Memorial Day in DC is always filled with marches, concerts, and celebration. This year the city has had an unusual amount of activity all week. A great endearing aspect of American culture is our respect for our military people from every branch of the armed services. America’s courage in past just wars has made a difference for the freedom of the entire globe. As a child of the 60s and 70s, I am amazed by the current support for the nation’s military, in spite of our current numerous battlefronts.
In my youth, anti-Vietnam war slogans were summarized by the statement “Make Love not War.” In those days, we sold out to hedonism instead of heroism. It seems that today’s America is beginning to believe the words of General George S. Patton, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” I personally believe that Rudyard Kipling said it best in his work - The Old Issue, 1899, “All we have of freedom, all we use or know - This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.”
American patriotism fosters our desire to celebrate those who have lost life or limb to protect our freedoms. Yet recently, numerous domestic and external critics have accused America of simply being imperialistic or greedy. Frequently, liberal talk show hosts have questioned me, a conservative Christian, about the morality of “George Bush’s war.” Impetuously, they often quote the words of Jesus out of context and cite several messages of Martin Luther King, Jr. My answer has always included a little church history, if I could squeeze it in before the session deteriorated into ad homonyms and name-calling.
St. Augustine, known as a father of modern Christianity, is often credited with developing foundational, biblical premises of how national armed conflict should be viewed. He did not promote war because of self-defense. Rather, based on Jesus’ teaching of turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39; Luke 6:29), he felt that Christian love required a nonviolent response to imminent personal danger. But this rule of “turning the other cheek” did not apply to the Christian obligation to care for the defenseless and weak. Therefore, according to Augustine, Christian rulers were obligated to make peace (if possible) in order to protect their citizens. Sometimes the use of force of arms is the only way to stop an attack upon the defenseless.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.