Prince of Peace or God of War? Liberty University cashes in on war profitability (and what sojourners left out)

drones4christ2

Image (C) Sojourners Magazine

In the May edition of Sojourners Magazine, Sojourners reveals that Liberty University- the world’s largest Christian University- has made a disturbing departure from their mission of developing “Christ-centered men and women” in order to cash in on the big business of training war-fighters.

This departure from producing students who are “Christ-centered” comes by way of a new degree concentration: drone aviation. In fairness, as the article points out, there are many uses for drone aviation, and once they are permitted for mainstream use around 2015, there will likely be a good market for drone aviators.

However, let’s be real: drone warfare is a central part of how we fight modern wars. In recent years, the US has relied heavily on the use of drone warfare, killing thousands- not just militants, but completely innocent civilians as well. In fact, some argue that upwards of 74% of people killed in drone warfare have been innocent civilians. While any statistic produced should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism as it would be difficult to arrive at the true and accurate numbers, the basic fact is sound: the United States uses drone warfare to kill people in mass quantities.

What’s going on here isn’t hard to figure out: Liberty University, advertising itself as a “military friendly school” and boasting 23,000 members of the armed forces as students, is training the next generation of military done combatants. The program is run by former military aviators, and the related classes are military related subjects. And, Liberty hasn’t tried to cover up the fact that they are producing a new generation of war-fighters. As the article points out, a Liberty brochure for the aviation program includes a quote from Air Force Lt. Dan McCready:

“Since I was very young, I’ve dreamed about becoming a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. Liberty’s aviation program gave me the opportunity to make my dream a reality, helping me to realize that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The article goes on to quote Richard Emery, a graduate of Liberty now serving in the military, demonstrating the anti-Christ mindset that these programs at Liberty are creating:

“I have no problem taking another person’s life… if it would promote peace and liberty and the interest of the country we’re in…”

Lessons being learned at Liberty?

  • Christ can give you the strength you need to train to be a war-fighter.
  • It’s no problem to kill another human being, especially if it promotes the self-interest of America.

… not quite the message I’d hope one would learn about what it means to follow Jesus of Nazareth.

While the Sojourners story does a great job at exposing the existence of this program at Liberty and the types of mindsets it produces, the article is lacking in one thing: it doesn’t address why this is so very, very wrong. Perhaps they are assuming the fact that what’s happening at Liberty flies in the face of the Christian faith is painfully obvious to the average reader, but I’m not so sure. So, here’s what Sojourners left out:

You can serve the Prince of Peace or the God of War, but not both.

Jesus, long before his birth, was called the Prince of Peace. During his life and teachings, he presented a counter-cultural message of total and complete nonviolence. And, he didn’t leave it at that: he actually had the radical idea that we’re supposed to love our enemies. To Jesus, it’s not simply enough to passively love and resist our enemies- Jesus teaches we are to actively love and do good to them: 

 

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36

Jesus goes onto say in the Gospels that it’s impossible to serve two masters.

  • We cannot serve the God who is kind to the wicked while also serving a god (small g) who makes war with them.
  • We can’t follow a Jesus who demands we love our enemies and put down our swords, while also serving a Jesus who gives us the strength to pick up our sword and swing it with all our might.

It’s simply not possible.

Nowhere in the teachings of Jesus does he insert a “but” when it comes to war and violence.

When it comes to Jesus’ message of actively loving and doing good to our enemies, there are no loopholes.

For the first 400 years of Christianity, these early followers of Jesus perfectly understood that loving your enemies means that you can’t kill them. Somehow, fractions of American Christianity (perhaps even the mainstream), as represented by Liberty University, have abandoned the historic, orthodox Christian faith which teaches nonviolence and love of enemies- in exchange for a nationalistic, anti-Christ like faith which has “no problem” taking the lives of other human beings if it would “promote the interest of the country we’re in.”

 Interestingly enough, when Jesus said that a person “can’t serve two masters because they will love one and hate the other”, he was actually talking about they way in which money causes us to abandon Godly principles. Ironically, anyone who knows the system knows that this is exactly why Liberty has war-training programs: money.

Liberty has brilliantly marketed itself to the US Armed Forces. Why? Because members of the Armed Forces receive 100% tuition assistance (free education) while on active duty. For every military student you enroll, it’s guaranteed, easy money, paid directly from Uncle Sam into the school’s bank account. Best way to boost business? Have attractive programs to military members- they don’t need financial assistance, and the money never runs out.

As a result, Liberty has a net worth of over a billion dollars.

Instead of teaching the counter-cultural, peaceful message of Jesus, they’ve cashed in on the god of War.

Sadly, this direction will cause young men and women who desire to follow in the way of Jesus, to do the very things his message opposes. It will cost innocent lives, and it will scar them for a lifetime- such as Brandon Bryant, who realized too late what the participation in war cost him, after he participated in the killing of over 1,600 people by drone attack:

I pray that Liberty University will reject the earthly temptation for power and money, and return to the historic message of Jesus, which blesses the peacemakers and demands that we radically love our enemies.

But, by all means, if you can honestly envision Jesus remotely dropping bombs on his neighbors and watching them bleed to death on camera, feel free to sign up. Just know, that by doing so, you’re following a different Jesus than the one revealed in scripture.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – Jesus

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Original article by Sojourners Magazine, can be found here: http://sojo.net/magazine/2013/07/drones-christ

Images used copyright by Sojourners. Usage on this site is for editorial purposes only under the Fair Use Act.

* Full Disclosure: I attended Liberty University online for 1 year of my undergraduate education and served in the US Armed Forces for 10 years. I have since repented of both.

 

About Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey, is an Anabaptist author, speaker, and blogger. His first book, Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus (Release date, August 2014), tells the story of his journey out of lifeless religion and into a fresh expression of Christianity. He is also a contributor for Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, Evangelicals for Social Action, Mennonite World Review, has been a guest on Huffington Post Live, and is one of the CANA Initiators. Ben is also a syndicated author for MennoNerds, a collective of Mennonite and Anabaptist writers. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Theology & Missiology), is currently a Doctor of Missiology/Intercultural Studies student at Fuller Seminary, and is a member of the Phi Alpha Chi Honors Society. Ben is also co-host of That God Show with Matthew Paul Turner. Ben lives in Auburn, Maine with his wife Tracy and his daughter Johanna.

You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

  • joel_furrow

    Oh boy… this one hurts to read. But good, bold thoughts.

    You should reach out to Johnnie Moore, the campus pastor there – I think he would actually be able to have a thoughtful conversation on this.

    https://twitter.com/JohnnieM

    http://www.johnniemoore.org/

  • Peter Gardner

    “For the first 400 years of Christianity, these early followers of Jesus perfectly understood that loving your enemies means that you can’t kill them.”

    The record of the early Church is actually a bit less clear-cut. Christians were forbidden from joining the army, but that can be explained by the mandatory pagan sacrifices as part of the initiation ceremonies. Soldiers who became Christian were not asked to stop fighting, but rather to not loot or exploit.


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