Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Christian Nation... ?

I am guided by a commitment to lead people to Jesus; Christians and nonChristians alike. One way in which I address very un-Jesus-like beliefs common among Christians is addressing the myth that America is a Christian nation. Not only is the belief that America is Christian wrong, both historically and theologically, it has also lead to terrible acts of war, oppression and genocide. The following is a quote from a sermon entitled Comforting the Soldiers, Preached by Puritan Preacher Cotton Mathers, in 1642. “We are the New Isreal and the natives are the Canaanites, just as Jehovah commanded Israel to slaughter the Canaanites, so God is calling us, by Divine right, to take this land and to slaughter if necessary.”

While founding fathers appealed to God to justify their war against Britian and in the drafting of The Declaration of Independence; a document in which only white, landowning men were granted by their Creator “certain inalienable rights.” George Washington, as did almost all the Founding Fathers, owned slaves, so it’s likely they didn’t believe the very words they penned in the Declaration of Independence. Washington had the teeth pulled from his slaves to produce a set of false teeth for himself. An early draft of the Declaration of Independence had to be rewritten because it implied that slaves were created to be free as well. Unfortunately, many modern Christians proof-text the Founding Fathers to “prove” America was founded as a Christian nation. When in reality, the Founding Fathers were simply doing what politicians of all generations do (including Clinton, Bush and Obama), quoting scripture and appealing to God to justify their own political aspirations. Even if it were possible for a nation to be founded as “Christian,” the US was founded to be plurasitic, as evidenced by the “separation clause.” Now, to be fair, the vast majority of the first US citizens would’ve identified themselves as Christians but the US wasn’t founded as a Christian nation. Our supposedly Christian nation was founded by men who demonstrated little commitment to the teachings of Jesus. Those who did hold to some sort of faith were mostly deists, far short of biblical Christianity.
“The words and acts of the founding fathers, especially the first few presidents, shaped the form and tone of the civil religion as it has been maintained ever since. Though much is selectively derived from Christianity, this religion is clearly not itself Christian.” – Robert Bellah

Beyond the personal faith (or lack thereof) of our founding fathers, there are two major reasons in which our nation is not a Christian nation; it's faulty theology and it's inaccurate historically.

The only theocracy in history was the nation of Israel and that wasn’t much of a success. God abandoned that plan with the creation of the Church. With the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, God's representatives were no longer a particular nation but rather a world-wide group of people committed to following Jesus. In Romans, Paul refers to the church as the “new Israel” and Peter names the church “a royal priesthood, a peculiar people, a nation belonging to God.” In Ephesians, Paul challenges the church to manifest everything Jesus died for, manifesting a divisionless “new humanity, which is the heart of the Kingdom calling. The Kingdom of God is not within human borders, rather it is composed of all followers of Jesus. While Christ-followers have their own particular national citizenship, no nation can be “Christian.” To quote one author, “it’s just as theologically accurate to call a dog a Christian than to call a nation a Christian.” While may work good through an earthly government, no political entity can be Christian, it’s theologically impossible.
Governments also operate in a manner completely opposite of Jesus. To borrow Greg Boyd’s terminology, governments operate with a “power over” approach while Jesus operated under a “power under” approach. Governments pass laws to enforce behavior, Jesus lays down his life in service which leads to a change of heart. Governments use force and violence to attain their ends, Jesus told Peter to “put away your sword” and then laid down his life for his enemies. Unfortunately, the power over approach is very appealing, whether it be the mixing of church leadership and government positions under Constantine or the American Religious Right trying to legislate sexual ethics. The way of Jesus is very costly but the only true way to affect change.
A perfect example of this is how the owner of Bonita Flats has changed his perspective on Christians thanks to Trinity Family’s Love Wins ministry. Read a letter from Guido here.
And this “power over” method NEVER works. Look at every nation (mostly European) that was once dominated by the church in a “power over” approach, the church is now a non-factor on those nations. Many American Christians want to blame the secular / humanistic philosophy that was birthed in the era of the Enlightenment for the secularization of Europe and eventually the United States. I’d argue however, you need to go farther back and see how the power over approach of the church created an environment in which Christianity was doubted and mistrusted. For example, the "Church of Reason" birthed during the French Revolution was a direct rebellion against a Church supporting the oppression of France's poor. Whenever the church aligns itself with the world's powers, the name of Christ is blasphemed.
“Having accepted the falsehood that we must run the world, we seek to get ahold of the mantle of power. Consequently, ‘discipleship’ gets transformed: ‘following Jesus,’ rather than denoting a walking in the way of the humble Suffering Servant, denotes being ‘spiritual’ as we seek to wield power over our fellows… Christians become convinced that they are pursuing the purposes of God by pursing the purposes of the empire.” – Lee Camp

