The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people are so full of doubts. (Bertrand Russell)
Three distinctive qualities hindered the opposition group to the anti-Vietnam War activists: age, organization and traditional religion.
The Hawks, as the group eventually became known, consisted mainly of people who were more than thirty-five years of age. These citizens remembered how their youthful years were sacrificed by serving in the military during World War I, World War II or the Korean War. Thus, when they looked at the youthful activists, they did not relate well and considered them to be long-haired rebels.
The Hawks also held full-time jobs, providing for their families. Because of this, their free time was limited. The activists, on the other hand, were college-aged kids who lived on or near college campuses and could easily organize protest demonstrations whenever the need arose.
President Richard Nixon recognized the lack of organization for the Hawks in his speech on November 3, 1969. “And so tonight – to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans – I ask for your support.”
Then, there was the matter of traditional religion. The Hawks learned from early on through their parents, schools and churches that God had a special relationship with America. The pledge of allegiance to the flag stated: “…one nation under God…” The songs they sang and were required to memorize the words to, included titles such as My Country Tis of Thee, God Bless America and America the Beautiful
These three qualities helped to lure the Christians, who were Hawks, into what I call the right ditch alongside the balanced Biblical path.
Looking back at history, we see another Christian nation who suffered through many of the same problems – Germany.
Even now, it is hard to believe that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power through presidential appointments and elections. Yet, after winning the election in 1933, Hitler held only 43% of the vote. He was forced to build coalitions in order to govern Germany.
The Nazis understood the importance of calming Christian fears about their ungodly plans to build a Third Reich. Thus, the Nazis used the Bible to undermine Christian values.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. (Romans 13: 1-2)
The Nazis twisted Romans 13 into a justification for Christians blindly obeying the Nazi government in whatever they did. After all, they said, the Nazis were established by God and resisting the governing authorities was a major sin.
Fevent opposition to the Nazi’s twisted use of Romans 13 by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemoller and other pastors did arise, but their voices were silenced as trumped up charges were brought against them and they were imprisoned.
Sadly, nearly one third of the Lutheran pastors jumped on board the Nazi bandwagon and backed their policies. This defection from the truth quelled most believers’ apprehensions about blindly obeying the Nazi government.
Then, as the changes became more and more ungodly, German Christians were swept along in the undertow of their earlier decisions into deeper and deeper waters of blind obedience.
During the Vietnam War, much the same thing happened to a significant percentage of Christians who fell into the right ditch. They held tightly to Romans 13 and voiced slogans such as, “America, love it or leave it.”
By holding so tightly to Romans 13:1-2, American Christians ignored the message of a subsequent verse:
For it [the government] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. (Romans 13:4)
The government of a nation is scripturally directed to minster good to its people, not evil. Thus, if a nation’s government heads in an ungodly direction, the people are to react like Peter and the apostles did:
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)
The Vietnam War acted like a sword to divide Christianity and set it up for future defeats… one defeat would eventually cost fifty million lives.
(Continued in Part 6)