believe that the Libertarian position on this issue should be that governments have no reason to engage in wars that are not purely to defend their own citizens, but it should be legal for a philanthropist to form a nonprofit which will, when invited by a significant number of its citizens, overthrow governments who are wantonly (without due process) murdering their own citizens.

  • ben marshall

    Great shame here, such “libertarian Christians” (LC’s) suckle like parasites after the exploits of Romans 13 “ministers of God”, who are willing to sacrifice with a “faith to fight” for our liberties under Cesar: even the services of American unbeliever.

    So, LC’s devise contorted doctrines of heresy rather than going out before them with your musicians in real faith, with God, to preserve our freedom and liberty. You wag your religious finger and hurl against authentic believers. You confuse a banal description of Janus with your own hypocrisy & cowardice. Jesus said the greatest man of faith in Jerusalem was a Roman Centurion, along with the “greatest among men”, John The Baptist.

    Had Jesus such a snobby false piety and “religious” collectivist infection and disdain for fighting, He never would have associated with the Centurion. Knowing what was to come, Jesus set up the provision for separation of God and Cesar, of church and state by His “render unto” teaching. Cesar is to “terrorize evil doers”, the Gospel is to convert them. If you’ve not the conscience to work for Cesar then don’t. But do not accuse as treacherous, brethren of faith, who can commune with God and work for Cesar.

    LC’s want all the benefits and comfort of American peace and safety, then charge the devout as mongers, ruining the reputation of authentic Christianity in heresies religious cowardice. The kind of authentic Christianity, the Black Robe Regiments and founder’s faith which gave you American Exceptionalism in the first place, the liberty & freedom to revel in your Chomsky/Bolshevik mutant heresies bent on infecting authentic Christianity.

  • Dustin

    This has got to be a troll, right?!?

  • I’m pretty sure, yes. But it’s pretty great with all the florid adjectives. He even attempts to pull the “authenticity” card. Indeed.

    In the end, there is only one argument here, and it’s pretty weak: that of the Roman Centurion having great faith. But it is overall silly to go from “Soldier has faith” to “we ought to justify war.”

    Vance has even answered this objection before. Here’s a quote, then a link to the full:
    “Regarding Roman soldiers and centurions, isn’t it strange how that apologists for the U.S. military never refer to the ones scourged, stripped, crowned with thorns, mocked, smote, spit on, and crucified Jesus Christ?”

  • David

    Yeah, I think you’d be right on the libertarian view. Although…. wasn’t Rwanda a civil war? I don’t see why anyone should get involved in a civil war…

  • David

    The best I could maybe see you getting out of that Centurion thing (Still a stretch, but a possible stretch) is that its not wrong for a Christian to join the army. But to use that to defend WAR is just absurd.
    I don’t even think I’d make the stretch above, but that’s the most I can see you possibly getting away with.

  • Pingback: Evangelicals and War | Rusty Hinges()

  • Is it not ironic that the centurion was probably risking his entire well-being and status as a Roman citizen on coming to a political revolutionary like Jesus? There’s more at work here than Jesus simply “associating” with a Roman.

  • Dave Cobb

    The Christian message is above all human politics. Christians attemping to put a GOD brand on their politics embarrass themselves, and cause weak Christians to dought their faith. Wars of aggression, from the Crusades, thru the European colonizaion of the world, all commecial ventures with a very thin Christian veneer. The church support of chattle slavery in the American south, followed by The Christian Knights of the Klu Klux Klan’s terrorism in support of Jim Crow Laws. Christian resistance to Womans suffrage. We can as Christians have strong feeling, beliefs, and convictions. If we love our brothers and sisters we will be in favor of good being done for them. But we dare not assume that God is on our side, instead we must always be on GODs side

  • You’re right, God is not on the side of the state, and thus we should not be on the side of the state either. No king but King Jesus.

  • Dave Cobb

    Romans 13;1 ” 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”.

  • jim hodge

    “Jim Hodge – Allied Home Mortgage have been attacked by lawyers and the liberal press. A self made man of humble means is working hard to restore the jobs lost by these baseless attacks”

  • My guess is that he would say that this is entirely the point of avoiding “entangling alliances” — so that scenarios like this don’t happen. But he’d likely have other things to say as well… :)

  • GrayCat

    Are Christians a nation? Is any earthly nation Christian?

