Living Free in the Spirit of Christ

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Whatever Happened to Conscientious Objection?

Posted on February 15, 2015 by Alexander
Resisting the draft

Where is the moral conscience of the Church today?

When I was a youth the Vietnam War was winding down. When I was of draft age, Nixon had begun the lottery and my number was too high, so I never went. But I remember that many had either fled to Canada or had filed CO, Conscientious Objector. That was a strange concept to me since I did not come to Christ until I was an adult of 32.  The C.O. is a basic right of American freedom that had been used by men of faith who refused to violate the teachings of Jesus Christ in harming others.

Since the Vietnam war we have had a  multitude of military police actions and wars around the world:  Grenada and Panama in 1989;   Desert Shield in 1990 then Desert Storm in 1991;  Somalia in 1993; Bosnia mid 1990’s; Afghanistan 2001 and on; and Iraq 2003 and on – all called police actions, not wars; World War II being the last war declared by congress.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and observed the Vietnam War protests and the emergence of alternative lifestyles of Berkeley, California. The influence of that era had a stronghold on me that I was unaware.  As a new believer in 1985  a friend made it her mission to get me to vote and be patriotic.  Her mission was supported by worship music and preaching in the pulpit, so as a new ignorant believer I assumed that  she was acting on behalf of the Lord.

During that time I joined the ranks of Christians who believed that supporting the government  was patriotic and what “good” Christians do. I discovered that many Christians were police officers who attended my various congregations, many were combat veterans, many were government officials.  In short people of the church populate every aspect of the government and the military and are the biggest supporters of the military. Yet, it has not always been so.  Many American Christians at one time refused military service.

How has the Church in America turned away from the plain and simple statements of our Lord?

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Mat 5:44)

“And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.” (Luk 6:29)

“…for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Mat 26:52)

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34).

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

A theme which is also echoed in Paul.

“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:21)

“…but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”(Rom 16:19)

Let not then your good be evil spoken of: (Rom 14:16)

And tied up by Peter:

For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. (1 Pet. 3:17)

How, then, according to these verses do we justify supporting America in so many wars?

There have been many Christians on the radio who brought up the arguments of Augustine regarding the doctrine of “Just Wars”, especially during the response of 9/11. I remember men like Kirby Anderson, arguing the need for the Church to accept this teaching to justify the “War on Terror” and the invasion of Iraq, which was based on the hearsay of weapons of mass destruction. At that time, I too, was numbed by the shock of the Trade Centers’ destruction, and accepted the Al Quaida theory, even though I was surprised at how fast the government “knew who did it.”  Many years later after reading and viewing the videos on the destruction of the towers as analyzed by “Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth”  I was convinced that the buildings came down as a controlled demolition by our own government as an excuse to create a “war on terror”, which is called a “false flag” operation.  Invading Iraq simply because they “may have had” weapons of mass destruction was clearly beyond the scope of “Just Wars”, yet the Christian radio support continued despite that obvious wrong.  And now, when I consider all the wars that America has been in, I am not sure any of them have been “just wars.”

I am encouraged that some Christian leaders are now questioning this departure from the words of our Lord. Pastor Chuck Baldwin is an example.  He  wrote an article entitled, “How Did Christians Become Warmongers?” In it he says,

“Mind you, Christians historically were not afraid or ashamed to defend themselves, their families, and their country. The Lord Jesus, Himself (the Prince of Peace), allowed His disciples to carry personal defense weapons (see Luke 22:36, 38). While some Christian sects were conscientious pacifists, these were the exception, not the rule. The vast majority of Christian believers understood the Biblical, Natural Law principle of self-defense. But believing in the right of lawful, God-ordained self-defense was never to be confused with warmongering.”

Currently I am still meditating on even the point of self defense.  In the natural, I might act upon self defense, but the words and the example of Jesus compel me to the contrary point of view.  Jesus did not defend himself when interrogated by Pilate and Herod.  He did not resist the kangaroo court and crucifixion.  It is true that He had a mission for our salvation, but He also knew that vengeance is the Lord’s, He would repay (Rom. 12:19).

I have thought deeply on Leo Tolstoy’s writings on pacifism. In his works, “What I Believe,” and “The Kingdom of God is Within You” he argues that Christians not only should not resist violence, Christians should not even work for the government.  A sentiment that I think has support from Jesus saying that we can not serve two masters (Matt. 6:24 & Luke 16:13).  If He can make such a statement regarding money and God, does it not equally make sense that we can not serve the Kingdom of God and the Kingdoms of the world, i.e., the government of the land we live in?  Did not Satan say to Jesus during his temptation that he could give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, for they were his to give, if Jesus would only bow down and worship him? (Matt. 4:8-9 & Luke 4:5-7).  Can we serve God and Satan?

Conclusion

I am still deliberating on this issue, so I am not settled regarding self defense, but war is another matter. American history shows an aggressive domination through war, not self defense. I believe that our government has used False Flags events to justify our going into war for most of the wars where the people thought it was self defense. No news is ever given any more of people who refuse to participate in war through the conscientious objection. Of course we have not had the draft since the Vietnam war, but I suspect it will be raised again soon. Meanwhile it grieves me to see so many in the church think they are serving God at the same time they are serving their governments. It is an error to equate governments as equal to God.

2 to “Whatever Happened to Conscientious Objection?”

  1. Kathryn says:

    Good to see you are still posting! Was just thinking of you yesterday.

    I, too, have gone through a lot of reconsidering in terms of war, especially in light of 9/11. It is easy to think, “Oh, I must get my philosophy of war together!” But reading the scriptures, it’s not apparent to me that there was ever a spelled-out philosophy or doctrine concerning war for all time.

    It is impossible to read the stories of the people God used and think, “Oh, God is totally against war.” There is David, and there is Sampson, and we must reckon with Moses and Joshua. “But those are Old Testament,” people may say. There is also Jesus, a man of peace. And yet, as you say, Jesus sent his disciples out, allowing them to carry a sword.

    What are we to make of this? Possibly that even Jesus did not find it necessary to create a doctrine-for-all-time on war. He who said, “My kingdom is not of this world…” also said, “Occupy till I come.” And so, we find ourselves in the world, dealing with the same day-to-day things as our neighbors, yet we are ultimately not of this world. I suspect that the believer is neither left nor right, hot nor cold on the matter of war, but is left to take the middle path, the straight path. “Man does not live by bread [sword, plow, gun, etc.) alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

    Therefore, I propose an alternate path: that we ask the Lord for His word on a matter, that we listen for His speaking, that we wait upon Him to reveal His counsel at the needful time–even though we may be left to follow our conscience for the meantime.

    You have a very good point about working for the government. Except for cultural work (and even this is suspect nowadays), I have had reservations about getting “in bed” with the government for the very reasons (and more) that you mention.

  2. Alexander says:

    Kathryn,

    What a delight to hear from you! I hope married life is all that you desired. I don’t write very often. If you look at the dates on the front page you can see the many months that pass between posts. This issue has been weighing on my heart for many years now. It is folly to try and fix that which will ultimately be destroyed, i.e., the secular governments. The great Commission has never been revoked and the work of the Church remains the same as when first given by Christ. We are to labor in His Kingdom, not the world’s. I have no doubt that God calls believers into secular government, but their call remains the same as ours: to introduce the Kingdom to those working in government who do not know the King.



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