Monday, May 27, 2013

Why I Could Never Serve in the Military

I could never serve in the military. I will never serve in the military. Even if the United States was to go to all-out war (such as in WWII), I would not join up. Even if we were invaded, I would not take part. If the draft was reinstated and I was selected I would not report (I'd even go to jail first if need be).

Through the years I've given this issue a great deal of thought. I used to be a gung-ho patriot of the United States and its military. However, as I look in the bible I don't see any calls upon Christians to take part in any form of violence on the part of a nation state. Instead, we're expected to be peacemakers in the name of Jesus Christ. As Christ-followers, we may suffer and even die for the cause of the gospel. That's our real mission.

God is the author of life. He creates it. Because of that, I have no right to take it. My citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Only secondarily am I a citizen of the USA. I love the kingdom of God, but I do not love the USA. My service is to my Lord and Savior, not to a secular state.

The United States is not a new Israel. Its soldiers do not fight for God. Rather, they fight for political freedom and the American way. The problem is that God has not called upon his followers to kill-or-be-killed for political reasons. He is much more concerned with freedom from the bondage from sin than freedom from political oppression.

I cannot imagine joining the military, training for combat, and then being faced with killing someone. It flies in the face of what Jesus has called us to do. Our Lord instructs us to lovingly serve others to the point of dying for them. Why in the world would I take lives just to supposedly advance the cause of the USA?

I do not stand in judgment over Christians who have joined the military. This is certainly a difficult issue. Additionally, I suppose that it is possible to be part of the military without taking part in killing (chaplaincy for example).

As for defending my family from invaders (foreign or domestic), that is a different issue. In that case, I would not hesitate to kill someone who is threatening to kill my family. As head of my household I believe God demands that I defend them (not that I would take any pleasure or satisfaction in it). God does not, however, expect me to defend a secular political state.

On Memorial Day I always have mixed emotions. I'm glad to live in a country where I have semi-religious freedom. At some level I'm thankful to those who died defending that freedom. Despite this, on principle I don't support the killing of other human beings for political reasons.

The cross is not wrapped in the American flag.

Jesus Christ could have come to earth as a political conqueror to throw off Roman occupation of Israel. However, he had a bigger and more important mission to accomplish. He gave his life as the gospel. Those of us who call Jesus Lord have been commissioned by him to take this gospel to the ends of the earth. Like many others before us, we may be called upon to die in doing so.

The Great commission is too critical to waste our time defending our country's political aims via the military.

Ultimately, it is because the gospel is so important that I could never serve in the military.

12 comments:

Randi Jo :) said...

ouch. this one makes me cringe. I guess just because it's just such a sensitive issue. I appreciate hearing you ponder away though.

I think of my Grandfather, who was a world war II hero, like many of our grandfathers, and I thank God so much for what they all did for us. The horror that they witnessed that was happening to citizens of other countries was unspeakable. As a Christ follower and a non aggressive personality as well, I imagine it was very spiritually difficult for my PopPop to have to be drafted & go to war.

Just like everything else, today's military and conflicts amongst nations just seems so different than the past. Everything is so much more complex and more hidden.

I wonder if the WWII heroes did not completely understand why they were fighting until afterward..... just like today.

I guess I believe that our citizens today... because the nature of how devastating and serious the threats are... just don't know exactly why we do what we do as a military. yet they trust that they are doing good because they trust their leaders. they wouldn't put their lives on the line if they didn't think they were defending good.

I have a friend that was killed in 2006 - he was a Christ follower, for sure, was killed in the line of duty in Iraq. He was only 19. I remember he said that he wanted to defend his country.

So why do some believe that they are defending their country, protecting their family... and some do not?

Very often motives just get tossed around and whichever one causes the most unrest and least sense is usually what sticks. We don't have the information that our country's leaders do. I bet if we did, we would understand their decision & tactics so much.

Maybe I am just very naive and stupid to think that at the heart of it all, our leaders really do make good sound decisions based on the knowledge & information they are given....

In a more complex world, everything is so much more complex... enemies used to be easily seen... now, because of how visible each country is to each other and information so quickly carries.... those who do evil do it in more sneaky, hidden, twisted ways. Perhaps we won't understand what good our military did until the way future.

