St Augustine’s Mistake

By Jon Kauffman

Many, who support Christian use of violence, say that they base their position on the teaching of St. Augustine. Augustine based his teaching about war on the teachings of Ambrose, Plato, and Cicero.

After Constantine came to power in 306 AD the 300 Bishops in the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) called Christians to leave the military and this seems to be the official view of the Roman church at that time.

“Those who endured violence and were seen to have resisted, but who afterwards yielded to wickedness, and returned to the army, shall be excommunicated for ten years.” 
Excerpt from Cannon 12 of the Council of Nicaea.

Ambrose was the first Christian to write about just war. Ambrose was a highly loved and respected Roman Governor stationed in Milan and by popular demand became Bishop of Milan in 374 AD. Ambrose was a masterful politician and was able to overcome highly volatile situations using peaceful negotiation.

When Ambrose wrote about just war he was upsetting 350 years of Church teaching.

Did Ambrose write about just war because he realized that if Christians were to fully leverage their political positions then they needed the ability to ask young Christian men to slaughter enemies of the state at the state’s request?

With Ambrose did the Church begin to succumb to the third temptation of Jesus?

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Matthew 4:8-10 NIV

Ambrose was St. Augustine’s Bishop. Did St. Augustine write justifying war to bolster the ruling classes ability to maintain the status quo by allowing Christians to fight? Rome was in decline. St Augustine was arguing to give justification to leaders sending their constituents into battle. Did St Augustine write about just war because so many people were becoming Christian and the number of people available for battle was dwindling?

St. Augustine was teaching against the position of the Council of Nicaea. Should we expect him to have strong arguments demonstrating how the church teaching was counter to the teaching of Jesus? What did Augustine teach?

St. Augustine used Roman’s 13 to justify his position. As I have explained in a different blog post, Romans 13 does not justify violence on the part of Christians, but quite the opposite. (1) St. Augustine really did not bring his position back to the teaching of Jesus.

St. Augustine also tried to use the Old Testament to justify his position that Christians could join the military and follow Jesus. He tried to synthesize the love of Jesus with violence of God in the Old Testament.

Origen saw a problem with all that Old Testament violence.

If we agree with Origen that it is doubtful that a loving God would slaughter infants, we must look for alternative explanations of Old Testament violence attributed to God. If we follow Origen’s example we must remember that the Bible is infallible and we must find an explanation that reveals Jesus and God as loving us. We must read the story and interpret it as Jesus would interpret that story. See “God is not Violent, Korah’s Rebellion.” (2)

St. Augustine’s criteria for Just War included Just Authority, Just Cause, Right Intention, and Last Resort.

Does a Just Authority exist? If an authority contradicts the teaching of Jesus can it be just? Jesus refused to resist and died on the cross and said: “Take up your cross and follow me.” How can a Christian find greater authority than Jesus? If Jesus is the final authority on how we should live, and if we follow him, and if Jesus does not authorize Just War, then does a “Just Authority” exist who has the right to ask Christians to fight. If world leaders do not have Just Authority, Augustine’s other points – Just Cause and Right Intention are mute.

Does Just Cause exist? True justice replaces what was lost and brings reconciliation of the wronged party with the one who did the harm. Only Jesus can bring true justice. Someday he will he wipe away every tear. How can a government who is more interested in retaining power than following Jesus hope to determine Just Cause?

Is “Right Intention” a justifiable reason? I’m sure Winston Churchill thought he had right intention when he pushed for war against Germany prior to World War I. However had peaceful negotiations taken place instead, World War II and perhaps the Cold War with USSR could have been prevented. Our best intentions often end in disaster when we make mistakes. (3) If we are working with a government and military who are not following Jesus and if the foreign policy is formed by people who are not following Jesus, how likely is it that Right Intention in war will bring about results that follow the intentions of Jesus?

Is Last Resort a justifiable reason? “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. Jesus holds the future, we can wait. We do not know when the last resort occurs.

Pax Romana lasted from the time of Jesus until 200 AD. Was this a result of praying Christians or brutal tactics of a brutal Roman government? 30 years after Christians began openly entering the military in 170 AD, Pax Romana ended. A few years after Augustine as theologians continued to justify Christian participation in the military Rome fell apart. Are the two circumstances related?

