Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Farewell to Arms

Posted by Jack

As many of you are aware, a Michigan based "Christian militia" group has been in the news after alleged terrorist plots have been uncovered. The story can be accessed here among other places.

The group calls itself Hutaree, which means "Christian Warrior" in an invented language. Their website, Hutaree.com, can tell you more about them than I could in this space.

With rumors of assassination plots flying around, everyone is doing a stellar job of distancing themselves from Hutaree. Even the Michigan Militia put up a statement denouncing any sort of violent action against elected officials and law-enforcement personnel.

It is not just my intention to distance myself from the recent actions of Hutaree; it is my intention to condemn the group itself.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Most Christians do a good job of condemning things. Condemn this, curse that, send so and so into the deepest pit of hell. I try to steer clear of such language whenever possible. But in this case, it cannot be helped.

I am assuming that most who read this will have no problem distancing themselves from Hutaree. It is easy to dismiss them as kooks, or fringe radicals, or paranoid forest-dwelling subversives. Feel free to join the crowd, jump on the bandwagon, and throw them under the bus (how is that for a mega-analogy?).

The problem I have is this: I see frightening similarities between the beliefs of this group, and the beliefs of a large segment of the mainstream Evangelical culture.

Here we have a group claiming to further the Kingdom of God. They claim that they are “preparing for the end times” and “keeping the testimony of Jesus Christ alive.” Their doctrinal statement claims that they are “defending the Word.” And, they are doing this with instruments of death and destruction. I’ve heard similar language from pulpits.

Drive into the parking lot of any Baptist church and you will find no shortage of nationalistic bumper stickers touting "One Nation Under God." It is not difficult to find a believer who considers Biblical principles and Constitutional principles to be interchangeable. I have no shortage of friends who sleep with a Bible on the nightstand and a gun under the pillow.

And as I have witnessed from local manifestations of the Tea Party movement, it is not difficult to find someone who believes that it is their Christian duty to fight for any given political agenda, or that God endorses their political party platform. Even more disturbing, many of these people carry weapons and express willingness to “defend” their rights or “fight” for their cause.

Throughout history, Christians have been supportive of various wars and military initiatives. Many American Christians have even claimed that such military operations can be supported from the Scriptures. It is one thing to support a war or a cause; it is another thing entirely to claim that your “side” is the one which aligns with God’s Way. (The players in the political system learned how to manipulate believers long ago, hijacking Scriptural principles and utilizing distorted caricatures of them to promote their own ideology.)

Growing up in AWANA, the American flag was displayed over top of the Christian flag, and we pledged allegiance to the stars and stripes before the Christian flag or Bible. The AWANA Clubs pledge always came last in the ceremony, but with all this allegiance-pledging going around, I lost track of my loyalties before I even removed my hand from my heart. (I don’t advocate pledging allegiance to any of these things, but that was the way things were done.)

I think of these things, and then I think of a group like Hutaree. Are the Evangelicals I've described really all that different from the ragtag militia of the Midwest? Of course, most small group Bible studies would not plot to attack and kill police officers, but in terms of theology, are the two really that distinct?

Both groups seem convinced that America is the Christian nation that must be defended. Both groups seem to have no aversion to violence, so long as it is “justified.” Both groups utilize sections the Bible to support these notions.

I do not wish to speak at length here, but I do wish to express my desire to see God’s church freed from the idolatry of nationalism and militarism. I denounce Hutaree and groups like them. In this public forum, I wish to refuse conformity to the patterns of this world and reaffirm my commitment to the Kingdom of God.

I am no Bible scholar, but when Jesus said to love your enemies, He probably meant you should not kill them (Matthew 5:43-44; Luke 6:27-28).

When the Scriptures tell us to bless those who persecute us, it probably does not mean we should take them out before they get us (Romans 12:14-21).

“People should be preemptively loved, not preemptively bombed” (Mark 12:28-31).

When the Bible warns us not to repay evil with evil, it probably does not mean, “Reload!” (1 Peter 3:9).

When Jesus said to pray for our enemies, He probably did not mean that we should mutter a little prayer for them as we peer at them through a sniper scope (Luke 6:27-28).

“Live by the sword, die by the sword” is a statement of cause and effect, not a command (Matthew 26:52).

The meek shall inherit the earth; the strong shall not invade it (Matthew 5:5).

To live is Christ, to die is gain; not, “Die hard with a vengeance” (Phil. 1:21).

Welcome the stranger into your home; do not try to “fight him over there, so you don’t have to fight him over here” (Matthew 25:35ff).

“Overcome evil with good,” does not mean, “Overpower evil with force” (Romans 12:21).

One cannot submit to governing authorities while seeking to overthrow them (Romans 13).

The world will know us by our love, not by our firepower (John 13:35).

We must embrace the cross, not the cross-hairs (Luke 9:22-26).

Justice and mercy, not shock and awe (Micah 6:8).

Blessed are the peacemakers, not blessed are the bomb-makers (Matthew 5:9).

We are instructed to feed our enemy when he is hungry and to give him something to drink when he thirsts (Romans 12:14-21). Somehow, “From the kindness of my heart,” has become, “From my cold, dead hands.”

Some within the Body of Christ are fighting over their right to carry guns around wherever they go; I want to beat the damn things into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4).

At this time, when many in the world are focused on the ugly manifestations of sin brought to light by this militia group, I am calling on believers to take a stand in a different way. May we be wise as serpents, yet gentle as doves. May we all denounce the myth of redemptive violence and embrace the way of the cross.

I can add nothing to what some believers have already said*:

Deliver us, O God
Guide our feet into the way of peace
Hear our prayer.
Grant us peace.

Deliver us
From the arrogance of power
From the myth of redemptive violence
From the tyranny of greed
From the cancer of hatred
From the seduction of wealth
From the addiction of control
From the idolatry of nationalism
From the paralysis of cynicism
From the violence of apathy
From the ghettos of poverty
From the ghettos of wealth
From a lack of imagination

Deliver us, O God
Guide our feet into the way of peace
We will not conform to the patterns of this world
Let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds
With the help of God’s grace
Let us resist evil wherever we find it

We pledge allegiance
to a peace that is not like Rome’s
to the Gospel of enemy love
to the Kingdom of the poor and broken
to a King that loves his enemies so much he died for them
to the least of these, with whom Christ dwells
to the transnational Church that transcends the artificial borders of nations
to the refugee of Nazareth
to the homeless rabbi who had no place to lay his head
to the cross rather than the sword
to the banner of love above any flag
to the one who rules with a towel rather than an iron fist
to the one who rides a donkey rather than a war-horse
to the revolution that sets both oppressed and oppressors free
to the Way that leads to life
to the Slaughtered Lamb

And together we proclaim his praises, from the margins of the empire to the centers of wealth and power, "Long live the slaughtered Lamb."

* This is an adaptation of one portion of a litany which can be accessed here.


小研 said...
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donaldsonbw said...

haha I like that other comment here. good to see gucci and the chinese are trying to make money off EVERYTHING. good post though but just one correctiong.... i keep my Bible AND my gun on the nightstand and not under my pillow :) I agree with a lot of the stuff you said about these crazy militia groups, they're pretty embarrassing for Christians.

Mulberry House: 125 W Mulberry St. Springfield, OH 45506 said...

Ha ha. Yeah, I don't know what the deal is with these other comments, but they hit three of my posts and kind of pissed me off!

And Ben, I suppose under the pillow may be not so safe for a gun... and not so comfortable. Might roll over the wrong way and wake up with a bang!