The Authority We Follow

by Jon Kauffman

Recently I attended a seminar. During the question and answer time, I asked 2 questions:

I said, John 20:21-23 says: 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  

Question one: if a Christian does not forgive a non-Christian, does that mean that the non-Christian cannot be forgiven?

Question two: Many Christians approved of the US military killing many more people in the Middle East in (revenge?) Can any of those people Middle East be forgiven?

In reference to the second question, one of the seminar leaders said that Christians had the responsibility to follow the authority of the state.

Who is the final authority for a Christian? Is it the state?

Do we have the authority to follow the leadership of the state when the leading of the state conflicts with the teachings of Jesus?

As Christians, I believe that our allegiance belongs to Jesus. Our responsibility to obey the state ends when their request conflicts with the teaching of Jesus. We must refuse to do anything that is in conflict with the teaching of Jesus.  

Glen Eyrie Castle

Jesus, The Kingdom of God and the State.

Jesus began his ministry by rejecting government as a solution to build his Kingdom and ended his ministry rejecting government.

Jesus overcame the temptation of using the state to build the Kingdom of God when the devil tempted him in the desert.

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.

Jesus rejected using the state to build the Kingdom of God when he tells Pilate that his Kingdom is not of this world.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18: 33-37 NIV

Refusing to Bow to the State.

Peter and the other apostles said we must obey God rather than men:

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5:29 NIV

Weapons of the Kingdom of God

Paul tells us that the weapons of the Kingdom of God are not the same as the weapons of the world.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5,6

Rebelling Against Government

In Romans 13, Paul says Christians are subject to the governing authorities. Nowhere does Romans mention that Christians should participate in violence. Quite the opposite. Many Jews, including some of Jesus’ disciples prior to the resurrection, wanted to violently overthrow Rome.

Paul says in Romans 13 that whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against God. Rome treated the Jews far more unjustly than England ever treated the American colonists. Paul told the Christians not to rebel and yet there are some Christians who use this passage to justify Christians participating in war. Some of these same Christians also believe the 13 colonies had God’s approval when they rebelled against the English!?

How Jesus Treated Enemies

In Matthew 8:5-13, Jesus showed us how to treat our enemies.

The centurion was an enemy soldier. It is quite possible the centurion was one of the soldiers involved in killing Jews on crosses. Romans used the cross to keep the rebels in line.

When Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, this is like an American Christian supplying Osama bin Laden with a dialysis machine in 2002. Or an American doctor helping a close adviser of Hitler using his medical healing powers during World War Two.

Position Of The Early Church On Violence

Even 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 was 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.

Does Just War Exist?

Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

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Copyright © 2021 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

Does Just War Exist?

by Jon Kauffman

I am not convinced that it is possible for a Christian to fight a just war.

Aquinas’s conditions for a Just War – jus ad bellum

  1. The war must have a just cause – eg against invasion, or for self-defence – and not to acquire wealth or power.
  2. The war must be declared and controlled by a proper authority, eg the state or ruler.
  3. The war must be fought to promote good or avoid evil, with the aim of restoring peace and justice after the war is over.

Later conditions developed by other Christians – jus in bello

  1. The war must be a last resort when all peaceful solutions have been tried and failed, eg negotiation.
  2. The war should be fought with ‘proportionality’, with just enough force to achieve victory and only against legitimate targets, ie civilians should be protected.
  3. The good which is achieved by the war must be greater than the evil which led to the war.
An altarpiece in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, by Carlo Crivelli (15th century)
Thomas Aquinas, PD

Reasons I question the possibility of Just War.

  • I do not see anything in the teachings of Jesus that allow for Just War of violence by Christians.
  • I do not see anything in the teachings of the church prior to St. Ambrose that states Christians may be involved in violence.
  • The prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah began teaching a way foreshadowing non-violence.
  • How does a Christian soldier stop fighting if he finds out he in an unjust situation?
  • How does a Christian stop a war that does not meet the just war criteria of Aquinas?
  • If a countries foreign policy does not have a system to test each military endeavor to determine if it is a just war, can a Christian fight in such a military?
  • How is a war determined to be just by the US government?
  • Christians in Germany and Christians in Great Britain both thought they were fighting a just war in World War one. If both sides claim to have Just cause can both sides be following Jesus when they declare Just War?
  • Are we arrogant when we claim our side is right and God is protecting our country when we attack other Christian nations who think they are fighting a just war?
  • Osama Bin Laden in his letter to America after 9/11 talked about the decades of bombing of innocent people in the Middle East by the US and it’s allies. If he was fighting an invading enemy and thought God was on his side and would help him win, was he fighting a just war?
  • Some Christians claim that any war the United States fights is a just war. If we allow the government to make moral decisions for us, are we worshiping the government?
  • If we allow the government to protect us instead of trusting God for protection, are we worshiping the government?
  • If we support a government fighting an unjust war are we endangering our souls?
  • What do we do with the teachings of Jesus that contradict Aquinas’ just war theology?
  • When I was young I was tempted to join the military. I did not. When I start thinking about the answers to the above questions, I cannot come up with good reasons how a Christian could violently support any empire that has ever existed while following the teachings of Jesus.

Making arguments Taking Scripture Out of Context

Some Christians take Biblical passages out of context to justify violence. A few examples:

Romans 13.