And even if it were theologically possible for a nation to be Christian, the history of the US convinces us to reject any false affirmation of our nation’s commitment to Jesus.
While the first Puritan settlers believed their new settlement to be a “new Jerusalem “ and a “city on a hill,” they quickly abandoned that ideal by their second generation. The modern belief of a “Christian Nation” came into vogue during the first few decades of the 20th century, mostly from the KKK, who were revolting against the influx of Eastern European immigrants who were Catholic. Protestants of Western European descent didn’t like the unsettling feeling of a changing US demographic. Their desperate grasp to retain a privelege position in US politics is remarkable similar to politically active evangelical groups trying to remain relevant in the current political scene.
It seems the only group of people to have ever bought into the idea of a “Christian nation” are white protestants. It’s not a coincidence that this the same group to have held poitical power throughout most of our nation’s history. No Native American or descendant of a slave nor even many Catholics would ever call the US a Christian nation. Those on the wrong-side of power are (for obvious reason) much more aware of the immoral use of power than those who hold the power.
The following is a quote from Frederick Douglas, who as a freed slave turned abolitionist preacher, spent years on the wrong side of the US’ power structure. “Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference – so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt and wicked…. I love the pure, peacable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity." Ouch…

Following Douglas' thought, the problem with this belief in a “Christian Nation” is that it’s used to justify American interests. If America is Christian, it just makes sense that whatever is good for America is ordained by God. It’s not too difficult to see why this belief would make life much easier for politicians. Why do many American churches blindly support America’s wars? Because if we’re Christian, than America’s enemies are also the enemies of God. This language is heard in a vast majority of white Protestant churches.
It’s quite enlightening however, to realize we’re not the only country who believed they were a Christian nation, and that their national interest was synonymous with God’s will on earth. The crusades, the 30 years war, the Revolutionary war; every western nation has believed itself to be a Christian nation and to be fighting for the cause of righteousness. An extreme, yet powerful example, is Nazi Germany. Obviously, there was nothing Christ-like about the plunder and extermination of other European countries carried out by the Nazis. The average German however, didn’t realize the autrocities being carried out by Hitler’s regime until it was too late. Rather, they allowed themselves to be pacified and carried along by their national leaders’ appeal to the Christian history of Germany. If we think about it, Germany has a much longer and deeper Christian heritage than the US. If any nation could be “Christian” it would be Germany. Germany’s conquest of and payback to the rest of Europe in the 30’s was propped up with the same spiritual language used by our nation’s leaders to justify our wars. It was quite disturbing to tour the Holocaust museum in Washington DC and read a nationalized Christianity from Hitler that sounded very much like the language of the US Presidents of my lifetime. Please don't read too much into this connection; in no way am I saying we're Nazi Germany but I am saying the spiritual language used to support Hitler's war is similar to the spiritual language used to support our wars, including the current war on terror.
So branding the US a Christian nation is wrong, obviously but it also makes us like many other western nations. What we must come to accept is that the US isn’t Christian, neither is it Satanic. Rather, it’s simply a spiritually neutral government composed of fallen human beings. The US has done a lot of good and a lot of evil because we’ve got a lot of imperfect but well-meaning humans in our nation. The Kingdom of God is found within the US (among the communities of Christ-followers) but it is not expressed by the US. That’s a simple, but revolutionary distinction.