Do St. Augustine’s teachings on war conform to the teaching of Jesus? I have been unable to find anything that legitimately allows Christians to participate in violence in the teachings of Jesus. Many of Jesus’ teaching can be used to demonstrate that violence is unacceptable for a Christian.

St. Augustine, Ambrose, Cicero and Plato were all smarter than I am. They have been admired for centuries. Many followers of Jesus have agreed with their teachings. That certainly gives their teaching respectability.  But do the teachings of Augustine, Ambrose, Plato, and Cicero have the authority to trump the teaching of Jesus?

Cicero said, “In times of War, the law falls silent.”

Compare Cicero to Jesus:

Jesus said, “18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:18.

Both of these statements are true. If Jesus is suggesting that we are responsible for our actions when we break God’s law and if Cicero is suggesting that in war we will ignore the law to participate, how can such a situation contribute to a “Just War”? Should we participate in “Just War” if we must reject the teachings of Jesus to do so?

In 408 AD Augustine wrote, “The earlier time of that king represented the former age of emperors who did not believe in Christ, at whose hands the Christians suffered because of the wicked; but the later time of that king represented the age of the successors to the imperial throne, now believing in Christ, at whose hands the wicked suffer because of the Christians.” Augustine, Letter 93, Chapter 3, Vs 9, 408 AD. To Vincentius.

I find little similarity between Jesus and his command to love our enemies and Augustine’s statement in Letter 93.

Because of Augustine’s mistake in giving Christian’s “justification” to fight, maim and kill, he set the world up for constant war.

In the Magnificat in Luke 1, Mary says, “51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 2 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”

When the US military bombed villages in Laos because the Laotians would not send their 13-year-old sons to fight against North Vietnam, were the US pilots fighting for the “rulers on their thrones” or the “humble”?

Where do we fit in when we join the US military? Where do we fit in when we sit in our fancy homes and enjoy the cheap oil brought about partly by US foreign policy and military action in the Middle East or enjoy cheap bananas and cheap coffee brought to us by the Central American poor, kept cheap partly by our foreign policy and military action?

Will we be the rich that he has sent away empty?

When we support American soldiers killing defenseless women and children with drones are we like the Rich Ruler?

The Rich Ruler came to Jesus seeking to inherit eternal life. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21.

Do we have the talent to be like a camel squeezing through the eye of the needle? If we are fighting to increase and protect our material wealth and are willing to kill the weak and downtrodden to do so, are we endangering our souls?

If St Augustine was intending to help the Church and political rulers retain political power, he was successful.

Was St Augustine successful in calling people to build the Kingdom of God by calling them to fight with violence? Refusing to fight and and as result dying like sheep worked very well for Christians to build the Kingdom of God during the first 3 centuries. If the Church had continued to be non-violent, perhaps the church would have been much more successful in building the Kingdom of God in the following centuries?

Some Christians do not even limit their wars to the Just Wars described by Augustine. These Christians blindly follow their political leaders and indiscriminately kill in any war the state desires to wage.

(1) Does Romans 13 Justify Christian Participation in Violence?

2) God Is Not Violent: Korah’s Rebellion

3) What About Hitler.

Reasons why other Christians participate in violence: Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

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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What About Hitler?

The Blackfoot River on a hot summer day. Courtesy Leon Kauffman.

What About Hitler?

By Jon Kauffman

When I asked if war could be prevented if Christian refused to fight Christian, Bob Spiess asked, “What about Hitler?”

Bob’s question is quite valid. It often seems logical that violence is the answer to prevent further violence and evil.

We need to look at the bigger picture.

Death, violence, and evil are the natural consequences of sin. Because he loves us, Jesus allowed the natural consequence of man’s sin to take place and died on the cross. Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” If we fight evil and violence following Jesus’ example, we can expect to die. Violence and evil are real and Jesus showed us the only way it can be stopped. Jesus interrupted the cycle of violence by refusing to fight.

