Pacifism: Police and Defensive War, Part 2

pacifismAnother thought experiment

Imagine a world where half the nations are almost entirely all Christians. The Christians all refuse military service, and quite consistently, they refuse to hire mercenaries. What will happen?

If the non-Christian minority serves in the military while the majority Christians refuse service, the Christians will surely incur resentment from the minority, who will have given their children’s lives for the sake of people who will not defend themselves. That seems wrong. It’s not so hard to admire a small percentage who refuse military service as a matter of conscience, but if nearly everyone refuses to defend their neighbors, Christians and Christianity will be despised.

It’s easy to pretend that nations never go to war unless provoked, but this is just not true. Nations conquer other nations for lots of reasons, and rarely is provocation the cause.

Now, if God really does require Christians to refuse military service, even in a Christian nation and even for solely defensive purposes, they’ll die as martyrs. But it seems to me that allowing evil men to prevail violates “love your neighbor.”

Indeed, it violates “love your enemy,” as the best thing that can happen for a people ruled by evil men is for their evil to be defeated. I mean, are the people of Germany and Japan (and their conquered territories) — on the whole — better off or worse off for their having lost World War II? Why has the United States been on good terms with both nations for decades after that war, even though the US and its allies defeated both countries, killing many of their people?

The police

And this brings us to the police. So far as I can tell, the need for police came later than the need for the military. You only need police when a city becomes large enough that family and community ties aren’t enough to enforce good conduct.

Even today, many small towns have no police or only one police officer. The neighbors all know each other, and so they rarely commit crimes against each other. The need for police comes from the alienation that arises from large cities – or from the need for an oppressive government to control its people.

We don’t read of police in the Law of Moses and during the time of the judges. The law was enforced by village elders, not by force of arms (they were elderly men) but by peer pressure and family honor.

Then again, even in later times, I find no evidence of a distinction between the police and the military. The same people did both jobs – as the military/police were simply men charged with enforcing the king’s will, domestic or foreign.

In Judges 19 -20 we have the story of the rape and mutilation of a man’s concubine by the Benjaminites. In response, the other tribes raised an army – to deal with a domestic crime.

(Judg 20:20-21)  The men of Israel went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah. 21 The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelites on the battlefield that day.

When Saul sought to kill David, as a threat to his throne – a domestic dispute – Saul used soldiers.

(1 Sam 26:7)  So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him.

Of course, the Romans also made no such distinctions, at least not in Palestine. They didn’t have soldiers at the borders and policemen in the cities. They had soldiers – and it was soldiers who crucified Jesus – as a criminal.

In the First Century, you couldn’t choose to be a policeman or soldier. They were the same job – and this surely remained true for many centuries afterwards.

Now, let’s tax a fresh look at Yoder’s distinction: the military’s purpose is to kill people, but this is not the purpose of the police – although both may kill people in the right case.

But most nations have militaries solely for defensive and deterence purposes. There are countries that haven’t sent soldiers to kill for over a century. There have been plenty of military actions fought where the soldiers were instructed to disarm and capture rather than kill unless necessary to protect themselves.  Indeed, it’s probably always been true that a wise general would prefer to avoid bloodshed if at all possible.

Just so, the police force will inevitably kill people in performing their duties, even though this is never the desired outcome. But sometimes it’s necessary to take the life of an evil person to protect the lives of innocents. And the police very often have to threaten a criminal’s life to obtain his compliance. But if the police won’t — on principle — pull the trigger, the gun means nothing. The police only succeed in their jobs because their threat of violence is real. And because it’s real, they usually don’t have to use violence.

But this is the identical calculus that drives the taking of lives in a defensive military action. If your country is at risk of being invaded, you first prefer to prevail by deterrence: don’t attack because we have overwhelming defensive forces. If your bank is at risk of being robbed, you first prefer to prevail by deterrence: we have cameras and guards and police: don’t rob use because we have overwhelming defensive forces. But if someone invades or robs anyway, the guns come out. You try to capture rather than kill, but failing that, sometimes the invader or robber gets shot.

Now, in very recent times, in the US, the Supreme Court has severely constrained the use of deadly force by the police, but this a novelty in the history of policing. The Romans crucified thieves, and until very recently, many a thief was killed by the police when he resisted arrest.

Even today, in many nations, the police kill many of the nation’s own citizens. There is nothing inherent in policework that makes the police less likely to kill than the military, when killing is required to get the job done.

Just so, Yoder also distinguishes between the police and the military arguing that the police are subject to closer supervision by the courts — which is true in this country. In the US, the military is overseen by the President with very little oversight by the courts, whereas the police are overseen by the courts as well as the executive branch. But both are under civilian authority — in this country. But it’s hardly a universal rule that one is more strictly governed than the other.

