Friday, August 12, 2005

Army, Al-Qaeda and Pacifism

The day before yesterday I finished up my career with the Australian Army. I served in the Army from 1992-1999, left to do theological studies and remained in part-time from 1999-2005. During the course of my service I worked as a para-trooper, intelligence operator and Chaplain's Assistance. There were some obvious blessings about being in the Army. (1) I became a Christian during my time of service when God ripped me out of the womb like a dead corpse and breathed life into me back in August of 1994. (2) Military Christian Fellowship (MCF) does some good work in training, encouraging and equipping Christian leaders in the military. (3) Australia is the second highest paid Army in world behind Canada - so I saved up enough money to put myself through college. On the downside, the military is administrated by groups of men who are best described as socio-pathic Pharisees that would make the Shammaites squeel. The Army produces a crop of self-made men who like to worship their creator - as a mission field it is like ploughing through concrete.

Right now, my aim is to read John Howard Yoder's Politics of Jesus, become a pacificist so I'll never have to serve again! Actually on being a pacifist or not, I find a great tension invovled in making the decision.

1) The greatest acts of violence are not done by men who believe what they do is malevolent, but rather, by those who believe that what they do is righteous.

2) Edmund Burke said, "The triumph of evil is when good men do nothing".

Just War theory versus being a Pacificist? Hmmm, I'm not sure.

An an ex-intelligence operator I know enough about Al-Qaeda to know that they have to be stopped in any way possible. Their goals are (1) to expel all westerners and western influences from Muslim lands, (2) set up a caliphate in the middle-east (like the old Ottoman Empire); and (3) then to export their violence to the rest of the world until the entire human race is ensalved to their pernicious ideology.

Disclaimer, not all Muslims hold this, there are moderates and I reckon most Muslims just want to live a happy and peaceful life. But the radicals are not the victims of US foreign policy or merely standing up to US imperialism, they just insidiously evil.

I don't know whether invading countries or merely holding a prayer meeting is necessarily the answer to this problem. I was reading through Revelation 11 this morning and I long for the day when the kingdoms of men become the kingdom of Jesus Christ! Lord, bring on that righteous and benevolent dictator.


Scot McKnight said...

What would Jesus do? really matters.

James Crossley said...

Is resort to 'evil' really a valid HISTORICAL argument? I think I may well blog on this!

meggan said...

So is the church called to stop evil in any way possible or to witness to the reality that evil was decisively defeated 2000 odd years ago?

Grace and Peace in your journey.


Ted Gossard said...

"Scot McKnight said...
What would Jesus do? really matters."

Thanks Michael for these thoughts. I was raised Mennonite, so have an inherent ambiguity about this subject though having left the Mennonites many years ago.

But my ambiguity and ambivalence is not just due to that- but to the Biblical record itself.

You have Jesus and his kingdom teaching- a radical otherworld for this world alternative.

But does that teaching overthrow Jesus' actions and words toward those in the military of his day (in Rome's) as well as Paul's in Romans 13, etc in NT?

What about the many wars fought in the OT- though we know David could not build the Temple because of having shed so much blood in warfare.

How can one be like Jesus, like their Teacher/Master and serve in the military, indeed in a war zone- or serve as a police officer? Jesus fighting with a gun seems oxymoronic.

But that's where I have to consider calling. We're to be like our Lord, but we all have different callings to fulfill (as well as the same calling to follow our Lord in all things).

A violent put down of oppressors or evil doers is ordained by God and those doing that are called his servants. A difficult calling indeed.

Good point on "meggan" post. I'm certainly referring to individual believers, not local churches. The church's calling is missional- to manifest in life and deed, as well as in proclamation God's kingdom in Christ.

meggan said...

But our primary calling is to be part of the new creation/ressurection community. We are part of the stones that are building the eschatological dwelling place/temple/house of God, to use a few metaphors from the NT. So if our primary identity is found as followers of Jesus then to me that simply leaves some "callings" as inappropriate for those called to witness to the upside down kingdom of God.



Broken Messenger said...

Let's just continue to press on daily, dragging our cross with one hand and the other clapsed to our Lord's shoulder as He leads us onward.


Ted Gossard said...

You could be right, "meggan"- Eric. I am at least empathetic to your view.

The way I personally avoid this issue is to steer away from any such involvement. Yet if pressed into a corner, say to save someone's life (a hypothetical less than once in a lifetime occurrence) I'd be hardpressed not to do more than just pray.

Is new creation mutually opposed to restraining evil by force in this present world? A construct that does not mirror the complexity of this world and time- yet the bible seems to indicate that at least for this time- (Rom 13) the two are not opposed to each other. God has ordained the state to so function.

But the issue with Mennonites lies in whether Christians should be among those "servants" so named in Romans 13.

Again, I'll gladly retreat into the Jesus pacifist mode.

Ted Gossard said...

"But the issue with Mennonites lies in whether Christians should be among those "servants" so named in Romans 13."

Clarification: The issue with most Mennonites I grew up with. There are Mennonites who believe Jesus and Paul disagreed. But many, I would guess most Mennonites hold to Scripture as "inerrant" and would seek to harmonize Jesus and Paul.

J. B. Hood said...

If I'm going to discipline my children and my students (when I taught secondary school), and if I'm willing to see room for the violent apprehension of criminals, then I feel I need to see room somewhere for human action to counteract other human interaction. This is NOT a defense of Iraq, mind you (although it could probably work in Afghanistan and perhaps somehow in the Balkans and in Sudan). Furthermore, as the Prophets warn, one can be a tool of God for punishment (say, against Saddam) and then get punished yourself for your actions...

If we didn't/couldn't take action, we'd all be ruled by Hitler's grandson right now. Think of how that'd affect NT scholarship: We'd all be doing dissertations on how God hates Jews, and as for the "rediscovery" of Jesus' Jewishness, well, you can write that off...