If Christian refused to fight Christian and neighbor, the 100-year war would not have been fought between France and England. If the 100-year war had not taken place, Europe would have had a different attitude about war and most likely World War I and many other European wars would not have taken place. If Christian had refused to fight Christian, the faulty foreign policy of Great Britain would not have caused Germany to desire a naval fleet. Love for Christian Brother would have brought about negotiations and World War I would not have been fought.

According to Stanley Weintraub in his book “Silent Night”, in Flanders in 1914, German, British and French soldiers called a truce on the field of battle and celebrated Christmas together. Soldiers refused to fight for several days, but generals made the fighting continue.

True heroes shot above the enemy instead of at the enemy. True heroes refused to fight their Christian brothers and were brought to trial and shot as traitors. True heroes refused to join the military and were thrown in prison as a result.

In the thick of the fight, it is difficult to see the truth. In hindsight, we can see many errors of Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and the US Congress.

Estimates vary but, about 10 million soldiers and 7 million civilians died in WWI. What if 100,000 Christian soldiers on each side had refused to fight and had been shot for treason? Most likely the war would have stopped, negotiations would have taken place and the death toll would have been much less. After the war ended on November 11, 1918 hundreds of thousands of Germans unnecessarily starved. If the US Congress had voted to sell food to the Germans instead of participating in the Starvation Blockade, perhaps Hitler would not have been voted into power and World War II would not have taken place.

It would have been difficult to do, but if Christians all over the world had followed Jesus’ teaching and loved their enemy and turned the other cheek and fed the hungry, Hitler would have had no power.

Today violence and evil take place every day. The natural consequences of that violence are taking place every day. If we follow Jesus, what can we do to interrupt the cycle of violence and revenge in our world today?

Reasons why other Christians participate in violence: Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

Copyright © 2018 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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My Ethical Dilemma: Letter to Pope Francis

I am having an ethical dilemma. As leader of the Catholic Church, perhaps you have some answers.

I know you must be very busy leading, writing and speaking. If you do not have time to respond to my questions I will understand.

My dilemma: I pay income tax. Millions die because of the actions of the US government to promote and pay for abortion, Euthanasia, and war, which is paid for in part by my taxes. Should I cut my income and live on less so that I do not owe taxes and do not support abortion, euthanasia, and war by paying taxes? Am I morally culpable if I do not cut my income?

Many Christians earn a great deal of money. How does the church justify its members earning a larger than necessary income and paying taxes on that extra income, taxes part of which are used to promote abortion, euthanasia, and war?

My assumption is that the teachings and example of Jesus are the final authority on how people should live on this earth. Here is some of my thinking.

Military Service and War

Paying taxes that pay for war has been bothering me for some time. I have been doing research on a Christian position of war. Many Christians feel that supporting and participating in the military and war are acceptable Christian actions.

There seems to be nothing that I can find in the teachings and example of Jesus, the apostles and the first-century church that would allow Christians to participate in abortion, euthanasia, and war. There are many teachings and examples that demonstrate violence by Christians is wrong.


It seems that Jesus would teach us to pay taxes if we owe them, but it would be perfectly acceptable to avoid owing them in the first place by cutting our income. Do we have a duty to avoid owing taxes?

Jesus said, 18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Matthew 22.

Paul said, 6  This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13.

One person told me I should not worry about the ethical implications of paying taxes and that I should make as much money as possible so that I could give more money to the church and missionaries. This seems like faulty logic. God owns the cattle of a thousand hills. He doesn’t need us to make money for him. Why would God ask me to finance killing on one hand so that I can finance the spread of the gospel of the Prince of Peace on the other?

Jesus said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26, 27

On the way to the cross, Jesus used no violence against evil. Why should we? We are commanded to carry our cross. If we follow Jesus’ command to carry our cross and we follow the example of Jesus, we cannot participate in violence while carrying our cross. Is earning unnecessary income and paying more taxes participating in violence?

Paul said, 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12. NIV

The Christian’s duty is to win souls for Jesus and to feed the hungry and visit the prisoner and love their enemies. The world and governments control violence with violence. Governments do not dispense true justice. The judicial system does not dispense true justice. Justice is making things right. In most situations, the best governments can do is take revenge. Only God knows how to make things right and only God is capable of dispensing true justice.