This deconstruction has been long and has been blunt, but only because it's extremely necessary to go so long. I realize that if this is the first time the average protestant midwestern Christian has come across these ideas, they’re likely fuming with anger right now. But the deconstruction of the lie that the US is a Christian nation, while painful, must be done. The process is long and difficult however, because it’s hard to train our eyes to see the water in which we swim – this myth is a foundational belief for many Christians.

When we’re done with the deconstruction, we’re left with Jesus; his life, his teachings, his example and his Kingdom. Our ultimate allegiance is to a crucified-but-now-alive King and an already-but-not-yet Kingdom. JESUS is the answer. We’re to reject the coervice methods of government and lay down our lives for our enemies as Jesus modeled. Rather than fighting for a marriage amendment, we find ways to share God’s love with those of a same-sex orientation. Rather than waiting for schools to sanction prayer, we teach our students to constantly pray for their classmates. Rather than celebrating America’s history of violence and supporting American wars, we challenge our government to find nonviolent means of reconciliation while personally modeling a commitment to peace and to valuing the life of every human being created in the image of God (which is every human even terrorists). It’s time to focus on introducing people to the self-sacrificial love of Jesus and trust in the power of that love to effect life-transformation.

Highly recommended reading:
Myth of a Christian Nation
Jesus Wants to Save Christians
They like Jesus but not the Church
Lies My Teacher Told Me
A People’s History of the United States


David Brush said...

Holy longest post ever Batman!

Very good and concise summary Mr. Miller.

How much longer will it take before Christians in the United States are known as a voice of peace, of healing and aid for those in need?

When will we rise up and begin funding clean water instead cluster bombs?

When will we call out the injustice of a 'just war'?

When will we finally realize that the slaughter of 3,000 men and women doesn't justify the death of thousands upon thousands muslims?

When will we realize that justice is found in the hand of God, not at the end of the barrel of a gun?

When will their sons and daughters lives become as valuable as our own?

When will we stop classifying our brothers and sisters in Christ as collateral damage?

When will the value of a human being finally be equal, no matter what?

Forgive us father.

Joe said...

Interesting post. I agree and disagree with it.
I don't think too many people would argue that America is not really all that Christian. Yeah, we have a lot of professing Christians, but we also have a lot of immorality, just like any other country. Saying we are a Christian nation is not the cause of "terrible acts of war, oppression and genocide." Those have happened and continue to happen by people and countries who who claim no allegiance to the Christian God. Those things happen because people are sinful and also happen to be in charge.
It seems like you go to great lengths to say that because we are not a Christian nation, we should in no way support it by means of trying to uphold local, national or international laws. You seem to say that for the Christian, it is not worth using violence to protect anyone no matter what the circumstance, thus your opposition to law enforcement and military. Am I reading that right?
Obviously, our past and current leaders are not Jesus. They have and continue to make mistakes. I think it is a little disengenuous to bring up random stories of past or current leaders to prove their non devotion to Christ. Really? Someone made a mistake or seemed like a mean guy, so they were not really Christians? Uh oh!
I do not need the claim that we are a Christian nation presently or in the past to think that my God ordained government's (Rom 13) laws do not require enforcement or that Christians should not be the ones doing it. Aren't we supposed to be the ones protecting the innocent? Why should we think the heathens are supposed to do it and not us?
I agree that blind following of a country's leaders into a war because the claim of a just war or God's orders or something is not right. I do, though, think that God can use something as bad as war to knock down something worse, like a Hitler. Bonhoffer seemed to think violence in that setting was ok.
I guess I just have an issue with wanting to separate yourself and others from the structure of our admittedly non Christian government. So what if it is non Christian? Does it matter that people are still getting hurt? Does it matter that the Bible even says that it is not enough just to pray for someone, that you need to help them?
I escorted an inmate to court the other day who was caught having sex with his 9 year old daughter, which he would still be doing if not for some dedicated, smart and moral law enforcement. Some violence was actually used in capturing him. Was it worth it? His daughter would probably say yes.

Aaron Bonham said...

Donnie, what book is the Bellah quote from? Have you read his books "The Broken Covenant" or "Habits of the Heart"?

RJ said...

Great post! Gives me a ton to think about and hopefully I can learn enough to become encouraged to speak up about this at my church. I have thought for a while that we were not truly founded on Christ-like principles. Almost impossible to even bring up with my pastor.

