Reflection for the Nagaski/Hiroshima week:
What if every church had been a peace church?

Gary G. Kohls, MD
8 September 2001

For background, see "The Real Reason America Used Nuclear Weapons Against Japan. It Was Not To End the War Or Save Lives," and a Video Reenactment of the Hiroshima Bombing.

Christians have been the major perpetrators of homicidal violence against each other as well as against the world's non-Christians for the past 1700 years. One of the most embarrassing recent examples is Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants have been killing each other for generations. Rwandan Christians brutally massacred hundreds of thousands of their fellow Christians in the mid-1990s. US Christian soldiers, with the prayers and blessings of their Christian churches back home, mercilessly destroyed, physically, emotionally and spirituality, hundreds of thousands of innocent Central American peasants during the Reagan era.

That same church-endorsed military continues its destruction, which includes the spraying of lethal pesticides on peasants and their farms in South America, under the guise of a long-since discredited US drug interdiction policy. And the organized church, perhaps exhibiting a lack of faith in Jesus' clear gospel commands to practice unconditional love of friends and enemies, remains almost totally silent on the indiscriminate human slaughter that is modern war.

When one looks at the last 1700 years of Christianity through the uncensored lens of honest historians, one can't feel anything but disgust at the cruelty that has been perpetrated with the knowledge and consent of the church of Jesus Christ.

The reality of the Crusades, where Christian soldiers killed without mercy the so-called "enemy of God" pagan occupiers of the Holy Land, is a dark blot on the history of Christianity.

The Inquisitions, where Jews, wise women and other "heretics" were tortured and burned at the stake, often during religious celebrations, went on for 600 years, with the blessings of official church leaders.

The reformation and counter-reformation wars started in the 16th century by those in charge of church doctrine. All sides, Lutheran, Calvinist, Catholic and Anglican, believed that one could follow Jesus and simultaneously kill each other as well as any other member of the body of Christ who happened to have a different interpretation of the Bible.

The American Civil War resulted in the deaths of over 600,000 American soldiers, virtually all claiming Christianity as the faith of their fathers, the North using the Bible as justification for total war, the South justifying the institution of slavery. Both sides participated unhesitatingly in the mutual carnage.

Both World Wars I and II were started and fought by Christians against fellow Christians, with the pulpits on all sides ringing with flag-waving patriotism - the people in the pews shouting for blood, glory and victory for the fatherland.

The atomic bombing of Nagasaki (and the obliteration of that city, the historical and spiritual center of Oriental Christianity) is still regarded as totally pointless overkill by all credible historians; but the bombing was carried out by an all-Christian bomb crew, whose mission was solemnly blessed by its Catholic and Lutheran chaplains on that day, the infamous August 9, 1945.

The on-going genocide, both military and economic, of indigenous peoples since the arrival of Columbus, is still being perpetrated with the full knowledge, consent and participation of decent, "God-fearing" "bible-believing" Christians and justified by passages found mainly in the pre-Christian scriptures.

Most of the non-Christian world knows without a doubt that Jesus was a pacifist and preached active, nonviolent resistance to evil (rather than the justified violence against "evildoers" that is commonly preached today in most of Christendom). Outside observers know that Jesus was a merciful and compassionate teacher/prophet who renounced homicide and violence in all its forms. Given those facts, one has to wonder what has been going on inside the Christian churches for the last 17 centuries. (It is instructive to recall that Gandhi, a devout Hindu and widely considered the most Christ-like figure in the 20th century, often said that the only people who don't think Jesus was nonviolent are Christians.

And therein lies a serious spiritual problem for the church. History documents clearly that the Christian church of the first three centuries took Jesus' teachings of unconditional love of friend and enemies seriously. Indeed, the church that sprang up among the followers of the nonviolent Jesus started out, as one would expect, as a true peace church. So, if the church of the first few centuries was a peace church, and the latter churches of the last 1700 years have virtually all been either Holy War churches or Justified War churches, one has to wonder: 'What would the world be like now if every church had been a peace church?" A little clear thinking for those who know a modicum of history would come up with a multitude of tantalizing possibilities, including the following:
1. The baptized Catholic Adolf Hitler would have been raised within a progressive peace church by a strong pacifist Catholic mother who would have nurtured and loved and protected little Adolf from the cruelty of his father and the cruelty and anti-Semitism of the Austrian Christian culture he grew up in.

2. The Lutheran Adolf Eichmann, the Russian Orthodox dictator Joseph Stalin, and the Catholics Benito Mussolini and Joseph Goebbels and most of the rest of those of Nazi infamy were baptized Christians, but none of them were ever taught that the Sermon on the Mount was central to the theology of Jesus and that therefore nonviolence was at the core his politics.

3. If every church had been a peace church, the American Christian churches of the South would have rejected the brutal enslavement of blacks Africans and the American Civil War would not have happened.

4. If every church had been a peace church, Christian European monarchs and their obedient Christian soldiers would not have raped Africa, Asia and the Americas into colonial submission over gold, silver and slaves, and the bloody armed revolutions of liberation a century later would not have been fought.

5. If every US church was a peace church, a unified, benevolent United States would be working hard right now to nurture and reconcile with, rather than demonize and marginalize, the officially feared and hated minorities such as Muslims, Palestinians, Jews, blacks, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, and non-white foreigners of various ethnicities and religious persuasions.

6. If every church was a peace church, there would not be the current crippling military budget which makes every program of social uplift unaffordable.

7. If every European church had been a peace church, there would have been no World War I, no oppressive Treaty of Versailles, no Nazi party and no World War II.

8. If every church was a peace church American Christian children would not be cruelly bullying their weaker brothers and sisters in the Columbine high schools of this land, and the victims of bullying would have no reason to shoot back.

9. If every church had been a peace church, professed Christian presidents would not be trying to outspend their predecessors on lethal weapons systems, nor would they become gleeful hanging judges with a need to disprove their suspected wimp-hood by saber-rattling their nations into World War III.

10. And if every church had been a peace church, those who claim discipleship to the non­violent Jesus would be leading the world to peace, rather than into war.

11. And the Peaceable Kingdom of God would be at hand.

By Gary G. Kohls, MD, Duluth, MN, for Every Church A Peace Church, whose firm belief is that "the church could lead the world toward peace if every church taught and lived as Jesus taught and lived." The website of Every Church A Peace Church is