One more thought experiment

Imagine the idea that it’s a good, Christian, gospel-worthy idea for Christians to serve in the police in order to regulate the evil of individuals, but it’s wrong, un-Christian, and anti-gospel for Christians to serve in the military to regulate the evil of entire nations. Why is it good to use the threat of violence to control individuals but not to control entire nations?

Of course, when you confront a nation, the amount of violence threatened is all the greater, but so is the evil. Why may Christians, as police, prevent murder by individuals, but as soldiers may not prevent mass murder by cruel dictators?

It could be argued that a war against a murderous nation involves the deaths of innocent soldiers forced into service in the dictator’s army as well as the “collateral damage” of civilians — it’s not just the murderous dictator whose life is at risk — whereas for individual murderers, it’s unlikely any innocents will get hurt. And that’s true.

But it’s also true that failing to stop the murderous dictator results in the deaths of many innocents. In a religion that has as its primary ethic “do unto others,” how can we conclude that there never is a case where military action can be, on the whole, more good than not taking military action?

For that matter, the military often deals with purely police actions — to end piracy, to police the borders — so I’m just not seeing Yoder’s point.

Again, this is hardly the end of the discussion. It’s just that I don’t think you can argue that the military is inherently evil while the police are inherently good. Both can be used for evil and for good. It’s easy to think of plenty of examples of just that.

A policeman can be ordered to do evil — and a Christian so ordered must refuse to do so. Just so, a soldier can be ordered to do evil as well, and a Christian soldier must say no. And history is replete with examples of both kinds of evil orders. But what would the world be like without the police and the military? You see, both are at the heart of why we have government.

Both have been empowered by God to use the power of the sword to punish evil and reward good — and I think both are much more likely to honor their God-given purposes if Christians participate.

That’s not to say that there are no limits on what wars a Christian may participate in. It’s just to say that I don’t see a per se rule that all military action is wrong whereas service in the police is okay. Indeed, I don’t think God meant to design a system where, just as soon as a majority of the people are converted to Christianity, the nation disbands its military and offers no resistance to invasion — or, worse yet, allows non-Christians to die defending a nation that the Christians control but won’t defend.


31 Responses

  1. Jay,

    Where does God fit into the first part of your post? I don’t think you’re one of the “God doesn’t do anything anymore” people. Is it wrong to believe that God would respect the faithfulness of his people? As for what would happen, we’ll never know. Christians will never have that much courage, I’m afraid. I for one am willing to allow God to be my protector. Some may trust in horses and chariots; I’ve placed my trust elsewhere.

    Your point about the military and the police in a historical context is interesting. In the modern application of the two, I see great differences. Rarely is a policeman asked to destroy a target without having some idea of who or what is inside. That sort of thing happens frequently in modern warfare. And no, the military doesn’t allow time for moral investigations. “We’ve been ordered to bomb these coordinates.” “Sorry, sir, until you tell me who and/or what is there, I can’t follow those orders.” Yeah, right. I’m sure that happens all the time.

    Wars are fought without the public knowing fully why. Sometimes the very legislators that order those wars don’t know why. (It’s ironic that we worry about legislators taking care of our health care, but don’t mind letting them tell our children whom to kill) History has shown us time and again that nations have no problem in twisting the facts to rally support for wars. Even when soldiers know the big picture, they rarely have the information they need about individual situations.

    Yes, police forces have been abused in modern times; my wife’s uncle was a policeman during the “dirty war” in Argentina. He now knows that the “insurgents” he helped arrested were citizens who were tortured and killed by a corrupt government. At the time, he believed what his commanding officers told him.

    I’m curious what percentage of policeman have been called on to take a life, compared with those in the military. I’m guessing there’s a major difference there.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2. Jay,

    What are the objections you raise based on? Sanctity of human life? This leads to the irony for those willing to use deadly force of killing to stop killing. Not only is it an irony, I believe that it is an unacceptable choice for the Christian.

    As a follower of Jesus, am I to take up arms? Some will point to the sword(s) at his arrest, but why did he want them to have the sword(s)? Was it to use them? Or was it to allow those who used swords at the bidding of others to follow their orders and allow the court (Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod) to decide how to act with him in custody?

    I agree that the police versus soldier distinction is a false distinction regarding use of deadly force. And I have serious questions for the consideration of each one who is thinking about becoming either a soldier or a police officer. Chief among them is this: when did Jesus take up a physical weapon to fight anyone? I cannot follow Him where He did not go.

    Jesus had opportunity to defend himself and others with a worldly weapon. He chose not to do so. That is what I will do, too, IF I follow Him. It is not possession of a weapon that sets me apart from Jesus. But it IS using one to defend myself that sets me apart from Him.

    You objected that allowing evil men to prevail violates the command to love you neighbor. Let’s remember that Jesus said that His command was new – to love one another as HE loves us. If we claim to follow Jesus by loving more than He did – taking up arms to defend the helpless when He never did, we dishonor and disrespect Jesus and His example, and we fail to see the message He brought and lived to show us the way to the Father’s bosom.

