10 Nov 2013

Christians and Warfare

Religious 39 Comments

Today in church the pastor asked veterans to stand, then people with a veteran in the family, and then asked us to applaud them. It was pretty awkward but I sat there doing nothing; I wasn’t “making a point” but I also could not in good conscience applaud for people carrying out what I thought were horrible instructions. Then we went back to praising the Prince of Peace.

Beyond the obvious tension (some might say contradiction), there’s the added complication that the Christian churches that are the most pro-military also tend to be very distrustful of the US government’s assault on the church. They routinely lambaste the sick Western culture and value system depicted in the mainstream media. So why would we so blindly praise the efforts of the armed forces who follow the orders of these same government officials, in order to spread the blessings of our way of life to other people around the world?

I realize there is an unfortunate association historically among Christians and organized warfare. Is the present pattern in the US simply a reflection of that, or does it stem from something else?

Last question: Are the Christian churches in other countries also pro-military, or is that an American pattern?

(Note, I have in mind Protestant evangelical churches in the above remarks. I’m sure Quaker services are not so gung ho about the military.)

39 Responses to “Christians and Warfare”

  1. Yosef says:

    What’s so weird about it? The Prince of Peace is the son of the Lord of Hosts.

    They are just praising the father.

  2. Matthew M. says:

    Well, at least my church didn’t go that far, but I did find myself physically shaking my head when they asked the vets to stand and thanked them and such. It’s disgusting to see people bringing their reverence of government workers into church (our pastor didn’t stop with vets; he also mentioned police, firemen, etc).

    I’m curious, is your pastor familiar with your views? I basically haven’t shared my views with anyone yet, and don’t know how I’m going to eventually do that (I have been principled libertarian for only about 3 years).

    • JimS says:

      Yes it is a little weird, after all, soldiers took Jesus off and eventually crucified him, buuuttttt;

      All the disciples carried swords. I assume these were not fashion accessories, that they were prepared to use them, but did not because Christ told them not to as he had to fufill the prophecy. Jesus did chase the money changers out of the temple as well. I do not believe that we are to be non-violent in every instance if we are to be Christians.

      The interesting thing to me is the anti violence agenda. Were the church under attack by an assailant would everyone in the church simply cower, “Thy will be done.”? Would they encounter the assailant and try to reason? Would they physically encounter him? (Likely not if they are anti violence) Would they call the police? Most likely, but the police are simply an instrument of force or violence. I am always entertained by so called non-violent people farming out their acts of aggression to someone else to perform and then complaining that the officer was too violent. It is still violence done at your behest.

      The country we live in is the result of violence done at our behest, whether we directly authorized it or not; we benefit. If we are outside the bank during a robbery and the bank robber is run over by a responding police car scattering the money. Is this money yours for the taking? May you morally benefit from this money? Clearly no. If you do, you must praise the actions of the police running over the robber to your benefit.

      The actions of our military are, in part, responsible for much we have. Certainly the actions of the American Revolutionaries has benefitted us.

      Now I am not sure that we should praise them in church, but we are the beneficiaries of their service, whether their mere existence dissuades others from violence toward us, or their direct actions alters violence toward us. It is an odd paradox that those who eschew government embrace the military.

      You are right; Dr. Bob should make his views known to his pastor. HE certainly can back his position. The problem is next year if they do not recognize the vets there will be a stink.

      This recognition thing is always weird. I was at an event where vets were asked to stand, then police, then fire service, their parents, etc. I thought, gee farmers and food service workers, because without them these would be some hungry soldiers, police, etc., and what about sanitation workers? WIthout them no matter how much food and protection we had it would be worth nothing if we were knee deep in waste. What about the merchants who selfishly satisfy their own needs by satisfying ours? They shoudl stand up too.

      You know, it just gets so silly.

      • Matthew M. says:

        “You know, it just gets so silly.”

        Indeed, why not everyone just stand up.

        But yeah, I’d much rather have an appreciation day for all the businessmen and everyone else who works in the free market to improve our lives every day- instead of what we have now, recognition for some of the most needless and destructive government workers you could think of.

        (In case anyone should misunderstand libertarianism, I’m not against genuine self-defense).

      • Bob Murphy says:

        All the disciples carried swords.

        Why do you say that? Didn’t the lot of them only have 2 total?

        • JimS says:

          Perhaps I am wrong saying all. The fact remains, they carried swords and, as a prior service person, you do not carry a weapon unless you have the intent to use it, in fact used them, choppy off the soldier’s ear; hardly an acto of non-violence.

          I know we are on different sides on this issue. I’m not picking a fight, but I do not think Christ nor His disciples were as non-violent as it is made out. I believe that they behaved a certain way to get their message out. If they had been violently confrontational, they would have been removed early on and Christ’s message and later, that of his disciples would have been lost and altered the message.

