Archive for Saturday, November 10, 2012

Faith Forum: Does the Bible say anything about serving one’s country, as in the military?

November 10, 2012


Yes, but the messages can be contradictory, self-serving

Robert Minor, professor emeritus, Kansas University religious studies department, 1300 Oread Ave.:

As any world scripture, people throughout history have interpreted the Bible to justify military service or to require conscientious objection. And each interpreter has been so adamant that theirs is the only true understanding — even what “God says” — that they’ve dismissed, even persecuted, believers who disagree.

In the Bible one encounters calls to fight for the nation of Israel, being sure to kill every man, woman, child and servant of their enemies. One finds the Gospels’ Jesus warning that those “who live by the sword, die by the sword.”

One can read the Apostle Paul calling followers to submit to government authorities, and one can see Jesus defying those same authorities. One can read of the Christ of the book of Revelation leading armies in battle, and one can hear the Jesus of the Gospels demanding that his followers “turn the other cheek.”

When both battling sides believe that their fight is divinely sanctioned, such as in the past conflict in Northern Ireland, there are preachers within both communities calling their followers to either join the battle or to refuse to participate. The desire to have the Divine bolster one’s own position is so strong that each needs to be convinced the Bible is on their side.

Heavy tomes have been written justifying military service for one’s country or discerning when a war is “just” enough to serve. Others have been written calling for rejecting anything that involves killing, not only by thinkers of traditional peace churches but also Jews, Muslims, Roman Catholics, Evangelicals and mainstream Protestants.

But when nationalism indoctrinates a trust “my nation, right or wrong,” it becomes the lens through which someone interprets the intentions of the Bible. Then the verses used to interpret verses against one’s position will sanctify military service of one’s country.

— Send email to Robert Minor at

Yes, but we must strive for peace before resorting to war

The Rev. Shannah M. McAleer, senior minister, Unity Church of Lawrence, 900 Madeline Lane:

Growing up in a military family and traveling throughout the world is a significant part of who I am today. My family was clear that religious training and participating in church, no matter where we were in the world, was of great importance. With such a background it has been relatively easy for me to combine military service and religious expression.

Biblically there are many references to military service as early as in Gen: 14. The story tells us that Lot was kidnapped by the king, and his uncle, Abraham, sent an army to rescue him. This military endeavor was seen as an important rescue as well as protecting the innocent. These stories of military service are found throughout both the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the Christian Bible (New Testament). We also see military imagery in our traditional hymns such as “Onward Christian soldiers — marching off to war.”

Examples of military service are found in other faith traditions as well, such as Hinduism and Islam. We also know the power of the nonviolent movements in history and their great achievements such as the success of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent movement in liberating India, and the Civil Rights Movement in America. Jesus is often called the “Prince of Peace.” I imagine his teaching that we “turn the other cheek” means avoiding warfare and violence at all costs. Faiths such as the Amish and Quakers teach the deep importance of nonviolence.

Unfortunately, it appears that war continues to be a part of our human condition. Therefore, my personal opinion is that we must strive for peace, but when that is not achievable through nonviolent efforts, we honor our military and their sacrifice of service. The men and women of our armed forces serving with dignity, compassion and honor should receive our respect, support and gratitude. May our world one day find true peace.

— Send email to Shannah McAleer at


Ron Holzwarth 3 years ago

1) "Does the Bible say anything about serving one’s country, as in the military?"

That is a very good question, and lends itself to many different interpretations.

We have from the New Testament Matthew Chapter 10, verse 34: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword."

That one is rather clear, I would think, and we also have from the Tanakh Isaiah Chapter 9, verse 6: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

They can't possibly be talking about the same person, at least not in the same time frame, and so I would tend to think that based upon those two verses, the Jewish mashiach and Jesus are obviously not the same person at all, or perhaps, the same person is being discussed, but in a time frame separated by thousands of years, over 2000 so far.

And, "We also see military imagery in our traditional hymns such as “Onward Christian soldiers — marching off to war.”" That reminds me of the Crusades in the Middle Ages, which I believe were a terrible mistake that was sanctioned by a very misguided Pope. But some people like the songs so they still sing them.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years ago

2) And yet further, I am reminded of a few words from a former president of the United States, Harry S. Truman:

"The atomic bomb is too dangerous to be loose in a lawless world. That is why Great Britain, Canada, and the United States, who have the secret of its production, do not intend to reveal that secret until means have been found to control the bomb so as to protect ourselves and the rest of the world from the danger of total destruction.

As far back as last May, Secretary of War Stimson, at my suggestion, appointed a committee upon which Secretary of State Byrnes served as my personal representative, to prepare plans for the future control of this bomb. I shall ask the Congress to cooperate to the end that its production and use be controlled, and that its power be made an overwhelming influence towards world peace.

We must constitute ourselves trustees of this new force--to prevent its misuse, and to turn it into the channels of service to mankind.

It is an awful responsibility which has come to us.

We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes."

Yes, G-d, You should guide us on how to use Nuclear Devastation, Mass Destruction, and the Deaths of Millions of People for Your Ways and for Your Purposes. That's a reasonable request, right?

I'm sure the reason we got the bomb is to get rid of the sinners among us. But, who is to decide who are the sinners?

Am I the only one to see anything wrong with that?

Proverbs Chapter 11, verse 14: "Where there is no guidance, a people falls; but in an abundance of counselors there is safety."

Proverbs Chapter 24, verse 6: "for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years ago

What about the Germans who murdered tens of millions of people all across Europe (after starting the war?)

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