    Jesus stopped short of using deadly violence to promote or protect anything. As His follower, can I stop anywhere else?

    Who is my leader? And will I follow when it is horrifyingly real? That is the question, brother.



  3. Very good post Jay. There are pacifists who say defending people in their family and in their city is good, but don’t want to extend that to other people who live futher away.

    Perhaps some will answer the questions you asked in your post such as:

    Why may Christians, as police, prevent murder by individuals, but as soldiers may not prevent mass murder by cruel dictators?

    In a religion that has as its primary ethic “do unto others,” how can we conclude that there never is a case where military action can be, on the whole, more good than not taking military action?

  4. And I have serious questions for the consideration of each one who is thinking about becoming either a soldier or a police officer. – Glenn

    What are your thoughts on this, can a person be a Christian and serve in the military or police?

  5. Jay,

    I have to admit the same thing occurred to me that occurred to Glenn. Earlier in this series, you stated that preserving human life was not the highest goal. Now you say that if Christians die as martyrs, evil has prevailed.

    Again I have to point you to the book of Revelation. It says exactly the opposite.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  6. Jay,
    Let me add some reality to your hypothetical. I personally know of a small border town in Texas that has this very same problem. The Sheriff’s department there is allegedly not on the up and up. State Troopers have told me of things they witnessed and now chose not to get involved in the affairs of that town. The County Judge has asked several Christian men to apply for a deputy position (he has even asked me but I am unable due to my disability) who either won’t or can’t take that job. Yet in the mean time they are at the mercy of a crushed velvet jogging-suit wearing, Boss Hogg looking, corrupt Sheriff. And all the while drug trafficking has grown so out of control not even the newly built Border Patrol station can handle it. It’s like walking into McNairy County, Tennessee without a Sheriff Buford Pusser by your side.

    When is it OK to let a whole community live in fear and their children grow up in corruption while the Christians stand by and watch? Because that is what the world sees, a bunch of people that rail against the atrocities of the world on Sunday then sit on their hands come Monday.

    In love,
    Steve Valentine

  7. Tim,
    I believe you have been watching way too much TV. The military does not make blind strikes on targets. Yes, mistakes are made and some individuals do get “trigger happy”. But for the most part strikes are made after intensive intelligence work. Even when forces come across situations that were unexpected, things must be verified before force can be used.

    Please do not relegate the armed forces to a bunch of Jon Wayne’s that shoot first and ask questions later.

    Plus, it is the duty of every soldier to disobey unlawful orders even if it is to be done at their own peril.

    In love,
    Steve Valentine

  8. Steve,

    Thanks for adding some actual facts to my hypotheticals. As we say in law, sometimes the facts matter.

  9. Tim,

    The highest value is faith expressing itself through love. Someone’s taking of my life may be of little consequence, but taking the life of an unbeliever brings both physical and spiritual death.

    If I refuse to defend my unbelieving neighbor, I’ve behaved in a very unloving way — resulting in my neighbor’s damnation. Shouldn’t I prefer to die trying to keep him alive?

  10. Tim,

    The answer to your first question will come in a future post shortly.

  11. Steve,

    Thanks for the correction. Not too much TV, but maybe too many movies. 🙂

    I’m definitely talking outside my field of experience. Does the average soldier get to see that intelligence before entering into battle? That is, does he get to make moral judgments as to whether or not to participate in a certain fight? That would make it more palatable, I guess.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  12. Greetings;
    I found this entry and comments intriguing. Here are a few observations I would like to add.
    1. One does not necessarily have to resort to using violence to defend oneself or one’s country. There are peaceful ways of resolving conflict between nations and peaceful ways of even preventing or resisting a foreign attack. Gene Sharp in “The Politics of Nonviolent Action documents scores of historically proven tactics for resisting dictators, with examples of when they were succesfully used.
    2. Dunagin in “How to Stop a War” states that over half the wars fought never resolve the issue or issues that caused the war. Why pick a method of response or action that has such a dismal success record?
    3. Chris Hedges in “What Every Person Should Know About War” writes that 75-90% of all the victims of wars since World War 2 have been innocent civilians. If such care is taken before attacking a target, as one of the commenters above suggested, than why are there so many civilian deaths? Actually I believe much of the attacks the military makes are in fact, “blind” in that targets are chosen and attacked without assertaining that civilians will not be injured or killed. The nature of the weapons used (which include drones, bombs or other devices dropped from high or launched from a significant distance) make it inevitable that civilians will be the primary vicitms.
    4. Military violence has exactly the same kind of effect on human bodies and human relationships as any other kind of violence you can name: street violence, sexual violence, gang violence, drug violence, criminal violence, domestic violence, etc. So if those other kinds of violence are wrong, how can military violence be right?
    5. What many Christians forget is that the death and serious injury of every person (soldier or civilian of any nationality) victimized by war represents a damaged or destroyed family. If we are supporting the use of military violence against others for whatever reason, trying to claim that we are also pro-family is simply dishonest. People who support or approve the use of war cannot be pro-family, because war is probably the family’s worst enemy.
    6. If we want to follow Jesus’ example and teaching we have to realize that the definitions of success and failure are different for the Christian than for the non-Christian. “Winning” for the Christian does not mean that you destroy your enemy by killing him. It may mean that you pray for him, turn him into a friend, or even give up your life for him, as Jesus did for his enemies. “Success” for the Christian is not gaining as much wealth as possible and living an easy, long, and luxurious life. It may mean living in poverty, suffering, and dying violently at a relatively young age, as the Apostles and many other followers of Jesus did. Success for the Christian means forgiving his enemy rather than retaliating. Most wars fought by nations, including the two the US are currently addicted to, are being fought for revenge as in Afghanistan, or to steal resources such as oil in Iraq. Neither have anything to do with defending our country.
    There are many other points that could be made, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Thanks again and keep writing.
    Leonard Nolt
    Boise, Idaho

