Monday, November 14, 2011

Ruminations on Civic Duty, Patriotism, and Military Service in Relation to Our First Allegiance to God

By Dave Armstrong (11-14-11)

 From a vigorous discussion thread on my Facebook page. I was responding to one person, whose lengthy comments can be read there. I cite a few of his words (in blue).

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Lord save us from the scourge of radical pacifism, that causes thousands, even millions of lives to be lost out of a misunderstanding of what duty and Christian love requires in the face of senseless violence.

We are to seek and promote peace, not a head-in-the-sand, pie-in-the-sky, Frisbee-throwing, Kumbaya, Chamberlain-praising-Hitler, Gandhi saying "Hitler is not a bad man" naive vision of Liberal Secularist Utopia, where all men have only the best intentions and would never hurt a flea.

I just find it ironic that we seem to have blurred the line, at times, between the operations of the kingdoms of the world and the function/purpose of the kingdom of God, somehow fusing both together as if they support the same thing.

Romans 13:1-7 (RSV) [1] Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. [2] Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. [3] For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, [4] for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. [5] Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. [6] For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. [7] Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
1 Peter 2:13, 17 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, . . . Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Our Lord said, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matt 22:21). When Jesus met the Roman centurion, He didn't tell him to immediately quit the army. Rather, He said, "Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith" (Matt 8:10) and healed his servant (8:13). Acts 10:22 refers to "Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man."

So if we dare to take a moment [on Veterans Day: I posted three tributes] to honor our brave soldiers who have fought for freedom and justice, thus indirectly honoring the government for whom they fight and sacrifice, all of a sudden we are accused of mixing earthly and heavenly kingdoms, even though St. Paul and St. Peter clearly joined them together in purposes. A government can become utterly evil, of course, and then it can be resisted (Rev 13).

What one person decides to do is not normative for everyone else. Even Jesus and St. Paul acted differently when they were persecuted. Jesus turned the other cheek and didn't resist (He was born to suffer and die for us), but St. Paul resisted mightily, even appealing to his Roman citizenship at his trial. This is why he was beheaded, because he had the rights of a Roman citizen. So I guess the great apostle mixed the two kingdoms, too. What a shame and pity. All our best biblical role models are failing in their task to properly educate us.

I have no problem with individual conscientious objectors. I respect that. But if they try to tell everyone else that they are wicked and evil because they chose to serve their country in the military, then that is wrong, and not biblically justified.

I conscientiously objected to abortion, was in about 25 clinic rescues from 1988-1990, was arrested five times, and went through three trials and was in jail for a few days. I paid the consequence of my objection; took the risks. What I didn't do was demand that everyone else rescue as I was doing. That was my choice. 

The Bible tells us to honor our rulers and authorities. I respect the good things in this country and speak out against the bad (abortion, racism, bad liberal social policies, sexual sins, greed, etc.).

I am also on record saying that America is the wickedest nation ever, on account of abortion, and the principle of "to whom much is given, much is required." I'm no knee-jerk patriot who can't see anything wrong. But freeing oppressed people -- oftentimes not even Christians -- isn't wrong (WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraqi War, Afghan War, Bosnia, etc.). We are usually engaged in very honorable military activities. We're not perfect. The nuclear bombing of Japan in 1945 was immoral.
I have argued that in several papers.

I just saw last night that a soldier got life in prison for killing three Afghan civilians. This shows how we are very concerned to engage in just warfare. If we weren't, why would such a sentence occur? According to many anti-military or pacifist types, all our solders do is wantonly destroy, rape, and pillage. This is an extreme, outrageous calumny and slander. But there is the life sentence, because the proper moral lines weren't observed.
St. Paul believed that he could be a Roman citizen, since he appealed to it. If it were some intrinsically evil thing, he could not have done that. Whatever it was, it is not presented as a sin. Of course we can't make a secular ruler "Lord": that would be idolatry. The early Christians couldn't say "Caesar is Lord" -- and chose to die instead. We're not saying that, now, but only saying to respect authority and honor rulers, as we are told to do.

Our responsibility as citizens is to vote, not to have a "who cares?" attitude as to who gets elected. If we think childkilling is evil, and other policies evil, then we get in line on election day and vote for people who oppose the evil things; otherwise we are complicit in the continuance of same.
The Church has not condemned all military warfare. Period. The Church has not said that states do not have a right to make these decisions. Period. End of story. 

It's pacifist / anti-military thinking that brought us World War II: nothing was sufficient to convince folks of Hitler's intentions. Hence many millions were slaughtered and it could all have been prevented, had appeasers like Chamberlain been roused from their slumber and fantasies.

Recent wars have been far more closely aligned with Catholic teaching than
World War II itself (an initially just cause if there ever was one), where immoral tactics were often used (carpet bombing, nuclear annihilation). Now with smart bombs, etc., there are far far fewer civilian casualties, and almost all unintended.  



Maroun said...

C.S.Lewis said ."The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" .
Should we just yes to islam and permit islam to coquer the world just because we are peaceful people?should we have permitted the communists to conquer the world and deny God and force people to deny God and do nothing about it?Should we have permitted the Nazi`s to do whatever they want with everyone which was not arian?Should we have permitted to Bin Laden to do whatever he wants with the world?
These are only a very few of the million of evil things which no one should accept.

Dave Armstrong said...


Maroun said...

Charles Caleb Colton––English cleric and writer (1780-1832)
"War kills men, and men deplore the loss; but war also crushes bad principles and tyrants, and so saves societies."

Dave Armstrong said...

Excellent quote.

Dave Armstrong said...


The quote you gave at the top is from Edmund Burke.

Maroun said...

Ah ok . Thanks for the correction Dave . I took it from a site on the internet where they said C.S.Lewis .
GBU and merry Christmas and a very happy and blessed new year for you and your family .

Dave Armstrong said...

Same to you, my friend.