Neutering Male Courage

One Christian said, “Pacifism is a… belief system designed to hurt innocent people and neuter male courage.

This blog post was written in response to reason 26 of “Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate.”

When soldiers sitting in safe offices in the US “accidently” kill innocent men, women and children in Pakistan with drones, are these soldiers demonstrating unneutered male courage? Does the US military drone system kill fewer innocent people than pacifism? Maybe the US military does people kill fewer innocent people than pacifism.

Thousands of Christians died as martyrs in 1st century Rome. It is more dangerous to be a Christian in many parts of the world today than it was to be a Christian in 1st century Rome.

Jesus did not say following him would be safe. Jesus laid down his life on the cross when he had the power to physically defeat the soldiers.

Recently I listened to a Youtube video by Jordan Peterson. Professor Peterson says in reference to Jesus dying on the cross without resistance, “Jesus did the impossible.” Peterson further says we need to face the malevolence in our hearts before we take out the speck in our neighbor’s eye. See Jordan Peterson video.

Facing evil without violence is dangerous. Innocent people die. Jesus faced Rome and allowed the soldiers to kill him when he had 10,000 angels at his disposal. A pacifist position is not any less safe. Pacifism does not defend a country or political system of this world. Pacifism does not protect innocent people from terrorism.

Jesus said take up your cross and follow me. Jesus asks us to do the impossible and face evil through non-violence. I think being a pacifist takes far more courage than taking up the sword.

Christians in the US have the great strength of the US military at their disposal.  What if Christians followed Jesus’ example in fighting terrorism instead? Perhaps like 1st century Rome, terrorists would become Christian?

Many enemy soldiers in the Middle East believe they are fighting an invading US enemy force far stronger than their strength. If we are soldiers fighting people protecting their innocent families are we demonstrating unneutered male courage?

In the blog post, “What about Hitler?” I argue that if Christians on both sides had refused to fight in World War I, perhaps Hitler would not have been elected in Germany and World War II would not have taken place. In this supposition, if a Christian soldier had refused to fight and had been shot for treason, would this soldier be neutered of male courage? See “What about Hitler.”

We as Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We may also be citizens of the USA or some other country. If we are serving Jesus, then serving the Kingdom of God must be a higher priority than serving our worldly kingdom. If we are fighting for the USA kingdom and kill citizens of the Kingdom of God who happen to also be citizens of a worldly kingdom that is at war against our worldly kingdom, how is that right? Perhaps Jesus would ask us to avoid killing citizens or potential citizens of the Kingdom of God even if it causes ourselves great pain?

Patrick Coffin says “If it’s true it can stand severe tire kickings.” The Patrick Coffin Show. Does this blog post’s opening quote stand severe tire kickings? I think not!

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

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26 Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

I have been asking Christians why they feel it’s acceptable for Christians to use violence. Listed below are reasons I have been hearing. I have provided a link to my response. I am planning to post responses to more of the reasons.

  1. Protecting your family when violent people come.
  2. Protecting your country when violent armies come.
    See my response. The Flag and Daniel. & What About Hitler?
  3. Protecting religious freedom. See my response. Should a Christian Fight for Freedom?
  4. Protecting vulnerable neighbors when violent people come.
  5. They feel like they are doing the right thing.
  6. We have the right to self-defense.
  7. Soldiers have good medical benefits.
  8. Soldiers have good educational opportunities.
  9. The military teaches discipline.
  10. Veterans are recognized as heroes. See my response. Why I Can’t Thank Veterans.
  11. Theologians such as St. Augustine and Martin Luther have justified Christian use of violence. See my response. St Augustine’s Mistake.
  12. Paul used the Armor of God (Military references) as a metaphor for Christian spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:11-17.See my response.The Armor of God, Ephesians 6:11-17
  13. Jesus healed the Centurion’s servant and did not ask him to leave the military. Matthew 8:5-13. See my Response. Jesus and the Roman Centurion, Matthew 8:5-13
  14. Romans 13 teaches that Christians are to be subject to the state. See my response.Does Romans 13 Justify Christian Participation in Violence?
  15. John the Baptist gave the soldiers advice and did not ask them to leave the military. See my response. Does John the Baptist Say Christians may Use Violence?
  16. Christian’s must use violence to protect their constituents when they become involved in politics.
  17. Christ himself said, If a man does not own a sword, let him sell his cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36. I follow Micheal Snow’s blog. Michael has written an excellent response to this argument. See Two Swords: Enough
  18. The sixth commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” should read, “Thou shalt not murder”. If you are killing at the request of the state, it is not murder.
  19. God commanded Israel to war against the inhabitants of the Promised Land. See my response. Seven Reasons the Old Testament Cannot be used to Justify Christian Violence
  20. Most churches and their leaders support the Christian use of violence.
  21. Pacifism is not safe and secure. Pacifists must depend on non-pacifists to defend them physically.
  22. 1 Peter 2:13-17 justifies Christian military service. See my response.
    Does 1 Peter 2:13-17 Justify Christian Violence?
  23. 2 Timothy 2: 3 & 4 justifies Christian military service. See my response.Does 2 Timothy 2:3 & 4 Justify Christian Military Service
  24. Evidence of Pacifism in Early church is too fragmentary to know what they thought.
  25. Pacifism is not safe and secure. Pacifists must depend on non-pacifists to defend them physically.
  26. Pacifism is a… belief system designed to hurt innocent people and neuter male courage. See my Response. “Neutering Male Courage.”