Aaron Bonham said...

Wasn't really going to get involved in this discussion but some thoughts on Joe's comments:

I'm not sure there's a difference between calling the US a 'Christian nation' and insisting that the US was founded upon 'Christian principles'.,2933,516076,00.html

Whether they adjust their language in response to assertions that the US is in fact not a 'Christian Nation' there are plenty of people to make assertions suggesting that somehow the US was either 'founded on Christian principles', a 'New Israel', but generally, they do in fact state outright that they believe the US is a 'Christian Nation' and to the large swaths of he population that buy into this myth it's reasonable to discriminate against various minority religious groups in order to protect that 'heritage' see American commentaries on the Swiss banning of minarets if you don't believe this assertion. One need only look to the litmus test that a person must profess Christianity in order to even be considered 'eligible' to run for the office of President or the attempted smears of Obama suggesting that he's some sort of Muslim Manchurian candidate (which is actually also discriminatory toward all American Muslims) to see how pervasive and powerful this myth of a Christian Nation actually is.

Add to that discussion, the fact that Bush and many others with an amplified voice deployed language implying that the war in Iraq, and the war on terrorism itself was in fact a war of Christianity against the 'evil one' and the Muslim hordes. If this weren't for effectiveness of this language for 'rallying the base' then it's unlikely that they would have been capable of gathering the broad support for the war in Iraq that they did have. This mindset also underlies the popularity of the whole genre of apocalyptic thrillers which appear regularly on the best sellers list. If it weren't for the fantasy that Christian American were facing the minions of Satan when they go to war in the middle east, do you really think that these books would sell the way they do? Or be cited as some sort of justification for the US's middle east escapades?

As far as Bonhoeffer goes, he actually didn't think violence was OK, in fact he struggled for a long time about the morality of the assassination plot, and ultimately determined that it was simply the lesser of two evils rather than something God would necessarily condone as a 'righteous' act. Not to mention, the assassination plot that he was involved with was quite different from a risk assessment establishing what an acceptable level of collateral damage (i.e., non-combatants, property, livelihoods) could be sustained while still maintaining good-will among the general populace.


Donnie Miller said...

Yes, long post, I'd been sitting on these ideas for years.

I haven't read those books, got that qoute from another book.

You've gotta pick your battles, man and sharing stuff like that might be more trouble than it's worth. But it might also create a lot of change. You've gotta decide.

Dude, how am I supposed to remember everything you wrote. Okay, I won't, so I'll probably post several different responses especially since I'm about to run otu the door.
I almost added an addendum before I read your comments. What happens when we're set free from the 'myth' is we're able to redirect the energy that many misquided Christians put into "returning America back to God" toward advancing / living out the Kingdom of God. I'm not implying we disengage from civil goverernment, I'm meaning we change our approach. While we don't have to worry about our nation being Christian, as Christians we can vote in a way that reflects our commitment to scripture. The difference is subtle, yet I believe it's profound and freeing.
I believe there's a HUGE difference between a police officer protecting an innocent little girl and President Wilson invading South American countries and assinating their leaders because he believed their governments to be a threat to American peace and prosperity (thankfully, that doesn't happen anymore :) ).
Now, to be fair, he was pretty fired up after 911, but President Bush's language of "holy war" and "good vs. evil" to justify retaliation is what comes of believing we're righteous, just, good and maybe even Christian. That's what I'm meaning in leaders using Christianity to justify wars against other nations. It happened with Washington and it happened with Bush. Obama hasn't had the opportunity to start a war yet.
I'll write more, but I've gotta go have breakfast with my boss.

Donnie Miller said...

I'll just respond to a couple staetments to make it more conscise.
"thus your opposition to law enforcement and military. Am I reading that right?" I have a pretty big opposition to MOST of our country's military action, since very little (if any) since 1941 has been in response to a direct attack. The Afghanistan war might be the only exception. The big difference between police and military is how they're used and how the individuals can respond. Police officers are protecting while the government has used our military mostly to advace, and that's a pretty big distinction, in my mind. Police officers are also able to use their personal judgment in choosing their response while soldiers have to unquestionably obey. "Generation Kill" gave some chilling examples of that, such as having to fire into a crowd of shepherds, women and children. So, in my mind, the two are quite different. In theory, the military is to protect the US' security, but the vast majority ot the time, our goverenment deploys troops to protect American interests - which is quite different.

