Archive for violence
This guest article is by Joel Poindexter. Joel is a Christian libertarian, OIF veteran, and part-time writer focusing on economics and foreign policy. His work has been featured at Mises.org and Antiwar.com, among others. Follow him on Twitter.
With the savage violence being reported daily from the Middle East, and with news of the recent Christian martyrs in Libya, what to do and how to respond has been a hotly debated topic. In most conversations, the only points of debate are how much military power needs to be exerted and how swiftly these powers should act. While this is expected of mainstream political players which are essentially characterized by their use of force, such attitudes are becoming increasingly more common in Christian circles.
How Christians ought to respond to persecution is clearly outlined in scripture, see Matthew 5:38-40, 1 Peter 3:14, and 1 John 3:13 for examples. Nevertheless, even devout believers are tempted to eschew these teachings and give in to militaristic tendencies for a variety of reasons, among them pragmatism and expediency. This ungodly mentality is not only dangerous in the short run due to the often unexpected and brutal consequences of militarism, but it also brings trouble for the church in the long run.
Take for example the Crusades, which have long been used as a cudgel against Christianity. President Barack Obama recently mentioned them at a prayer breakfast. As one might expect, he was quickly criticized for bringing them up.
Some Christians were offended he would reach so far back into history to dredge up stains on the church. They said that, after all, the Crusades in no way represent their faith, and clearly run counter to the gospel. They resented being lumped into one group, indistinguishable from the murderers and plunderers of Medieval Europe.
Still, if Christians resent this characterization, how can they turn around and conflate crucifiers and cannibals with everyday Muslims who neither engage in, nor condone, the practices of the Islamic State? Whatever the Koran tells followers must be done with infidels, it’s telling that of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, so few actually engage in terrorism.
Other Christians were indignant because such statements about the Crusades seemed to draw a moral equivalence between Islamic terrorists and Christians repelling invaders and retaking the Holy Land. They argue that such a comparison ignores key distinctions between the groups and their motives. Sure, the Crusaders sinned, but it was not as bad as what Islamic terrorists do and thus the Crusaders are justified. We know from scripture, however, that any such distinction is irrelevant in God’s eyes, that none are blameless, and indeed there is a moral equivalence regarding sin. See Romans 3:9-20 and Romans 3:23. This is why His grace is extended to all who accept it, regardless of their past life. Can a Crusader repent and be saved? Yes, and so can a terrorist.
A third group of Christians was outraged because they see nothing wrong with the Crusades, and in fact consider them something to be celebrated and repeated. This is reprehensible. There can be no reconciling the Crusades with any part of Jesus’ teachings. Endorsing such brutality against innocents denies the Lordship of Christ and overturns the whole of the New Testament’s witness to Jesus.
A misconception pervades these debates regarding so-called “religious violence” wherein only “The Other Religion” engages in atrocities. Islamic terror groups such as al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and the Islamic State come easily to mind. But so too should certain Irish militias, and undoubtedly the groups now marauding through the Central African Republic are considered “Christian” terrorists.
Worse still, most methods of combating terror groups are in fact indistinguishable from terrorism. This is especially evident when innocent civilians are targeted – wittingly or unwittingly – by military forces. In the past six years, more civilians have died in drone bombings than died on 9/11, not to mention the estimated one hundred fifty thousand Iraqis killed during the last war. Commonly referred to as collateral damage, this euphemistic term devalues the lives of those it affects, in direct contradiction to scripture.
Millions live in horror of US weapons. Adults are paralyzed by the stress, and children long for cloudy days when the drones do not fly. Many Christians describe the United States as being a Christian nation, founded upon Christian values. If this is true, how should the US be perceived by those who are targeted, other than state-sponsored Christian terrorism?
Such violence does not reflect true Christianity, but that fact does not negate the perception others might have, and promoting more conflict only reinforces the idea that it is acceptable and desirable for Christians to wage war.
Supposing the Islamic State’s armies are bent on exterminating all Christians everywhere, we can be confident in scripture this will not happen. Still, the attempted genocide of early Christians quite literally built the church. Persecuted Christians introduced the gospel across Europe and Asia, and persecution reinforced how Christ’s death and resurrection was to be the Church’s one foundation.
This does not mean things will be easy, far from it. Nevertheless, Brian Zahnd explains that “as Christians we persuade by love, witness, Spirit, reason, rhetoric, and if need be, martyrdom, but never by force. Christ followers are called to embody the peaceable kingdom of the Lamb.” Christ did not come to condemn the world (John 3:17), and neither should Christians.
If insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then perhaps the United States’ foreign policy truly is insane. Let’s admit we have been wrong in Iraq and stop making the same mistake.
What is that mistake, you ask? It is to claim very vaguely that American interests are in danger (what those may be we are never told), and then to intervene militarily in the affairs of another nation. I realize that in Iraq’s case it will be difficult for us to walk away, since we are largely responsible for the current mess that the nation is in, but will further intervention ultimately bring the type of change that we want to see there? If modern history holds true, the answer is clearly no.
First, after decimating Iraq’s infrastructure twice in the last two and a half decades in expensive wars, they are no more free and stable now than they were under Saddam Hussein. They are arguably in even worse shape now than they were before the U.S. arrived. Twenty-three years of U.S. involvement in Iraq has given us what we are watching unfold on our television screens right now. Since 2003, we have spent 1.7 trillion dollars, lost over 4,000 U.S. service personnel in battle, and sent home over 35,000 wounded soldiers from Iraq. There are estimates that as many as half a million Iraqi civilians were killed between 2003 and 2014 as well. These have been destructive, expensive, bloody, and extremely sad years for both Iraq and America. While we bombed Iraq in the name of freedom over weapons of mass destruction that did not even exist, our government has removed precious liberty after precious liberty, spent us into the ground, and printed money into oblivion. America and Iraq are less secure and less stable due to our reckless disregard for the truth, human life, and the laws of economics. It is time for a change in U.S. foreign policy.