Mercy can be defined as not punishing when punishment is deserved. Grace can be defined as giving a good gift that is not deserved. A Christian’s job is to give mercy and grace just as Jesus gave us mercy and grace. The justice we are to dispense is to help those who have been harmed to overcome the effects of evil against them. Violence creates more harm and creates roadblocks against forgiveness. Helping the harmed is how we fight against the spiritual forces of evil. We can only be involved in government so long as we do not break God’s law.

James said, what causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.  James 4:1 & 2

Paul said 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  2 Corinthians 10:3 & 4.

Are we trusting the military and this world instead of God?

Military recruitment advertisements say the military is fighting for everyone. I do not want the military to fight for me. Am I giving my approval for the military to do these things for me when I pay taxes?

Is the US in danger? The US is fighting a 40-year war for cheap oil. Wherever our troops are stationed a booming sex industry flourishes. Abortion is rampant. Bombing, maiming, and killings occur every day. Many in America trust crystals for healing and speak to the dead. Many Americans trust the government, military, and police for physical protection.

Many Americans trust government entitlement programs for daily food and Obamacare for medical care instead of turning to Jesus and the Church. Are Americans worshiping idols of wealth, pleasure and power? The Assyrians took Israel into captivity. Babylon took Judah into captivity. Will America be taken into captivity?

Abortion and Euthanasia

Abortion and Euthanasia are obviously unethical and my letter is too long. I will not discuss the ethical reasons that I am opposed to paying for abortion and euthanasia.

I have many more arguments against Christian’s participating in violence and zero good arguments in favor of Christians participating in violence. My letter is already too long and I will stop.

What am I missing about the thinking of Christians who say Christian violence and Christian’s paying for violence is acceptable?

Please point out any errors in my thinking.

Perhaps you can point out further reading that may be helpful to me?

Jon Kauffman
Fargo ND 58103

Professor Ardell Caneday of the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, Professor of New Testament Studies and Greek made this comment.

Caneday, Ardel B <>
Mon 9/17/2018, 1:25 PM
You are not alone with your ethical dilemma. It is necessary for every Christian to engage the same dilemma. Lamentably, many do not give the ethical issue much thought if any. I had to process the issues long ago. It is the age-old question asked of Jesus, whether to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus’ answer stands true to this day, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” Of course, in truth, what belongs to Caesar also belongs to God.
So, your ethical dilemma will not be resolved by refusing to pay taxes, income or other kinds of taxes, and there are many ways you pay taxes to government entities.
You also do not resolve your ethical dilemma by reducing your taxable income. If you reduce your income you may reduce your tax liability, but you are still obligated to pay your taxes. You have not resolved your ethical dilemma. All that you have accomplished is to reduce your income and reduce the amount of funds from your earnings that the government will have to use on whatever nefarious causes it deems suitable. To reduce one’s income deliberately for such a notion runs contrary to all that is right, good, and Christian.
Here is the resolution to your ethical dilemma. It is really quite short and quite simple. You are not accountable for how governing officials use the tax dollars that you pay whether at a municipal level, a county level, a state level, or a federal level. Those who govern are accountable for their implementation of tax dollars. Of course, at every level of taxation, there is abominable waste. You are not accountable for that. You are also not accountable for the redistribution of your tax dollars to people who scheme and scam welfare programs. The same is true whether your tax dollars go to fund unconstitutional and unethical wars. Likewise, if moneys that you submit in the form of taxation go to fund abortions, you are not accountable for that.
If we do not acknowledge these truths and live in keeping with these truths, we will drive ourselves mad. Some have done so because they fail to understand that we are accountable only for what we endorse by our actions and with our resources. Any Christian has to go through the same process to serve within government at any level. A Christian county commissioner who votes against an immoral project that requires expenditures taken from tax dollars is not accountable for the immoral project if it passes on the votes of other commissioners.
I trust that this will set your mind at ease.
Professor Caneday, you make some excellent points. However, my question remains. Am I morally culpable if I do not cut my income if I can afford to live on less?
At what point does our income reach a level where we are actually contributing to this problem? Professor Antony Davies from Duquesne University produce a Youtube video call 10 Myths about the Government Debt. Professor Davies demonstrates that our income must reach nearly $90,000 per family for our income to reach a point where our effective tax rate is 0%. Below $90,000 income the amount we receive in Social Security, Subsidies and other government benefits exceeds what we pay in for taxes.
Perhaps to reach the point where we are actually paying enough taxes to contribute to the problem of unjust spending we must earn in excess of $90,000 per year.
If we follow the advice of Jesus concerning the poor, how much in taxes will we pay?

