Stupid Evangelical Tricks

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

The National Association of Evangelicals is calling for a reduction in the world’s nuclear weapons.

The group’s board of directors, which represents more than 45,000 local churches from over 40 different denominations, approved a resolution at its semiannual meeting in October encouraging the reductions as well as ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The treaty, adopted by the United Nations in 1996, calls for a ban of all nuclear explosions though it has yet to be fully ratified.

Oh my.  We evangelicals do beclown ourselves, don’t we?  Actually, the policy statement is a thing to behold.  First off, its appeal to Ronald Reagan is disingenuous, and is similar to the gun control lobby’s appeal to Reagan.  It’s dishonest and never works.  Reagan supported gun rights, and Reagan ran the Soviet Union bankrupt with an arms buildup.  Peace through strength is not the same thing as trust through unilateral disarmament, and we all know it.  No one ever buys this approach, so it’s an enigma why anyone uses it.

Next, the appeal to “restraining evil” and “promoting peace and reconciliation” is simply absurd, and the Biblical data cited has nothing whatsoever to do with the policy statement or their position on nuclear weapons.  And to assume that a treaty would have any affect at all on rogue nations such as Iran is puerile (Iran’s intentions have to do with apocalyptic eschatology, and no treaty that the U.S. signs will have any affect at all on their quest to usher in the eschaton with violence).  The only nation(s) that would honor such a resolution or treaty would be the very nations that didn’t need the constraints of the treaty in the first place.  It’s rather like the arguments preached by gun control advocates.

Next, regarding pastoral concerns, they cite the promotion of trust on God, and cite Psalm 33:16-17 (I’ll use my favorite, the NASB).

The king is not saved by a mighty army;
A warrior is not delivered by great strength.

A horse is a false hope for victory;
Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.

And then they launch into gushing hand-wringing about cultivating love for our enemies and a concern for “dehumanizing” other people by targeting them with nuclear weapons.

Seriously.  You can’t make this up.  They use Biblical counsel regarding the state of the heart of individuals and their reliance on God as a justification for jettisoning nuclear weapons, obviously conflating that with the duty of governments to protect and secure the peace of its own people.

The authors of this tripe should have read Professor Darrell Cole’s paper on Good Wars, in which he uses Aquinas and Calvin to show how the Christian position on the state as the perpetrator of violence is not only not to be seen as an evil, or even a necessary evil, but a virtuous thing when done rightly.

The most noteworthy aspect of the moral approach to warfare in Aquinas and Calvin is that it teaches—contrary to today’s prevailing views—that a failure to engage in a just war is a failure of virtue, a failure to act well. An odd corollary of this conclusion is that it is a greater evil for Christians to fail to wage a just war than it is for unbelievers. When an unbeliever fails to go to war, the cause may be a lack of courage, prudence, or justice. He may be a coward or simply indifferent to evil. These are failures of natural moral virtue. When Christians (at least in the tradition of Aquinas and Calvin) fail to engage in just war, it may involve all of these natural failures as well, but it will also, and more significantly, involve a failure of charity. The Christian who fails to use force to aid his neighbor when prudence dictates that force is the best way to render that aid is an uncharitable Christian. Hence, Christians who willingly and knowingly refuse to engage in a just war do a vicious thing: they fail to show love toward their neighbor as well as toward God.

Sounds a bit different than the silly and shallow NAE position, no?  Then they drop this bit of insulting, moralistic hypocrisy into the policy statement.

The discovery of how to split the atom was a groundbreaking scientific and technological achievement involving large numbers of scientists, engineers and workers from many disciplines using their God-given talents. Today hundreds of thousands of Americans, both military and civilian, are directly or indirectly involved in the design, manufacture and deployment of nuclear weapons. Many of these people are members of our churches. They seek to use their gifts and skills to serve their nation.  Some are troubled by the ethical ambiguities of participation in an enterprise that involves producing weapons of mass destruction. Chaplains and pastors should avoid simplistic answers, but should rather guide their members in prayerful reflection, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they wrestle with issues of profound moral consequence.

I doubt that the authors directly know even a single person who is involved with national laboratory work on nuclear weapons or even deploy them in the case of war.  But I do (on both accounts), and let me state that I know of no such “troubles” with “ethical ambiguities” with my friends.  And let me unequivocally state that the existence of nuclear weapons, far from promoting the diminution of world peace, is more responsible for world peace in the twentieth century than any other invention by mankind.  World War II was the last world war fought solely because of the existence of nuclear weapons.  And the authors of the policy have used the umbrella of peace that nuclear weapons have provided to craft their veiled and cowardly admonishments to nuclear workers and military servicemen.

I want to make one final point concerning the state of Christian scholarship and warfare.  I have thought more about war and warfare than 99.9999% of other Christians over the past five or so years, and I can honestly say that so-called just war theory is worthless in today’s world.

It was developed for a world that communicated by horse riders and signet rings, and archers lining up in fields against opposing lines from other countries, with border battles to see who would control nation-states.  It wasn’t developed for transnational insurgencies, large effect standoff weapons, terrorist bombings, fighters living and fighting among and from within their own people, real time intelligence, and targeted hits by UAVs.

In my 5+ years spent military blogging I have not referred to a single quote, citation, or word of any Christian scholar concerning just warfare – and it’s not because of the lack of trying.  It’s high time that the Christian community gathered serious scholars to tackle warfare in the twenty first century.  This NAE paper is neither serious nor scholarly.

And don’t come back with some claptrap about a pacifist Jesus.  Just go spend your time singing verses of John Lennon’s Imagine during your next worship service.  It would be ideologically similar to the paper, and artistically better than studying the policy statement.

UPDATE: The NAE’s Policy statement puts them squarely in line with Fidel Castro, who also believes that no country should have nuclear weapons.

Prior:

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

  • KB

    Thanks for the link to Good Wars on First Things.

  • TS Alfabet

    Thanks for bringing this paper to larger attention. For me, the NAE has long been just another increasingly irrelevant and sclerotic religious organization. The fact that they would come out with this sort of pacifist claptrap is par for the course.

    To me, the Jesus I read about in the gospels reaches out to individuals. He did not come to establish religious organizations, no matter what denomination or creed you want to put there. I see a growing number of people awakening to a reality that the cultural and religious structures that have been perpetuated for the last 1900 years are actually more of an obstacle to God than a pathway.

    If it is true that God dwells in me, personally, the need for a National Association of any kind to tell me what I should think about nuclear weapons or prayer is absent.

    I once had a rather heated discussion with a religious pacifist. I asked him if he saw an older woman being attacked by someone on the street and there was no one else to help her, would he use force to intervene? He danced around the issue desperately, but in the end he said that his conviction is that the use of force is never justified, so, no, he would not intervene physically. And that’s what this sort of pseudo religion gets us: a world dominated by those willing to use force.

    Americans are reluctant warriors, but warriors nonetheless. At least I’d like to think that is still true.


You are currently reading "Stupid Evangelical Tricks", entry #7905 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Nuclear,Religion,War & Warfare and was published November 13th, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

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