Romans 13 says we are to be subject to the ruling authorities, however Paul never gives permission to Christians to disobey God in order to be subject to the ruling authorities.

Some Christians even use Romans 13 to justify wars such as the Revolutionary War. Paul was unjustly imprisoned by a repressive Roman government. The injustice of Great Britain against the American colonies was far less than the injustice St. Paul experienced from Rome. I believe the Revolutionary War was not a just war in the eyes of St. Paul.

I am of the opinion we must read Romans 13 in the light of Romans 12. Is it possible to overcome evil with good when you are bombing innocent women and children.

Can a Christian fight in a military taking revenge for 9/11 and protecting Americas wealth and easy living by protecting oil wells owned by American companies?

I think we must also take these passages in context with Romans 8:28. God always brings about good for those who love him through the actions of evil men. We do not need to join in their evil activities.

For the first 3 centuries of Christianity, three times the Roman Empire tried to wipe out Christians like Hitler tried to wipe out Jews. These Christians remained faithful because God works for the good of those who love him through all things.

We can also compare the good that God brings when our enemies conquer us as compared to the good brought about through God using Babylon to bring about good for the Jews when they were taken captive and taken to Babylon.

God uses evil men to control the violence of evil men.

Matthew 8:5-13

Some Christians have mentioned to me that when Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, he was demonstrating that violence by Christians is acceptable. The centurion was an enemy soldier. It is possible the centurion was one of the soldiers involved in killing Jews on crosses, as was common at that time.

Rather than demonstrating that violence was acceptable, Jesus was showing us how to treat our enemy. Jesus healing the centurion’s servant is like an American Christian supplying Osama bin Laden with a dialysis machine in 2002. Or an American doctor helping a close adviser of Hitler during World War Two.

Ephesians 6

Amazingly some have suggested that because Paul compared Christian service to military service that this means it is acceptable for Christians to use violence. In verse 12 Paul clearly says that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. And in 2 Corinthians 10:4 Paul says the weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world.

Ephesians 6 is showing us that fighting evil like Jesus fights evil is dangerous and we will suffer losses. Fighting for Jesus is a real war. More real than any war fought by Kingdoms of this world. But we have the resurrection on our side.

When we sign up to fight for Jesus, we experience true freedom. It is a freedom that does not need a government to pamper us in our faith. A Christian can live under a government run by Boka Horam and die by the sword a few days later and have greater freedom than a Christian living in the United States.

Today completes the seventh year that I’ve been posting a daily picture on Twitter; I have yet to grow tired of the beauty around me. Picture: Copyright © 2020 by Leon Kauffman

Matthew 4:8-10

Some Christians claim that we as Christians have the responsibility to use violence if we are in government. Jesus passed the test of government in Matthew 4. Why are we different than Jesus?

Exodus

God demonstrates in the crossing of the Red Sea that he will fight for his children.

Throughout history many Christians have been miraculously delivered from evil men. More Christians died for their faith in the 20th century than throughout all history before that.

Living as a nonviolent Christian is not safe in this world. But I would like to suggest that it is safer to be killed by our enemies when we are loving them than it is to live in the temporary freedom and wealth earned by killing our enemies.

Copyright © 2020 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

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QUESTIONS FOR OUR FRIEND

By Jon Kauffman

On September 30 I published a blog post called OUR FRIEND TALKS PACIFISM.

Our friends statements seem illogical to me. I am trying to understand his point of view and I have a few questions? I have asked our friend to respond and hopefully he will. He appears to be quite productive as an author. I am sure he is very busy and likely does not have time to address my questions.

If you agree with our friend and would like to answer the questions, I would be delighted. Please comment below.

POINTS OF THE VIDEOS

Our friend made several points while discussing pacifism. Here are his points about pacifism and the military as I think I heard them. I am repeating them from the previous blog and adding questions I have for him.

  1. Romans 13 demonstrates that Jesus would approve of the state using violence and would approve of the Christian killing enemies for the state.

    Where in Romans 13 do you see statements that suggest it would be acceptable to Paul for a Christian to join the Roman military?

    Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego worked in the Babylonian government, but they were willing to refuse the governments request to the point of death in order to remain true to God. Do you think Paul would ask us blindly follow the requests of our government?

    Romans 13:2 says we should not rebel against governing authorities and author Ron Sider tells us that before a single shot was fired in the Revolutionary War, nine of the colonies had already won de facto independence by nonviolent means. Do you think it was acceptable for Christians to fight in the Revolutionary War for Independence?

    How do you explain that it’s really OK to our neighbors in foreign lands when the US military is invading their land and killing them? Is verse 10 irrelevant for a US Christian?

    10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10 NIV.

    In the 16th century, Protestant city government officials executed Anabaptist “heretics” using reasoning similar to yours. Were they right?

  2. Matthew 8 demonstrates that Jesus approves of Christians joining the United States Marines and killing enemies of the United States Government.

    Would you agree with me that the Jews saw Roman soldiers as their enemies?

    Please explain how it is logical to assume that if Jesus healed the servant of a Roman soldier that means he approves of an American entering the Marine Corps.

    If the Centurion was considered an enemy soldier by Jesus, how should we have treated Osama Bin Laden if he had come to us asking for a Kidney dialysis machine?
     