  13. Jay,

    You wrote:
    “If the non-Christian minority serves in the military while the majority Christians refuse service, the Christians will surely incur resentment from the minority, who will have given their children’s lives for the sake of people who will not defend themselves. That seems wrong. It’s not so hard to admire a small percentage who refuse military service as a matter of conscience, but if nearly everyone refuses to defend their neighbors, Christians and Christianity will be despised.”

    Jesus said:
    “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

    If the world hates and despises who we are and what we stand for and how we choose to life–so what? Did Jesus tell us to expect any different?

    You wrote:
    “Now, if God really does require Christians to refuse military service, even in a Christian nation and even for solely defensive purposes, they’ll die as martyrs. But it seems to me that allowing evil men to prevail violates “love your neighbor.””

    If that’s so, then it’s never right to turn the other cheek or go the extra mile, is it? If a violent man struck me on the cheek because i was a Christian, then letting him hit me again would be “allowing an evil man to prevail” given your parameters. Allowing Christians to die as martyrs would be “allowing evil men to prevail”–yet it happened all the time in the NT. You’ve set up parameters that seem to make it wrong ever to obey Christ or His apostles regarding resistance and retaliation. Why did Jesus say “do not resist an evil person”?


  14. There are some who probably don’t hate Christians who don’t want to help defend them, but know they are being left to die when it could have been prevented. When we allow our neighbor to die when we could have prevented is not loving our neighbor.

  15. Tim,
    Apology accepted.

    On an overall basis, no soldiers are not given the moral implications of a battle then give the choice to decide whether they will participate. But they are required to engage the enemy based on the Rules of Engagement (ROE) and the obligation to disobey unlawful orders.

    Let me give you an example. One ROE we were given was not to fire on places of worship, buildings used for religion or the care of the wounded or hospitals. If at any time the enemy entered one of these buildings the order of “cease fire” was given. Many soldiers were wounded and killed because snipers would position themselves in minarets knowing American soldiers could not fire on them. Only after verifying the target and confirming the presence of noncombatants was it calculated whether or not to fire upon the building.

    The military has a very high standard of “moral” law, as I have pointed out over at your place. The Uniform Code of Military Justice covers everything from bouncing a check to adultery to actions during combat. Does that mean every soldier abides by that “moral” law or that every Officer enforces that “moral” law? No. The UCMJ is good; the fault lies with the soldier (Heb. 8.8 sounds familiar). Not all soldiers will abide by the law. And for some reason that is the only thing anyone outside the military ever hears about – the times soldiers don’t abide by the law. Ratings I guess.

    In love,
    Steve Valentine

  16. Jay,
    I’m just throwing things out there today.

    Some how we need to seperate the carnality conveyed through media and the man who carries out war. From my perspective they are very different. Even though war is hell, each soldier is not a devil.

    Also, check into the UCMJ, the Conventions, etc. to outline how force is to be taken and wars are to be fought.

    Steve Valentine

  17. Anonymous asked: “What are your thoughts on this, can a person be a Christian and serve in the military or police?”

    That, dear friend, is a very serious question. Can they? This is an easy answer. Yes. They can. I have known and still do know many who do serve in both the military and the police force. And while I am tempted to say that the question ought to be “should they serve in the military or police?” the truth is, that question does not really get to the heart of the matter, either.

    Perhaps a better question is: what can a Christian do if and/or when what Jesus teaches has to be set aside in favor of the duty they have sworn to uphold? Frankly, the answers I have received to that question vary about as much as do the names of those whom I have asked…not that I am any kind of grand inquisitor on this point or any other.

