An Anarcho-Calvinist Perspective
They Died in Vain
In 1996, The Orange County [CA] Register published a Memorial Day editorial which resulted in the publication of four letters to the editor, two of them written by this writer. This exchange helps us understand the Gospel and its "Vine & Fig Tree" imagery (Micah 4:1-7).
"Vine & Fig Tree" is not the vision of 20th century America (though it was more influential in earlier days). The farther we stray from the "Vine & Fig Tree" vision, the more violent and impoverished we become. The Register opinion extolled the virtues of American violence, even as it criticized it in other nations.
Here is the Register editorial, footnoted with my comments:
Fulton J. Sheen said America's mission was freedom. But freedom comes at a price. Those who suppress freedom must be stopped, sometimes at great cost. Today we remember those Americans who paid that price with their lives, leaving behind our precious treasure of liberty.
This century has teemed with tyrannies and mass murder. On Memorial Day, we remember those who died keeping the slaughter from happening on these shores and stopping it elsewhere.
Author R.J. Rummel's meticulous research provides the most accurate numbers yet for the atrocities: a total of about 169 million people murdered - more than were murdered by all previous wars and governments in history. To cite Mr. Rummel's chapter titles:
Mr. Rummel's conclusion: "The problem is power. The solution is democracy. The course of action is to foster freedom."
If the next century is less homicidal than this one, it will be because so many Americans were willing to die defending life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They gave their lives that their friends and relatives - their fellow Americans - and the rest of humankind might live in a better world. [end]
Clearly, they all died in vain. The wars of the 20th century have not made this century a better century, and there is absolutely no indication that the next century is going to be any less homicidal.
Here is my e-mailed response, most of which was published.
Subj: Memorial Day
Thanks to the Register for calling our attention to the work of Prof. R.J. Rummel (May 27, "A Day to Remember.").
Memorial Day is a difficult day for us Christian anarchist/pacifists. We are saddened by the loss of so many men and women created in the Image of God, and by the pain their families feel. But we do not believe that their deaths were either necessary or productive.
The life and teaching of Jesus is that we do not take up arms to defend ourselves. Christians give up their lives rather than take the life of another. This view is dismissed as "unrealistic," and more so on those holidays which glorify war.
When you write,
what you mean to say is,
This willingness to kill is the mentality that undergirds the State, and the cause of 20th century "democide" is not the willingness to follow Jesus to the Cross, but the willingness to kill other human beings who stand in the way of our desires. Prof. Rummel's book is entitled, "Death by Government," not "Death by Pacifism."
The thirst for vengeance and the devaluation of human life marks the shift from Christianity to Secular Humanism. As Christians mature, they abandon these character defects and the militarism they produce ("Crusades still influence the Mideast," May 26). As Secular Humanism matures in its worship of Man, it self-consciously embodies the words of Existentialist Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre: "If I am god, then my neighbor is the devil."
"If the next century is less homicidal than this one," it will be because we repudiate Secular Humanism, abolish the State, and "beat our swords into plowshares" (Micah 4:1-7).
The biggest opponents of "Vine & Fig Tree" thinking have been and will probably continue to be those who call themselves "Christians." While the Register usually prints only one letter on each issue, it published two responses to this writer's letter, perhaps indicative of the large volume of mail they received. Both appear to be from Christians.
Kevin Craig's attack on Memorial Day ["Devaluing human life through acts of war," Letters, June 3] is an insult to every American who has served in the armed forces and particularly to the families and loved ones of those who gave up their lives defending our nation.
Craig's statement, "The life and teaching of Jesus is that we do not take up arms to defend ourselves," is totally false.
When Jesus was preparing his disciples for his departure from this Earth, in Luke 22:36 he told them, "He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one."
When Jesus comes again, it will be at the head of an army with sword in hand. However, this does not mean that Christianity supports war. On the contrary, the word of God condemns war and supports peace but it also recognizes war is sometimes necessary and even commanded by God.
