No such thing exists as a Just War in the human realm. We are too limited in our person to fully determine what justifies war. That being the case, war is evil when pursued by humans. We all have a natural instinct for self-defense. Everyone does. Even as I acknowledge the evil of war, I cannot fully distance myself from the idea of real-time self-defense when someone is actively coming against you.
While I struggle with that concept throughout my life, I yet can make a distinction between that and actively pursuing death upon others which is clearly contrary to the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Conscientious objectors, personally dedicated to non-violence as Jesus was, but yet drape themselves in military garb, do nothing less than undermine the core Gospel message. People of a certain intellectual bent who are nonetheless socialized in such a way as to avoid mentioning this to such persons see this clearly. A person who clearly is about to head out to a specific place to wage war on others, to kill them, does not benefit from prayers that bless their upcoming mission. Instead, just the opposite happens. Many combatants, in camouflage uniforms, have knelt down to prayer before engaging in conflict. A certified spiritual leader then prays over them and gives them God’s blessing for the death they are about to inflict on others.
I mention this today because I recently witnessed the presence of such a spiritual leader. It was the first time in a few decades, but it was so long ago for me that seeing it recently was a shock. I saw a uniformed individual, with a charismatic personality, quickly win over a crowd in a church service. They spoke briefly before moving on as they were just passing through, but the image of this person struck me as a genuine contradiction. An advertisement for military service, an implied suggestion of the validity of warfare, the implied endorsed union of two conceptually opposed worlds all in one.
The event triggered other thoughts. I briefly began to recall past prayers for troops and the armed forces. I realized that there is a symbiotic relationship between the military industrial complex and religion. The two establishments are partners. Due to socializing factors culturally and in public education, the reality of this relationship goes unnoticed for most of us until our later years.
Considering all of this is to recognize this phenomenon as yet another dysfunctional aspect of this reality and existence. It matters because ecclesiastical institutions have identified challenges in evangelization. Perhaps, it is due to contradictions that most people cannot resolve.
I do maintain my own, personal reasons for participating in organized religious practice. However, I acknowledge there are flaws of which I am only becoming aware. The flaws are deep. The flaws are real. The necessity for cash in all parts of society means this dilemma is unlikely to be resolved. Large organizations need cash, physical, and political safety in order to persist in accordance with the structure of society. Cannot escape that. That does not resolve these contradictions I mention, but it at least imbues us with some empathy for the difficult choices others, even benevolent institutions face.
In closing, you cannot save souls if you kill those possessing a soul. If Jesus came to save us from death, if even spiritual death, you cannot assist in that mission if you are sending people to their death. Such actions can serve to foster renewed hate instead of love in those left behind such that they are likely to remain dead spiritually and spread the cycle of destruction. That cycle may be profitable, but is otherwise not a wholesome experience towards eternity. Again, the people in the Middle East and less financially endowed parts of the world who are being killed all the time actually haven’t done anything wrong as far as nations are concerned. According to Jesus’ principles, they couldn’t even do anything to justify the devastation visited upon them … by other humans. No one is really qualified to judge in terms of dispensing death (my struggles with the concept of real-time self-defense notwithstanding). Everybody sins, including me. If you are not sinning outwardly, you probably have done so inwardly in how you thought inappropriately about someone. People do the latter all the time. I definitely have my issues either way. I think those who pass themselves off as otherwise are not credible. Yet, even a flawed practitioner of faith can see that what passes for religion today does not entirely appear to be as advertised.
The Christian Military Chaplaincy: An Orwellian Ministry Part 1 (PDF 88.7KB | opens in a new window)
The Christian Military Chaplaincy: An Orwellian Ministry Part 2 (PDF 67.9KB | opens in a new window)
The Christian Military Chaplaincy: An Orwellian Ministry Part 3 (PDF 247KB | opens in a new window)