          If the message was one of complete non-violence, why didn’t Christ tell the disciples, We don’t roll like that. Leave those weapons at home or at least at the plowshare factory?.

        • Gamble says:

          Bob excellent point. Jesus says 2 was enough.

          My county has a resurging Republican party spearheaded by a gun owner group that is based in a rural church. I like guns but these people are over the top. They say the gun is the modern day sword. Okay.

          When you tell them Jesus instructed Peter to put away his sword and Jesus said 2 sword was more than enough, they go ballistic.

          These people claim to love Jesus but hey really love guns and the power.

        • Ken B says:

          Tag teaming.

  3. Jeff says:

    Dr. Murphy,

    In my experience (as a dirty dirty foreigner) this is an American phenomenon. In my home country of Canada, we do not celebrate militarism in church, even though we do respect the dead soldiers on Remembrance Day. Further, in Latin America (where Catholicism is big), celebrating militarism is very uncommon. I don’t know about Mexico, so I’m speaking about the central American countries of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

    Kind regards,

  4. Tom E. Snyder says:

    Idolatry lives and too many in the church are infected.

  5. Joel Poindexter says:

    It most likely stems from political conservatism, which is almost always pro-military and pro-war. Many churches, and it seems like it’s mostly baptists or any church near an army base (I “served”), are this way. They seem to be filled with conservatives who deplore the mainstream culture, as you say, but apparently don’t recognize the contradiction.

  6. Thomas Ray says:

    Dr. Murphy

    As a retiree from the US Navy, I would probably have a different opinion than the one you have here. While I am not for holding military personnel up as heroes, there have been some very heroic and selfless actions that have happened on the battlefield. While in Iraq, I prayed for the Lord’s hand to keep me safe from harm. I was part of a group that was conducting electronic warfare to counter the remote controlled IED threat. I was awarded the Bronze Star for my efforts and I wear it to remind myself of those that didn’t come home and those that worked hard for me out there. While the US may be in the Goliath mode in many of the recent conflicts, I do believe that God was on the side of David, while also promoting peace. As a Christian (Anglican/Episcopalian), I have had my issues with war and being in the military, but I like to “walk softly and carry a big stick.” I think that service in the military should be recognized as honorable, as defending a nation can be dirty work. I don’t think that any country should be going into another sovereign country willy-nilly to start nation building. I understand what is behind a pre-emptive strike and why it may be the best course of action, but I am still against war as are 99.9% of those that serve in the military. On a personal level, I just thought about “no greater gift than laying down my own life to protect another.” Too many outside the military see us as glory hounds or war mongers, yet we are a microcosm of the society we represent. None of us wants to be a hero, but when thrust into a situation we will take the actions necessary to survive. The medals we wear were never “won” as the MSM like to frame it, they were earned through great selfless acts of valor. Most don’t want to be remembered or recognized for their actions, they are just happy to be alive and maybe to have saved a platoon mate or two.

    I know that I am rambling, but this topic usually gets me going, particularly on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. I think I understand your position and I respect that position. I don’t think that each person in today’s all-volunteer force joins the service to go to war, or to force other countries to adopt our way of life we join to protect the US from all enemies (foreign and domestic). It does end up being that we are protecting our buddies in a foxhole or a submarine and we can find that work satisfying. I don’t think that the service members should be regarded as heroes or put on a pedestal, but recognition of them devoting their lives to something bigger than themselves. All of us in the military are not sheep as you seem to imply, we all have our opinions and we don’t always agree with the government of the day.

    Keep up the good work with your blog. As a person with a keen interest in economics (BA in Econ from University of Oklahoma) and considering myself a libertarian, I enjoy your work. I also enjoy your explanations of how being a libertarian and a Christian does not present an inner conflict.

    Kind Regards

    • Bob Murphy says:


      Thanks for the note. I hope my post didn’t come off as insulting to veterans per se. I realize it’s a very complicated issue, and at the very least, I have never seen a guy in uniform get onto a plane and say, “Hey everybody, start clapping for me!”

  7. Jon says:

    Here in the UK, it’s still called remembrance day. At church we remembered those who lost their lives in war, both civilian and military. It wasn’t devoid of the phenomenon you describe, but I think it was suitably offset by a general abhorrence of war, regardless of who’s fighting or for what cause.

    Remembrance day is always a solemn affair in this country, with laying wreathes and the like. The military will do some prancing around and everyone will observe a minutes silence for the dead.

    I am worried for the UK in general though, it seems we are going in the wrong direction on this matter. Everyone and his dog wants to support the charity ‘Help for Heroes’. I’m not against helping soldiers who’ve been injured physically or mentally, but lets not forget the civilian victims of war too.

