When Freedom Is An Idol
When I argue that “liberty for all”, politically speaking, is better than the enforcement of religion or morality by the state, I say this because the union of church and state in any capacity is dangerous for both Christians and the unconverted, for it makes it unsafe to disagree with any official government policies on religion or morality. Religious tyranny, even if it identifies as “Christian”, is the friend of no one. If given the choice, most people, I assume, would choose a political model that would allow them to make their own choices, rather than one that dictates to them what they can and cannot say and do. In my opinion, the governance of a community should be limited to the protection of the life and property of the citizens, and the citizens should be able to do whatever they choose to do, however they choose to do it, as long as their actions do not include violence toward the life and property of others. The Church is different. We take our orders from Christ and we are to protect the churches from false doctrine and immoral behavior without intrusion by the state.
I argue that “liberty for all” is the political environment that would be most beneficial to individual Christians, and thus the Body of Christ, because it would keep the Church from being under, or using, the coercion of political power. But I want to be clear about this: “Liberty for all” is not to be the focal point of Christians, and the truth is, “freedom” is a false god in America (not that we have liberty for all), one to which many professing Christians have sold their soul.
The Christian’s duty is to obey God and to be a living sacrifice to Christ. Christ did not instruct his followers to strive for, or to protect, certain political conditions. He did not command his followers to die for national freedom, or to kill for freedom. I do not think that political freedom is worth dying for, and I certainly do not believe it is worth killing for, yet Americans, including professing Christians, send people to their death, or go to their own death, or they bring death and destruction on people in other nations, in the name of liberating people from oppressive forms of government. When did Christ command his followers to do this? What business does God’s people have in killing and destroying for the interests of an earthly kingdom? Killing foreigners is not brave or virtuous. It is the missionaries that risk their lives by entering these territories with the gospel of Christ, with the hope of converting them, that are demonstrating courage and virtue.
The Lord said that we should lose our lives for his sake, and the gospel’s, not for the interests of an earthly nation. (As I have said before, no one has the right to claim that God’s instructions to Israel as a nation are his instructions for America or any other nation.) Yet many professing Christians do the opposite and claim to be maintaining a certain way of life for themselves and others, which is not wrong in and of itself, but they are willing to kill and maim to maintain it, and this is contrary to the mission of Christ. Besides, most of the armed conflicts the U.S. has been involved in have been unnecessary and unjust, though statists have manipulated people’s minds into thinking they are actually seeking or safeguarding “freedom.” Many Christians and historians have shown that most American conflicts were not about freedom to begin with, and that they have resulted in more harm than good. Even if they were seeking or safeguarding “political freedom”, that does not provide justification for disobeying Christ, and that is why I argue that killing and destroying the lives of men, women, and children, even for political freedom, is antithetical to the purposes of the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:54-56). Yet many have disobeyed Christ, while claiming his support, and calling out to him to bless them and keep them safe as they deliver death and destruction. Even Hitler appealed to God as he carried out the horrors of the Holocaust. How many professing Christians have been a part of the bombing, starving, and torture of others and have appealed to God to help them while they did so?
Many sins have been committed in the pursuit of liberty and in the name of liberty. Many professing Christians need to fall on their faces in repentance because they have served the interests of unholy nations and have betrayed the Kingdom of God in the process. The life that Christ calls his followers to is not one of social acceptance, cultural comfort, or empire building. Freedom is not necessary for Christianity - not even religious freedom.
While I believe that the principles of liberty provide the ideal environment, I also believe that many people have sinned against God while pursuing them. Promoting liberty is not sinful. Making it an idol is. Killing for it is too. I agree with those who claim that standing, professional military branches are dangerous entities that often cause tyranny while claiming to be liberators from tyranny. Jacob Hornberger, the founder of the Future of Freedom Foundation, and former member of the military stated:
“But how many Americans give careful thought to what tyranny actually means and how it is carried out? I’d venture very few. That’s because people don’t want to confront what is a very discomforting thought: that a tyrannical regime uses its standing army to carry out and enforce its tyranny. Yes, I’m referring to the troops, the people that so many Americans have come to idolize and praise almost as if they were a big brother within their families.
