Peace and War, The Christian and the State.
I am not sure how everyone else handles their various allegiances. I am a Christian, not simply by culture but by conviction and by spiritual experience. I am an American. I am a man that is married, I have a wife and children. All of these things matter to me and certainly at different times and in different ways I have felt protective of them. I grew up in an inner city housing project in Newark, NJ. I learned how to fight in that place. Then I learned personal non-violence. I have been in discussion with people who do not share my faith, in fact with people who despised my beliefs. I have been in confrontations with people who hated me because of my race. I have had to figure out if I had the right to resort to violence in self-defense, or if the country in which I lived had a right to make war on another country and if I in good conscience could participate in that, or oppose it. I have met other Christians who had no problem with the concept of self-defense, or even the willingness to come to blows over a lack of respect shown to them. I have met other Christians who were in the “peace churches” who felt that the Bible forbade believers to participate in violence or war, no matter how in the right they or their country might be. I read comments by people who react to what some Muslims do to our embassies, what some Muslims have done in attacking our cities or our people in various places of the world. Here things go from simply a question of national defense to the idea of religious wars and some of my friends begin to equivocate in their reactions. Some of the most conservative Christians I know, in regard to their beliefs and commitment to Biblical doctrine, can be some of the most ready to fight in behalf of the nation. It is also true that some of the people I hear speak so liberally of being patient, turning the other cheek, and letting God handle things are ready to fight if attacked personally, or if their family is attacked. I don’t think any of us should think the job and responsibilities of the American President are easy. What a powerful lot of wisdom that office requires, and what great potential there is in that office to do good or evil in affecting many in the world. It seems so easy for the rest of us to judge the President’s actions, words, and non-action very quickly. In regard to the use of American power for force, justice, or to oppose violence his decisions carry immense repercussions. How important it is for us to pray for him, and how wise to humble ourselves before we go about second guessing (usually in instant reaction to a news story) what he does or doesn’t do. Let me give some personal disclosure. I am a Presbyterian, we are known as the people who believe in the “Just War” theory. That does not mean, “just make war” it means that there are principles that help you to determine when it is just to go to war and when it is not. Presbyterian heritage is a history of fighting, and certainly in the American Revolution Presbyterian preachers did more than preach, they participated. More disclosure; I believe in personal non-violence. That is I believe that Jesus was serious when he told us to turn the other cheek, that I should not take my own revenge but leave room for the wrath of God. Of course this belief is only possible when you believe that there is a God, that he knows and cares about your situation, and will take action when and as he sees fit. It is hard to turn the other cheek if you don’t have hope in a God who loves you, even if you have to suffer. Living this out is tough, and each confrontation means you enter into the temptation of pride, anger, hatred, and violence. I believe in this, and I have practiced it, and I have had to take a punch or many, and I haven’t always liked living out this principle. I have always been glad I did. I don’t believe the ethic of non-violence belongs to the State. I do believe the ethic and responsibility of justice does belong to the State. I also believe that running the State requires wisdom, patience, a commitment to equity and achieving an environment of peace. What does all this mean in practical result in where I put my allegiance when it comes to force and violence? America is a State, when it is attacked, whatever the stated reasons of the attackers (whether secular or religious) it not only has a right but must protect itself and its citizens. Radical Muslims can say anything they want about Christianity, the West, or America, but if they attack our citizens, embassies, or country the U.S. must respond. It does so not in the name of Christianity, because for the U.S. this is not a religious war, it is only a religious war on one side. The motivations of the attackers make no real difference, their actions and continued violent intentions do. Once engaged or deciding to be engaged it is then that the principles of a just war are or should be put into effect. My role as a Christian in the State is to always demand our standard in national practice, in peace or war, be just. Personally I should be willing to die for my faith and not try to kill someone for attacking me or my faith. As a husband and father, especially in my own home, I should not only be willing to protect my family if they are attacked but kill the person doing it if necessary to stop them (proportionate force is the principle). This is a matter of protecting the innocent and helpless, even though my wife is not so helpless. As a citizen I should vote for a president who seems to have wisdom, believes in pursuing peace, and is prepared to make war if necessary and has the personal constitution not only to make war but to win it and get it over with quickly. As a citizen I should be prepared to participate in the exercise of justice, by serving in the military if necessary, paying taxes to pay for a war we might need to fight, allowing my children to serve in a war in which they might die. I must not allow everyone else to sacrifice while I and my family seek our own affluence and security. I should also refrain from disheartening my fellow citizens by equivocating our nations actions with those of others and from a cynicism that never seems willing to take sides or choose right from wrong. At the same time I should be vigilant that our nation never go to war unless it must, never treat other nations or people unjustly, and always seeks peace. This means political activism and if necessary civil disobedience if necessary to stop injustice. This is not a perfect world, and even if our actions as a nation are not perfect and others criticize us, our nation cannot allow violence against our citizens to be left without response. CHAPLAIN (COL) ALLEN R. NABORS, USA, RET.