Militarism and American Christians

Scot McKnight is hosting an interesting post on his blog over at Patheos. It’s written by Preston Sprinkle and is the second* of a three part series on the subject of Militarism and American Christians–it’s preemptive to his book coming out in a few months where he makes a case for non-violence among Christians (and even broader, perhaps?).

The post is here and it’s well worth the read. I appreciated Sprinkle’s position that the Old Testament seems to condemn violence more than ever supporting it. I recently attended a debate on religious violence where one of my OT professors responded as part of a panel. The atheist professor giving the initial lecture claimed, essentially, that all religion has the proclivity to generate violence (especially Christianity).  The professor from Denver Seminary noted that the Noahic covenant (and those that follow) is founded on the concept of non-violence. No man is to take blood or life because that life belongs to YHWH alone. Given that premise, Sprinkle’s explanation of various Old Testament texts makes a lot of sense.

What I struggled to follow was his jump to American politics. I agree that in the Old Testament, Israel was called to see YHWH as the warrior who fought for her and thus they entered battles with fewer men and weapons–it proved that their God had won the battle and not their own military prowess. I’m not sure that can be applied to a pluralistic society such as the United States, especially given that we no longer see battle/war/etc in the same way as the Ancient Near East. In that time everyone saw their god as leading them into battle, so war was not only among humans but also among the gods in their realm. Without that world view today, I’m not sure that Sprinkle made an appropriate leap from Hebrew military standards (or lack there of) to American military. There are also wider problems of theocracy versus secularism in terms of government structure and the questionable suggestion that God would protect the US if we were attacked in the same way He promised to protect Israel (as if the US is somehow equitable in status to chosen Israel).

That being said, as I’m processing my own thoughts on violence and war, Sprinkle’s post was quite helpful and thought provoking and I’m looking forward to the upcoming book.

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Links for those posts by Preston Sprinkle are here (1) and here (2). The third in the series is yet to come.

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