Randi Jo :) said...

I too would defend my children and home even if it meant killing somebody.... and I truly do believe a lot of what the US has done since WWII has been to keep enemies/evil away from our homes.

I go back and forth on this... I don't know. So, I leave it as one of those things I thank God I don't have to know and I will try my best to support those who do make the decisions. I can't be an arm chair world leader with the limited information I have.. although we all try. I trust that those who make the decisions for us are doing it with much accountability amongst each other and doing it based on information & knowledge I don't have or understand.

I pray my children and family don't ever have to face military action, no matter where it is. It is so far from what heaven will be like.

To honor those fallen, if nothing else... I think that love would show itself today in reverence for the sacrifice & love poured out and shown by so many millions who were willing to give their lives..... no matter what the motive. That is love, for sure.

I guess that's all my rambling.

Personally, I know the family of my friend that was killed would want to believe he died a worthy cause... for freedom, which always points to the Lord... for protection of those around him in combat...to help rid the world of terrible evil & atrocities & injustice.

I do believe even though he was a Christ-follower - and we know what Christ desires & what will be in heaven - that in this very broken world very different than heaven - that was his place he was supposed to be. We should desire christians in all areas of leadership, service, job, profession. Then perhaps we'd have more assurance that the decisions made were God-focused or God lead. I wish we could know for sure there was a just cause.... that it wasn't about ideological power or power in land or money. I wish we could know for positive. But these young boys were devoted to what they thought was a good cause.

Thanks for letting me ramble... I don't know. Just trying to process out...

Eric said...

Randi,

Thank you for commenting. I too have family members who have served in the military and are serving today. My guess is that they have thought much about these issues as well.

What I continue to come back to is a combination of two things. First, Jesus was a man of peace who expects his followers to be peacemakers. Second, the bible nowhere even implies that we should be willing to kill others on behalf of a political state.

No easy answers here. I'm glad I haven't actually been faced with the issue in my lifetime.

David R. Brumbelow said...

I don’t know you, but I could not disagree with you more. You seem to be selfishly enjoying the liberties in America while not being willing to lift a finger to preserve those liberties or help others obtain them.

I think the liberated Jews who were being slaughtered by the Nazis would have disagreed with you. I think the Koreans and Chinese being tortured, raped, and beheaded by the Japanese invaders during World Ward II would have disagreed with you.

Sometimes we become so spiritually minded we are no earthly good. We have a responsibility to our country. Jesus said to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (Matthew 22:21). We are commanded to obey the laws of the land (Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:12-17). King David thanked God for teaching his hands to make war (2 Samuel 22:35; Psalm 18:34).

You say you are for peace. Sometimes the only way to make peace is to first make war. The reason we have peace in America today is because we have been willing to fight for it. The reason we have the ability to practice our faith in America is largely because of the price soldiers have paid.

Memorial Day should always remind us that freedom is never free.
David R. Brumbelow

Arthur Sido said...

This is a difficult and emotional conversation to be sure. Like you I was once pretty "patriotic", where patriotism is defined as a willingness to kill others to defend "my" nation or at least begin willing to send others to do the same on my behalf. I came quite close to joining the military twice as an adult and I am glad now that I did not. Today my plea is that no one kill someone else to preserve my "freedoms" as a Christian born in this country.

Eric said...

David,

Thank you for your comments. You have presented the other side of the argument that is largely held within the American church today. Thanks for doing so. I respectfully disagree with you, but understand how you have come to your conclusions.

Just a few things to consider:

You wrote, "You seem to be selfishly enjoying the liberties in America while not being willing to lift a finger to preserve those liberties or help others obtain them." I was born in the USA. It wasn't my choice. I live according to the freedoms we have. I'm not going to kill for them.

You wrote, "We have a responsibility to our country." I agree. I pay taxes, follow the laws of the land, and occasionally vote. However, I won't kill another human even if told to by the country in which I live. Christ calls on us to be peacemakers. I'll only render to Caesar what is his when it doesn't contradict Christ's teachings.

Finally, you wrote, "Sometimes the only way to make peace is to first make war." Wow. That is a slippery slope. That's basically the reasoning our country used to invade Iraq. What a waste of money and lives that venture has been.