What arguments for violence have I missed?

Many times the use of violence seems logical and right, but Jesus taught non-violence and gave us the example of a life and death of non-violence. Nowhere in the teaching of Jesus is violence taught as an acceptable alternative to non-violence.

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.
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Does John the Baptist say Christians may Use Violence?

Some Christians say that because when the soldiers asked John the Baptist what they should do, John did not tell them to leave the military, therefore Christians can use serve in the military today and use violence.

Luke tells us the story.

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

Luke 3:10-14

A few general thoughts on how the passage applies to Christians serving in the military.

  1. Because Luke did not record John saying the soldiers should leave the military does not mean that he did not at some other time tell them to do so.
  2. There are many other things that John could have told the soldiers that may have been common for some soldiers to do, for example: “Do not kill slaves on crosses,” or “Do not sleep with prostitutes.”
  3. Early Christians did not understand John the Baptist to be approving of military service when they read this passage. 
    A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate must resign or be rejected. If a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God. Hippolytus of Rome.Hippolytus lived from AD 170 to AD 235. Hippolytus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John the Apostle.
  4. Although early Christians clearly taught that Christians must follow the teachings of Jesus, they did not always say how to carry out his teachings. John the Baptist perhaps had similar feelings when he was talking to the soldiers. David Bercot tells us: “Consistent with its position of not legislating righteousness in other areas of life, the early church made no law that Christians could not serve in the army. The Scriptures only commanded a Christian to love his enemies and not to return evil for evil. Neither Jesus nor the apostles ever strictly forbade Christians to serve in the military…it was quite possible for a Christian to spend his entire life in the army and never be required to shed blood. In fact, during this period, soldiers primarily served in a capacity similar to American police officers. Generally speaking, the church did not permit a Christian to join the army after his conversion. However, if a man was already a soldier when he became a Christian, the church did not require him to resign. He was only required to agree to never use the sword against anyone. One reason for this flexibility was that the Romans did not normally allow a soldier to leave the army until his time of service was completed.” Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up by David W. Bercot, Page 97, 98
  5. In conjunction with the teaching of Jesus and the understanding of how the early church understood the teaching of Jesus it is difficult to see how John the Baptist’s comments justify Christians entering the military or using violence.

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.
Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

Should a Christian Fight for Freedom?

Our Pastor told us the root word of happiness is happen. Happiness is a good feeling or contentment because something good happened to us. I’m happy because I ate a good breakfast. An hour later I’m not happy because my computer crashed and I lost 15 minutes of work on my document.

Joy on the other hand is peace and well being of the spirit because we have Jesus in our lives. Jesus can give us joy when we are in the middle of great pain and difficulty. Joy does not depend on the circumstances of our lives.

There are also two kinds of freedom.

The freedom the military and our government laws gives us and the freedom Jesus gives us.

The military can give us freedom to build church buildings and to use those buildings for worship. The United States has be most powerful military in the world. Who can defeat it?

The freedom Jesus gives us does not depend on circumstance. A Christian from North Africa beheaded by Boko Haram has more true freedom than the average American.

Jesus said, 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven…  Matthew 5: 44,45

How can we kill for transitory freedom when Jesus tells us to love our enemies?

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.
Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

7 Reasons the Old Testament Cannot be used to Justify Christian Violence

Many Christians claim that because God commanded Joshua to use violence in the Old Testament, then violence is acceptable for Christians.

My assumptions:

Jesus is the final authority on how we should live our lives. We can determine how Jesus would have us live by studying his teachings and example and by studying the teaching and example of those who knew him.

A person cannot follow Jesus’ way of non-violence without a change on the inside; help from other followers of Jesus; and partnership with the Holy Spirit.

Seven reasons that Christians cannot use the Old Testament to justify violence:

  1. JESUS: Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Jesus very clearly taught and demonstrated non-violence even in the face of death. No other reason is necessary for a follower of Jesus to reject violence and war.