  8. Gert Brough says:

    South African churches do not preach warfare or militarism. But we used to back in the day of forced national service for young men and compulsory 1 month military duty per year for the rest. The common factor I guess is numbers involved. During those days everybody had a son in the force or was part of it. Even the private businesses were working on military contracts. It was a common bond. We all hated the terrorists as defined by government. So it is today with Americans. War on terror is a common bond with lots of Americans involved. It is a theme for unity. If our preacher asks the same question today, no one will stand up. We have other things on our mind.

  9. Bob Roddis says:

    A substantial number of southerners are “Scots-Irish” from a strongly protestant background who fought the English for centuries and then set their sights on the Catholic Irish. Culturally, they have always been strongly pro-military.


    I have not read the book buy I read a ton of reviews of it when it came out in 2005.

    I like to try and shame the pro-war types by asking why they are so enthusiastic about wasting soldiers’ lives who are spreading Clintonista policies around the world and doing to Iraq what those policies did to Detroit.

      • Ken B says:

        And what about those evil bastards who fought Hitler?

        • Bob Murphy says:

          And what about those evil bastards who fought Hitler?

          We need a new term for someone who acts like this:

          CULTURE: All numbers are positive.
          RODDIS: What about -3?
          KEN B.: And don’t forget +2! Idiot.

          “Troll” doesn’t do it justice because Ken B. is way smarter than a troll. Maybe “sorcerer”? That has a sufficiently sinister connotation.

          • Ken B says:

            You have missed the point. Roddis reacted to a blanket adulation with a blanket condemnation. Why is that better?

            Or perhaps you’ll tell me “I like to try and shame the pro-war types …” isn’t a condemnation? Memorial Day, Remembrance Day in Canada, is not just about those who fought in Iraq but about those in all our wars including the Hitler war. Men and women Roddis boasts he likes to shame.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              How is it a blanket condemnation to select the “pro-war” types out of the totality of those affected by, or participate in, war.

        • Bob Roddis says:

          I was trying to make a small point that perhaps their views of the military might not change but perhaps we can change the way they think the military might be employed.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Someone who uses lethal force to defend themselves from being murdered, isn’t necessarily “pro-war”.

          Not saying this applies to every Allied soldier in WW2, and how that does apply to those involved in WW2 must be done on a case by case basis, just saying that you’re not rebuting the prior comment with your comment.

          • Ken B says:

            I am rebutting Roddis’s blanket sneer at those he calls “pro war” because they express their feelings about this in church, like an 85 year old woman who stand in church remembering her elder brother killed in Normandy.

            • Bob Roddis says:

              When have I sneered at WWII veterans and their families at church?

              • Ken B says:

                The topic was those in church who applauded veterans and their families. See my comment above.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              It’s not a blanket sneer if it’s restricted to those who are PRO-WAR. Do you even know what that term means? It probably doesn’t include the 85 year old who lost her brother in Normandy, although it could, you never know.

              You’re reacting to a non-existent blanket sneer with a comment that only makes sense if it were.

              I see no reasonable argument against sneering against those who are pro-war.

              • Ken B says:

                It does because it refers to the church members who applauded.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      A review of James Webb’s “Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America”:

      The Scots-Irish (sometimes called the Scotch-Irish) are all around you, even though you probably don’t know it. They are a force that shapes our culture, more in the abstract power of emotion than through the argumentative force of law. In their insistent individualism, they are not likely to put an ethnic label on themselves when they debate societal issues. Some of them don’t even know their ethnic label, and some who do don’t particularly care. They don’t go for group-identity politics any more than they like to join a union. Two hundred years ago the mountains built a fierce and uncomplaining self-reliance into an already hardened people. To them, joining a group and putting themselves at the mercy of someone else’s collective judgment makes as much sense as letting the government take their guns. And nobody is going to get their guns.

      These are the “red state” voters. They are family-oriented, take morality seriously, go to church, join the US military, support America’s wars, and listen to country music. They strongly believe that no man is obligated to obey the edicts of a government that violates his moral conscience. They once formed the bedrock of the Democratic Party—from the time of Andrew Jackson until the Vietnam era—but they have been moving to the Republicans since then. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Webb called the Scots-Irish in America the “the secret GOP weapon.”


  10. Gamble says:

    John 18:11

    11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

  11. Gamble says:

    What about the Johnson Amendment of 1954 and House Resolution 235?

    Oh wait, Johnson was a pinky, Romans 13 need not apply.

    Wait what did I just say?

    Oh boy those schizoid tendency’s are flaring…

  12. DT says:

    I personally would not be happy with such a congregation.

    Our church (outside of the US) does nothing of the sort. We stick to the Bible and are weary of any type of government, whether it pertains to military or other. We are not even registered.

