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The Christian Statesman is published bi-monthly by the National Reform Association, an organization established in 1864 to create a "Christian America," promoting what it bills as "Explicitly Christian Politics." The Jan-Feb 1997 issue (vol. 140, no. 1) was dedicated to "Gun Control / Self-Defense / Right to Bear Arms." The lead article, "Biblical Law and Self-Defense" is written by the Editor, William Einwechter. The article fairly represents the views of most conservative Christians on the issue of self-defense as it begins with Exodus 22:2-3:
Another writer in the same issue reaches the same conclusion:
Until you look at it closely:
If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him. If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him . . . . (Ex. 22:2-3)A little thought reveals that this passage is not saying that self-defense is good, but that it is bad. If a thief breaks into your house and you kill him in "self-defense," you are to be put to death! Your blood must be shed to cleanse the land of the murder of the thief (Numbers 35:33). Now, granted, if it is night, and your injuries to the thief cause him to die, you will not be executed. "I'm letting you off this time," the Lord seems to be saying; but only if it is at night (cp. Romans 13:12).
It is amazing -- mind-boggling -- how an entire tradition of self-defense and anti-pacifism could be constructed on this verse. And with such confidence. All the difficult sayings of Jesus regarding love -- even for our "enemy" -- can be swept under the carpet as "impractical." John Wayne, not Mother Theresa, becomes the Christian model.
Luke 22:36 is also cited by the [other] NRA:
No it wouldn't have, because Christ really wasn't telling the disciples to sell their clothes and buy a sword, any more than he was telling the disciples never to take an oath (Matthew 5:34) or to pluck their eyes out (Matthew 5:29). Christ used hyperbolic language which is not easily understood by violence-sated 20th-century American rationalist zombies. By saying the disciples should sell their clothes and buy a sword, Christ was vividly telling the disciples that persecution was coming. By saying, "Look, Lord, here are two swords!" the disciples exasperated the Lord, Who said, in effect, "I've had enough" (Luke 22:38). Two swords would hardly have been sufficient for twelve disciples. Jesus was not telling them to buy weapons, as Greg Bahnsen has taught. These were "disappointing disciples."
The Orange County Register published a Memorial Day editorial which resulted in the publication of four letters to the editor, two of them written by yours truly. This exchange helps us understand the Gospel and its "vine and fig tree" imagery.
"Vine & Fig Tree" is not the vision of 20th century America. 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 editorial, footnoted with my comments.
* * * * *
& 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. [Return to text]
(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 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.)
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 steals a thousand dollars from us, does the Bible give us the right to bomb his village? [Return to text]
(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." [Return to text]
(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 slave labor, 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. [Return to text]
(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. [Return to text]
(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? [Return to text]
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.
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 my letter, perhaps indicative of the large volume of mail they received.
|(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. [Return
(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. [Return to text]
(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" were Christians who believed that Jesus was coming soon to start a nuclear Armageddon. Christianity seems to support peace only in theory, not in Washington. [Return to text]
(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? [Return to text]
(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? [Return to text]
(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 Secular Humanists govern us. The Secular Humanists govern in the Soviet Union. You can have it. [Return to text]
(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. [Return to text]
(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. [Return to text]
(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 people believe in them. Vine & Fig Tree is dedicated to destroying this myth of "anarchy then tyranny." [Return to text]
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 violence and vengeance, 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)
(21) I heartily recommend a book by a former executive of Operation Rescue: Shattering the Darkness, by Joseph Foreman. [Return to text]
"Ive had enough of your blindness!" -- the same Greek construction is found in Deuteronomy 3:26, LXX. [Return to text]
Bahnsen's tape catalog is available on the Covenant Media website. Look for Tape No. GB076, and/or GB078, in the series on Luke. [Return to text]