  3. The sermon on the mount pertains only to our private lives or perhaps that of interactions between friends and neighbors of a village. The sermon on the mount does not pertain to our interactions with the military or the government of our empire whether it be Rome or the United States.

    Why do you think the Sermon on the Mount does not apply to government servants?

  4. If someone is chasing a woman with a knife, we must do something about it. We must not be involved in feuds.

    Do you think it is appropriate to look for alternatives to violence in this situation?

    Do you think it is wrong for us to take risks of our own lives in order to stop a violent man without killing him when we can kill him with no risk to ourselves?

    I can see how it feels safer just to shoot the evil man. But is it really safer? Jesus said if you live by the sword you die by the sword. How does that fit in?

  5. It is acceptable for a Christian to join the military and kill the enemy if the state is fighting a just war.

    Has the US ever fought a Just War? If so which one? How do you define Just War?

Many early Christians refused to compromise and do anything the state requested that was contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Why is it different today?  

Many Christians today claim they agree to Just War because of the teachings of St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Do these scholars have the authority to contradict the teaching of Jesus?

  1. A Christian can join the US military and easily follow any commands given them to kill their enemies, because the US only fights just wars because the President and congress are doing their jobs. However we cannot do something unjust such as kill civilians or participate in sexual immorality.

    Why do you think congress and the President always do their jobs?

    If a Christian can kill anyone the President tells them to kill, how are we different from people who do not follow Jesus?

    There are many scriptures in the New Testament which say we must love our enemies and passages which claim our battles and weapons are spiritual. Why is that not a problem for you?

    I do not know of any New Testaments scriptures which positively instruct us to join the military or kill our enemies. Why is that not a problem for you?

    I do not know any statements by Christian leaders before the 4th century that would condone violence by Christians Why is that not a problem for your?

    I know of many statements by early Christian leaders which call for nonviolence and forgiveness and which claim Christians cannot join the military. Why is that not a problem for you?

    Why is it acceptable for a Christian to kill Christians living in foreign lands at the request of Congress and the President?

    Was the president correct when he approved the Banana Wars where the military further impoverished already poverty stricken people? How would killing poor people to ensure United Fruit Company profits fit in with Matthew 25:40-45?

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matthew 25: 41-45 NIV

What evidence do you have to demonstrate that the Just War theology of Thomas Aquinas is correct and it is possible to join the US Military?

Do you believe in a less stringent version of Just War theology?


Reasons to Kill

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Copyright © 2020 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

OUR FRIEND TALKS PACIFISM

By Jon Kauffman

Today I listened to two YouTube videos about pacifism. I found the gentleman’s arguments less than persuasive. I will call him our friend.

As I listened, many questions came to mind as well as many facts which to me seem to contradict his position.

See also QUESTIONS FOR OUR FRIEND.

Peace Dove

St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and C.S. Lewis wrote that Christian participation in violence is justifiable. They are all smarter than me and our friend has authored many books and also appears to be smarter than me.

I will disagree with all of them anyway. I have found that the more I try to put these issues in perspective to the teachings of Jesus, the greater my disagreement becomes.

POINTS OF THE VIDEOS

Our friend made several points while discussing pacifism. Here are his points about pacifism and the military as I think I heard them. I summarized his salient points in my own words.

  1. Romans 13 demonstrates that Jesus would approve of the state using violence and would approve of the Christian killing enemies for the state.
  2. Matthew 8 demonstrates that Jesus approves of Christians joining the United States Marines and killing enemies of the United States Government.
  3. The sermon on the mount pertains only to our private lives or perhaps that of interactions between friends and neighbors of a village. The sermon on the mount does not pertain to our interactions with the military or the government of our empire whether it be Rome or the United States.
  4. If someone is chasing a woman with a knife, we must do something about it. We must not be involved in feuds.
  5. It is acceptable for a Christian to join the military and kill the enemy if the state is fighting a just war.
  6. A Christian can join the US military and easily follow any commands given them to kill their enemies, because the US only fights just wars because the President and congress are doing their jobs. However we cannot do something unjust such as kill civilians or participate in sexual immorality.

ADDRESSING THE ABOVE STATEMENTS.

POINT ONE:

Romans 13 demonstrates that Jesus would approve of the state using violence and would approve of the Christian killing enemies for the state.

Does Romans 13 allow Christians to use violence? Romans was written in 57 or 58 AD. Paul was in prison. Nero, one of the bloodiest emperors of Rome and a great persecutor of Christians was emperor of Rome at the time. Jews considered Rome a deadly enemy. When I read Romans 13, I see no evidence that Paul thought it would be acceptable for a Christian to be a member of the Roman military. Why would Paul approve of Christians joining a military that is killing Jews and Christians? That would be like an American pastor telling his congregation to join ISIS or Boko Haram.

From the time of Alexander the Great, Jews had been rebelling against Greece and in the 30’s BC with the Romans in power, Jews rebelled against the Roman Empire. When I read Romans 13, I see Paul telling the Christians that they should not join the Jews in rebellion against the Roman Empire.

2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Romans 13:2. NIV

And Paul was correct. In 70 AD, as a result of the rebellion, a million Jews died at the hands of the Romans in Jerusalem. Most Christians avoided the slaughter because they fled to the mountains as Jesus commanded them in Matthew 24:16.