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Cain, Jesus and Super Heroes

Heroes are made through sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice was unacceptable to God. In anger Cain killed the one he loved the most, his brother.

When King David was a boy, as a hero, he killed lions and bears. The shepherd David made the jungle a safe place for women to raise children. Then David joined the military. God had promised to fight for Israel and to drive their enemies from the land with hornets. King David took the defense against Philistines on his own shoulders. God would not allow David to build the temple because he had so much blood of men on his hands.

Saint Martin of Tours, a hero, joined the Roman military and acted as a policeman. When asked to go into battle, Martin refused to kill, because killing was contrary to his Christian faith.

Superman can catch a bullet with his hand and save the pretty girl from certain death.

Sidewalk counselors, as heroes, risk reputation and injury in front of abortion clinics to help young pregnant girls and rescue babies from death.

On October 1, 2017 Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured 422 by firing on the crowd. Many heroes in Las Vegas shielded the helpless from bullets with their own bodies and carried the injured to safety.

Jesus, the ultimate hero, conquered Rome, death and hell by dying on the cross.

When marines went to Honduras to ensure cheap bananas for the US, were they more like Cain or like Jesus?

When US pilots bombed villages in Laos because the Laotians would not send their 13 year old sons to fight against North Vietnam, were these pilots more like Cain or like Jesus?

When US pilots bombed every North Korean village, killing thousands of innocent men, women and children, were they more like Cain or like Jesus?

When American soldiers keep the Middle East in perpetual war killing millions of innocent people to ensure cheap oil and weapons contracts for the US, are they more like Cain or like Jesus?

Should a Christian fight for the US military?

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12. NIV

By Jon Kauffman

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Does 2 Timothy 2:3 & 4 Justify Christian Military Service?

 3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. 2 Timothy 2:3-4 NIV.

Some Christians would argue that these verses argue that Paul is permitting military service and putting military service in the light of an honorable profession with these verses.

However, verse 7 says to reflect on what Paul is saying for insight. Paul is simply showing that being a soldier in the military has qualities similar to the qualities required to teach the gospel and follow Jesus.

These verses could be considered a warning to not join the military. If one is trying to please his military commanding officer, he will need to obey that earthly master instead of Jesus his heavenly master when his earthly master requires him to do something that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus. If a teacher of the gospel is serving his Commanding Officer Jesus, he cannot get entangled in military affairs.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” Matthew 5:24 NIV. How is it possible to love your enemies when you are slaughtering them with bombs and killing their wives and children with drones?

Reasons Christians use to participate in violence: Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

By Jon Kauffman

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Revenge For 9/11

A Butterfly. Courtesy Leon Kauffman

Revenge For 9/11

By Jon Kauffman

Jesus said, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27,28.

Recently, in Sunday School class, we studied: Love My Enemies? By George Lyons.  Mr. Lyons makes excellent points in his study.

“Jesus claimed that those who observe the Golden rule for selfish reasons get no credit with God. Yet God will “reward” those who love, live, and give – even to enemies – out of sheer generosity. God takes note of those who treat others well, motivated only by love, with no expectation of reciprocity.” Love My Enemies? By George Lyons.

The early church did not take on Rome with violence. “It used subversive and counter-cultural ways” to defeat the evil one.

“Luke’s account of Jesus’ trial, notes that He took His own advice. By refusing to retaliate, Jesus and His followers demonstrated the injustice of their enemies. (See 1 Peter 3:9, 15-17) They denied violent aggressors the power to determine their reaction or to turn them into powerless victims. Their unexpected response was not a sign of weakness, but of incredible strength.” Love My Enemies? By George Lyons.

I remember 9/11/2001 very clearly. I was at the Sportsman’s Lodge on the Rainy River near Lake of the Woods, taking an OSHA safety class when I heard about the attack in New York City.