Millions of Americans have died in wars so the rest of us, including Kevin Craig, could live in a free country. That's what Memorial Day is about.
David J. Moore
* * * * *
Craig wrote that the deaths remembered on Memorial Day were unnecessary and unproductive. Although he identifies with Christianity, his anarchist/pacifist viewpoint ignores the lessons of scripture and history.
For a country to survive without a government, people must be basically good at heart, which clearly is not the case. And if people are not good at heart, then we need something or someone to govern us. Craig says that this should be Christ, and I agree.
However, Christ works in individuals; our nation is made up of many divergent viewpoints and, therefore, requires a government.
If a nation has no government, the pacifists, the weak, and the innocent will be killed, and power-hungry, self-serving people will set up a tyranny. That's always the way it is; anarchy lasts for a short while, then a tyranny takes its place.
Human nature is evil, the Bible clearly tells us so. Our soldiers did not die for nothing. They died to keep wicked people out of powerful positions, and for this we should be grateful.
These two letters are why Vine & Fig Tree exists. Christians are the most confused people in the world. The Register cites the evidence to prove that governments are lethal, and it's the Christians who run to the defense of these tyrannies. And yet they think they are doing good and are on the side of good.
If the Northern "superpowers" wipe themselves out in a mad binge of nuclear violence and vengeance [now joined by China? Pakistan? Iraq?], the human race might still continue south of the equator. My faith would not be destroyed if America were. "Let God be true and every man be found a liar" (Romans 3:4). What bothers me is that our culture thinks it's Christian, and yet mocks God's Law. We take the Name of Christ, but refuse to follow Him to the Cross.
I didn't think the Register would go one more round on this issue, but I figured if I responded to these two letters, at least the people in the Editorial Room would read it. So here's what I sent them:
Jason Rowberg ("Wars are Necessary to Protect Society," Talk Show, June 7) defends government bloodshed by accusing anarchists and pacifists of "ignoring the lessons of Scripture and history." "Human nature is evil," he asserts, and then monopolistically arms a small segment of that evil humanity with the military power to destroy the rest.
If human beings are by nature so evil that they will only do good when a gun is pointed at their heads, then those human beings who are given all the guns will point those guns at those who seek to do good. "Power corrupts" politicians, not just citizens. History shows that war protects politicians, not society.
But if Rowberg ignores R.J. Rummel's violent chronicle of the history of the State, David J. Moore ignores the clear teaching of Scripture. Although he cannot deny the universally-recognized truth that "The Word of God condemns war and supports peace," his patriotism moves him to label as "totally false" my statement that "The life and teaching of Jesus is that we do not take up arms to defend ourselves." ["Devaluing human life through acts of war," Letters, June 3] Not just "ambiguous," "misleading," or "a half truth," but "totally false," an "attack" and an "insult." To coin a phrase, "them's fightin' words!" But Moore won't convince many pacifists to fight by his shoddy exegesis of Luke 22:36 ("He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one"). As is so frequently the case, the context shows that Jesus was using hyperbolic language to make a quite different point; in this case, that His sleepy-headed disciples should prepare themselves for another outbreak of government violence, this time directed against the greatest Teacher of Peace in human history. In another context, Jesus said we should cut off our hands and poke out our eyes (Matthew 5:28-30). Understood correctly, this was a vivid way of saying we should not lust. But too many militaristic Christians fail to interpret ambiguous passages of Scripture in light of the obvious ones. So if you see a one-armed, one-eyed man walking naked through the streets of San Juan Capistrano carrying a sword, it must be the ever-patriotic David J. Moore.
History and clear-thinking Christianity do not support the institutionalized violence of the Garrison State. Contemporary scholarship does not support the notion that wars protect society. This is what Memorial Day should be about.
