English Baptist minister Robert Hall (1764-1831) was the namesake and youngest child of fourteen born to a Baptist minister. One website recounts his life thusly:
He was an accomplished theologian at the tender age of nine, having then mastered (among other works) “Edwards on the Will” and Butler’s “Analogy.” Notwithstanding such precocity, he did not prove to be a fool, but was one of the few “remarkable children” who turn out really remarkable men. In his fifteenth year he began his series of studies for the ministry at Bristol College, where his progress in learning was rapid; but as a preacher he seemed likely to be a failure. On his first public trial he repeatedly broke down, through an excessive sensibility that made public speech an agony to him, almost an impossibility. He mastered this weakness, however, and thenceforth steadily increased in power as an orator. Four years spent at King’s College, Aberdeen, where he was first in all his classes, brought him to his majority. His pastorates were at Cambridge, Leicester, and Bristol, and in each city his ministry was greatly successful. Many of his sermons were printed and had a wide circulation. No preacher of his time was more highly esteemed by the leaders of thought in Great Britain. Hall was master of an ornate and stately kind of eloquence long extinct in the pulpit, much esteemed in its day and perhaps too little esteemed now. To the present generation his sentences seem cumbrous, his style is pronounced affected and stilted, his tropes frigid. Indeed, the reader of today is at a loss to understand how his sermons could ever have won such encomiums as they received. Yet at his death, in 1831, it was universally agreed that one of the greatest lights of the pulpit had been extinguished.
Hall’s legacy as a popular preacher and cultural celebrity is now largely unknown. His Works, which were widely read in the nineteenth-century, are now rarely cited. Those who today walk by the statue of Hall in the middle of De Monfort Square in Leicester, England, certainly have no idea who he was. Hall was a defender of religious liberty, freedom of the press, and peace. The occasion of his sermon on war was the Day of Thanksgiving throughout England that was proclaimed for June 1, 1802, after the signing of the Treaty of Amiens in March that temporarily ended hostilities between France and Great Britain during the French Revolutionary Wars. I have transcribed the sermon from The Works of Robert Hall, A.M. (Vol. I, 4th ed., London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1834, pp. 81-121). – Laurence M. Vance
Since the United States launched the unnecessary, immoral, unjust, and senseless war in Iraq in 2003, the Christian blasphemy occurring in churches has increased ten-fold. Even as the many lies of George W. Bush have been exposed over the years, so the blasphemy has continued unabated.
Although many have e-mailed me (and especially after attending church on the Sunday before a national holiday) with reports of the blasphemy that they have witnessed in their churches, I have seen most of it personally.
What blasphemy am I talking about? Not the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance during church services, which makes me nauseated. Not churches letting their county governments use their facilities as polling places, which is even worse than churches encouraging Christians to vote Republican, as bad as that is. Not the placing of hundreds of small American flags around the church property, of which purchasing these flags is the biggest waste of the offerings of church members I have ever seen. Not the putting of an image of the American flag on the cover of the church bulletin, which is a colossal waste of expensive red and blue toner. Not the adding of more flags inside the church building than are normally on display (believe it or not, some churches always display more than one flag), as if having one flag wasn’t bad enough. Not the flying of a foreign flag in church, a flag that represents the denial of Christianity. Not the wearing of an American flag lapel pin, or even worse, a cross and flag lapel pin. Not the singing of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, although that is certainly about the most blasphemous thing that could be sung in a church. And not the singing of hymns of worship to the state, although that is blasphemous enough.
I am referring to the military blasphemy that takes place, not just on the Sunday closest to the Fourth of July, Flag Day, Armed Forces Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Patriots Day (Sept. 11), but also on special “military appreciation” days that some churches designate, as if Americans don’t already appreciate the military enough.
Here is some of the military blasphemy that I have personally witnessed, and/or received on good authority, on the Sunday of, the Sunday before, or the Sunday after one of the above days, which are all really just “military appreciation days”:
- Active duty military or veterans wearing their uniforms to church
- Special prayers for “the troops” (but never for their victims) over and above the usual nonsense
- Recognizing active duty military personnel and veterans
- Having active duty military personnel and veterans stand
- Thunderous applause after active duty military personnel and veterans stand
- The pianist playing the song of each branch of the military during the offering
- Military chaplains speaking
- Special military guest speakers who aren’t chaplains
- Military color guard walking down the main aisle at the beginning of the church service
- Church bulletins with a list of all the veterans in the church
- Church signs with statements about U.S. troops dying for our freedoms like Christ died for our sins
- Church signs enjoining us to pray for the troops
- Recognition of some young person who has announced his (or her) intention to join the military
- Thunderous applause after the recognition of some young person who is going to join the military
- Video presentations about World War II played during the Sunday morning worship service
- Video tributes to the troops played during the Sunday morning worship service
Once, on just an ordinary, regular Sunday, I saw a pastor recognize and have stand some visiting Marine who wore his uniform to church. And it still makes me nauseated when I think of the Marine Corps recruiting posters that a reader of mine saw on the walls of a boys Sunday School classroom.
“My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10).
These things are blasphemous. They are a disgrace to the Lord. They drive non-believers from Christianity. They are an assault on the Blessed Trinity. They are a blight on Christianity. They are an affront to the Saviour. They are anti-scriptural. They are indicative of the sorry state of many evangelical churches today. They are the most heinous examples of the world taking over the church. They break down the wall of separation of church and state. They make a mockery of New Testament Christianity.
