~ When War Is Not War Anymore ~
Not so long ago, when
language more truly reflected reality, the US had a Department of War.
Now we have a Department of Defense. We dropped our Rules of War in favor
of Rules of Engagement. “Friendly fire” doesn’t mean the big old bonfires
we used to sing around, but the horrific killing of our own people by our
If a friend leaves a reception of some kind with alcohol he consumed on his own will and dies on the way home by losing control of his car, the reception host faces a manslaughter trial and prison. If it’s a war, friendly fire casualties are buried as heroes who gave their lives for our country (I don’t know how).
I’m glad the ancient Romans didn’t write the account, with our language, of how Herod murdered all the males two years old and under in and around Bethlehem, to try to kill toddler Jesus. It would have sounded like this: “To avoid a threatening regime change as reported by counter-intelligence gathering, the Roman Empire engaged Bethlehem in a preemptive strike, necessitating some collateral damage.”
The crucifixion of Christ may have been written something like this: “The self-proclaimed divinity who persisted in the destabilization of the Roman occupied Jewish sectors was apprehended for a fact-finding investigation. In keeping with the Jewish war against blasphemy and the clear mandate of the people, Jesus was eliminated by order of the Roman Governor. Accused insurrectionist Barabas, having paid his debt to society, and in a generous gesture of good will and peace keeping, was released from incarceration.”
If such language would hurt Christians, why doesn’t it hurt us now in this post-modern Alice of Wonderland world? So imperative is to examine our language against reality, we must remember that truth always limits worldly power. So language is effectively used to twist and veil it.
One great tactic is to change the meaning of “war” into something that feels good. The word “war” once struck terror in the hearts of all people. No one wanted it. War was bad, evil, horrific and always meant death and loss. So much so that US Presidents could not do war without authorization from the people’s representatives, the Congress.
Now we are teaching our youth to feel good about war. Declaring war on poverty sounds so good, and a war on drugs, on urban plight, on hunger and a war on crime. Who can possibly object? Who counts the collateral damage? The get-tough war on crimes, for example, has imprisoned many innocent people, placing many even on death row. The war on crime laws, with their less flexible mandates guiding sentencing as one example, have taken much of the human wisdom from judges. The judicial wisdom of Solomon, Moses and the Judges of ancient Israel, and Christ could no longer be exercised today. Holy wisdom, like truth, threatens worldly powers and therefore must be compromised. A bonus of these wars is that they will never end. We need them.
When we need more wars, we can invent them, not just name what is already happening. So we now change the meaning of “epidemic,” something this generation and the one following have not truly experienced in the US. Child abductions by strangers have decreased over the past few years, having been rare already, involving less than 100 out of 50 million children per year. But this is the year abductions have been defined as an “epidemic,” and, of course, a war has been declared on it.
A couple years ago was the summer of shark attacks and the media successfully generated lots of fears and high ratings. This summer shark attacks are just as high, but gets little attention because other “epidemics” are more lucrative. Besides, if we declare a war on sharks, we will upset many more people than wars declared on people. Animals have equal or even better rights and lobbyists than illegal immigrants.
The “conflict” in Vietnam presented horrific images on TV every night. We are still suffering the collateral damage both in Vietnam and in the US today. So we have learned. Desert Storm images were great displays of US smart-technology and the present war on terrorism images are far less exciting or violent than the incredibly realistic, violent and gory video games our youth play.
American Christians “seems” to think that Christianity started in the US. Some even give the impression they think it started with them and their churches. We don’t consciously realize that French Christians are not waving American flags. English Christians wave the English flag and Mexican Christians fly the Mexican flag. We all have a dual citizenship, the common and transcendent one being the kingdom of God.
American Christian values did not begin with the Mayflower Compact or the documents of Thomas Jefferson and colleagues. The beginning was in the Middle East, eighteen hundred years before Jefferson. English isn’t the language of Christians, who also speak and pray in Chinese, Hindi and Arabic.
