Are Conservative Christians Warmongers?

Bullies are not nice people. “Snugene”—as some high school friends and I had not-so-fondly named him—was no exception. I knew Snugene in my pre-Christian days and had little concern for his family life or personal well-being. All I knew was that this bully, like all others, was always looking for opportunities to exploit weakness in others. The kid was big and mean, choosing to impose his cruel will upon us whenever it struck his fancy.

And so it was that, after an unpleasant exchange of words in history class, Snugene and I stood face-to-face in a crowded hallway. Taking hold of my right wrist, the not-so-gentle giant threatened to beat me to a pulp. With no opportunity for diplomacy, I grabbed his arm with my left hand and removed it from my wrist, mumbling a half-hearted threat in return.

That moment of decision in the high school hallway will be forever etched in my memory. Both Snugene and I knew that he could have easily wiped the floor with this skinny pseudo-Geek, but my bold reaction had caught him off guard. Just a seed of doubt (added to my grandmother’s prayers) limited him to uttering an idle threat, after which he went on his way. Snugene never bothered me again.

Evil Preys Upon Weakness

Opponents—especially evildoers—will always prey upon perceived weakness. Being acquainted with the dynamics of spiritual warfare, most conservative Christians understand that this unfortunate reality applies to both the spiritual and physical realms.

Is a strong military necessary? As much as I love peace and hate war, I would have to say, “Yes.” We’ve seen—and continue to see—many examples in our world in which oppressive regimes have sought to impose their cruel will upon the weak and powerless. The situations with separatist rebels in the Ukraine and ISIS in Iraq remind us that diplomacy, while highly desirable, is not always effective.

The belief in the need for a strong military is embraced by a high percentage of conservative Christians; a person might wonder if such a stance has caused us to be unjustly stereotyped as “warmongers”. I wish I could say that the characterization is entirely unfair, but I believe there is more to the picture. Too often, I get the sense that conservatives—even conservative Christians—are excited to pull the trigger.

Too Eager to Pull the Trigger?

I always liked and respected former President George W. Bush. I think he made a huge blunder, however, by surrounding himself with advisors who were conservative warmongers. We can only speculate about their reasoning, but the fallout from the decision to invade Iraq has been painfully far reaching. Sadly, many of those who clamored for war were evangelical Christians—self-professed (devoted) followers of Christ.

More recently, a short video of an Israeli missile “smoking” a group of terrorists made its way around social media. I witnessed several Christians expressing delight upon seeing the terrorists being swept into a godless eternity. Seriously? Is that how we manifest the love of Christ to our sin-stricken world—by delighting in the demise of misguided souls who have been deceived by the serpent’s hiss? Pulling the trigger is one thing. Delighting in death is another.

Evil is active in this world and diplomacy does not always work. There are indeed times when a government is compelled to use force. At the same time, for conservative Christians to become warmongers is to lose sight of the gospel and betray the heart of Christ. Evil wins when God’s people harden their hearts. Let’s not forget that Someone we profess to emulate once said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9, ESV).