    The point is, how far do we take our allegiance to the authorities and principalities of this world while serving the Lord? IF we cannot follow the duties required of the position (soldier or police officer) at any point, have we made false the promise we made when we swore to do our duty as assigned to uphold the laws of our jurisdiction or the interests of our country?

    Some of the questions I would ask anyone considering poice or military service are:

    – When you take the oath of either police or military service, does it take precedence over your decision to follow Jesus?

    – When did our Lord Jesus say deadly force is justified?

    – What will you do if asked in this work you are considering to do what you believe Jesus would NOT do?

    – When faced with a choice between serving Jesus and fulfilling your duty as a police officer or member of the military, how far are you willing to go for Jesus?

    – Do you mind if I ask God to give us both wisdom right now? …wisdom for me to know how to best serve you to His glory, and wisdom for you to make a decision to His glory…

    – Is there a question you have that you do not know how Jesus would answer? And, if you do, can we try to find the answer together?

    – If you do not serve in the military or the police force, what will you do?

    – And if you do choose to serve in the military or with the police force, what do you expect from, and what will you accept from, me and your other brothers and sisters in Christ?

    The questions, you see, are not about me liking their decision. These questions are about them keeping their decision to, or not to, serve in line with their commitment to follow Jesus. It is not my business to make anyone’s choice of vocation for them. It IS my business to encourage Christians to make their commitment to Jesus far and away the highest priority in their lives. And, when someone is considering a work that will very possibly require them to use deadly force, it is my responsibility to encourage them to be ready to make that decision BEFORE they take that job – and also, if they are already serving, to help them through the thorny issues that willconfront them as they serve…just as I do for any other brother or sister in any other vocation…and, just as I hope they will do for me, as often as I need and/or ask for their help and encouragement.

    Amid all these discussions, my focus is to follow Jesus – who commands me to love my fellow believers as He loves me. There is no ‘out’ for me to ignore those who may choose a vocation that I would not choose. And there is no ‘out’ either for me to hate the one who raises a gun to my face.

    I have worked for Law Enforcement and I have had a gun in my face, too, so it may be that I can serve by sharing both of those perspectives as one who serves, above all else, Jesus. To God be the glory!



  18. Guy,

    I’ve got a some posts coming on the Sermon on the Mount.

  19. Steve,

    I want to say how much I appreciate your involvement in this discussion. Having someone with firsthand knowledge of warfare is immensely helpful. As we lawyers like to say: sometimes the facts matter.

  20. Leonard,
    Without getting emotional here, I would like to ask you to please leave out any political leanings you may have in judging the Iraq war. To my knowledge, America has not taken one drop of oil or once cent of oil revenue from Iraq since this war was started. I believe it was decided long before the start of it that was how it would be done to deter any accusations such as you have just made.

    If you would please just understand that many have lost family and friends in those wars (myself included) and to reduce them to terms such as you have helps no one, nor does it help this conversation.

    If I am out of place please forgive me.

    In Love,
    Steve Valentine

  21. Steve;
    Thanks for your response. No, I don’t think you are out of place. I’m interested in hearing your response, if you agree or disagree. I think the evidence that the current war against Iraq is primarily about oil is so overwhelming as to be indisputable. In his memoir published in Sept., 2007 Alan Greenspan wrote, “The Iraq War is largely about oil.” Presidential candidate John McCain at a townhall meeting in Colorado in May of 2008 implied that the Iraq War is about oil by stating that as president he will have an “energy policy” that will “prevent us from ever having to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.” Shortly after the invasion Paul Wolfowitz told the press that war was the US’ only choice, “…because the country floats on a sea of oil.” Steve, If you remember American troops guarded only the Ministries of Oil and the Interior as people looted the museums. A July 5, 2008 article on entitled “The Iraq War Was About Oil, All Along” by Bill Moyers reported that the New York Times had recently announced in a headline “Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back.” The Times reported that “Four western companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.”
    Even during the first Gulf War remembered as “Operation Desert Storm,” Lawerence Korb former US Asst. Sec. of Defense for the first Pres. Bush, in talking about the motive for Desert Storm stated, “If Kuwait grew carrots we wouldn’t give a damn.”
    The reports of weapons inspectors such as Scott Ritter, who was a Republican and Bush supporter until he realized the deception the president was imposing on the US in order to justify war, clearly ruled out the possiblity of there being any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
    I understand that many have lost friends and family in these wars. I work at a VA Medical Center and understand the suffering of veterans and their loved ones. We owe it to them and to those who gave everything to tell the truth about these wars. The Bible says “Ye shall know that truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Those who lie about the reasons for the current wars, as the Bush Administration did, are jeopardizing our freedoms. If we lie about the reasons for war we increase the chances of other wars being started and more lives sacrificed for questionable goals. That would waste the sacrifices already made in this and previous wars. If we can learn from the current war and thereby prevent future wars, then those who died will have not died in vain. Keep in mind that the 600,000 to 1.2 million (The Sun, Dec. 2008, Page 7) Iraqi civilians killed in Iraq by the US attack represent people whose freedoms have been destroyed. Wars kill people and dead people have no freedom of press, speech, or religion, no choices on election day and no democracy. Of course the same is true for all war fatalities, soldier or civilian, Iraqi or American. Telling the truth about the reasons for the current wars and their effect on people and families may not be good news, or easy to take, and it may appear to be “political leaning,” but it’s necessary if we intend to remain a free country, and relate to other countries and peoples in a wholesome, life supporting manner.
    Thanks again for your response, Steve and have a good week

