One of the most historically popular (and interesting, in my opinion) articles on LCC has been my New Testament Theology of the State (in two parts, see part 2 here). The two-part article addresses some difficult passages from the gospels as well as Romans 13, and they tend to get significant attention since the interpretation presented is rather different from the mainstream and yet help the passages make better sense within the grander biblical context.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from the very active Instituto Ludwig von Mises Brazil asking if I would like to see these articles translated into Portuguese. I responded with an emphatic “Yes!” and they are now publicly available. So, if you have some Portuguese-speaking friends or relatives, perhaps they will find these to be interesting reads…
From what I have heard from my Brazilian contacts, the articles are already sparking some significant conversation on their website and social media pages – with over 2000 likes and well over 4000 page views in barely 2 days! If anything, this shows that people all across the world are eager for Christian libertarian ideas.
Today, Christmas Eve 2014, marks the 100th anniversary of the Christmas during World War 1. On that remarkable day, soilders from all sides of the war – French, British, Scottish, and German soldiers – crossed no-man’s land and in the spirit of the Prince of Peace celebrated Christmas together. Yesterday I posted a brief review of the event and a book by Stanley Wintraub about the truce called Silent Night. Today I want to say a few additional words about the truce and what it should mean to all of us.
In the days leading up to Christmas in 1914, British General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien issued a firm instruction to the officers of all British army: “It is during this period that the greatest danger to the morale of troops exists. Experience of this and of every other war proves undoubtedly that troops in trenches in close proximity to the enemy slide very easily, if permitted to do so, into a “live and let live” theory of life… officers and men sink into a military lethargy from which it is difficult to arouse them when the moment for great sacrifices again arises…the attitude of our troops can be readily understood and to a certain extent commands sympathy… such an attitude is however most dangerous for it discourages initiative in commanders and destroys the offensive spirit in all ranks…the Corps Commander therefore directs Divisional Commanders to impress on subordinate commanders the absolute necessity of encouraging offensive spirit… friendly intercourse with the enemy, unofficial armistices, however tempting and amusing they may be, are absolutely prohibited.”
The General reveals something in his orders that is rather shocking: soldiers of one side do not tend to have any real grievance with the soldiers of the other side. Then why must they fight each other? Because the states they work for said so. They are ultimately used as pawns for power grabs rather than protectors of peace. As the saying goes, “War is just politics continued by other means.”
In August 1914, Europe entered World War 1 in a strange fervor. It was not initially considered a life-or-death struggle but almost like a big parade. Most of the soldiers thought of it as a game or contest, and that it would all be over quickly and they would even be home for Christmas. And to get them into the war spirit, every side launched huge propaganda campaigns to demonize the other side. No accusation was too low to be used.
Just a few months into the war, the protracted destiny of the war became clear to everyone on the front lines, and morale was desperate. They were ready to grasp at anything that could help them to feel human again.
Thus, when the spirit of Christmas suddenly rolled through the camps and prompted everyone to lay down their arms and remember that Jesus Christ was born to save, the soldiers began to reevaluate their priorities. What were they fighting for, really? Was the glory of their state really worth it? Many realized that it couldn’t be so. Although we know the ultimate result – the war resumed just as one might expect – the Christmas truce was a spark of humanity in a sea of unconscionable violence.
The incident truly reveals the deceitful nature of the state and the violence it perpetuates. In general, we have no need to start a quarrel with other nations. Wars occur not because every citizen of one nation has been wronged by every citizen of another nation, but because the state apparatus of one nation has decided it needs to wield its will against the state apparatus of the other nation. It takes the state propagandizing citizens to have them believe the enemy is actually every German, or Italian, or Mexican, or Iraqi, rather than the citizen’s own government that daily tyrannizes them.
I highly encourage you to read Silent Night, or to watch the great movie Joyeux Noel which dramatizes the Christmas truce, this Christmas season. You won’t regret it. And finally, remember that Jesus is truly our Prince of Peace, no matter what storm you encounter whether personal struggle or worldwide war.
This Christmas Eve marks the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce, when French, British, Scottish, and German soldiers unexpectedly laid down their arms and celebrated Christmas together. It was a remarkable event unmatched in its touching display of humanity despite the horrors surrounding them. A few years ago, I wrote about Silent Night, a book by Stanley Weintraub that chronicled the events of this truce. I want to highlight this article again here and encourage you to soak in some of these remarkable details of this incredible event. Tomorrow I will write a little more about the truce and what it should mean to all of us.
Stanley Weintraub’s Silent Night isn’t a book that warrants a long review because the point is so clear. The book is about the World War I Christmas Truce. All over the front lines in Europe in 1914, men laid down their arms and remembered the Prince of Peace. During and afterwards, many wondered why they were fighting in the first place. Weintraub’s book retells the events of “horror taking a holiday” over Christmas on the front lines through soldiers’ personal recollections and other reports.
On June 28, 1914, Bosnian-Serb student Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. The murder triggered a fast-paced series of events that ultimately led to what we now call World War I. On one side were the Entente Powers: France, the United Kingdom, and Russia; on the other side were the Central Powers: Germany and Austria-Hungary. By August 1914, the countries were engaged in total war the likes of which had never been seen on earth – trench warfare. On the front lines, opposing men were separated at times by less than 100 feet, living in filthy trenches dug into the ground. Both sides believed that the war would be over quickly, but as December 1914 approached such a resolution seemed much less likely. Soldiers excited of the prospects of war glory quickly lost their initial enthusiasm in favor of sheer survival. But as Christmas eve approached, an unlikely truce was forged by troops all across the front lines. Much was learned when those who only knew their enemies through propaganda and caricatures actually conversed with their foes. Read More→
Review of Dean Becker, To End the War on Drugs: A Guide for Politicians, the Press, and the Public (DTN Media, 2014), iv + 337 pgs., paperback.
It was a hundred years ago this month that Congress enacted the Harrison Narcotics Act to make the importation, manufacturing, sale, and distribution of cocaine and opiates illegal without being registered with the Bureau of Internal Revenue, recording each transaction, and paying an annual tax and licensing fee. This was the federal government’s first major salvo in the war on drugs.
Dean Becker has just launched his own salvo, but in the opposite direction. He is a man on a mission—a mission to end the drug war. His new book, To End the War on Drugs, will tell you why Bush drug czar John Walters refused not only to consent to an interview, but to even talk to the author.
Looking for a great read to give that libertarian in your life this Christmas? Want to delve deep into something interesting over your Christmas vacation? Every year, I make it a point to highlight the best (in my opinion) recent and classic books about Christianity or libertarianism, and some books that address both at the same time. This year’s list really focuses on theology even more than liberty, but I can guarantee you will find great some great books for just about anyone here. And of course, you can find much more in LCC’s many other book lists, or in our little bookstore. Let the reading commence!
1. If You Are the Son of God by Jacques Ellul – If I were to recommend that you read one book this Christmas season, make it Ellul. This little 100-page book is immensely challenging on multiple levels. It will, of course, make you think deeply about your own theology (even if you disagree with some of it), but it will also reveal the corrupting influence of power within the world around us. I am personally giving this book to multiple friends and family this Christmas. Check out my review here.
2. For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty, edited by Anne Bradley and Art Lindsey – The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics has released this edited volume as a response to the terrible policies promoted by some Christians that supposedly help the poor. Using sound economics and good theology, they make it clear that it is capitalism and voluntary charity, not government and force, that lifts the plight of the poor and promotes human flourishing. You will definitely see a review of this book on LCC in early 2015. Read More→