This past Sunday I heard a preacher speak passionately about the Memorial Day observance and the great debt which we as a people owe to those who gave their lives, i.e. made the ultimate sacrifice, in military service. The evangelical Christian church has always been among the most ardent supporters of our national war efforts. The current "war on terror" enjoys the vocal support of many in the Christian churches. The institutional church has historically been instrumental in making armed conflict seem not only palatable but also essential in the eyes of its members and by extension within our culture. No group flag waves and honors the military like the evangelical church.
Of course, this longstanding tie between the church and national wars created the incredible irony of our own civil war, when the churches on each side claimed God's sanction and support in killing their own brothers, fathers, and friends. If any event in history could ever awaken us from the stupor of extolling warfare as God's mission, that war should have done so. Instead so many blithely dismissed the other side as worthy of death and blindly continued to hate, segregate, and kill in God's name, even long after the official end of hostilities.
Whenever I hear churches speak glowingly about the armed services and by implication sanctioning armed conflict, I marvel, wondering how they reconcile their theology with their politics. The orthodox church's theology would have us believe that the vast majority of those who make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the nation then endure eternal torment as unbelievers. Do these people, who proclaim the narrow way, not see that if 90+ percent of humanity is destined for Hell, then statistically that same percentage of the military dead are likewise condemned? To then encourage armed conflict as essential, honorable, and similar to the sacrifice of Jesus is unconscionable.
Holding up Jesus as the example for impressionable young men and women to follow into the business of armed conflict is atrocious. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the one who taught to love one's enemies should not be thus used, especially by the group which claims to honor him the most.
Naturally, this issue of how Christians, self proclaimed followers of Jesus, should deal with our nations wars has been long debated. In the vast majority of cases, the churches have been quick to justify the national involvement, generally citing OT examples. Those within the broader spectrum of Christian thought, who opposed warfare, have often been vilified as cowardly and unpatriotic even by other church members. There is little wonder that warfare and militarism are so slavishly honored in our society, when the very people who should know better are their most consistent proponents.