    Jesus said, “44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:44, and “’Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” Luke 23:34

  2. EARLY CHRISTIANS: The early Christians very clearly taught and demonstrated that they understood Jesus to be saying that Christians must not participate in violence. For example:

    Justin Martyr said, “For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God, and we who formerly used to murder one another do not only now refrain from making war upon our enemies, but also, that we may not lie nor deceive our examiners, willingly die confessing Christ.” Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 39.

    Arnobius said, “For since we, a numerous band of men as we are, have learned from His teaching and His law that evil ought not to be repaid with evil, Matthew 5:39 that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another.” Arnobius Book 1, Section 6.

  3. GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE: Israel was God’s chosen people. God was their King. God separated Israel from the rest of the world so that he could reveal himself to them and make a way for Jesus to be born.

    Today God’s chosen people come from every race and live in every country and speak every language. God’s Kingdom is no longer confined to one country. Jesus is our King, our President, our Prime Minister. Jesus is a higher authority than any earthly king or president. As his followers, Jesus does not ask us to crush our brothers and sisters and the poor in foreign lands to make America greater. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in foreign lands are citizens of our own country or kingdom. The kingdom of God spread throughout the world.

  4. GOD FOUGHT FOR ISRAEL: When God commanded Israel to fight wars, God fought for Israel. When Gideon was given the task of fighting Israel’s enemies, God told him to whittle down the numbers of his troops until there was no doubt but that God had won the victory. The United States wins it’s battles by brute strength.

  5. WAR AND WEALTH: God did not allow Israel to gain wealth when waging war. Often God commanded Israel to destroy everything their enemies possessed when they conquered them.

    Primarily the Crusades, European wars, and the wars of the United States have been about the gain of wealth. The United States used brutal tactics to steal land from Native Americans. For the last 40 years, the number one reason that the United States has been fighting in the Middle East is to ensure a large supply of oil for the United States. See America’s War for the Greater Middle East, by Retired Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich

  6. OLD TESTAMENT AS METAPHOR: Much of the Old Testament is foretelling the coming of Jesus and a metaphor for His coming. For example, the story of Jonah’s 3 days in the belly of the whale is a metaphor for the 3 days Jesus was dead. God had the whale spit Jonah onto dry land. God raised Jesus from the dead. The physical warfare of the Old Testament is a metaphor for the spiritual warfare Christians are involved in during the Church period. King David is like Christ. David fought the physical enemies of God. Jesus fought the spiritual enemies of God. King Solomon is like Christ ruling in peace now and in the future. We must join this Kingdom of Peace.

  7. TIME FOR WAR: Ecclesiastes 3:8 says there is a time for war and a time for peace. The Old Testament period was a time for war. The Church period is a time for peace.

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.

The Flag and Daniel

Recently I went to a baseball game. When it came time to sing National Anthem, everyone arose with great reverence and adoration. Suddenly I had to leave.

In Daniel 3 we read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego:

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and required everyone to worship. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down and worship. As a result they were called before King Nebuchadnezzar. Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the fire. The fire was so hot the soldiers throwing them in the fire were killed by the heat. God rescued the three men from the fire.

Back in 2016, Colin Kaepernick, taking a stand for civil rights did not stand during the playing of the national anthem. This raised a firestorm of protest against him. Is the flag so sacred that one cannot raise awareness of injustice at its expense? Even if we disagree with his position, Kaepernick’s intentions were certainly just.

Have Americans replaced the Babylonian worship of the gold statue with the worship of the flag, the military and extreme patriotism?

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.
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Steven, Paramedic, Dog Handler, Blogger, Marine

Steven writes an excellent blog. I follow Steven’s blog. See Steven’s blog.

I asked Steven a question.

Jon asks:

I see you were in the Marines. I have a question for you. How do you synthesize military service with your Christian faith? I am not aware of anything in the teaching of Jesus that allows Christian violence against enemies.

Steven says:

It’s a good question and one I would have thought ridiculous when I joined and was active. My answer now is that I don’t know and I live currently in a state of unresolved tension on the issue of Christians and use of violence. As far as revenge goes, it is quite obviously out of the question. I’m opposed to the death penalty, for example. As far as military goes I’ve come to believe that our [American] wars are not morally justifiable and therefore put Christians within the military in a rather awkward position. Whether or not we could have a morally justified war is unknown to me, and the best answer I can give for the time being is, “I’ll let you know if I see one.” For the most part this generally wasn’t a question that bothered me while I was in the Marines, but I was beginning to have early misgivings on my second deployment about the morality of it all. I think this was the beginning of what lead to where I am now. My early misgivings about the war coincided with the re-igniting of my faith while I was in the Marines. Complex stuff to say the least, how I was awakening to faith in the Jesus who taught us to turn the other cheek and who set a powerful example of nonviolence in his life, while I actively walked around a country where my presence was itself a threat of violence and a symbol of domination. My attitude toward the Afghan people, including toward our “enemies” with whom we exchanged gunfire and violence, did noticeably change in a more Jesus-ward direction my second deployment as my faith was gradually seeping into more aspects of my life and thinking. I may not have been ready or able to articulate a critical view of American militarism but neither was I eager to destroy my enemies in the name of blind patriotism like I was the first deployment. In the past couple of years I’ve developed a rather critical view of the use of violence in general and military force in particular, but I’m not ready to sign on to the idea of pacifism in a strict sense of the term. This arises more so out of honesty with the fact that I know I would personally use violence in self-defense in extreme circumstances, even though I may be tempted at times to think more high-mindedly of myself.

Regarding the use of violence generally, in my job in EMS we sometimes have to use what amounts to bodily force in conjunction with chemical sedation in certain [rare] cases of patients experiencing acute psychiatric crises who become violent despite our best efforts to de-escalate the situation. Our bodily force really just amounts to pinning somebody down only enough to prevent them from harming us and themselves, and only just long enough until they calm down, such as when chemical sedation sets in. This may not make for an exciting fight scene but it nonetheless counts in my mind as physical force and therefore leaves me wondering how in principle this is morally different from me using bodily force to defend myself or someone else from attack, assuming my goal is preservation of life and peace rather than vengeance against my momentary opponent. Ultimately what keeps me from crossing over into pacifism is the conundrum of wondering how I can say I love my neighbor if I refuse to stop someone about to cut his throat, assuming I had the ability but refused because I believed it would morally sully me if I inflicted some type of bodily injury on the would-be murderer. Less hypothetically, in my job as a paramedic it would be negligent of me to allow a psychiatric patient to go on a violent rampage where he’s likely to hurt himself or somebody else, if I could have done something to intervene and stop it. Part of his medical treatment initially will involve restraining him and maybe forcibly injecting him with chemicals intended to calm him down, but it’s restrained “violence” directed toward the good of the patient, myself, and the public.

Mind you, I speak in terms of using only the necessary amount of physical force to put an end to threatening situations and not going beyond that into gratuitous use of violence or starting out with overkill. I’m also speaking in terms of reaction and haven’t mentioned the necessity of working toward a more just social order where untreated mental illness and general criminality isn’t as widespread as it currently is. Nonetheless, even in the most just society this side of the eschaton, that “rare circumstance” will always exist where somebody will use violence against somebody, and we must decide in a moment whether to let it continue or step in an intervene at risk of harming the assailant.

To close this out, I’m in a position where I believe I actually do want to be an honest pacifist, but my concrete experience simply prevents this. I extrapolate the general principles derived from my EMS experience, wherein I believe that sometimes use of bodily force becomes the only morally right option for the treatment of certain mentally sick patients (though this is rare), and apply this conceptually when I seek to follow Jesus’s command to love my neighbor where concrete experience unfortunately puts us face to face with violence and hard choices. That said, even though I cannot at this moment adopt a position of strict pacifism I nonetheless believe following Jesus entails allowing more injustice to happen to ourselves, un-avenged, than we normally tolerate in daily life (ask my wife about me and the car horn/high beam headlights!). I won’t get into my sorry track record on turning the other cheek, but I will say that even if we admit the possibility of legitimate use of violence in rare circumstances, Jesus nonetheless calls us to be peacemakers and to forgive offenses against us that mainstream society simply can’t fathom. The ethos of the day is to assert our rights and make sure anybody who violates them, pays. Truly following Jesus means we must rise above this, and this is a struggle. Speaking individually, I tend to think I should focus more on attaining mastery over the small areas of “violence” and vengeful tendencies in my life before I torment myself too much with larger meta-principles pertaining to pacifism and war (see Luke 16:10). This may seem like a cop-out, an individualistic and over-spiritualized evasion of hard questions, but I believe moral clarity tends to be achieved in graduation as we submit our lives to God from the ground up. While issues about American militarism and destructive foreign policy, or domestic police brutality, or how we as Christians are to relate to the civil authorities are highly important, my thinking is that it would be contrary to the Gospel if I became preoccupied with those issues while neglecting the injustice I perpetuate in my own life in seemingly small ways. More pragmatically, the inconsistency would not go unnoticed and would only hurt any chance I had at promoting more peaceful ideals, if in person I turn out to be a vengeful man even as I wax eloquently about the need for nonviolence. But neither does my imperfection absolve me from the responsibility to think and seek the answer to these questions, and act. This is about as close to an answer as I can give you for now.

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.