In Romans 13:1, Paul says Christians should be subject to the governing authorities. The governing authorities of Rome are the Christian’s enemy. This reminds me of Assyria capturing Israel or Babylon defeating Judah as God punished his people. God used Assyria and Babylon to bring about good. This does not mean that it would have been good for an Israelite or Jew to join the Assyrian or Babylonian Armies to fight Jews!

Romans 13 also brings to mind Romans 8:28 “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.” NIV. Jesus would want everyone to follow him and live nonviolently. But evil men do evil things, including men in the military. God turns that evil to good just as he turned the evil of Assyria and Babylon to good. Just because God turns the works of evil men into good does not mean that we as Christians are to participate in that evil. Christians live in every country around the world and are members of the Kingdom of God. When we kill Christians in foreign lands, we are killing our brothers and sisters. We are fighting against our own true King.

The Jewish Christians of Rome to whom Paul was writing this letter, certainly would not have seen the Roman army as instruments of God nor would they have seen them as agents that God uses to work for the good of those who love God.

Verse 8 says we must love our neighbor as ourselves. Even if that neighbor is a member of the evil Roman military.

When Nero drug Christians off to be burned as lights for the games the Christians did not die because they ran out of swords. They died because Jesus asked them to Love their enemy and turn the other cheek.

Nero hated God and Christian and yet God made Nero his servant.

4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Romans 13:4. NIV

If we read Romans 13 in context of history and the teaching of Jesus, we actually find that Paul is saying we need to lay down our lives out of love for our enemies. We must follow the example of Jesus dying on the cross.

POINT TWO:

Matthew 8 demonstrates that Jesus approves of Christians joining the United States Marines and killing enemies of the United States Government.

Our friend tells us that in Matthew 8 when Jesus healed the centurion’s servant and marveled at his faith, Jesus was telling us that it is a noble career to be a Marine in the United States Marine Corp.

Let’s think about this logically. As I said above Rome and Roman soldiers were enemies of the Jews. Rebellious Jews on crosses were common sight at the time of Jesus. The centurion and his troops had probably helped put a few of these people on the cross. Simon the zealot and Simon Peter wanted Jesus to defeat Rome militarily. Jesus was not yet ready to preach to the gentiles.

When Jesus was healing the centurion’s servant, he was demonstrating that he loved his own enemies. Jesus was showing us how we should love our enemies. Jesus loved his enemy even before everything was in place for him to love his enemies.

I find it difficult to understand how Jesus showing love for an enemy can be construed as support for joining the Marines and killing enemies of US politicians and the state, including Christians living in foreign lands.

POINT THREE

The sermon on the mount pertains only to our private lives or perhaps that of interactions between friends and neighbors of a village. The sermon on the mount does not pertain to our interactions with the military or the government of our empire whether it be Rome or the United States.

I am not sure how our friend can read the Sermon on the Mount and find it applies only to private matters?

In the sermon, Jesus speaks a great deal about the Kingdom of God. It is clear that we are to pray for that Kingdom and do the will of God. Our final allegiance must be to the Kingdom of God and not some temporal short-lived Empire such as Rome or the United States. Citizens of the Kingdom of God live in every country.

Matthew 5:38-48 clearly references the military. Roman soldiers had the legal right to ask anyone to carry their bag for a mile. Jesus says to carry the bag of the enemy soldier for 2 miles. Clearly if you are helping out your enemy, it is difficult to kill him. Maybe your enemy will be so grateful that he will become your friend. Perhaps because of your witness he will become a follower of Jesus.

Verse 44 says to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. Who persecuted the Christians? The entity who persecuted the Christians and the Jews the most in the first 3 centuries of the church was the Roman empire. Jews would have considered other Jews their neighbors and would have quickly settled differences to deal with their enemy the Roman Empire.

This is another case where our friend has not taken into account the history and cultural context in which this story occurred.

POINT FOUR

If someone is chasing a woman with a knife, we must do something about it. We must not be involved in feuds.

What about protecting a woman? Our friend seems to have the mistaken impression that the use of violence is the only option when people are committing unjust and evil acts.

One day I was walking home from work. About ½ a block away I noticed a man beating a much weaker man. I began staring at them and walking more quickly straight towards them. The man beating the other turned and quickly walked away.

I could see that the man was far quicker and a better fighter than I could be. Yet he went away. Sometimes men doing evil are cowards.

If we are not afraid to be hurt or die, usually many other opportunities present themselves to nonviolently intervene in violent situations.

Jesus died to save us and did not promise safety for us or our families if we follow him. In fact, he said we are to take up our cross and follow him. Following Jesus might mean we tackle a man with a deadly weapon and using no deadly violence risk our own lives to protect a woman. We might be successful, but we might not be successful. Sometimes the man who shoots first and asks questions later is successful for the short run. Sometimes violence escalates into more violence and failure in the future.

If we assume the only way to protect this woman is to kill the attacking man, we may risk starting a family feud. Then each side of feud will feel justified in killing people they are feuding with.

Perhaps we don’t know the whole story. Maybe the woman is a murderer. Perhaps the man is chasing with a knife the murderer of his wife and 3 small children. When we shoot him, perhaps we are cutting his name off the face of the earth forever.

I agree with our friend that we must not be involved in feuds, but I think he is contradictory because the very action he is proposing could lead to a feud. This is also the type of behavior that causes feuds leading to war between countries.

