Archive for statism

Feb
24

Sniper Theology

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There came out of the woodwork after George W. Bush’s immoral, unjust, and unnecessary invasion, occupation, and destruction of Iraq certain groups of Christians—many of whom wear cross and flag lapel pins or American flag lapel pins in the shape of a cross.

I have identified them as Christian armchair warriors, Christian Coalition moralists, evangelical warvangelicals, Catholic just war theorists, reich-wing Christian nationalists, theocon Values Voters, imperial Christians, Red-State Christian fascists, bloodthirsty Christian conservatives, nuclear Christians, and God and country Christian bumpkins.

With the advent of the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History in 2012 and the movie American Sniper in 2014 — both about Chris Kyle, “deadliest sniper in American history” — there has arisen another class of Christians that many in the previous groups have joined as well: sniper theologians.

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For those of you who did not watch President Obama’s State of the Union address, you can read a transcript here, as I have. I neither watched it nor the five earlier addresses he gave. And neither did I watch any of Bush’s State of the Union addresses. Actually, I have never wasted my time watching any president’s State of the Union address.

I have always loathed Obama for his radical associations, his life spent in the service of racial preference, his aberrant Christianity, and his belief in the redistribution of wealth. I loathed Obama when he was in the Senate for being one of the most radical left-wing Senators in history. And I have loathed him as president for his corporatism, warmongering, contempt for the Constitution, Obamacare, and expanding the welfare/warfare/national security/surveillance state. In fact, if you substitute Bushcare (the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003) for Obamacare, these are the same reasons I loathed George W. Bush.

This does not mean, however, that we should just dismiss outright all of the proposals Obama made in his State of the Union address—and especially those that relate to taxes.

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In this guest post LCC welcomes Matthew Gilliland, libertarian writer and speaker. He holds a J.D. from North Carolina Central University School of Law.

Jesus presents a considerable challenge to every believer in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5:

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt. 5:29-30, NRSV)

On its face, Jesus seems to be suggesting self-mutilation, but that is easily dismissed. Hands and eyes do not choose. They have no agency. They cannot cause you to stumble. Rather, these evils arise from the depths of the human soul, which the Bible calls the heart (Matt. 15:19). Thankfully, through grace we are saved from the duty of cutting out our hearts; Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection to new life has atoned for our sin, so instead we may repent and turn away from our sin and be forgiven. We are not permanently broken, and can be fixed through His grace and favor.

This realization, however, leads us to implications for this passage that can potentially be far more uncomfortable for our daily lives. We are not broken systems. Some systems, however, are broken. Some systems cannot be redeemed – their evil is inherent to them and cannot be excised.

As an example, take prostitution. The job requires fornication, which is sinful. One cannot go about the task of prostitution in a way that is consistent with Christianity, and so if a prostitute is or becomes a Christian, the Biblical prescription would be for him or her to tear that out of their life and throw it away. This is fairly uncontroversial.

But what of the soldier? Most Christians think of the military as an honorable job, and yet there has been no war in history in which a side did not do things that were both sanctioned or sinful. The funding mechanism for war, even in cases of defense against aggressors, is theft. “Collateral damage” is commonplace, and the Christian Right has been quick to justify killing – at least the killing of God’s Own U.S. Military – broadly and with little exception.

The clear conclusion is that this is a broken system. There is no cleansing available to something that involves sin as part of its design. There is no reform available to such institutions. Repentance requires a turning away from the sinful behavior, and in an institution that is built on the sin, that is not possible. This is the sense in which outside influences can “cause” one to stumble. One is still responsible for the choice of engaging with those influences, and turning away from them means cutting them out of one’s life. If your job necessarily causes you to stumble – even a high-paying, comfortable job, or a job others respect you for and think is honorable – tear it away from you.

This also applies to the State as a whole. As Nietzsche said, “The state lies in all the tongues of good and evil; and whatever it says it lies; and whatever it has it has stolen. Everything in it is false; it bites with stolen teeth, and bites often. It is false down to its bowels.” Christians can only serve one master, and in a choice between the State and Christ, one hopes the decision should be easy.

Many early Christians seem to have taken this view. Laurence Vance, in an excellent discussion of The Early Christian Attitude Towards War by C. John Cadoux, notes that the Didascalia (a collection of instructions for church leaders) cautioned against accepting money for the church from executioners, some politicians, killers, and “soldiers who behave unrightously.” Cadoux also cites, among others, the early theologians Tertullian and Origen, who believed military service to be incompatible with Christianity.

If we zoom out for a moment to get some perspective, we can see that this viewpoint is a more consistent application of Scripture to a world marred by sin. All Christians know that murder and theft are wrong. Libertarian Christians simply understand that this also applies to what others excuse as “preventive war” or “progressive taxation.”

That can be a hard truth to swallow.

Take a look at your life. Is any job, habit, or hobby you engage in something that you cannot do without sinning? Are you able to go to the bar without drinking to excess? Can you serve God while fulfilling your contract with your boss? If the answer is no, then cut that thing away from you. It doesn’t matter if it is a “normal” thing, like having a few extra drinks, or even something admired and glorified by society, such as being a cop, Marine, or politician. Look at it. Can you do that without sin?

Here is where the rubber meets the road. As Christians, we are responsible for what we know to be right and wrong. When we receive revelation that something you once thought was right is actually sinful (and this happens to the best of us!), we will have to choose. Will we go with what is easy, normal, and traditional, or will we follow Christ?

This passage is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is preaching something radical; he is taking the commands of the Torah, and reading into it something beyond a mere adherence to rules. Turning one’s cheek, loving one’s neighbor, and returning blessing for insult are not natural behaviors for sinful people. They require a true change of heart and a firm commitment to cling to Christ even when it isn’t comfortable.

If we heed this admonition, then we may be mocked by the world. Where evil is normal, a righteous man is really, really weird. We could even be accused of evil ourselves — those who have stood for peace have often been targets of those promoting war. If that happens, remember Jesus’ promise earlier in the chapter: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12)

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“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it.” – Vince Lombardi

Many of life’s lessons can be learned while playing football. My son’s youth football league, for example, enforces rules to manufacture more “competitive” games. When a team is behind by more than four touchdowns it automatically begins all its offensive possessions from its opponent’s 40 yard line. To ease matters, the clock is also run continuously to shorten the game. Finally, if a team wins by more than 43 points, its head coach is suspended for a game.

Supporters might argue that these rules teach sportsmanship. Such sportsmanship, however, is involuntary – it is made compulsory by directive. Knute Rockne, Notre Dame’s legendary head coach, once remarked, “One man practicing sportsmanship is better than a hundred men teaching it.” Players only learn sportsmanship and compassion when they choose to practice leniency against a defeated opponent. Read More→

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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…

Part 1: A teologia do estado no Novo Testamento – O que realmente era o “Dai a César”.

Part 2: A teologia do estado no Novo Testamento – Romanos 13 e a “submissão” aos governos.

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.

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