Thursday, March 15, 2007

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Christians in the US Military

Keith McIlwain pondered Gen. Pace's recent remarks that gays can't serve in the US military because he considers their behavior immoral. Keith wonders why Christians aren't considered morally unfit for military service:

Hauerwas makes a point that is powerful and dripping with truth. Why aren't Christians ostracized by the military? Why doesn't the Army say, "We can't have Christians in our outfit; they won't kill another human being!"


Keith Taylor said...

Well I know i will get pumeled for this, but here goes....

Who says that a Christian will no kill another human being? Where is the Bible is that?

As a Christian, I will not MURDER another human being, but I can guarantee that if I had to defend my wife, or my son, or my family, or my country, or to save the life of another innocent soul, I absolutely would kill another human being if I had to. I wouldn't like it, it would sadden me, I don't dwell on, but it certainly something that I would do if, God Forbid, the situation arose.

St. Alvin York is a prime example of an excellent Christian soldier. He tells in his biography that he struggled with killing. It is the prime focus of the movie of about his life staring Gary Cooper. He was against war, he was against serving in the army. But, he recognized that God had placed him under the legitament authority of the US Government. He recognized that if disobeyed joining the army when he was drafted, he was equally a sinner. He was against killing, but when the Germans were killing his friends all around him, he took action and he single handedly killed and captured over 125 Germans. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. God used Alvin C. York as a shining example of a good, obiedient Christian, and He rewarded him for it.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't want Hauerwas on the front lines defending against an enemy. Of course war is tragic and probably the worst sin of humanity, but in a world full of evil, when good men do nothing, evil flourishes.

Keith, one of my favorite generals in the Civil War was Stonewall Jackson. He was a devout Christian. Of course he was a Calvinist, so that probably explains his warlike nature.

Dan Trabue said...

I agree with the previous comment that war is tragic and perhaps the worst sin of humanity. But then he goes on to commit that common faux pas:

"but in a world full of evil, when good men do nothing, evil flourishes."

And I must again point out: WHO'S advocating doing nothing? The Bible gives us plenty of ideas of ways to proceed.

1. In the OT, the rule was always, always, always, "Trust God to deliver." Even when God seemed to allow an army, God wanted Israel to use a small, underarmed militia so it was clear that GOD was doing the delivering. Early on (Abraham, Moses...pre-Kings), God was doing nearly ALL the fighting (ie, God delivering Noah from the violence of the world via the Ark, God delivering the Children of Israel from Egypt).

When Israel demanded a King, God warned that a King would mean that they were no longer depending upon God but upon men. That a King would tax them and take their sons and daughters to serve in a big military machine...pretty insightful of God, huh?

But still even when they used a militia, the rule was trust God. God told Gideon to get rid of soldiers, whittled down the army to 300 against the thousands of Philistines. God sent David to face Goliath and the army was only sent to chase them out after the fact. And so it goes, in the OT, God told God's people to rely upon God.

2. In the NT, we are told to love our enemies. To turn the other cheek (be sure to read Walter Wink's Third Way interpretation of this). We are told NOT to ignore evil but RATHER to overcome evil...with GOOD.

No (very few) peacemakers are saying to "do nothing." We're saying that, as Bible believers, we are to trust God and as Christians, we've been commanded to use other means rather than the world's accepted ideal of meeting violence with more violence.

Who says that a Christian will not kill anyone? Well, we are commanded to love our enemies and to turn the other cheek and to overcome evil with Good; To rely upon God for our defense.

Tell me how you do all of that while dropping bombs on an area where you believe some enemies may exist and where some civilians (children, even) certainly do exist?

Anonymous said...

Dan..sounds good as long as you are safe and sound in your secure and safe country that was defended by the blood of previous generations. But when the cut-throats, murderers and ruthless are marching into your neighborhood I hope David and Gideon show up to defend you.

Dan Trabue said...

Well, my anabaptist forebears certainly were in that situation repeatedly. As was the early [pacifistic] church. To quote what's-her-name, "we will survive!"

So that you understand, I'm not saying that in a situation where someone were attacking a child, for instance, that I wouldn't act. I have, in fact, been in that situation.

It's just that my experience has been that acting in a peaceful way has the best results. Stepping between the assaulter and victim. Calming the situation down. Refusing to be goaded into a fight.

Overcoming evil with good. A soft answer turneth away wrath.

That bible stuff actually works, it seems to me.

As to David and Gideon showing up to defend me, you miss the point, I believe. GOD delivered. David and Gideon were just there to do the clean up.

I won't trust in Gideon and David. I'll be glad to join with them in overcoming evil with good, but I'll thank God to deliver me, or not.

And again, my anabaptist forebears have a lot of experience with NOT being delivered, as well.

Anonymous said...

A real pacifist would probably end up a martyr in the face of evil. I think most people, Christians included have a will to live. I guess how strong that will to live is and to what extent one is willing to go to preserve life depends on the individual.

I like you am not an advocate of violence and pre-emptive warfare, I just think if an invader or attacker threatens the life and welfare of an individual or community, self defense is not wrong.

Remember, Saul killed his thousands and David killed his 10 thousands and he was a man after God's own heart.

Dan Trabue said...

There's a whole range of pacifists and peacemakers. There certainly is plenty of biblical support for being a martyr in the face of evil. That is one way to overcoming evil with good.

But it's not the only way. Most peacemakers I know fall more in the non-violent direct action approach. They/we advocate standing up to evil in well-reasoned ways that have a good chance of working.

One great example is the Witness for Peace program that helped stop the terrorists in Nicaragua by just being present in the villages there.

Regardless of likelihood of success, though, it is our call to overcome evil with good. Some may find the need to resort to violence, but it should not be the norm nor a goal to which to aspire, seems to me.

And certainly, we ought not praise violence of war as a good (as some are wont to do). A failure of creative peacemaking, the lesser of two evils, perhaps, but not a good.