How To Demilitarize Your Church
Laurence M. Vance, Ph.D.
Veterans Day is one of those holidays, along with Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, when it isn't safe for non-imperial Christians who think the state should be separated from the
church to attend church on
the Sunday before one of these holidays. Especially troublesome is when one of
these holidays, or Flag Day, actually falls on a Sunday.
In many churches, Sunday services on or
before these holidays are unbearable because they feature, or are wholly devoted
to, the glorification of the U.S.
military. Because the
Christian's golden calf is the military, it is necessary to demilitarize
Although the extent to which you can
demilitarize your church depends on whether you are a pastor or church leader,
some other person of influence, or just a typical layman, here are some
First, recognize the need to demilitarize
your church. Although I assume that most of you reading this article are opposed
to the glorification of the military in church (or anywhere else), it is still
crucial that you educate yourself as to the problems with the military -- its
unnecessary size, its bloated budget, its inefficiency, its merchants-of-death
contractors, its murderous mercenaries, its weapons of mass destruction, its
unconstitutional mission, its inability to protect its own headquarters, its
foreign interventions, its foreign occupations, its overseas bases and troop
deployments -- and just how much the military has pervaded all of society. I
recommend, first of all, two chapters in my book Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the
Warfare State: "The
Military" and "Christianity and the Military." All of the essays are available
article archive. Since the publication the second
edition of my book in January of last year , I have written many additional
articles on the military and Christianity and the military. Again, see my
article archive. Second, see the excellent collection of
articles on this website by Tom Engelhardt. Third, read Nick Turse's The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday
Lives (Henry Holt,
2009). And last, but not least, see the Chalmers Johnson trilogy: Blowback,
Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis.
You must be ready for opposition, and not just from veterans. Your whole church
may in fact be against you.
Second, there are some practices that you
need to stop, or try to get others to stop, in order to demilitarize your
church. No more turning holidays into military appreciation days. No more
special military appreciation days. No more recognizing current members of the
military or veterans. No more encouraging current members of the military or
veterans to wear their uniforms on the above-mentioned holidays. No more
treating military personnel differently from other occupations. No more
references to military personnel "serving" in the military. No more unspecific
and unspecified prayers for "the troops in harms way." No more military guest
speakers. No more justifying service in the military because the Bible mentions
soldiers. No more "God Bless Our Troops" or "Pray for Our Troops" or "Thank a
Veteran" slogans on church signs, bulletins, and websites. No more equating
patriotism with admiration for the military. No more calling soldiers returning
from overseas heroes. No more blasphemous nonsense about the troops dying for
our freedoms like Christ died for our sins.
Third, there are some things that you can
do to immunize your church from something that causes more deaths than swine flu
the U.S. military. Warn young people about the evils of "serving" in the military. And that includes being a
chaplain, a medic, or a National Guardsman. I would feel like a failure as a parent, a pastor, or a
youth director if one of my "kids" joined today's military. Instruct people
about the true nature of the military. In many cases, they are simply just
ignorant of the fact that the military is doing everything else but defending
the United States, securing U.S. borders, guarding U.S. shores, patrolling U.S.
coasts, and enforcing no-fly zones over U.S. skies. Emphasize the need for
missionaries to be sent to the Middle East instead of U.S. troops.
If Christians in the United States are so
concerned about the threat of Islam, then they should do everything they can to
convert Muslims to Christianity instead of wanting American Christian soldiers to kill them heartily in the name of the Lord. Never cease to point out that although God in
the Old Testament commanded the nation of Israel to fight against heathen
nations, the president of the United States is not God, America is not the
nation of Israel, the U.S. military is not the Lord's army, the Christian's
sword is the word of God, and the only warfare the New Testament encourages the
Christian to wage is against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Pay no
attention to military advertising slogans like the new one that says the Navy is
"A Global Force for Good."
Now, none of this means that churches
should not reach out to those in the military and their families. Nothing I have
said precludes a church from having a military ministry. Remember,
demilitarizing your church means treating soldiers just like plumbers, barbers,
Because of rampant nationalism,
imperialism, and red-state fascism, demilitarizing your church won't be easy.
But "whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear" (Ezekiel 2:7), it is
a necessary endeavor.
November 11, 2009Laurence
M. Vance writes from Pensacola, FL.
He is the author of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the
Warfare State and The Revolution that Wasn't. His newest
book is Rethinking the Good War.
For background on Early Christian doctrine on war's sinfulness, click here.
For a bibliography of background on the U.S. empire and imperialism, click here.