"I do not need the claim that we are a Christian nation presently or in the past to think that my God ordained government's (Rom 13) laws do not require enforcement or that Christians should not be the ones doing it. Aren't we supposed to be the ones protecting the innocent?"
That's a very powerful thought and it's quite normal. However, I see a flaw in that rational. The flaw is found within the book of Romans itself. Leading up to chapter 13, Paul is explaining why Christians are to be different than the governments of the world. Paul subtly challenges his readers to resist the goverment's laws when those laws directly oppose the Kingdom. And we have to remember, Paul and many of his readers were put to death by the Roman Government for their refusal to fall in line with the whole "Ceaser is Lord" way of living. So Romans 13 needs to be read within the context of subversive Christianity. God does use the government and we're to obey. That obedience is to stop however, when the laws contradict our commitment to Christ. Paul modeled that in his execution. And we can't use Romans 13 to excuse evil things done by our government or to go along with them. Just because a government allowed to exist by God declares war, or sets themselves up as the defender of the innocent, that doesn't mean Christians must go along. Their allegiance to Christ and his teachings must come first.
What if German Christians quoted Romans 13 to justify their support of Hitler? I know that's an extreme example but everything always comes back to WWII and Nazi Germany... Anyway, would we have bought that argument? No, because their government's actions had clearly set themselves against the way of Jesus. And when our government clearly sets itself up against the way of Jesus, we must also refuse to obey.

Donnie Miller said...

"I do, though, think that God can use something as bad as war to knock down something worse, like a Hitler." This is also a really good and pervasive thought. It all comes back to Nazi Germany...

It makes a good distinction between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdoms of the World. The Kingdom of God doesn't allow for violence. But the Kingdoms of the world need violence to solidify their power. Where do Christians fit in? I guess it depends upon your understanding of allegiance and the nature of the Kingdom. Are we to be living by Kingdom values now or do we accept that in the "already but not yet" time, we can't always live that way?

WWII is often used to "shut up" the pacifists. But here's the deal, Hitler's government was a paper tiger throughout most of the conflicts. If France or England had supported their treaties with the smaller countries Hitler invaded, they could've easily shut down the Nazi's. Hitler was bluffing all the way through his invasion of Poland. Not until he had control of Poland, did he have the time to build up the military force he eventually used to take over Europe. But Hitler knew France and England would back down, so he kept bluffing. Governments could've stopped Hitler with little bloodshed. But those are Governments and they don't live by Kingdom of God values.
But Christians do and Christians could've kept Hitler from ever coming to power in the first place. But they got carried away by his rhetoric, blinded by his promises of prosperity and sucked into the religous langauge of Germany being a Christian nation. The church COULD'VE stopped Hitler before he became the Hitler we know of him to be. But they didn't.
By the time the US got involved, the church had lost her chance. However, the Nazi Empire wouldn't have lasted long, it was crumbling from the inside out long befor D-Day. And no matter how terrible Hitler was, the US wasn't justified in carpet bombing German cities.

Donnie Miller said...

And in regards to defending the innocent. I could be completely wrong here, but isn't the scriptural idea that it's God's job to defend the innocent? It's certainly God's role in bringing justice. So for Christians to commit violence in order to enact justice, believing themselves to be doing God's will (though Jesus told us to live the opposite way) seems to be a form of idolatry, "I am God."
"Really? Someone made a mistake or seemed like a mean guy, so they were not really Christians? Uh oh!"
Good point. I think what I'm reacting to is the tendency of some Christians to focus on personal sin. The thought would be "Clinton is evil because he had an affair" while "Bush is Christian because he quit drinking." I think in pointing out systematic oppression enacted by suppposedly moral Christian leaders, I'm wanting people to see sin as a larger issue than just personal. Maybe I should word that differently.
But there's this belief among certain Christians to whom I'm reacting, that if we just get rid of some personal sins (though no sin is completely personal) such as abortion or gay marriage, we'll return the US to some glory days of old. I want people to have a more biblical view of sin - that's personal and systemic.