    Leonard Nolt

  22. Leonard,
    And my response you shall have.

    First here is Greenspan on the quote you used from his memoirs.

    Greenspan claims that the quote was taken out of context. Greenspan called the Post — Bob Woodward, no less — to say that, in fact, he didn’t think the White House was motivated by oil. Rather, he was. A Post story Monday explained that Greenspan had long favored Saddam Hussein’s ouster because the Iraqi dictator was a threat to the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the world’s oil passes every day. Hussein could have sent the price of oil way past $100 a barrel, which would have inflicted chaos on the global economy.
    In other words, Greenspan favored the war on the grounds that it would stabilize the flow of oil, even though that wasn’t the war’s political underpinning. “I was not saying that that’s the administration’s motive,” Greenspan told Woodward, “I’m just saying that if somebody asked me, ‘Are we fortunate in taking out Saddam?’ I would say it was essential.”,0,4092347.column

    As far as McCain is concerned, “implied” is a flimsy word to hang the Iraq war for oil case on. I believe the whole 2008 debate was about economic stability thus making it necessary to be energy independent and not rely on necessities from a region that is in such upheaval.

    Name one war where troops were immediately dispatched to guard museums.

    I have a suggestion, take it or leave it, read more than PBS’s Bill Moyer.

    93,793 – 102,330 civilian deaths since the start of the war: accessed 7 Nov 2009

    151,000 civilians killed since Iraq invasion:

    601,000 – would have been the result of violence, mostly gunfire, and suggests that 31% could be attributable to action by US-led coalition forces. [that puts it at 186,310]

    You say you want to tell people the truth about the wars and “it will set them free.” What do half truths and misrepresentations such as the ones you have given do for the situation?

    We could go back and forth with what the media has told us, and what one political party says and what the other counters it with, and all the hype and hoopla out there; but where would that get us?

    And I have one more question for you. How many times have you been punched at the VA center after you told a vet the “truth” about these wars? The vets I know wouldn’t put up with it, but maybe that’s a demerit to me for hanging out with guys that need support instead of propaganda.

    What the average person doesn’t see, is the six year old girl that carried a grocery sack bomb into her school where her friends were learning English not knowing her dad was going to detonate it. Or the eleven year old boy who was blown up because his dad didn’t know how to properly wire the detonator to a 155mm IED. Or the wife that killed three soldiers with her belt bomb because her husband told her to. Neither do they get to see the heart felt appreciation in the eyes of the oppressed as they hug a soldier and repeatedly thank him for setting them free, nor do they get to see first hand the jubilation on the face of a free man waving a purple finger in the air after voting for the first time in his thirty year old life. So, if you wish to discuss the moral implications of fighting evil such as that stated above, I welcome it.

    Otherwise this will be the end of my conversation with you. I feel I have remained polite up to this point, but feel I will not be able to remain so if this type of conversation is continued (as I see it, it benefits no one and is meant to antagonize rather than solve issues). I am fleeing temptation.
    Thank you,
    Steve Valentine

  23. I have no intent to antagonize anyone — merely to say this.

    These are precisely the sort of arguments used to show that MLK Jr’s non-violent resistance was foolish.

    Every time a black person was abused, evil men were allowed to prevail and Christians and Christianity were despised. How many times was Dr. King called a fool, how many times was Jesus mocked by unbelievers in the racial equality movement, because Dr. King insisted on Gandhian (and Christian) non-violent resistance?

    if nearly everyone refuses to defend their neighbors, Christians and Christianity will be despised.

    That is precisely what happened in black communities across the South, and (comparatively) how do we judge those who responded violently with those who responded non-violently? Seems one side got a famous museum in Memphis… why is that if their duty was to defend their neighbor from Bull Connor, et al?

  24. Steve;

    Thanks for your response and the information you provided. I’m not interested in antagonizing anyone so I won’t give specific responses to the points you made except to say in response to your sentence that “if you want to discuss the moral implications of fighting evil such as that stated above, I welcome it,” is that’s what I thought we were doing.

