Monday, February 10, 2014

That Doesn't Make Sense

"That doesn't make sense". An Amish friend said that last night and it stuck with me. A little background...

I was driving this friend and his family to see his in-laws for a surprise visit (one fun side effect of being Amish is that a lot of older Amish don't have phones at all so you can arrive for dinner to find no one home, which is what happened and a story for another day). I had a local newspaper in the car and he was reading up on the latest sports news and other items when he came to this story: Muslims fleeing African nation. It was the subheading that caught his attention: Christian militia take revenge for previous abuses.

"Christian militia?" He seemed genuinely puzzled. What in the world did that mean? It seemed to him to be an oxymoron. He wondered aloud what kind of Christians were killing people and how Christian could they possibly be. In the culture he lives in it is simply unthinkable that a Christian would kill someone else. It just didn't make sense.

We take for granted in our American evangelical subculture that Christians kill. They kill in self-defense. They kill in the line of duty as police. They kill those labelled enemies by the state and often inadvertently kill complete innocents as an unavoidable and tragic but necessary cost of waging war. Even when we are not doing the killing we cheer on those who do. Killing and Christianity have gone hand in hand for a very long time, probably since Constantine allegedly saw a vision that called him to conquer his foes with his soldiers carrying the cross as their symbol. Throughout the history of the Western church, the church has employed the sword alongside the state, whether in killing "heretics" or multiple attempts to reconquer the "Holy Land" or wars between Catholics and Protestants. The cradle of Western Christendom that nurtured the church in America was awash in blood. Little wonder that the American church adopted the notion of "just war" to merge a pseudo-Christian civic religion with nationalistic fervor.

How is it that a subculture that is marked by a quaint adherence to dress codes and rejection of modern conveniences, a culture that is sincere but way off the mark on many issues, gets what the evangelical church blessed with hundreds of years of scholarship and countless professional theologians continues to not just miss but take great pride in missing, namely the intellectual gymnastics that provide permission for Christians to kill? Like many other traditional Anabaptist groups the Amish have little in the way of formalized theology as their forefathers were more concerned with avoiding the persecution of "the church than they were in developing systematic theologies and statements of faith. Their statement of faith was written in the non-resistant blood of Anabaptist maytrys. Meanwhile Evangelical and Roman Catholic alike have detailed theologies of "just war" that have provided religious cover for killing. It makes me wonder if having all of those theologians is really a blessing to the church at all.


dle said...

In his The Triumph of Christianity, Rodney Stark looked at 400 years of predations by Muslims upon Christian pilgrims to the Holy Lands and offered some interesting commentaries on patience with evil and the start of the Crusades.

The question of how long evil can be allowed to exist without punishment is a tough one. I don't have an answer except to say that there must be some limit. We know that the Last Day is its own limit, but the question remains if a limit must be drawn before then.

Most people don't know that 400 years of attacks happened before the Christian world in Europe had had enough and countered with the Crusades. When do we say enough now?

The wisest among us will know.

Aussie John said...


I've often said the term Christian Militia is a nonsense term, where the word "Christian" is used without due consideration.

The Amish fellow is right, it doesn't make sense, but when did "sense", much less common sense, regain its place in society, even, so-called "Christian"?