"I guess I just have an issue with wanting to separate yourself and others from the structure of our admittedly non Christian government. So what if it is non Christian? Does it matter that people are still getting hurt? Does it matter that the Bible even says that it is not enough just to pray for someone, that you need to help them?"
And yes, I have a problem with that, too. I clearly didn't communicate that well. I don't believe we're to seperate, I the manner and tone of our engagement changes when we realize the difference between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the World.

Donnie Miller said...

I think our acceptance or rejection of violence says a lot the level of understanding of just how different the way of Jesus is from the way of the world.
We follow a leader who,though innocent, allowed himself to be crucified all the while refusing to retaliate and loving his murders. I believe the book of Revelation and other passages are very clear that we're to swear allegaince to the crucified-but-now-risen Lord. 1) Because we're to follow his example of making the ultimate sacrifcie and 2) Becuase we know death is not the end.

If we believe in an eternity, how can we take the life of someone and plunge them into a godless eterinty? Especially if that act is to continue an earthly life (which will eventually end anyway) of someone who already knows Jesus and is going to spend eternity with him? What does it say about our faith and understanding of the nature of reality if we kill someone to bring about justice? I believe killing someone is buying into the lie that this life is all there is and if justice isn't done in this life, it isn't really done.
This why I'd like to believe that if my family were threated and I had to choose between the life of the attacker and the life of my family - while doing everything in my power to prevent a murderous act from the attacker - I wouldn't trade their earthly life for the earthly life of my family or myself.

We can reject voilence when we realize that this life isn't the final story.

With that understanding, we commit ourselves to finding God-honoring, nonviolent means to make things right. We aren't lazy and say "God will work it out in the next life." But we refuse to take on a role that rightly belongs only to God, the role of deciding when a person should die.

We can do the work of God without taking the place of God.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

(Sorry about the deleted post; I panicked and deleted when I thought it was Aquinas and not Augustine who supported the Just War Theory, while in reality, it was both)

Ha! You do not disappoint. The only real beef I have is, of course, the pacifist theme. It is interesting, though, that the logical conclusion of my argument in this matter ends with me using any violence necessary to protect not only my family, but any helpless person I come across. Your argument ends logically with watching and praying that God will intercede.

You have smart Christian guys like like Greg Boyd, David Brush and Thom Stark arguing for you while I also have smart Christian guys like Augustine and Calvin. (Read: lots of smart Christian guys on both sides) I am guessing the answer, like most theological discussions, somehow involves both sides having some measure of truth. I honestly can see pluses and severe negatives in both our stances. I enjoy dialoguing with you on this topic as we go back and forth, with this post just being the latest forum. Saying you cannot be a true Christian and continue to serve in the military or law enforcement has been exhaustively debated throughout the centuries. Just please don't think you have all the answers or that you have a corner on the market involving truth on a dicey and historically well debated topic like this.

David Brush said...

In the case of both Augustine and Aquinas we have to keep in mind their post-Constantine timeframe. Augustine was much earlier (around the begin of the fall of the Roman Empire). While I think Augustine offers some good insight, to say that his views on war are without question is dangerous given his worldview. Within relatively recent history Constantine had come into the power and instituted Christianity through acts of violence. I don't doubt he saw this sweeping to power as a sign of God's divine providence, rather than as an act of misappropriation of the Christian messages. This is the same myth we confront today in America. The argument goes, since we have it so good obviously God wants it that way and we need to do everything we can to keep it that way. I just reject that argument as born out of this early militaristic Christian mentality rather than as a view of a Christian ethic as found in the New Testament.

Aquinas' time was during the times of the crusades against the muslims. Also a very interesting time to be an advocate of Just War Theory.

Both men lived in a world in which power was maintained largely through violent means; and to go against the powers would not only be detrimental, but deadly. Again, this argument that because we are blessed we have to do anything to hold on to it.