    I will write a few things however:

    In my interactions with veterans, I find that those who have participated in and survived actual combat are often the ones least likely to speak well of war, and the most reluctant to approve of using war as a solution to problems this nation faces.

    I would recommend reading the blog “Baghdad Burning” at to get the perspective of the war from an Iraqi, which is certainly more credible than anything I write, since I’ve never been there.

    Ten percent of the people of Iraq were Christians before the first US invasion during the administration of George H W Bush. Now that percentage is down to less that one or two percent, largely because of the invasion and occupation by a so-called Christian nation. The US attack has literally almost destroyed the church in Iraq.

    If Jesus who was sinless, did not feel that he had the right to use violence to save himself from the cross or even postpone his crucifixation, than what right do his followers have to use violence? Postponing his execution, which he had the option of doing, could have had many benefits. He could have spent several more years preaching, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, raising the dead. He could have expanded and increase his number of followers and disciples to order to have a more solid foundation on which to built his church. He could have used his power to increase safety and protect people who were vulnerable to oppression from the occupying forces. He might have even had time to write a few of the books of the New Testament himself without having to rely on his disciples to do that work. Jesus had all the same reasons and justifications that we embrace today to justify using military violence against Iraq and Afghanistan, yet he refused to use violence. Why?
    God bless you.


    Leonard Nolt

  25. Jesus came to bear our sins on the cross and die to save us from our sins after He preached the gospel to people who will continue preaching it to others. I don’t believe any of us are capable of bearing the sins of every person past, present, and future. I believe God knew when it was the right time, His timing is perfect. I believe that was God’s intentions and nobody humans nor angels was to stop that from happening.

  26. Good point, “Anonymous,” I agree with you. I believe God’s timing was certainly a factor in when the crucifixion took place. I’m not suggesting that people are able to bear the sins of others. However the crucifixion was not simply a technique used by God and Jesus to bring salvation to the world, but also an example that Jesus’ followers must be prepared to emulate. “Take up your cross and follow me,” (Mark 8:24) and “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple ,” (Luke 14:27) reinforce the cross as being a path followers of Jesus may have to tread. Most of the original disciples were, like Jesus, executed for their faith.
    In reference to my previous entries, using violence in warfare against others to order to postpone our own deaths is not consistent with the example Jesus set. I think the best definition of war I’ve ever heard is “The sum of all evils wrapped up in one.” War is the worst kind of vandalism. War is the worst sexual offense. When someone is killed in war their sexuality is destroyed and they don’t have the option of seeking healing, justice, or even revenge. In war, people (soldiers and civilians) are killed with no due process of law, no regard for individual guilt or innocence, and no trial, defense, or judicial process. What could be more unjust? If people are created in the image of God, then whenever someone is killed, part of the image of God in this world is destroyed.
    I understand that many perhaps most people disagree with me and believe that we have no choice but to use a miltary to defend ourselves. I think that’s in part because we are so addicted to using military violence for our defense that we don’t even recognize other forms of defense. That ‘s reflected in statements made implying that those who are pacifists and refuse to participate in the miltary are not doing anything to defend their country. It’s also reflected in terminology which assumes that someone who has been in “the service,” has been in the military, not necessarily working in church or school service, teaching, health care, any helping profession, or a thousand other careers all of which are providing as much “service” to the country as that provided by any soldier. The same is true for the word “veteran.” A veteran is assumed to be a veteran of the military, not a veteran peacemaker, health care worker, teacher, pacifist, peace activist, etc. It seems as if the word “mission” has suffered the same takeover by the military. When used today the word “mission” may have more to do with bombing a certain location than with witnessing for Jesus. When I was a child and young person the word “mission” had no use outside of the church. This terminology and how it’s currently used says something about how militarized our society is.
    Jesus protected his disciples by praying for them and by directing the violence aimed at him away from them. He also protected his disciples by healing the severed ear of the enemy, and rebuked the disciple who used the sword. The reasons Christians refuse to use the weapons of the military is not because they are too strong, but because they are too weak. They cannot accomplish all the good that following Jesus can accomplish.
    Certainly two of the strongest arguments against Christian particpating in war can be found in the followiing verses.
    Arguable the most important statement in the Lord’s Prayer is “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” It’s repeated again right after the prayer is over. The message is that the forgiveness we receive from God for our sins will be based on our willingness to forgive others… others like Saddam Hussein, Iraqi insurgents, the Taliban, Al Queda, etc. Of course forgiveness does not mean that we just sit back and do nothing. There are ways of stopping terrorists and dictators without becoming like them.
    Another powerful verse is in Jesus’ words in Matt. 25:40: you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me. The way we treat other people is the way we treat Jesus. That’s reinforced in Act 9: 3-6 when the voice from heaven asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting me (not ‘my followers’)?” Every weapon of war made is ultimately aimed at Jesus. When we say that people have to die for their sins and are willing to carry out that sentence, as every soldier is trained and expected to do, we are saying that the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross in dying for people’s sins so they would not have to die, was inadequate. I don’t buy that. I think the death of Jesus covers the sins ot Afghans, Iraqis, Americans, etc., therefore killing people for their sins is not an option that Christians have a right to use.