    For example, this country mandates forced vaccination of children…and some of our members refused to do it (some are citizens of other countries so they were able to get out of doing it and others…well just didn’t comply or find a way out as well).

    We are a hardline Biblical church, which is a rarity, considering many of the big and popular churches are preaching false and prosperity gospels. I’ve been to some of there gatherings…all they talk is health and wealth…so I don’t know how the mainstream churches think regarding government…

    • Ken B says:

      I’m guessing your country isn’t Poland, France, Belgium, Norway, Holland,, Denmark, Russia, Greece, Czechoslovakia, or a few others.

  13. SmartMuffin says:

    I’ve noticed this too and always thought it was odd. My best guess is that it comes from an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” sort of thinking, just in the sense that both evangelical Christians and military veterans tend to be more “conservative” on most issues, and naturally flock towards each other for support.

    As a recovering slave of the state myself, I never stand at these things unless I’m seated immediately around people who know my former status. I never “served” anyone. I did a job, and I was (incredibly well) compensated for it. The only difference between what I did and what the guy who works the drive-thru at McDonalds does is that you can choose not to purchase the services of McDonalds guy. Nobody has a choice to pay my salary or not.

  14. Innocent says:


    I think you misunderstand the real reason to value people who will willingly give up their ‘freedoms’ in order to fight for a country. That country often times, as a state, misuses the trust, love of country, and honor these individuals bring to the table. But they are a necessary part of freedom in the end. Though at times they will act to restrict it rather than enlarge it.

    When I salute and thank someone in the military for their service I am not thanking them for what they have done, or what they do currently, but rather for their willingness to place their body on the line, to in many ways offer themselves up as a sacrifice for the safety and well-being of others.

    I can think of one person in particular that did this thing. That was the Christ himself.

    So perhaps you are upset at what it is that someone in the military ‘does’ rather than thinking about what sacrifice he/she is offering themselves up as. Same with Firemen and Police Officers. This is not to say we do not compensate them for their efforts, but in the end they place a great deal of themselves on the line and I believe many of them over the course of history have given the ultimate sacrifice.

    I hold politicians in contempt for the way they use these people, the people themselves are for the most part, very honorable, and I think, in a very Christian tradition of self sacrifice for the safety and well being of others.

    Christ is the way and the light, I hope that in the end we will not have to study war anymore. Until that day however I believe that understanding and honoring those that are willing to place themselves in the way of harm for others sake is a noble and Christian thing. As for the choices as to how to use them… That is a different bag of cats – or when politicians are involved different bag of Skunks?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Innocent, I get what you’re saying, but in context, our pastor first “explained” that if the US had never entered World War I (sic!!!), we would not currently be sitting there able to worship from the Bible publicly.

  15. SmartMuffin says:

    “This is not to say we do not compensate them for their efforts, but in the end they place a great deal of themselves on the line and I believe many of them over the course of history have given the ultimate sacrifice.”

    Right, but the potential for that sacrifice is considered as part of the value proposition.

    Consider an insurance company that sells a policy to a megachurch. This church is a wonder of architecture and cost millions of dollars to build. The church pays monthly premiums to the insurance company. All of a sudden, a fire sweeps through the town and the church is burnt to the ground. The insurance company pays out the entire value of the church, thereby bankrupting itself in the process.

    Do the worshipers come together to honor the noble “sacrifice” of the insurance company? I would guess not. It was only doing what it said it would do. It was obligated to do so because it had collected the premiums. There was a contract to be upheld.

    The same is true with the military. Most of them are paid well above-market wages for their particular jobs. This additional premium isn’t just to compensate you for the fact that you can’t grow dreadlocks. It’s essentially a premium that the soldier collects, knowing there is a chance that he might have to pay out the full value of the policy in the future, which could include his life. This is a market transaction like any other, regardless of what noble and selfless aims we attempt to ascribe to it. Want me to honor the noble “sacrifices” of veterans? Find me the ones who opted to work for free.

  16. Ken B says:

    K: I was in Texas.
    R: I hate racist crackers!
    K: Whoa, not all Texans are racists or crackers!
    R:Who said anything about Texans?

  17. Tel says:

    Anyone who says that he or she is prepared to “do whatever it takes”, whether it’s Mario Draghi and Angela Merkel talking about support of the euro, Ben Bernanke talking about preventing deflation, George W. Bush talking about pursuit of terrorism, or Barack Obama talking about growing the economy … is making a preventive war argument just like Curtis LeMay. Not a preventive war against a particular nation, but a preventive war against some conceptual social ill. Of course, you can’t defeat a conceptual social ill like you can defeat a nation. You can’t accept the surrender of General Deflation. These social ills will always be with us in one form or another, which means that a preventive war in the modern context is a permanent and constant war.


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