In our Sunday School class, as we studied Jesus’ teaching on love of enemy, I realized that we as a nation did exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught us, both before and after 9/11.

The terrorists were from Saudia Arabia. The United States attacked Afghanistan and Iraq, taking great revenge, killing a million+ people in retaliation for the death of 3,000.  And we are still killing. So many of these people killed were innocent; men, women, and children. We killed 2-year-olds to satisfy our thirst for revenge. Bombs, drones, and missiles maimed and killed. Guns and tanks brought great slaughter.

Why did the terrorists attack? Did we even take that into consideration? In his “Letter to America,” Osama Bin Laden gave a long list of grievances against the United States. His grievances included the 80 years of US military invasions against the Middle East, US support of corrupt leaders in the Middle East, and the theft of oil at very low prices. He mentioned 1-½ million children who had been killed by the US and its partners prior to 9/11. Bin Laden also finds the sex trade, drug trade, usurious interest, gambling and immorality of the US very troublesome. He specifically mentioned Bill Clinton’s unpunished, scandalous affairs.

The CIA said 9/11 was blowback from previous US military operations.

Are we fighting people who are fighting “Just War” as they attempt to defend themselves? Perhaps it is time for the United States to pull its troops out of the Middle East.

Each side feels their side is right and commit atrocities against the other. Then they each feel more justified. Christians from the Holy Roman Empire and Muslims fought each other for hundreds of years, conquering and reconquering land held by the other. The US fought the communists in Korea and Vietnam. German Christians deceived by Hitler fought Christians from Russia. The US has been at continuous war in the Middle East for nearly 40 years. Everyone claims their war is just. How can it be?

Copyright © 2017 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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Christians Submit to Authority? Does 1 Peter 2:13-17 Justify Christian Violence?

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. I Peter 2:13-17 NIV

The First Epistle of Peter was written to various churches in Asia Minor, suffering religious persecution from both Jewish and Roman authorities. It was written about 64 AD, while Peter was in Rome during the rule of the Roman Emperor Nero. In AD 64, Rome burned. Some accused Nero of starting the fire to burn the city. To deflect the accusations, Nero accused the Christians and killed many. It was during this time of great persecution of the church that Peter was writing this letter, as suggested by Peter’s references to persecution and suffering. If killing and rebelling against an unjust state were acceptable to followers of Jesus, surely this was the time.

But Peter is telling Christians to submit to authorities who are killing them and destroying their homes.

Isn’t that how Jesus overcame the evil of the world? He had the power to protect himself in any way he wanted and yet He laid down his life on the cross so that he could overcome evil, institute His Kingdom and make eternal life available to all of us.

When Rome demanded that early Christians worship the emperor they refused. When Rome wanted early Christians to join the military they refused.

The early Church did not use Peter’s Epistle to justify military action or fighting for ones rights. When early Christians were accused of rebelling against the Jewish state when following Jesus, Origen said “Nowhere does He teach that it is right for His own disciples to offer violence to anyone, however wicked. For He deemed the killing of any individual to be against His laws which were divine in origin. If Christians had owed their origins to a rebellion, they would not have adopted laws of so exceedingly mild a character. These laws do not even allow them on any occasion to resist their persecutors, even when they are called to be slaughtered as sheep.” Origen, Against Celsus, book 3 Chapter 7, about 250 AD.

Many Christians incorrectly use the First Epistle of Peter to justify participation in the US military.

by Jon Kauffman

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Book Review: “America’s War for the Greater Middle East.”

By Jon Kauffman

“In a speech delivered by President Bush at the U.S. Military Academy on June 1, 2002, Bush made the case for preventive war. Back in 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal had categorically condemned preventive war. ‘To initiate a war of aggression,’ it declared, ‘ is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole,’ No presidential administration since that time had dared to question this dictum. The Bush administration was now seeking to carve out exceptions that would be exclusive to the United States.”Page 244, America’s War for the Greater Middle East, by Retired Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich.

“America’s War” is a masterful telling of the war in the Middle East which has lasted almost unnoticed by American’s for nearly 40 years. Bacevich provides a myriad of details about the operations, policies and motivations for the long, expensive war which is creating enemies and failing to achieve objectives. He exposes reasons for failure and asks when it will end.