If we use violence, we continue the cycle of violence. Jesus broke the cycle of violence when he died. The only way wars and feuds can end is if Christians nonviolently break the cycle of violence.

If we use violence we die by violence. If we live by the sword we die by the sword.

Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down our lives for our friends. By friends he meant brothers and sisters in Christ.

POINT FIVE

It is acceptable for a Christian to join the military and kill the enemy if the state is fighting a just war.

Our friend is discussing Romans 13 again. As I mention in Point One, our friend has taken Romans 13 out of context.

POINT SIX

A Christian can join the US military and easily follow any commands given them to kill their enemies, because the US only fights just wars because the President and congress are doing their jobs. However we cannot do something unjust such as kill civilians or participate in sexual immorality.

Our friend’s sixth point has so many errors I hardly know where to begin. Many in government are seeking power and money. Their goal is re-election and they are willing to make oil companies and weapon manufacturers happy in order to achieve this goal.

War is a Racket, by General Smedley D. Butler

Many of those in power have no interest in following the teachings of Jesus or even ensuring that the United States holds to just war principals. I am sure a majority of politicians do a good job holding to their own principals and are very good at keeping their donors happy.

Andrew Jackson knew in advance of plans to drive out the Indians from their homes to steal their land. He bought up the rights to many acres of land before the wars and sold for exorbitant prices to settlers after the wars.

Now we have the BIA (Bossing Indians Around) controlling the interests of native Americans for the United States Government. The New Trail of Tears, How Washington is Destroying American Indians, Encounter Books, 2016. By Naomi Schaefer Riley.

The US government has used the military to fight the Banana Wars to protect American Banana companies and keep low-paid banana workers in line.

The United States used drones to kill “terrorists” in Pakistan from 2004 to 2018. Pakistan is considered our friend. Often these drone bombings did not kill anyone who was a military threat to the US, but sometimes the bombs slaughtered innocent men, women, and children.

Who is the terrorist here? How does the US have the right to kill people without trial or without properly identifying who they are? Would Jesus approve? I would argue that the US President and Congress willingly fight illegal and unjust wars.

The Lawfulness Of Us Drone Strikes In Pakistan: An International Perspective By Robert Donaldson

And What About Hitler?

In 1918 after the peace treaty to end World War I, Congress refused to allow the United States to sell wheat to starving Germany. Nearly a million Germans died of starvation, leading to the election of Hitler and World War II. Obviously Congress doesn’t always do the right thing.

They did not know it then, but if in 1918 Congress had followed Just War principals they could have prevented World War II. If they had followed the teachings of Jesus to feed the hungry, they could have prevented the death of 800,000 plus Germans and prevented World War II.

If a person believes that the United States follows Just War principals and that Christians can join the military because the Congress and President are doing their jobs to ensure Just War, they have not been reading their American History.

I could give many, many more examples.

If we use the Just War definition of Thomas Aquinas or the Catholic Catechism to define just war, I think it can be easily argued that the United States has never fought a just war.

And not only in the United States has the church caused war by refusing to follow the teaching of Jesus.

Christian Tutsis fought Christian Hutus and 800,000 were slaughtered in Rwanda. What if the church had taught them the reconciliation and the nonviolence of Jesus instead of Just War theology?

If you think some acts of killing are just and others are not, I’m not sure how you know the difference in the foxhole? Or what if that civilian walking towards you might have a bomb tied to her chest? Would Jesus approve of you killing her?

WHO HAS THE AUTHORITY TO LEAD US?

I would argue that if we claim to be Christians, our final authority should be Jesus Christ.  Jesus wants us to voluntarily follow his teaching.

Some argue that St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, Thomas Aquinas, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis and other theologians and writers can change the teaching of Jesus to meet the needs of our culture. These people would argue for a Just War theology.

Others feel that just war theology is too restrictive and that a person’s country can fight whenever the countries leadership feels it is necessary. It is possible that these Christians may say we must obey to the leaders of our country to the point of killing our brothers and sisters in Christ even if our leaders are not Christian and do not follow a just war politics or the follow the teachings of Jesus.

If anyone claims that someone other than Jesus has the final authority as a guide for Christian living, I must agree to disagree.

CAN A MAN OF VIOLENCE BE SAVED?

If a Christian is a man of violence, does that mean he cannot be saved? Certainly he can be saved. King David was a very violent man. He killed many enemies. Before King Saul, Israel depended on God for defense and did not possess great military knowledge or a standing army.

King David hired mercenaries for foreign lands to defeat his enemies and train his troops. It was easy for David to kill. He killed Bathsheba’s husband. But David and Israel suffered greatly because of the consequences of David’s violence. David could not build the temple. Absalom was killed.

And yet David was called a man after God’s own heart.


VIOLENCE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

When I read the New Testament, I find zero statements positively allowing military service by a Christian. I find many statements suggesting we must love our enemies. When I read writings of the early Christians for the first 300 years, I find zero quotes demonstrating that Christian leaders approved of violence. I find many quotes where Christians speak against violence and service in the military.

POSITION OF THE EARLY CHURCH ON VIOLENCE

Even 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 was 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.

I probably have not convinced our friend. I hope he has time to address my questions and correct my misunderstandings of his position. One reason for writing this blog is so that I can better understand the position of Christians who approve of Christian participation in violence.

