I have been called many things since I began writing in 2003 about the immoral, unjust invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the menacing warfare state, the U.S. evil empire of troops and bases that encircles the globe, the depravity of…
Is it okay to kill? I don’t mean a bug in your house, a snake in your garage, or a deer in the woods. Deer tastes good; you may not know if that snake in your garage is poisonous; and bugs are home invaders.
I mean is it okay to kill a man, a human being, a person? Again, I don’t mean someone trying to kill you, rob your business, rape your wife, harm your children, or break into your house. Killing someone might be perfectly justified in those circumstances if it involves defense against aggression.
Specifically, is it okay to kill someone who has not threatened or committed violence or aggression against you, your family, your friends, your neighborhood, anyone you know, or any American you don’t know?
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. (Romans 13:1-5)
Christian apologists for the state, its leaders (when they are Republicans), its military, its spy agencies, and especially its wars (and especially when they are started by Republicans) sometimes refer to the above passage from the Book of Romans as if it somehow justifies their blind nationalism, their cheerleading for the Republican Party, their childish devotion to the military, their acceptance of national-security state, and their support for perpetual war.
There is no greater abuse of this passage than when it is applied to national defense. I have come across two examples of this recently.
In his famous work The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer commended Christian suffering under tyranny and oppression as a means of demonstrating Christian faith and commitment. “It would be equally wrong to suppose that St Paul imagines that the fulfillment of our secular calling is itself the living of the Christian life. No, his real meaning is that to renounce rebellion and revolution is the most appropriate way of expressing our conviction that the Christian hope is not set on this world, but on Christ and his kingdom. And so—let the slave remain a slave! It is not reform that the world needs, for it is already ripe for destruction. And so—let the slave remain a slave! [Christ took on the form of a slave too (Philippians 2:7)]…The Christian must not be drawn to the bearers of high office: his calling is to stay below” (1995, Touchstone, p. 260). Is Bonhoeffer right? Should American Christians not run for “high office”? Should they be content with their “slavery” imposed upon them by a tyrannical state that confiscates more than half of their earnings in taxes, proactively regulates their behavior as a big brother would, and maintains a threat against their homes for nonpayment of property taxes?
This essay continues the Christian Theology and Public Policy Course by John Cobin, author of the books Bible and Government and Christian Theology of Public Policy. Do Christians have a right of self-defense? If so, under what circumstances may they…