I am not saying they took the easy way out, but I am saying they were deeply shaped by the ethics of their times. I firmly think that Christ's ideal for his followers to live in peace with each other and their enemies, we (as we often do) have gone astray of that teaching as a means to maintain the illusion that we have any power at all.

David Brush said...

I also think Isaiah 9 has something interesting to say with it's prophesy of the messiah and his reign.

5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

As we live into this prophesy and see it's continued unveiling what does it mean to see the boots of the warriors and every garment rolled in blood burned? I also point to the closing two lines of verse 7. It is not our hands that bring about this enactment of peace, of shalom, it is the zeal of God that will accomplish it.

It's my feeling that we have done a lot of assuming that we are much more important in being bringing about God's work than we really are.

It's kind of like our sons, they are eager and ready to help out, but often times their 'help' isn't really much help at all and causes another mess to be cleaned up.

Donnie Miller said...

Why doesn't my name get thrown around in the list of really smart people? Okay, maybe I understand...

As far as just war theory goes, you have to understand the context in which it was developed. Augustine was a major leader in the middle ages, when the church was making money by leading Crusades into the holy land. I'd argue that Just War theory is simply a justification for what the church was already doing. It's logical, though, but it's far from New Testament.

Joe, you're the man. It's your high quality traits such as a deep commitment to your family and a commitment to put other people before yourself that causes you to come down on a different side of this discussion and that also causes me to respect you as much as anyone I know, except for David Brush.

Donnie Miller said...

Now that I've read Brush's posts, I see why I'm not on the smart list.

Here's quite the irony regarding Just War theory. I had to do a project in Ethics in seminary, studying whether the Revolutionary War was a just. Based upon Just War theory, the Revolutionary war was unjust. Does that mean every other war by the US was also unjust?

I really doubt if nations ever decide NOT to start a war based upon Just War theory. It sure didn't stop Bush in 03.

Joe said...

Apparently you have concluded you do in fact have a corner on the market involving truth in this area, so I will cease my part of the discussion. However, argue with Billy Graham, baby, that's right, Billy Freaking Graham is a fan of the Just War Theory. Yeah.

Also, brush up on your history dates involving Augustine, the just war theory and the crusades. We are talking like a thousand years crack in your thinking.

Billy Graham, sucka

Donnie Miller said...

If I said Augustine, I meant Aquinas.

I'm completely okay with disagreeing with Billy Graham on an issue. No one (even me...) has a completely biblical worldview. And had Billy Graham been against violence, no president would've listened to him.

God uses me, despite my screwed up ideas. And God uses Billy Graham, despite the baptist's practice of saying they take the bible literally while at the same time explaining away the Sermon on the Mount.

We all do that in one way or another.

Donnie Miller said...

I did brush up on my Just War Theory and while Aquinas was the one who solidified it, it did start with Augustine. I'd always thought of it being attributed to Aquinas, so I was off on that.
They were both doing the same thing, though, justifying a new commitment to war from their church. Augustine was for Rome (Constantine had just become Emporer) and Aquinas for the Crusades.

I could be wrong on this, though, but just based upon your first sentence in your last post, you may have read the post to which you responded as condensending or something similar. I can see how that would be the case and I apologize. That's usually what happens when I fire off a post without thinking through how it will read on the other end. Sorry about that.

Bro of Joe said...

Interesting conversation guys. I think a key difference in your arguments (Joe and Donnie) is your views on why violence is used. Donnie repeatedly talks about violence being used to execute justice while Joe, I think, concentrates on violence as a protection or intervention to prevent wrongs. Tough call. I agree that violence for justice's sake is wrong, but I gotta say I'm on Joe's side when it comes down to protecting the defenseless. As far as wars go, I'm nowhere near smart enough to enter that discussion. Seems like a glass half full/empty deal though. Did the US prevent a ton of institutionalized violence and mistreatment by ousting Saddam via war? Absolutely. Did a ton of violence and mistreatment happen anyway? Absolutely. Same could be said, probably, of most our wars. This is why I stick to medicine and leave the theology to you guys.

Donnie Miller said...

Amazing that someone took time to read through all of that. Awesome!