A few of the many campaigns and operations since 1980 include Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Desert Strike, Northern Watch, Desert Fox, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Inherent Resolve, Restore Hope, Gothic Serpent, Desert Shield, Determined Force, Provide Comfort, Joint Endeavor and a multitude of other operations. Nice sounding names, but many were aggressive wars to line the pockets of military contractors at the expense of the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East.

Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barak Obama all took part. Bombing, ground troops, propaganda, mis-information and “blatant scare mongering,” arming rebels who became terrorists, drone warfare, creating enemies…tens of thousands of innocent men women and children have died, millions became refugees, homeless and hungry.

Clinton fought in Bosnia, Kosovo and Somalia.  The Movie “Black Hawk Down”, tells part of that story.

During the George W. Bush administration, General Wesley Clark claims the plan was to take out 7 countries in 5 years.

Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, but he was able to keep the different Islamic factions in line and hold a semblance of peace. In 2003 after George W. Bush took out Saddam Hussein, no one was able to contain the Islamic Extremists. Christians in Iraq suffered greatly. ISIS was born.

George W. Bush authorized the first drone attack in 2004. Obama greatly increased the attacks. By 2015 over 4,000 people were killed most of them innocent by-standers, including many children. Many of these drone attacks were in the country of our ally, Pakistan.

George W. Bush concentrated most of his war-making in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama closed down the Iraq war but expanded the fighting in Afghanistan and began spreading the carnage to such places as Libya, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Sudan, and Somalia, and then returning to Iraq to fight ISIS.

And what happened to terrorism during this time. As Bacevich says, “Here was a disease deemed acutely lethal. Yet the treatment administered by the United States to reduce the presence of the disease in certain organs had accelerated it’s spread to others. In Africa, the infection appeared rampant.” In Africa the enemy included, “Ansar Dine, Boko Haram, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,….all were offspring of the original Al Qaeda.” Page 337.

The War for the Greater Middle East began in earnest to protect United States oil interests. In 1948, the United States with 6 1/2% of the population controlled 50% of the world’s wealth. Today, the United States has 5% of the population and controls 25% of the world’s wealth. American’s have been ready, willing and able to use their military to protect their wealth, power and way of life. Today The Middle East War is a quagmire, without purpose, from which we cannot extricate ourselves. Today our oil interests lie closer to home, North Dakota, Canada and Latin America.

Bacevich closes by saying, “Perpetuating the War for the Greater Middle East is not enhancing American freedom, abundance, and security. If anything it is having the opposite effect. One day the American people may awaken to this reality. Then and only then will the war end. When this awakening will occur is impossible to say. For no, sadly, Americans remain in deep slumber.” Page 370.

Can a Christian in good conscience fight for a military who upholds such an unjust foreign policy? Can a Christian in good conscience fight for a military lead by men such as Bush and Obama who would be considered guilty of war crimes if judged by the Nuremberg Tribunal?  

Please read, “America’s War for the Greater Middle East, A Military History,” by Andrew J. Bacevich, Random House, April 5, 2016. It is possible that you will not be glad you did. Can America really be that evil?

Copyright © 2017 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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The Violence that Saves Us

By Jon Kauffman

Jesus said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14: 26, 27 NIV

The death and resurrection of Jesus provided us with the way of salvation.

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the most attested facts in history. Why do I believe Jesus rose from the dead? Many of Jesus’ 12 original disciples died because they were followers of Jesus. Peter, Philip and Bartholomew were crucified upside down, James, Son of Alphaeus was stoned to death, James, Son of Zebedee was beheaded by sword, and Thomas was killed with a pine spear.

These guys were all there when Jesus died. They saw Jesus dead. Jesus came to see them after he rose from the dead. If the resurrection was a lie, they would have been unwilling to die for Jesus. Following Jesus provided no wealth or power for them. If they knew that Jesus had not risen from the dead, then when threatened with torture and death, they would say, “No! No! Don’t kill me, I know where to find the body of Jesus.” But the body was gone. They knew he had risen from the dead. Some people die for a lie if they don’t know it’s a lie. Nobody dies for what they know is a lie. These guys had good logical reasons to be followers of Jesus… and to die for him.