The reason why Christians are so empty-headed, and the reason they all shout and cheer and wave flags when their fellow Americans are killing hundreds of thousands of impoverished Iraqi peasants and bombing countless valuable Biblical archeological sites in order to protect Bush Family oil investments is that they are Americans.
America is a nation that was founded upon the blood of thousands of government officials. American Christians talk about how wonderful government is, and how "totally false" pacifists and anarchists are, and yet when the government starts interfering with their personal peace and affluence, they don't hesitate to take up arms.
This is clearly the story of America, perhaps the most violent nation on earth. On July 4th we celebrate our "Declaration of Independence" from the "God-ordained" government and the establishment of a new government that is undeniably more corrupt, more atheistic, and more tyrannical than the British government was or is. Americans now pay taxes at rates 10 times as high as those that prompted their Founders to put a bullet through the head of "God ordained" tax collectors.
To paraphrase Jesus, he who defends his life will lose it. (Luke 9:24) Those who resist George III by violence will be cursed with Bill Clinton and the PRC.
Happy[?] Memorial Day!
(1) Vine & Fig Tree's mission is obedience. "Freedom" in the modern world means "Freedom from God." The nation created in 1776 has indeed had freedom from God as its mission. Pursuit of unbridled commerce has been its national goal. Vine & Fig Tree is not made up of "Freedom Fighters," but servants of others and of the executed Christ.
(2) The pursuit of material pleasures has indeed come at a high price. We don't often give thought to the world we have lost.
(3) What this really means is, "Those who try to confiscate our material goods will be killed." And since this article is talking about Memorial Day, we have to remember who it was that was trying to "suppress [our] freedom." Who was attempting to suppress freedom in the Gulf War? Saddam Hussein. Who was killed? 250,000 innocent men, women, and children, who probably didn't like Saddam any more than we did. Saddam is still alive, still suppressing freedom. Hitler was suppressing freedom. Who did we kill? Well, we firebombed tens of thousands of civilians in Dresden. We never did kill Hitler. We wouldn't even bomb the railroad tracks which carted Jews off to the camps. We did bring thousands of his highest ranking military officials and scientists into our military and intelligence services to help "fight the communists."
And how do we "fight" the communists? Low-interest, tax-payer guaranteed loans. The largest tank factory in the world, built on the Kama River by Ford Motor Co., paid for by U.S. Taxpayers. (See Hoover Institution [Stanford U.] fellow Antony Sutton, National Suicide: Military Aid to the Soviet Union.) And now, the Democrats and the Military-Industrial Complex are at work in China.
But history aside, here's the ethical issue: if someone threatens us with enslavement or a lower standard of living, what does Jesus say we should do to that person? If someone raises our gas prices by a thousand dollars, does the Bible give us the right to bomb his village?
(4) A cost always borne by the innocent, never by the politicians and the Wall Street bankers.
(5) The result of every single war in our nation's history, if not in world history, has been the diminution of liberty, and the increase in totalitarianism, centralization, and fascism. Study the Roosevelt Administration, and ask yourself if World War II increased liberty in America. If you need a clue, see Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan, Oxford Univ. Press, 1987, and Edmund Opitz, ed., Leviathan at War, 1995. War is always an excuse to centralize power. The government which "wins" a war is stronger, if not engorged. Randolph Bourne put it: "War is the health of the State."
(6) And we thereby deceive ourselves. Those who fought and died in 1776 would call 20th century America the greatest tyranny of all, and Americans the most enslaved. The Soviet Union may have more gulags, and Red China more forced abortions, but America more exemplifies Babylon (Rev. 17-18), and this is truly the more terrifying indictment.
As the Opinion goes on to show, we did not stop the tyranny and mass murder. And the article neglects to mention that we funded it.
(7) I actually like the Register: they're pretty savvy. They take a dim view of government. But wars are always fought in defense of a government. We fight to preserve not our voluntary associations and our churches, but our government. We fought the British in 1776 because we didn't like their form of government. They fought us back because they didn't like our rival form of government. This is why Vine & Fig Tree advocates the elimination of "civil government." This editorial will give us an indication of what we will save if we do.