We need to become acquainted with the roots of our own liberty again. Liberty is not forged in a vacuum. Securing and maintaining liberty takes “eternal vigilance”. Liberty, in America specifically, and the West generally, was more than 2,500 years in the making, going back as far as Greece. Our understanding of liberty was forged in the fire of history, and we are still refining it. Constitutional republics are not instant pudding or microwaveable popcorn. They are not produced on a whim with few ingredients. The idea that we were going to waltz into Iraq, topple a dictator, write a constitution, erect voting booths, and have long-standing democracy was foolish and short sighted. The intentions may have been good, but good intentions are not enough. The Iraq War was naïve, and reflects a poor understanding of our own roots.
Iraq is also less safe for minorities now. Some of the oldest Christian communities in the world were in Iraq. For the most part those Christian communities had lived peacefully side by side with Muslims for centuries. But due to America’s interventionism, those communities have all but been destroyed. Why? When America stationed its troops in Iraq, Iraq became a lightening rod for Islamic extremists. Radical Muslims poured into Iraq to fight America on the ground. As radicals fought Americans, they killed Christians along the way. Before America arrived in Iraq there was not a single verifiable Al Qaeda cell in that country. Before the fall of Mosul and Tikrit to ISIS, Al Qaeda backed forces controlled about 20% of Iraq. Iraq went from a nation without Al Qaeda at all in 2003, to a nation faced with being controlled by Islamic radicals in just over a decade. This obviously bodes very badly for minorities in Iraq like Shiite Muslims and Christians.
Instead of stabilizing the region, American wars have destabilized it. Now there is the very real threat of Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and Syria all being controlled by Sunni radicals at the same time. All these states were once secularized Muslim nations. They were once our friends. Now, due to America’s intervention in these nations, they all have fallen, or have nearly fallen, into the worst of hands. These places will now be safe havens for more and more terrorists to train, receive funding, and even gain state sponsorship.
I suggest at this point we take a step back, admit that America’s foreign policy of aggression in Iraq has been wrong, and seek a new way forward, one that promotes free markets and liberty, but does not involve the U.S. military. Let’s try friendship and becoming a beacon of peace and prosperity again. Perhaps we should secure our own borders, make citizenship and work visas easier to gain, and try trading with nations instead of invading them. Economic sanctions should be lifted from nations like Iran. Sanctions only serve to hurt the people of a nation and allow the real problem, dictatorial governments and thugs to use us as a scapegoat. Let’s get out of bed with every tin-pot dictator in the world. Let’s love freedom, let’s promote liberty, but let’s do it without violence. Liberty that is spread by the sword is not liberty at all. That was the problem with Iraq’s liberty all along, it wasn’t real. It was only an illusion, one that would be ill-fated to try and manufacture again.
I cannot overstate my excitement to promote Brian Zahnd’s latest book, A Farewell to Mars. I am passionate about the message of Jesus as it addresses all of life, including politics. I believe the message of Jesus was intensely political. The puzzle for us today is how to work it out in our unique socio-historical context. This is where Zahnd’s book is relevant to a part of the church that is blinded to its addiction to and endorsement of violence. Many others have made the case for peace, and many have done so by appealing to Jesus. Zahnd shares his journey, and in so doing, he subtly exposes the church’s infatuation with a power that is truly impotent to save the world.
As libertarians we embrace a politics of peace. Non-aggression is our one non-negotiable. We believe that free trade creates mutually beneficial transactions that promote prosperity for all parties involved. As Christians we believe that true individual freedom comes from faith in Jesus. Our commitment to peace is highly personal for us. A Farewell to Mars is about how the message of Jesus applies to human society. Jesus’ world was radically different from ours. He did not address the specific issues that preoccupy us today. Yet everyone who heard the claim “Jesus is Lord” understood that it meant emphatically that Caesar is not! As the saying goes, “Them’s fightin’ words!”
Zahnd expected to write this book when he was 70 years old. It arrived 15 years early when he had three grandchildren (to whom the book is dedicated). His reluctance to write it is evident on its first pages, where in a brief letter to the book itself, he writes, “I had to write you. You wouldn’t let me sleep until you were written.” Every page thereafter is simply thick with passion for the world-changing message of Jesus. Read More→
On this Good Friday, Christians are focused on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a propitiation for the sins of the world. But on every other day of the year (expect perhaps Christmas), many Christians are focused on some other people in the Bible.
The Bible on several occasions likens a Christian to a soldier (Philippians 2:25, 2 Timothy 2:3, Philemon 2). As soldiers, Christians are admonished to “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). The Apostle Paul, who himself said: “I have fought a good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7), told a young minister to “war a good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). Read More→
It’s Friday, let’s play a game! Today’s challenge is to spot the theological problem in this song:
Okay, I’ll give you the lyrics just to help out…
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
And we’ll all stay free
Praise the Lord and swing into position
Can’t afford to be a politician
Praise the Lord, we’re all between perdition
And the deep blue sea
Yes the sky pilot said it
Ya gotta give him credit
For a sonofagun of a gunner was he
Shouting Praise the Lord, we’re on a mighty mission
All aboard, we ain’t a-goin’ fishin’
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
And we’ll all stay free
Tell us what you think in the comments!