Could a scenario ever arise whereby the president would use the military to carry out orders against Americans that would rise to the level of tyranny?
What we know is that U.S. presidents, the Pentagon, and the CIA have long supported, defended, and trained tyrannical regimes, in the name of protecting “national security.”
For example, there was the Pinochet military dictatorship, which the U.S. national-security state helped install into power. With the full support of the Pentagon and the CIA, Pinochet used his troops, which faithfully and obediently followed his orders, to round up tens of thousands of people, torture them, abuse them, and execute and assassinate thousands of them.
There was the series of military dictatorships that the CIA helped install into power in Guatemala, where Guatemalan troops, many of whom had been trained by the U.S. military, faithfully carried out the orders of their superiors, torturing and massacring hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans who were resisting the tyranny.
There was the Shah of Iran, a brutal dictator who was reinstalled into power by the CIA, and whose national intelligence/police force was trained by the CIA in the art of torture.
There are the decades of military and financial aid that provided the brutal military dictatorship in Egypt under military strongman Hosni Mubarak, whose troops and intelligence forces worked closely with both the Pentagon and the CIA.
Thus, U.S. presidents, the Pentagon, and the CIA have had no reservations about supporting, defending, and training foreign tyrannical regimes. In fact, they don’t even consider them to be tyrannies. Instead, the support and defense of such regimes has always been considered to be part and parcel of “working with our partners and allies in the defense of national security.”
(The full article can be read here.)
James Madison stated: “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”
Yet many Christians support and venerate the military without even considering its actions and the tyranny it has supported and/or caused.
This leads me to the following question: is force ever justified by a person/group/nation? I believe the Bible teaches us the principle that defense of our person, family, or community, is legitimate and just. Is retaliation wrong when it is a response to an initial act of aggression? I would like to draw your attention to the following passage in the Bible.
“And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.” (Exodus 2:11-15)
Notice Paul’s description of Moses’ actions in Acts 7:24: “And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian…” Moses avenged the Hebrew by slaying the Egyptian, and notice that Paul called this defending the man that was being oppressed. I do not mean to use this example as if it gives an unqualified green light for us to kill someone who is using violence against another, but I do mean to call attention to the use of Paul’s terms. Based on this verbiage, one might say that it can be considered an appropriate defensive measure when retaliation is used against an unjust aggressor. (This, of course, is not dealing with a personal insult or using force to promote Christianity. One might also surmise that Paul is merely stating a fact without assessing the morality of the situation.) This may make sense to us on the micro level because this example was limited to the person that was guilty of violently oppressing another. The problem with this when it comes to war is the fact that the retaliatory response often results in the deaths of thousands of innocent people that did not commit the initial act of aggression, and I see no indication in the scriptures that it is justifiable to cause the destruction of innocent people and to consider them acceptable collateral damage.
Though Christ instructs his followers to turn the other cheek in response to personal insult, and to forego taking vengeance against those that persecute us for being Christians, it appears that the use of force in response to violence in the form of self-defense is not condemned, though not necessarily condoned either. (This brings up the interesting topic of what all can be considered self defense.) The same can be said of the instances in the Bible where people lied and used deception to protect themselves or others. In some instances, we see that God specifically blesses the people for their behavior. Their actions are not condemned, though it is perhaps fair to say they are not necessarily condoned either.
In principle, the use of force in response to unjust aggression has its legitimate place in the affairs of mankind, but this does not lend support to the idea that we need a standing military and that wrong becomes right because it is carried out by people in uniform. The actions of US military personnel are not above reproach. Unjustifiable killing is still murder, even if one is merely following orders. Spreading political ideals and furthering the interests of an empire are not excuses for initiating violence, being aggressive invaders, and shedding the blood of others. Christians should never support or take part in wars for the State.