    Take care and thanks for your comment.

    Leonard Nolt

  27. Glenn said:

    “Chief among them is this: when did Jesus take up a physical weapon to fight anyone? I cannot follow Him where He did not go.”

    Glenn, if that statement were taken to its extreme, one could also it is not appropriate for me to have a job because Jesus did not have one and I cannot follow him where he did not go.

    There is just as much evidence for Jesus entering a profession as is there is for Jesus taking up a physical weapon.

  28. Leoanard said:

    “2. Dunagin in “How to Stop a War” states that over half the wars fought never resolve the issue or issues that caused the war. Why pick a method of response or action that has such a dismal success record?

    Leonard, many times we can’t even agree on why a war starts. Just look at your disagreement with Steve over the purpose of the current war in Iraq. The two of you can’t even agree on what that war is taking place and it is contemporary.

    To this day, historians cannot agree on the motivation and the purpose behind the civil war. Was it a battle over slavery? Was it a contest over states’ rights? Was a battle over economic influence between the agriculture dependent south and the burgeoning industrial north?

    Depending on the historian one chooses to believe, it is no wonder that one can so easily assert that half of all wars fail to meet their objective when agreement cannot even be reached regarding these objectives

    Loenard further said:
    “3. Chris Hedges in “What Every Person Should Know About War” writes that 75-90% of all the victims of wars since World War 2 have been innocent civilians.”

    One of my favorite jokes is that 99% of all statistics are made up and the other 1% are misleading. I have a few thoughts or perceptions on this statistic (I have not read the work cited).

    First, as demonstrated by Steve’s reply to you, there is vast disagreement over the number of civillian deaths in the current wars depending on the source of the numbers. And that is in a modern war where international media scrutiny is intense and focused on highlighting those civillian deaths. How much less reliable are statistics from previous wars with far less media attention and access?

    I also wonder if the statistics leading to the percentage you cited include the 6 Million + jews executed in the Holocaust. I wonder if the statistics include all those who died of startvation and disease in the city streets and ghettoes of German occupied Holland, etc. It is easy to see why the percentage is so high considering the sheer volume of deaths caused by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Many more deaths occurred because of the military strategy used by Hitler when he mercilessly bombed ciites like London. Were we to sit idly by while these attrocities took place because of Pacifist viewpoints? As misleading as I think the numbers you presented are, let us not forget that many of those civillian deaths were caused by others and would have occurred whether the United States ever entered a fight or not.

  29. Brian Bergman wrote:
    “There is just as much evidence for Jesus entering a profession as is there is for Jesus taking up a physical weapon.”

    Brian, since when is being a teacher not a profession? What definition of ‘profession’ are we using? If one must be a doctor, lawyer, politician or professor in order to be a ‘professional’, then I have never taken up a ‘profession’ either. LOL

    Still, I have professed my trust in God and His worthiness to receive that trust. I have offered emergency medical aid. I have been to court and addressed the court as well as being a member of the court to render a decision based upon evidence presented and the laws governing personal conduct. And I have taught on college campuses and in classrooms in several states.

    Jesus was called the Great Physician.
    Jesus confounded the teachers of the Law at age 12 and well past that age.
    Jesus knew more about healing than any other doctor before and since His incarnation.
    Jesus’ teachings revealed more about life and living well than all the self-help and others-help books outside the inspired writ have ever taught – and His students turned the world upside down telling others about Him and His teaching.
    And what Jesus taught about political matters is still viewed as the hallmark of good citizenship around the world in regimes as diverse as communism and democracy and totalitarianism.

    The evidence that Jesus took up a profession is absolutely clear. And, when you think about it, even a cord of rushes is a weapon in some hands. The problem is not that Jesus did not know how to use anything that could be called a weapon, but that there is no conclusive evidence that He ever did actually use a physical weapon against any person. The point is not even about whether words can be weapons. The point is how did Jesus employ ANY weapon(s) that one might claim He had at His disposal? And THAT is where I beg to differ with those who claim not only the right to defend self or family or friends, or even strangers, but also the intent to do so under specific circumstances. As a follower of Jesus, when is it right to intend to harm another?



  30. Brian, since when is being a teacher not a profession? – Glenn

    When did Jesus get paid to be a teacher? I assume you don’t expect Christians to have a profession they get a paid to do.

  31. there is no conclusive evidence that He ever did actually use a physical weapon against any person. – Glenn

    The Hebrew Scriptures have plenty of evidence that He uses people and war to fight against evil.

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