(8) If we just keep on "fostering freedom," where will that eventually lead? Why is it that the quest for "freedom" inevitably produces totalitarianism, while the willingness to be slaves of Christ produces liberty?
(9) Really? I thought the letter was rather conciliatory. That, at least, was my intention. My first paragraph is certainly not a mocking of those who have felt the pain of war.
(10) Totally false? Absolutely nothing true here? Nothing we can learn?
This is the kind of us/them either/or mentality that polarizes people into good-guys/bad-guys and results in war. "They" are all bad; "we" are all good. The "totally evil" enemy must be "totally" destroyed.
This works to the advantage of the State. This Christian probably works for "limited government" in other spheres, but he has been trained to believe that those who favor limited government in the area of war are boogeymen, against whom we must intellectually quarantine ourselves. Thus there is no cooperation between parties that might otherwise work to limit the State and strengthen families.
(11) A major part of Vine & Fig Tree publications are dedicated to disproving this concept of the "Second Coming."
(12) Of course, most of the flag-waving that took place as Iraqi peasants were being "bombed back into the Stone Age" by American "smart bombs" was that of Christians who believed that Jesus was coming soon to start a nuclear Armageddon. Christianity seems to support peace only in theory, not in Washington.
(13) Name one unarmed German civilian in Dresden, or one unarmed Iraqi peasant in Baghdad, that God commanded us to kill. There were literally hundreds of thousands that we could choose from. God commanded us to kill them? Their deaths were necessary?
(14) I do not believe I live in a free country. I cannot get a job as a teacher in a government-coerced school and pray with children, and help them live in obedience to God's Ten Commandments. That would be "unconstitutional." This is freedom? The Founding Fathers would not think so. In our day the government seeks to confiscate ten times as much in taxes as incited the Founding Fathers to revolt. This is freedom?
(15) Clearly! People with bad hearts are forming governments all over the world! People with good hearts are being subjected to acts of organized government each and every day.
(16) What does "divergent viewpoints" have to do with the necessity for governments to kill off or threaten to kill the "bad guys"? This is really a plug for pluralism. "I agree" that Christ should govern us, he says, but since we have Jews and Muslims in our country, we have to let the "neutral" Secular Humanists govern us. The Secular Humanists govern in the Soviet Union. You can have it.
(17) By whom? Prof. Rummel has shown that the overwhelming percentage of murders are committed by governments! Private enterprise criminals can't even hold a candle to the crimes committed by the government. And there is no area of crime where this is not the case: drug smuggling, theft, murder - the government is the world's biggest criminal syndicate.
(18) Suppose Bill Clinton and Adolph Hitler got together and decided to form a tyrannical government, but all the people in the nation had read Vine & Fig Tree propaganda and were all anarchists and pacifists. Who would vote for Slick Willie and Dolfie? Who would put on the uniforms and conduct house-to-house searches? Who would put the Christians into the lions' dens? Tyrannies are always set up by people who don't believe the gospel, and the triggers are pulled by those who believe that social salvation comes from the State. Tragically, those who would pull the triggers are often members of "churches."
(19) So what is this letter-writer saying: we should work against decentralized self-government, and work for tyranny? When has there ever been a state of anarchy, and why did a tyranny take its place? There have in fact been times when a group of people were self-governing, productive, and peaceful, but they didn't all decide to abandon decentralization and form a tyranny. Tyrannies only exist because they are forcibly imposed or because the people believe in them. Vine & Fig Tree is dedicated to destroying this myth of "anarchy then tyranny."
(20) Sorry, but wars have universally resulted in wicked people solidifying their hold on power.
(21) I heartily recommend a book by a former executive of Operation Rescue: Shattering the Darkness, by Joseph Foreman.
From my pacifism page at