The identifying trait of terrorism is its death and injury of innocent people with no discrimination. The war on it has and will always have “collateral damage,” that is, the death and injury of innocent people with no discrimination. Humankind has always known indiscriminate death and affliction, but never on a global scale and never when “collateral damage” was not an unfortunate by-product of war, but rather the intent of war itself.
Christians are specific targets of persecution and death in over sixty nations as of this writing. Christianity, by nature, is uncompromising. Christ proclaimed Himself as the redeeming Person of the triune God, the Way, the Truth, the Life. History testifies to His resurrection. He cannot be called a great teacher if His proclamations are false, in which case He would be the most deceitful and/or psychotically delusional man that ever lived, deserving of disdain and rejection by all people. The Gospel cannot be compromised and remain the Gospel.
Like so many other words, the meaning of “intolerance” is being changed to something bad and even unlawful. Thus there are intolerant principles in most spiritual faiths. Even “intolerance” cannot now be tolerated. Intolerance is intolerable, if that is possible.
Given these problems of meaning, we can predict the declaration of a war on intolerance, falling under the “hate crime” category. Of course, we hate “hate crimes.” Due to this confusion, worldly powers will decide what is intolerable and to be hated. What naturally follows is a war on specific intolerances, one of which will be Christian. Christian radio stations are already banned in many nations, including US neighbor Canada. Legislation has been introduced into the US Congress to force Christian radio stations to devote a large percent of their air time to non-religious content, in other words, to be part time secular and part time Christian. This legislation was defeated, but certainly will be introduced again when the political climate and structure of Congress is right.
Even many Christians will adopt the new meaning of “Christian intolerance” and support the war against it. Jesus predicted His followers will be arrested and killed by those who believe they are doing God’s will. He cautioned us to be hypervigilant.
The children’s retort, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me” is so false. Names and the powers that define them for us can enslave or free us. Christians must never accept the meaning of the Gospel of Christ given by others. At least in our families and communities, we must keep the Name of Christ and the Trinity holy. It is with good reason Jesus taught us to first pray, “Holy be your Name.” Holiness cannot be compromised either.
“You deceitful tongue, what can the Lord give you? What more can he do for you? He will give you a warrior’s sharpened arrows and red-hot coals…I have lived too long with those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I talk about it, they only talk about war” (Psalm 120:3-4, 6-7, GW).
We customarily associate biblical references to deceitful tongues with personal slander and lying. A more insidious and soul-corrupting deceit is making “war” sound like a good thing and redefining words like “epidemic,” “evil” and “holy” to promote one’s own agenda. This deceit must be exposed.
Seventy five percent of our web site visitors are in the US. Our Reflections draw much from my life and spirituality as a US citizen. However, let me assure our brothers and sisters in the twenty five percent readership of other nations that I never write without you constantly in my mind and heart, and prayers. Please examine your world view as defined by your nations and languages and be vigilant it does not divide the body of Christ. One hundred percent of us are sharing the world view seen from hanging together on the same cross of our Christ. Let us digest the words in the book of Hebrews, “We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith” (12: 2a, GW). Though we are all shaped to a degree by our nationalism and languages, “Clearly, all of you were baptized in Christ’s name have clothed yourselves with Christ. There are neither Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females. You are all the same in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28, GW).
By God’s grace, we must make these words flesh, clearly visible by all world powers. The Gospel is now incarnated in us. I believe this is what is meant by the “testimony of the saints.” And the father of deceit will be thrown down by “the blood of the Lamb and the word of their [brothers and sisters] testimony” (Revelation 12:11).
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © October 12, 2002
"God's Word" is a copyrighted work of God's Word to the Nations Bible Society. Quotations are used by permission.
Responses are welcome at: Reflections@prayergear.com
What's New/Article Index <>< Home/Welcome Page <>< Weekly Reflections Listing