More Christians were killed in the 20th century because they followed Jesus than were killed at any other time in history. Christians have continued to die for following Jesus in the 21st century. In 2016, 90,000 Christians died around the world from persecution. Early Christians would have considered the death of someone killed by Boko Haram or ISIS for following Jesus a glorious death.

Eusebius of Caesarea, Bishop of Caesarea Maritima about 314 AD wrote in On The Martyrs In Palestine “THOSE Holy Martyrs of God, who loved our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, and God supreme and sovereign of all, more than themselves and their own lives, who were dragged forward to the conflict for the sake of religion, and rendered glorious by the martyrdom of confession, who preferred a horrible death to a temporary life, and were crowned with all the victories of virtue, and offered to the Most High and supreme God the glory of their wonderful victory, because they had their conversation in heaven, and walked with him who gave victory to their testimony, also offered up glory, and honor, and majesty to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.”

American civil religion worships the American Sniper. Who has died a more glorious death? A nonviolent Christian victim of Boko Haram from Nigeria? Or the American Sniper?

The church in America is dying. One of the most dangerous places to be a Christian today is in Iran. The Iranian church is the fastest growing church in the world.

Returning to Luke 14, in verse 26, the Greek miséō is translated: hate.

3404 miséō – properly, to detest (on a comparative basis); hence, denounce; to love someone or something less than someone (something) else, i.e. to renounce one choice in favor of another. Strong’s Concordance.

Many who believe that it is proper for a Christian to participate in the military argue that we must do so because of our responsibility to obey the state.

Perhaps a better hierarchy of love that is more consistent with Luke 14 would be:

  1. Love Jesus and obey his commands. Members of the early church were quick to die for Jesus.
  2. Love our families and our brothers and sisters in Christ, helping to provide protection and support for those living in the US and in other countries around the world.
  3. Love those who do not yet know the saving power of Jesus, but are our potential brothers and sisters.
  4. Love our own lives.
  5. Love the state. When it does not contradict the above. That makes the state a very low priority.

We must be pro-life and speak out against the pro-death state, and its evil support of abortion, euthanasia and bad foreign policy.

Copyright © 2017 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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By Jon Kauffman

When I was a teenager I had a radical conversion experience. I was saying the Lord’s Prayer. Previously, I was having a disagreement with a friend and was angry with him. The prayer says “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I asked Jesus to help me forgive my friend. My heart was filled with joy and peace. Before this experience I was terrified of dying. Jesus took away my fear of death. I know forgiving others is part of Salvation.

Pastors of the Salvation Army may say that believing that Jesus rose from the dead is an important element of Salvation. Romans 10:9. They may say confessing your sins to one another, or a pastor or God is also a necessary element of Salvation. I John 1:9. Or confessing that Jesus is Lord or King or ruler of your life is a necessary element of Salvation. Romans 10:9.  They may say this turning over your life to Jesus, or a radical conversion experience is a spiritual rebirth as described in John 3.

The Salvation Army pastor may say that once one has believed in Jesus, evidence of that Salvation will include, as the Apostle John says, that we love our brothers and sisters. I John 2:10. Or we live as Jesus lived. I John 2:6. Or if we do what is right we know we are born of God. I John 3: 7. Or that the Holy Spirit will witness to our hearts that he lives in us.  I John 3:21-24. Or that we will follow the Sermon on the Mount and love our enemies. Matthew 5:43.

The Salvation Army Pastor may say that one who has experienced the rebirth will feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty and visit those in prison. James 2:14-17. The one who has this Salvation will avoid lusting or committing adultery or obtaining divorces. Matthew 5:27-32. The one who has this Salvation will give to the needy. Matthew 6:1-4. Salvation Army pastors may say that one who has Salvation will find ways to be reconciled to those with whom they disagree.  Matthew 5: 23,24.

When we receive this Salvation, we will be able to see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives: “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  Galatians 5:22-24.

If Jesus rose from the dead and if He will give us the wonderful future he has promised, then following Jesus is our most important priority in our lives. Nothing else matters.

Copyright © 2017 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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