Copyright © 2020 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

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Can Christians Join the US Military?

By Jon Kauffman

Christians disagree strongly about whether or not Christians should join the United States military.

Many pacifists and just war advocates think Christians should not join the US military. Some feel it is OK to join the military if for example they are in a position that does not carry weapons. Other Christians feel any position in the military is OK if a person is obeying the commands of those in authority over them.

I think this post gives us good reasons why Christians should never join the US Military.

To Join the military Christians must disobey the Teachings of Jesus.

I am not aware of any teachings of Jesus or early church leaders up until Ambrose that would allow Christians to use violence.

Jesus taught and the early Church writers wrote many statements claiming that violence by Christians is wrong. They also demonstrated that they believed this by their actions.

If we are true followers of Jesus, living for Jesus will be our number one goal.

An Easter Morning. Picture: Copyright © 2020 by Leon Kauffman

Does the Government have the Responsibility to Control Violence?

Some Christians claim that if the government asks us to participate in actions that are contrary to the teachings of Jesus we must obey because the government has the right to ask us to do so.

These Christians sometimes claim that the government has the responsibility to control violent people. Normally Romans 13 is used to back up this claim. However, Romans 13 does not say that we as Christians can participate in this violence. The passage actually asserts that since governments participate in violence, God will use those evil governments to control evil people. Romans 13 does not even claim that governments have the right to use violence. Only that God uses them as agents.

Using violence is wrong even for those who are not Christians. Jesus wants everyone to become his follower and live a life of nonviolence.

Perhaps Christians can find ways to control violence without using violence?

The early Christians refused to worship the emperor and they refused to participate in violence. Should we as Christians ignore the teaching of Jesus and the example of the early church only because the government or the military tells us we should.

How Do Government Officials Know they are Doing What is Right?

The next paragraph in Romans, verses 13:8-10 tells us.

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10 NIV

If we are in the military or government when we become Christians, it seems obvious that Paul expects us to follow the teaching of Jesus and “Love your Neighbor as yourself.” While serving in a government or military position.

The United States military is concerned only with crushing and destroying the enemy as defined by US foreign policy.

The Jews considered people such as the Samaritan woman and the Roman Centurion to be enemies. Jesus taught and demonstrated that he considered them to be neighbors and he loved them. How can we do less?

Isis and Boko Haram soldiers are our neighbors. As Christians, our job is to love them into the Kingdom of God, not to kill them. Chinese, Iraq and Iranian Christians are our brothers and sisters. Our job as Christians is to protect them and lay down our lives for them, not to kill them. Jesus said, Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends.

We are like the Roman Soldier when we join the military, we kill people that Jesus loves. Our enemies are like the Jews and other conquered people in the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus.

We live in the United States. The country with a crushing and violent military, like Rome. Like Rome, the US has a mighty empire and countries all over the world contribute to the wealth of the US empire.

Is it possible to join the United States military and love your neighbor?

See How Jesus Fights Wars.

Violent Rebellion

And what is the responsibility of Christians concerning violence? Romans 13 says that Christians should not participate in violent rebellion.

Some Christians claim that the colonies were justified in fighting Great Britain for independence. Before a single shot was fired in the Revolutionary War, nine of the colonies had already won de facto independence by nonviolent means. Page 6, “Nonviolent Action,” by Ronald J. Sider.

If the 13 colonies could have been freed with patience and nonviolent negotiations, why did they fight and kill? Is that like Jesus?

Our military perpetrated great injustice against Native Americans when our government stole their land.

Great Britain ended slavery through nonviolence. If it had already been demonstrated that slavery could end by nonviolent action, why did Americans use war to end slavery?

How different would our nation be if it had been brought about through nonviolence?

We Must Not Steal

Paul had a big thing against stealing.

In Romans 13, Paul quotes the 10 commandments saying, “You shall not steal.”

In Ephesians 4 Paul gives us instructions for Christian living: 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Ephesians 4:28 NIV

The US has sent the Marines to Honduras and Guatemala to protect US banana companies and ensure cheap bananas for the US on the backs of the poor in these countries. There are many more examples where the US has used the military to steal.

How can a Christian join the US military without participating in stealing? Perhaps Paul expects those Christians who are in the military to leave and take up work with their own hands?

Did the Doctrine of Discovery Justify Stealing the Land from the Native Americans?

We had the Doctrine of Discovery. The military conquests of the United States are based on the Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny.

“It started with the early explorers. They were accompanied by priests with the goal of bringing Christianity to the New World from Spain in 1492. The Papal Bull “Inter Caetera,” issued by Pope Alexander VI a year later, played a central role in the Spanish conquest of this New World. The document supported Spain’s strategy to ensure its exclusive right to the lands “discovered” by Columbus. This philosophy has become the primary world view of colonization, domination, exploitation, and Christianization of the world by people of Western European origins for the past 500 years. At its core is the claim that all land not settled by European Christians is available for their development and settlement, and that those people currently living on and using the land have no claim of ownership or rights of use.

Even as late as 1823, this “Papal Bull,” called the Doctrine of Discovery, was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions. Chief Justice John Marshall justified the way in which colonial powers laid claim to lands belonging to foreign sovereign nations. The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring indigenous and aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments into the present.” 1.

