I want to start out this post with a huge disclaimer… what I am about to say may sound radical or irrational to some. I also want to say that I have a great respect for those who differ with me on this issue that I am about to discuss, so I invite your ideas on this post as well. Finally, I have a great deal of respect for those who are Christians and who ‘support’ military and our troops. Those who serve our country (although I may disagree with it from my standpoint theologically) deserve respect for their sacrifices and I am glad to have some friends who have served or are serving in the armed forces.
With all of that said, I have been struggling with the idea of the 4th of July for the past couple of years or so. Each year we get together and remember the day when America won her freedom. We reenact the story through live action plays, we set off fireworks as a display of joy, and we sing prideful songs about our freedom from oppression. In many ways, we treat Independence Day like the Jews in Jesus’ day (and even to this day) remember the exodus from Egypt. Now here is the issue I have: No matter what position you hold in regards to being a Christian and war (I happen to hold to nonviolence); I cannot justify glorifying the ‘wining’ of our independence from our friends across the pond, even if using ‘just war theory’ criteria. How can we celebrate that we killed thousands upon thousands of people (MANY OF WHICH WORSHIPED THE SAME GOD!) over the fact that they were taxing our mammon without giving us representation in parliament or whatever?!!!!! This seems just plain wrong!!!!! Yes, there might be some kind of justice issue here, but the greater injustice to taxation without representation is the violent killing of our brethren.
Let me add that I love fireworks, BBQ’s, and any good excuse to hang out with friends. I do not think that by simply attending a July 4th gathering that you are sinning. In fact, I often make the trek to the beach to watch the fireworks over the Pacific… while not choosing to actually ‘celebrate’ the holiday. I also love that I have had the privilege to grow up in this country. So, I am not “anti-America” by any stretch; I am happy that I live here. What I think is that as Christians we need to recalculate our past and allow the Gospel to be critical of certain things we now celebrate. Is it honorable to kill because the colonists didn’t like being taxed or chose to believe other conspiracy theories? I think the Jesus who says “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” would probably say “no.” Mark Noll, who is a historian that is read in almost every seminary across America, said the following in an article he wrote for Christianity Today about just war and the Revolutionary War:
During this confused misunderstanding, the Bible was used as a reservoir of images, moral principles, and types. Many sermons in America (and some in Britain) supported revolt, while a few in America and England argued against it. Serious exegesis, however, of what would seem to us like the relevant passages (such as Romans 13) was very rare. Rather, it was much more common for patriots to liken George III to Pharaoh and George Washington to Moses, or to depict the conflict as a struggle between the Woman and the Beast of Revelation 12. Patriots and Loyalists were both much more likely to add scriptural authority to political reasoning rooted in some other ideology than they were to attempt reasoning from the ground up on the basis of Scripture.
What is quite interesting is that Noll properly points out that the “Just War” principles of St. Augustine were not followed as criteria for the war for Independence. This war was not rooted in scripture, but in a false political agenda. And why was it false? Noll reminds us of how history played itself out: “Americans fought a war to gain the kind of freedom that Canada, New Zealand, and Australia were simply given after not too many decades.” Our nation, in other words, killed other Christians in order to gain independence that would have eventually been granted to them in a “just” fashion, had the founding fathers not been so trigger-happy over issues of taxation and other conspiracy theories.
The most popular rebuttal to what I have said (based on a similar post last year) will probably have to do with the issue of freedom. We have freedom today because of this and other wars. I think that this is a false assumption. I challenge the idea that my freedom to choose came from our independence. I am free to choose because God has given me a free will. Just like the Christians who suffered persecution during the first century and so on, I have the ability to choose because of the grace of God. Even if we had not separated ourselves from England, most likely it would have turned out pretty good. As was already pointed out – Canada never revolted, and they are doing just fine (socialism aside, they have basic freedom).
Is there anyone out there who agrees with me or am I just crazy [if you disagree take it easy on the crazy comments (-; ]? If you agree, why? If not, tell me your thoughts on this historic day and Christian biblical theology.