Why do these things happen? I put most of the blame on pastors (or bishops, priests, elders, ministers, or church leaders) who have failed to discern the truth themselves so they can educate their congregations. There are, of course, some exceptions, but broadly stated, there are two classes of pastors.
First there is the armchair warrior, evangelical warvangelical, bloodthirsty warmonger, reich-wing nationalist, American exceptionalist, red-state fascist, imperial Christian, pro-lifer for mass murder who moonlights as an apologist for the Republican Party.
Then there is the Christian Coalition moralist, just war theorist, values voter, religious rightist, God and country bumpkin, Pledge reciting, patriotic hymn singing, cross and flag lapel wearer who is just an ignorant blind leader of the blind.
Those in the first group might be ignorant as well, but the main problem they have is that they are evil. This second group makes up the majority. Their ignorance might be colossal, it might be simple, it might even be willful, but their main problem is that they are just ignorant. They are ignorant of history, primitive Christianity, U.S. foreign policy, the true nature of the Republican Party, the U.S. government, the U.S. military, and of course, their own Bible.
This is why they—
- Thought that the war in Iraq was in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks.
- Believed that Saddam Hussein was another Hitler.
- Supposed that Iraq was a threat to the United States.
- Saw the war in Iraq as a modern-day crusade against Islam.
- Assumed that the United States needed to protect Israel from Iraq.
- Viewed Bush as a messiah figure.
And perhaps some of them still think, believe, suppose, see, assume, and view these things. Most of them are certainly still guilty of:
- Equating the Republican Party with the party of God.
- Blindly following the conservative movement.
- Deeming the state to be a divine institution instead of a lying, stealing, and killing machine.
- Holding a “my country right or wrong” attitude.
- Failing to separate the divine sanction of war against the enemies of God in the Old Testament from the New Testament ethic that taught otherwise.
- Reading too much into the mention of soldiers in the New Testament.
And of course, being in love with the military.
What contributes to such sustained, profound, and widespread ignorance?
- Believing government propaganda.
- Believing military propaganda.
- Believing Republican Party propaganda.
- Watching Fox News.
- Listening to conservative pundits like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Bill O’Reilly.
What is the antidote for all of this? The simplest one I know of is this: My book War, Christianity, and the State and a daily dose of LewRockwell.com.
The pastors in the first group need to be criticized, derided, and castigated. They are hopeless. Those in the second group need to be instructed, exposed to the truth, and educated. There is hope for them.
This military blasphemy must cease. Our churches must be demilitarized. I will keep writing. You do what you can to educate the leaders of your church.
Originally posted on LewRockwell.com on October 14, 2014.
Texas House Representative David Simpson delivered the following speech on October 8, 2014 at a Students For Liberty Event in Houston. This text was originally published at the SFL website. Rep. Simpson also recently was a keynote speaker for the first Christians for Liberty Conference. You can visit David’s website here.
We are here today to celebrate the next generation of pro-liberty leaders. In so doing I want to link pro-liberty leaders with America’s greatness.
America’s greatness is often depicted in its natural resources and so we sing: “O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!” But America’s greatness lies not merely in the blessings of its rich resources of oil and gas, and farmland, but most of all within its people!
A people bound together by an idea, but even more than that, a conviction and recognition that individuals are endowed with certain inalienable rights—rights that cannot be severed from our being without doing violence to their humanity.
LCC reader Will asks via email:
Is there a difference between Christian Libertarians and Libertarian Christians? I am more inclined to state my theology first and my philosophy second, but LCC puts the L first. Wikipedia has separate entries for both, so what’s the key distinction?
I think that telling people at my church that I am a "libertarian Christian" seems like I put my politics above scripture…So that’s why I put the "Christian" first…
Will, I have published a short blog post on this topic a few years back:
In short, one could argue the point both ways. I could say that CHRISTIAN should be the NOUN in the phrase because it’s more important than the adjective, therefore it should be “libertarian Christian.” Alternatively, I could say that I need to "put my Christianity first" and, thus, the label should be “Christian libertarian.”
No matter which way I choose to label, I am a Christian who believes that libertarianism is the most consistent expression of Christian political thought. Ordering of the words is secondary to what I truly believe. That is why you will see us talk of “libertarian Christians” and “Christian libertarians” here at LCC. We see them as one and the same, and we are not looking to set up who is “right” and who is “wrong” in that particular label scheme.
However, our opinion regarding “libertarian Christianity” and “Christian libertarianism” is a bit different – but we will save that for another post. Stay tuned later this week for more.
One would think that if there is any group of people that would be opposed to war it would be Christians. After all, they claim to worship the Prince of Peace. But such is not the case now, and such was not the case 100 years ago during the Great War that we now call World War I.
I have often pointed out how strange it is that Christians should be so accepting of war. War is the greatest suppressor of civil liberties. War is the greatest creator of widows and orphans. War is the greatest destroyer of religion, morality, and decency. War is the greatest creator of fertile ground for genocides and atrocities. War is the greatest destroyer of families and young lives. War is the greatest creator of famine, disease, and homelessness. War is the health of the state.
Just as it was easy for the state to enlist the support of Christians for the Cold and Vietnam Wars against “godless communism,” so it is easy now for the state to garner Christian support for the War on Terror against “Islamic extremists.” But World War I was a Christian slaughterhouse. It was Christian vs. Christian, Protestant vs. Protestant, Catholic vs. Catholic. And to a lesser extent, it was also Jew vs. Jew and Muslim vs. Muslim.