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Oct
21

Militarism in American Churches

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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.

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Sep
23

The Great and (Un)Holy War

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jenkins_great_and_holy_warOne 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.

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The Christians for Liberty 2014 Conference has come and gone, but now we get to post the videos from the conference for everyone to see.

Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) gave the evening keynote of the conference. For our readers who have never heard of him, I like to call David “the Ron Paul of the Texas legislature” for the heroic stands he has taken in the defense of personal liberty, such as our fight against the TSA and against corruption. David is also an entrepreneur and a life-long Christian – and there’s nothing phony about him.

In this talk, David discusses the implications of being a liberty-minded Christian in today’s political climate. He additionally explains his reasoning for his recent stand against mistreatment of immigrants fleeing the terrible circumstances of their countries of origin. It was an honor to have him participate in the conference!

I hope you agree that David is one-of-a-kind. Share this with your friends and family, especially if they are in Texas!

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Three weeks ago, we hosted the first ever Christians for Liberty Conference at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas. Now that we have had a chance to breathe a little bit, I want to give you a brief report on what happened.

On Friday night, August 1st, we hosted a panel discussion and ice cream social at the University Avenue Church of Christ. (UA Church is the congregation where I attend and am a part-time minister.) The panel consisted of Lauren Daugherty, Patrick Dixon, Jason Rink, and myself. We discussed how our Christian faith informs our libertarian activities in the local community, and we took questions for about 40 minutes from the attendees on a variety of topics, from dealing with social issues to left-libertarianism!

Saturday was our main event. Although never explicitly stated, the schedule for the day was divided into three “sessions.” The morning session had a “fundamentals” focus, and included talks such as my Biblical Foundations of Christian Libertarianism and Jason Rink’s American Idol presentation.

After lunch, we had our first keynote talk from David Theroux, President of the Independent Institute, about C.S. Lewis and “mere liberty”. Then, the first afternoon session dealt with targeted issues about liberty and Christian faith, such as the drug war and poverty.

The final series of talks focused on practical issues. You might say these were of a more “activist” nature, and included LCC author Doug Stuart’s presentation Stuck in the Middle. It culminated with Rep. David Simpson discussing the practical implications of being a liberty-minded Christian. After an incredible barbeque dinner, we heard from Students For Liberty president Alexander McCobin about why he believes it is so important for Christians to understand libertarianism. We then had a splendid social time afterward for those who wanted to stay late and keep the discussion going.

On Sunday, we convened again at the University Avenue Church of Christ in the afternoon for an open discussion on whatever was on our minds after such a great Saturday conference. We even discussed the upcoming plans to start a regular meetup in Austin for Christian libertarians and encouraged visiting from out of town to prayerfully consider starting their own as well.

All in all, it was an absolutely incredible weekend and rivals some of the best experiences of my life. Conferences are big commitments for both organizers and attendees, but a well-put together event has a huge payoff. I think all attendees would agree that this first-ever conference was just what we needed to take our movement to the next level. Now, we look forward to putting together the CFL Leadership Team and continuing to build the Christian libertarian movement. Click here for more information about the CFL Leadership Team.

Here are some of the photos taken from the conference that we have posted to our Facebook page. Please “like” LCC on Facebook as well!

On behalf of all the organizers, I want to say THANK YOU to all our attendees and our sponsors. We couldn’t have done it without you! I especially want to thank my wife Katelyn for all of her support and for organizing all the food for Saturday. Special thanks as well to my brother Dustin for stepping up and helping the whole way through, Doug Stuart for being our Emcee, Jason Rink for video support, and Andy Fernandez for managing so much of the facility reservations and all of the sound on the day-of.

We will continue to post videos from the conference (minus the Q&A) to LibertarianChristians.com for all to see, and I hope you will avail yourself of these great resources.

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This article was jointly written by Doug Stuart and Jessica Hooker.

In Stoker’s original article, she outlined three objections to the compatibility of Christianity and libertarianism, with subsequent expansions in later posts. Our previous posts addressed her first two points, and this article addresses her third point. Read our first post here, and our second post here. A substantial amount of time has passed since the aforementioned posts were originally written, so we encourage you to review them for additional context.