The Catholic Church affirmed the Doctrine of Discovery through a papal bull, the protestant churches affirmed the Doctrine of Discovery through their actions. Did this make it right?

Gros Ventre moving camp with travois. Public Domain

Worshiping the Emperor

The early Christians refused to worship the Emperor. Today some Christians put the commands of the state above the teaching of Jesus. Are we worshiping the wealth, the security and the power the state gives when we without question follow orders?  How are we different than Romans who worshiped the emperor?

Jesus is Above Every Power

Contrast the teaching of Jesus with the teaching of Moses.

Jesus taught us the way of nonviolence. Turn the other check.

Moses taught us a way of revenge. An eye for an eye.

Jesus demonstrated nonviolence. When he had the power to rescue himself, he died on the cross and when he has the power to rescue us, he tells us we must take up our cross and follow him.

Are we too weak and feeble to lose our wealth and comfort and suffer like Jesus by taking up our cross and following him?

Jesus has great power and rose from the dead. He does not need violence to rule the universe. Paul said:

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church. Ephesians 1:18-22 NIV.

If Jesus told us not to participate in violence, should we obey him? Why should we join the US Military? Isn’t Jesus God? As God, doesn’t he have the right to change the law of Moses concerning the way his people interact with their enemies?

Do I Need to Check out my Potential Employer?

I wrote “My Ethical Dilemma: Letter to Pope Francis.” I asked the question, Should I pay Taxes? Professor Ardell Caneday of the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, Professor of New Testament Studies and Greek replied with some excellent advice.

“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.” Professor Ardell Caneday.

If Professor Caneday is correct when he says that those who govern are accountable. In the same way, I believe if we take a position that we know participates in injustice, we are acting contrary to the teaching of Jesus. We know that it is well documented that the military participates in injustice, murder and stealing. If we join the military with that knowledge, are we accountable for the injustice? Will Jesus be pleased?

If we take a position with a company that supplies military weapons, we know those weapons will very likely be used to perpetrate injustice. Are we accountable for that injustice? Will Jesus be pleased?

Protecting the Innocent.

Some positions in government protect the innocent. For example, EMTs, firemen and social workers are not required to kill people. Their job is to help people. It seems to me that these are positions that Christians can and should take as a line of work.

I am not sure how it is possible to follow the teaching of Jesus and join the US military.

1. Paula Killough, Returning to Our Roots, God at work in spite of the Doctrine of Discovery, 2016.

Find more information about the Doctrine of Discovery. Here.

Does Romans 13 Justify Christian Participation in Violence?

See reasons that others have given to support the use of violence by Christians: Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

My Ethical Dilemma: Letter to Pope Francis.

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Copyright © 2020 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

Reasons Christians Give to Say Violence by Christians is Legitimate

By Jon Kauffman

I have been asking Christians why they feel it’s acceptable for Christians to use violence for 40 years. 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.

Arguments people have given me to suggest that it is acceptable for Christians to us violence:

  1. Protecting your family when violent people come.
    See my response:

    Agent X, Blogger, “Intruder”.

    How Jesus Fights Wars
    .
  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?

    How Jesus Fights Wars.
    .
  4. Protecting vulnerable neighbors when violent people come.
    See my response:

    SERMON OF SUBVERSION: SERMON ON THE MOUNT

    Violence and Responses.
    .
  5. They feel like they are doing the right thing.
    See my response:

    Hiroshima and Mass Murder?
    .
  6. Some say we have the right to self-defense. Keith Giles wrote a Christian Bill of Rights. See it here: “Christian Bill of Rights.” Pastor Giles did not include self-defense and I agree.
    .
  7. Soldiers have good medical benefits. Should a Christian put medical benefits as a higher priority than following the teachings of Jesus?
    .
  8. Soldiers have good educational opportunities. Should a Christian put education as a higher priority than following the teachings of Jesus?
    .
  9. The military teaches discipline. It takes great discipline to follow the teachings of Jesus. Which is a higher priority?
    .
  10. Veterans are recognized as heroes.
    See my response:

    Why I Can’t Thank Veterans.

    What Do We Owe Veterans? Or The Last Native American
    .
  11. Theologians such as St. Augustine and Martin Luther have justified Christian use of violence. The issue is settled and we don’t need to talk about it anymore. See my response:

    St Augustine’s Mistake.

    Greatest Heresy of All Time? Just War Doctrine?

    Does Just War Exist?

    The Authority We Follow
    .
  12. Paul used the Armor of God (Military references) as a metaphor for Christian spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:11-17. Because Paul referenced military equipment, that means he approved of Christians participating in military violence.
    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

    OUR FRIEND TALKS PACIFISM
    .
  14. Romans 13 teaches that Christians are to be subject to the state.
    See my response:

    Does Romans 13 Justify Christian Participation in Violence?

    Can Christians Join the US Military?


    .
  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.
    See my response:

    Jesus’ Kingdom, The Kingdom of God

    Why I Won’t be Voting in 2020.
    .
  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.

    Two Swords: Enough. By Michael Snow.

    “No More of This!” (Why Jesus Armed and disarmed Peter) by Brian Zahnd.
    .
  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.
    See my response:

    Hiroshima and Mass Murder

    Who is God? Thou Shalt Not Kill
    .
  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

    Mary, Warrior of God.