Jesus is the greatest example of a peacemaker I have ever seen. My desire is to follow both his teachings and example.

Eric said...

Arthur,

I agree. I can no longer comprehend killing another human being in the name of a political state. It's a sad example of the American church being in bed with the Republican Party. I want no part in that any longer.

Arthur Sido said...

David

I think the liberated Jews who were being slaughtered by the Nazis would have disagreed with you. I think the Koreans and Chinese being tortured, raped, and beheaded by the Japanese invaders during World Ward II would have disagreed with you.

A couple of questions.

If we had not entered World War I and tipped the balance, would we have had to fight World War II?

Would the Japanese and German citizens burned to death or incinerated by the atom bomb agree with you?

What about the millions killed by our "allies" the Soviet Union?

Have you read what comes right before Romans 13 and asked how that should temper how Christians view war and violence?

Wars are started by "great men", fought by young men and cause suffering to the common man. Wars will happen from now until return of Christ. That doesn't mean that we who are called His should pick sides in wars and kill because a President or king or anyone else says so.

Eli Chitaka said...

There will always be those willing to kill on behalf of king and country.
This is a grey area of the gospel in that we are called to live one way, yet live in a world that lives another.
So we pay our taxes even though we know taxes are a form of theft or at least used for purposes we disagree with.
Hindsight is convenient when it comes to war... we will never know what would have happened if a peaceful path was chosen.
Honestly it disgusts me the way some americans can grandstand with an air of moral superiority about US foreign policy over the past 100years.
The concept of freedom that is supposedly being defended is just code for control and domination of the weak within and many peoples outside US borders.

In all the history of wars... the idea that WWII was the one just and moral war is just silly.

Peace has not been tried and shown to fail... it has not been tried for the most part. Unfortunately activity today is contributing towards future wars.

A warmongering & consumerist nation is generally speaking never going to lead the way in the peaceful way of jesus.
Jesus brought peace through his suffering and forgiveness... if we want to avoid suffering we wont have peace.(of course the peace that ultimately counts)

Eric said...

Eli,

Thank you for leaving a comment.

I expect American foreign policy to continue much the same in the years ahead. It disgusts me, but every ten years or so we go to war again. We have an enormous military-industrial complex that desires war on a routine basis.

As for Christians, we need to take a different path. Jesus was a man of peace. We should follow his example. I cannot understand why so many American Christians seem so militaristic. We who favor peace here are in the minority. We'll keep speaking in favor of it and hope that God changes hearts.

rodrigo said...

For me one of the main passages that convinces me I can't be involved in war is 1 Chronicles 28:3. If God did not want David to build the Temple because he was a warrior and had shed blood. Should we who actually are his Temple be shedding blood.

From my viewpoint mosts wars really haven't been fought for my freedoms or others. That is just a nice thing to say. They are fought for power, or protecting our "interests". Whatever that means? Most Christians I know opposed to war are willing to lose their external freedoms over killing others, and are willing to suffer the consequences of this decision. They know true internal freedom is found in Christ despite the outward conditions.

I'd be curious to know what you give for your basis of killing to protect family. I don't know that I see that represented in scripture either. Jesus even asks us to turn the other cheek when we are personally faced with violence that doesn't even threaten our life. I realize that this could be argued that it is only for personal, but I am wondering where Jesus says we can protect our personal family with violence.

Eric said...

Rod,

Thanks for your comments.

Regarding OT passages, I admit to struggling with their application when it comes to this issue. Many Christians actually use OT passages to justify going to war, acting as if the USA is some sort of new Israel. I prefer to simply point to the life of Christ.

As for turning the other cheek, that is certainly a powerful passage. I believe it has relatively narrow application however. As a personal level, as you mentioned, I think it does apply but no farther.

I'll defend my family as a matter of defending those who are weaker and cannot defend themselves. Many passages speak to the importance to taking care of those who are weaker. The Good Samaritan passage comes to mind. However, I also admit that there is no passage I can think of that deals directly with this issue and/or with using violence to defend those who are weak. I certainly hope to never have to kill to defend my family and plan to use all other options before turning to that one.