The first biblical story about humans is about human action and consequences. Whether one takes the story of Adam and Eve as historical-factual or non-literal, the narrative in Scripture functions as more than a mere explanation of why sin exists or where humans come from. This origin story frames the questions about divine-human relationship: “How shall we relate to God?” and “What are God’s expectations?” (among others). Far from playing the part of Divine Puppeteer,  God bestowed Adam and Eve with the dignity of choice.  God had spent six days creating the good world in which God placed God’s crowning creation—mankind—and from our perspective God would have been justified in thwarting any attempt to mar that world.  If God was willing to give them such a level of freedom that could—and ultimately did—result in cursing a perfect world, how much more freedom are we then given in the small things? We may even wonder why God placed a tree in the garden whose fruit could bring such sadness and destruction into the world.

3) Libertarians value freedom so heavily because we believe in non-aggression; that is, that peaceful action is the only permissible way to treat others. The common good can never be reached through violence or coercion. 

In the freedom to choose right or wrong, good or evil, humanity has a considerable amount of freedom in both big and small. Stoker is right in that the explicit freedom spoken of in Scripture is about freedom from sin and freedom to righteousness. But this far from negates libertarian free will! Throughout the Scriptures we see God imploring humanity to choose the way of life. Israel was beckoned at the beginning of Joshua, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” They were free to reject God’s covenant, free to reject God’s justice, and free to reject God’s blessings for doing it “God’s way.” It is here that we find an inherent integration of our Christianity and our libertarianism. God did not create us puppets on a string, controlling our every move, making us do right. Nor did Jesus implore us to preach the gospel, and—if people reject it—declare ourselves, by proxy through the state, masters of their morality. We are never called to make Jesus Lord of other people’s lives. One of the aspects of Jesus’ Parable of the Sower is that absent the story is the forceful “plowing under” of the seeds, a common and expected practice in his culture. Jesus was saying (in part) God’s Kingdom comes peacefully, not forcefully. We can not force it to happen!

This is where we believe Stoker ultimately misses the mark.  Throughout her series on Christianity and libertarianism, her arguments have hinged upon using force to coerce people to behave a certain way—her way.  She has stated that “Justice in the world actually occurs when people engage with others in a just way,” yet has failed to illustrate how it is just to forcibily take from those who have to give to those who have not.  Coerced charity is not charity at all.  Doing the right thing for the wrong reason is no better than doing the wrong thing for the right reason—it’s just the words that are reversed.

The prophet Micah tells the people of Israel, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NIV).  Challenging words, indeed.  But here again we see the same thread we’ve been following through our previous two posts: the freedom to fail, to mess up, to choose wrongly or irresponsibly.

It is nearly impossible to read the narrative of the New Testament without considering the backdrop of the Exodus narrative in the Old Testament. Being released from bondage in Egypt was more than just slavery per se, it was—and still is—imagery that characterized the whole of human existence: bondage to powers that enslave us. Most Christians consider sin that which enslaves all of us. In this sense, the meaning of the Exodus narrative is fully captured in the climactic event of the entire Christian story: resurrection of Jesus. God has freed humanity from the bondage of sin through a new exodus, a new creation. We are thus freed from sin and the effects of sin. The Truth—Jesus—will set us free. We are set free for freedom. Stoker would rightly point out that the biblical writers were probably not thinking of what we call “Enlightenment freedom,” but there is no escaping that the gospel according to Jesus is freedom from all that enslaves, not simply our sinful nature or eternal destination. While this connect far from “proves” libertarianism, it certainly demonstrates compatibility with it.

Stoker concluded her first post with explaining why the state is the best means by which our collectively pooled resources are able to render help to those in need. It’s truly ironic, because where the Bible describes those who need rescue from oppression and slavery, it is from oppressive empires, which is exactly the type of institution which enslaves those whom God cares most about! God heard the cries of God’s people in Egypt, and responded by mocking, shaming,  and ultimately demolishing the Egyptian gods as they knew it. Stoker herself even recognizes the inherent power-over nature of the State, giving further credence to the libertarian claim that power easily corrupts! She cannot have both the State monopolizing the distribution of resources while at the same time chastising the institution of private property as “participation in state power.”

Comments on Stoker’s website have been disabled, but she is reachable on Twitter or via email. Please be kind and respectful if you write to her.

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