    If not, then how would an ally nation of “the US” obligate Christians to go to war and fight for the other nation?

    If you as an individual think you can make a difference for Christ by somehow personally, peacefully, intervening, that is up to you alone. No other person, non-believer or Christian, is obligated. And certainly not considering that it is theft — taxes — that funds such “national obligations.”

  • GrayCat

    Was Jesus commending the centurion’s military position, or his faith that this Jewish preacher — Jesus of Nazareth — could actually heal the sick? What was Jesus comparing — Israel’s military “cowardice” with Rome’s “courage,” or this Gentile man’s belief in Jesus’ powers, where the Chosen People had none?

    Nowhere does Jesus commend militarism or military service; nowhere does He hold up any Roman soldier or Israelite zealot. Nowhere.

    Wasn’t the “render” lesson that you cannot serve both God and Mammon? That there is a choice to be made? That the same “coin” cannot be used in both realms? Where does Jesus — or any other New Testament writer — teach that one can in fact “commune with God and work for Cesar [sic]”?

    How about Paul? When he met his Lord and God on the road to Damascus, as a Temple Guard, a military man, to execute and stamp out the followers of the Way, he went AWOL, and NEVER took up the sword again.

    Why is Romans 13:1-7 taken out of its context to try to justify war, the evils of the state, and hatred in the state’s name? The context of Romans 13:1-7 is Romans 12, which categorically denies what American “evangelical Christians” claim Romans 13:1-7 means, and Romans 13:8-12. There is no reconciling the aberrant interpretation with the clear teaching of the verses surrounding it. And that aberrant interpretation is refuted by the whole rest of the New Testament, and if you’re paying attention, the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures as well.

    Then, logically, if the American government is “of, by, and for the people,” then OBVIOUSLY it is the responsibility and DUTY of the people to abolish it when it is wrong and goes against what the Bible teaches Christians must be and do. Jefferson made that abundantly clear in the Declaration of Independence. Yet most American “evangelical Christians” prefer to war, fight and kill, murder and maim, others — and in the Holy Name of Christ! — than to do the right thing according to Christ Himself.

    There is no such thing as “authentic” Christians who can rationalize mass murder and theft, and use Christ’s Name to do it in. There is no such thing as “authentic” Christians who can deliberately ignore Matthew 5 – 7; 25:31-46; Romans 12; 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13; 2 Corinthians 10:1-5; Galatians; James; 1 John.

    And if you want to charge that those you excoriate do not go “out before them [our “enemies”?] with our musicians in real faith,” you would do well to actually look up, read, and take to heart 2 Chronicles 20.

    If you do, and are honest, you will see that it was God alone who defeated the enemies arrayed against His people, and He turned them against one another. His people didn’t have to do a single thing except march out, with their musicians and dancers and priests in front, onto a pinnacle overlooking the valley where their enemies were camped, and watch.

    And you should pay attention to the last verses, where God punished His people for forming an alliance with a wicked king — who was their brother.

    So what are the real lessons here?

    Have you ever closely read Revelation 19? What weapons are the vast heavenly army wielding? Who is their leader, and what weapons does He wield?

    Is there a practical lesson for us Christians today?

    Lastly, exactly what “liberties” and “freedoms” are the U.S. military actually defending, upholding, protecting? Is posting here on the Internet and going shopping the freedom you mean? What funds your military and its murderous exploits, in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ Almighty God, and in the name of America, individual liberties and freedoms, and free markets?

    Taxation is theft, nothing else. And Jesus told Peter that the children of the King are exempt from taxes (Matthew 17:24-27). If the U.S. is “of, by, and for the people,” and “a Christian nation,” what justifies taxation? Of believer and non-believer alike: for a Christian, it is wrong. It is theft justified by “government”/the state.

    What business have Christians behaving as wickedly (or more!) as the rest of the murderous, evil world? Matthew 20:20-28.

    Consider that the truly authentic Christians following Christ and His Apostles and disciples directly for the first three centuries, went to horrible deaths RATHER THAN join ANY nation’s military.

