Adjacent to the National Mall, in Washington, D.C., is the Vietnam War Memorial. Its black granite walls are etched with the names of 58,261 servicemen who died in the Vietnam War. The memorial stands not only as a tribute to the soldiers who paid the ultimate price, but also to the 2.7 million soldiers who served in the war.
But there also should be another black granite memorial erected nearby for the American Body of Christ, with the following words etched on it:
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Mark 3: 24-25)
Countless books and studies reveal the problems our nation has suffered because of the political divisions of the Vietnam War, but what about the Body of Christ? How has the Vietnam War affected the American Church?
Let’s look back at that era.
The anti-Vietnam War activists of the 1960′s understood the art of marketing their brand of politics. For them, the quickest way to change America was not via the ballot box, but rather through the media, especially the TV news programs.
Anti-Vietnam War marches and sit-ins were orchestrated with an eye toward the 6 PM national news programs. Catchy slogans, much like advertising jingoes, were shouted by the participants. Some of their favorites: “Hell no! We won’t go!” and “Make love, not war!” and “Draft beer, not boys!”
The TV networks were more than eager to oblige the anti-Vietnam War activists. After all, TV news programs depend on advertising money and viewer ratings, which all depend on conflicts. Thus, the national TV programs coupled bloody news footage from the Vietnam War with anti-Vietnam War activist events.
The anti-Vietnam War activists also understood America was largely a Christian nation. So, they challenged Christians with an in-your-face marketing strategy. They used cut and paste Bible techniques, choosing certain verses which justified their stances and omitting others which did not.
“Jesus stated, ‘Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you,’” the anti-Vietnam War activists said. “And what about Jesus’ words that we should not resist evil, but rather, turn the other cheek to our enemies? How can we follow Jesus’ example if we are killing our enemies in a war?”
Since the Reformation, there have been pacifist streams in Christianity. Quakers, Brethren and Anabaptists are a few examples of groups which have offshoots into today’s Amish, Mennonite and Hutterite communities and assemblies. Yet the activists took their antiwar beliefs many steps past the pacifist beliefs of the aforementioned groups. The activists insinuated that God hated all wars. Jesus was against all wars. Thus, all wars were a sin. Period!
A significant percentage of Christians marched lockstep with the anti-Vietnam War activists into what I call the left ditch alongside the balanced Biblical path the American Church should walk on.
Now, there’s little doubt that America’s political and military leaders made a multitude of mistakes handling the Vietnam War. Also, the American Church did not blow its prophetic trumpets, proclaiming our leaders’ mistakes to the nation.
But at the same time, we individual believers tend to wear blinders when we check out our agendas (political or otherwise) with the Bible, especially when fervent motions are involved. Sadly, this is what I believe happened to the Christians who ended up in the left ditch during the Vietnam War.
The thinking that God hates all wars, Jesus is against all wars and all wars are sin is scripturally wrong from both a New Testament viewpoint and an Old Testament one.
Where did the first war occur?
And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war. (Revelation 12: 7)
If the Lord is totally against war, why didn’t He have a peace conference with Satan? You know, just to clear the air and thereby listen to Satan and his group’s grievances. Maybe a compromise could have been worked out. But no, there was war.
What restrictions did Jesus place on the centurion when the soldier asked for a miracle for his servant?
And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment. (Matthew 8: 13)
Most likely, the centurion had earned his rank in battles. Thus, if war were sin, then Jesus would have said much the same thing He did for the woman caught in adultery and the man lowered down through the roof tiles. He would have first pardoned the soldier’s sin before performing a miracle.
Did John the Baptist, who was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, mention war when he talked with the soldiers?
Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages. (Luke 3:14)
John the Baptist said his words in front of numerous Jews who hated the Roman soldiers. Possibly some of the Jews had lost relatives or friends in battles with the soldiers. Yet, not one word was mentioned about war.
Who leads the armies of heaven?
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True [Jesus], and in righteousness he judges and makes war. (Revelation 19: 11)
How many times did Jesus mention war was a sin?
Never. Zero. Nada. Zilch. To make war a sin, you have to extrapolate meanings out of a few verses and ignore hundreds of others throughout the Bible.
What about the early church?
The first century church with Peter, John, James and Paul made no claims that war was sin. A hundred years later, Augustine came up with his Just War Theory, but even he and the other church fathers did not oppose war in all circumstances.
There is absolutely no scriptural evidence that God hates all wars, Jesus is against all wars and all wars are sin. The Christians in the left ditch staked out an extreme position and were deceived.
So, what about the opposing side?
(Continued in Part 5)