    Does Isaiah 2:3-4 Teach Christian Non-Violence?

    God Is Not Violent: Korah’s Rebellion

    Jason Potterfield discusses Violence in the Old Testament:

    New Series: Violence In The Old Testament by Jason Potterfield
    Violence In The Old Testament. Part 2: The Problem by Jason Potterfield
    Violence In The Old Testament Part 3: Filter The Bible Through Jesus by Jason Potterfield
    .
  20. Most churches and their leaders support the Christian use of violence.
    See my response:

    St. Augustine’s Mistake
    .
  21. Pacifism is not safe and secure. Pacifists must depend on non-pacifists to defend them physically.
    See my response:

    “Neutering Male Courage.”
    .
  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.
    See my Response:

    Does Isaiah 2:3-4 Teach Christian Non-Violence?

    SERMON OF SUBVERSION: SERMON ON THE MOUNT
    .
  25. “Pacifism is a satanic belief system designed to hurt innocent people and neuter male courage.”
    See my response:

    “Neutering Male Courage.”

    How Jesus Fights Wars.
    .
  26. “But for me,the strongest evidence that Christians can join the military in good conscience is God’s command to protect the innocent.”
    See my response:

    Brandon Adams, Veteran, Teacher
    .
  27. If Christians did not fight as soldiers, the whole world would fall apart. Christianity would be destroyed and civilization would end.
    .
  28. To prevent future terrorist attacks. Terrorists would destroy our country if Christians did not fight.
    See my response:

    “Neutering Male Courage.”
    .
  29. It is foolish for Christians to depend on evil people for protection.
    See my response:
    .
  30. Jesus is violent in the book of Revelation and uses violence to bring justice. If Jesus is violent we also can be violent.
    See my response:

    Does Revelation 19 Justify Violence by Christians?

    See how Jesus fights: “Holy War.” video by Greg Boyd
    .
  31. Christians can fight in any war. The war does not need to be just. The only requirement is that the Christian must fight heroically.

    Can Christians Join the US Military?
    .
  32. Ryan Callahan has written one of the best defenses for Christian violence than I have heard or read over the last 40 years of asking. Ryan said, “Good to meet you Jon. I agree that as followers of Jesus we should be men of peace. The Bible is also clear in 1 Corinthians 13:7 that love always protects. Defending your family is not a matter of violence. It is a matter of love.” Closely related is Phil Robinson’s defense of Christian violence.
    See my Response:

    Protecting Our Families Like Jesus

    See the very interesting conversation between Ryan and Agent X.

    Ryan Callahan, Author, Blogger and Everyday Minister
    .
  33. My friend, Mark Netum told me a story that he felt demonstrated the need of Christians to fight.

    Mark Nettum, Veteran, Retired. Does Matthew 13:24-29 Teach Nonviolence?
    .
  34. “I have no problem with people Christian or otherwise for that matter choosing not to defend themselves ( particularly if doing so would involve violence) I do have an issue with people who refuse to defend OTHER people and/or tell people that it is wrong to use their legal right to self defense.” I found this quote on Christian Forums.

    See my Response:

    Can Christians Join the US Military?


    .
  35. Philippians 2:25 and 2 Timothy 2:3,4 clearly justify serving as a soldier.
    See my response:

    Do Philippians 2:25 and 2 Timothy 2:3,4 Justify Violence by Christians?
    .
  36. In Numbers 32, two tribes of Israel wanted to stay in Gilead and discontinue fighting. Moses spoke severely to them therefor we also should fight in war.
    .
  37. One friend said, “Jesus often saves people in the military so it must be alright to work in the military.” Jesus saves people who once were prostitutes and thieves. That does not indicate that is acceptable for people to remain prostitutes and thieves.
    .

What arguments for violence have I missed? Please feel free to point out any errors in my thinking.

A Few New Testament References That Support A Nonviolent Position:

What arguments for violence have I missed? Please feel free to point out any errors in my thinking.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dirk-willem-2.jpg
In the Sixteenth Century at least 1500 Anabaptists were tortured and killed because they insisted on living by the teachings of Jesus. An Anabaptist, Dirk Willem was imprisoned to be killed.

Dirk escaped prison and was fleeing for his life. He crossed a pond covered by a thin layer of ice. His pursuer fell through the ice. Dirk turned back and saved his enemy from drowning. The man he saved, grabbed him and held him for arrest. On May 16, 1569, Dirk Willem was executed by fire.

I absolutely agree with you that war is not compatible with Christian belief. It’s the reason I long ago ceased to call myself a Christian. I believe that there are circumstances in which war is justified and would cite the activity of Adolf Hitler and his followers. Had the rest of the world permitted the Nazi’s to continue with their programme, which included unspeakable violence against large numbers of our fellow humans based on their ethnicity/religious beliefs/failure to meet a supposed ideal of physical and mental perfection, neither you nor I would be alive today. Frank Parker

I find Frank’s honesty refreshing. I remain a Christian and believe it is wrong for Christians to participate in war.

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.

Jesus as the Son of God has the right to ask his followers to live lives of non-violence if that is what he wants to do.

40 years and I have not found any reasons that Christians use to justify violence, that I felt is convincing.

When We Disagree.

Contact me: jonkauffman01@gmail.com.

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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