    Do we, 2,000 years apart from them, know better what Christ intended and Christianity is? Really?

  • GrayCat

    Where is that “Christian” principle in Scripture? And even if it is there, is extrapolating it to mean Christians must war for any nation for any cause justified?

    Exactly which wars since the time of Christ have been “just”?

    Is “the world” Christian? Why do you expect it to satisfy your criterion of acting as though it is Christian? Didn’t Christ warn us to be “in” the world, but not “of” it? Rwanda’s civil war was awful. But so are ALL wars. A Christian’s only reasons for being involved would be to peacefully rescue as many victims as possible, and to try to bring peaceful resolution to both sides. With most worldly states, that is not possible. It wasn’t even when Christ physically walked the earth — and it was never His purpose.

    You misunderstand libertarianism completely. The libertarian position is the NAP: the NON-AGGRESSION PRINCIPLE, that no one has a right to initiate violence. Any violence is only permissible in self-defense. The libertarian position is that the state — “governments” — are evil, and illegitimate. That no human being is qualified or has a right to rule others. 1 Samuel 8.

    No libertarian legitimizes governments/states, and certainly not in warmongering — the promotion and executing of war. Wars are strictly phenomena of governments/states — “nations.” No peaceful human communities based on the NAP and free markets can wage war. Disputes are between individuals and resolved through peaceful means. No one can press his fellows into forcing others to do his bidding — killing the neighbor he has a dispute with.

    Read Hans-Hermann Hoppe, especially his Democracy: The God that Failed, and his The Myth of National Defense; also, Walter Block, Murray Rothbard, Robert Higgs, Butler Shaffer, Llewellyn Rockwell, our own Norman Horn, right here; more by Laurence Vance, who has written on this extensively over the last decade and more, and whose book, Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, is WORTH the read, Ron Paul, and so many more. A free, peaceful world, with no human governments/states, is possible. If we just give up the idea that any of us should rule our neighbors and rob them to pay for it.

  • ben marshall

    xfree, I agree, there is “more at work” just like the Samaritan parable. In my opinion, the point Jesus made in mentioning the Centurion is to show us who had real faith, in contrast to the “chosen” presumed sole inheritors of faith. Faith is important to Jesus for “without faith it is impossible to please God”.

    This passage teaches us faith is not subject to denominational or genetic franchise, for this guy was a Roman, considered unclean, a Gentile and a barbarian. These were the kind of teachings which got Jesus executed, honoring spiritual attributes in Romans and Samaritans. Remember HE was executed by those who thought they were “right” in the same tone of this useless article.

    In addition, if Roman military personnel were threatened not to associate with common Jewry, then Jesus didn’t chastise him for arranging and assuring there be a buffer between the miracle he needed and Jesus visiting his home with crowds accompanying Him. Jesus didn’t say to him “if you are ashamed of me at your home, forget about Me healing your daughter.” From the tone of libertarian Christian legalism I can easily imagine they would have said such a thing.

    His truth provoked & envied the Pharisees to bring him up on local Roman radar, as it states in the Bible, conspiring/scheming to have him killed. For a few reasons they needed the Romans to approve it, even do it for them as if that would clear them of culpability.
    There is no Roman state effort nor Biblical account of one that the state was searching for a seditious Jesus. Pilate was not convinced of his guilt, even felt he needed to “wash his hands” for his own guilt in interrogating 7 handing him over in the blackmail the Jews had schemed. Even his wife warned him. This new revisionist narrative of sole Roman guilt for Jesus’ execution by modern “scholars” is heretical.

    Oh, what is a “troll”?

  • pandeter

    Even if authorities are instituted by God, that does not mean God approves of their actions… That verse is not legitimizing every government action by it’s mere existence having been from God. And as Norman linked to a great explanation of the whole context and surrounding verses, I’ll add Acts 18:13,
    “Saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law.”
    We ought to obey God rather than men.

    And when translated correctly doesn’t say what modern versions say. Here is the correct translation:

    Translation (WORD FOR WORD)

    Every single soul of ruling, dominating (or) submissive, they do not have substance of ruling if they are not from God and under God.

    English Translation:

    Every governing soul including those in highest command or lowest command have no authority if they are NOT ruling as fair and just as God.