Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Collaboration with the Enemy

One of the items in the national news lately has been a story about General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Pace, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, said recently that he feels that homosexual behavior is immoral, and that gays should not be permitted to serve in the U.S. military.

As a Roman Catholic, one could expect Gen. Pace to have the opinion that he has regarding sexual practice. We can surely allow Roman Catholics to be Roman Catholic. Certainly, the United Methodist Church holds a similar position, though it is (thankfully) worded a bit more graciously.

I don't understand, however, the General's view regarding gays and military service. What is it about a person's sexual behavior that makes it easier or more difficult to kill? If we believe that murder is a sin, then shouldn't Gen. Pace want an army of gay people, who in his mind are already immoral? Why shouldn't gay people be permitted to kill for their country?

Stanley Hauerwas has an excellent essay found in the book The Hauerwas Reader which the recent story brought to my mind. Entitled "Why Gays (as a group) are Morally Superior to Christians (as a group)", Hauerwas writes,
"I see no good reason why gays and lesbians should be excluded from military service; as a pacifist, I do not see why anyone should serve. Moreover, I think it a wonderful thing that some people are excluded as a group. I only wish that Christians could be seen by the military as being as problematic as gays...However, until God works this miracle, it seems clear to me that gays, as a group, are morally superior to Christians."
Hauerwas makes a point that is powerful and dripping with truth. Why aren't Christians ostracized by the military? Why doesn't the Army say, "We can't have Christians in our outfit; they won't kill another human being!"

Human beings are created in the image of God - all human beings (even terrorists) - and Jesus died for all people. How can a Christian kill someone for whom Jesus died? How can a Christian collaborate with Death, the last enemy of God?

We have compromised the Church and soiled the Faith. The early Church would require someone returning from military service to serve a probationary period of penitence before being permitted readmittance to the congregation. Now, we actually celebrate those who have served, ordain some of them, and (appallingly) American flags take places of honor in most local churches...in some cases, they are more prominent than the Cross. I was actually in a church one day when the pastor led the people in the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. Flag.

Why is this not viewed for what it is...idolatry?

So, I say, let homosexuals serve in the military. They can kill just as easily as a straight person. And I pray for the day when the military sees Christians as trouble, as people who value human lives too much to actually destroy one.

38 comments:

Roda Zone said...

You do well, Keith. Your postings are articulate and well thought out. Your argument is compelling, but what about any theory of just war? What about how Tillich railed against the Third Reich and actually called Christians to confront the demonic force that was National Socialism in Germany? What are your thoughts.

Keith McIlwain said...

I don't agree that there IS such a thing as "just war", a term I consider an oxymoron.

There are MANY ways to confront evil such as Nazism or terrorism. Nonviolence is, in my view, the most faithfully Christian method.

A Christian in Nazi Germany saying, "No, I won't carry that gun and kill those people" is a POWERFUL witness, and if it leads to death, then so be it. They crucified Our Lord...why should we expect any less?

That may seem easy to say, as a guy living in comfy American suburbia, but I still believe it. Jesus lost his temper and got angry, even overturning tables in the Temple, but he didn't kill anyone or even sanction killing someone. He's our model.

John said...

If we can't kill to save ourselves, then we also must not take advantage of those who do kill to save us; that is, we can't be dependent upon the sins of other people. Pacifists, to be truly pacifist, must remove themselves from the protection of those who are not pacifists.

Keith McIlwain said...

There's a difference between "pacifism" and "nonviolence". Nonviolence can be extremely confrontational, as Jesus demonstrated (and MLK, Gandhi, et al). The key for Christians is to be dependent upon Christ, not upon weapons or the power to kill.

Roda Zone said...

Is there a Hauerwas essay or book that articulates his anti-war position? Please let me know. I would love to read it. It is agreat thing to be against war...but what about self-defense. How do we respond to those who would attack us only because they view our nation as apostate? I honestly struggle with this and need further guidance to make a more informed decision.

Keith McIlwain said...

The Peaceable Kingdom is the closest he's come to a "systematic ethics" book, I think. Resident Aliens remains a nice (if very basic) introduction, and you may want to start there.

Other good ones to look at are...
The Hauerwas Reader,
Performing the Faith,
Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America,
Against the Nations: War and Survival in a Liberal Society,
and Dissent from the Homeland, his response to 9/11.

I'd also recommend The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder, Hauerwas' late mentor. Yoder's book is a true classic (ranked as one of the 20th century's most important books by "Christianity Today"), and established much of the theological basis for modern nonviolence. As Hauerwas demonstrates the irrelevance of Tillich, Yoder did the same for the Niebuhr boys.

John said...

There's a difference between "pacifism" and "nonviolence". Nonviolence can be extremely confrontational, as Jesus demonstrated (and MLK, Gandhi, et al). The key for Christians is to be dependent upon Christ, not upon weapons or the power to kill.

Sure, be confrontational. But if a Christian truly rejects violence, then he must not only refuse to engage in it personally -- he must refuse to accept violence on his behalf, such as that perpetrated by military or police forces.

Keith McIlwain said...

We can't stop someone from doing something on our behalf. They'll kill whether we want them to do so or not. But that doesn't mean we have to help!

John said...

Sure you can. For example, a Christian committed to non-violence could, if his home is broken into by armed intruders, refuse to call the police. Similarly, such a Christian could remove himself from the boundaries of a country providing military protection to him.

Keith McIlwain said...

Well, unless one moves to Antarctica, that's not possible. Besides, God calls us where he wills, and that may be in a nation that practices violence.

Also, "nonviolence" doesn't necessarily mean "no police". It means, essentially, "pro-life"...anti-war, anti-death penalty, anti-murder, anti-abortion.

Granted, we're a small group!

Craig Moore said...

I think gays should be in the military. Being gay should not be a hinderance to their ability to fight in battle. Look at the Spartans, they had a lot of gay behavior and were the Rambos of their time.

Keith McIlwain said...

I agree; what does sex have to do with a person's ability to kill?

John said...

Keith, there's always Saudi Arabia. You can be sure that Christianity there has not been co-opted by the state.

Also, "nonviolence" doesn't necessarily mean "no police". It means, essentially, "pro-life"...anti-war, anti-death penalty, anti-murder, anti-abortion.

Don't police officers carry guns?

Keith McIlwain said...

Yes, they do. But that doesn't mean they need to kill.

I'm not clear on what you're asking, re: Saudi Arabia. Are Saudi Christians allowed to serve on a police force? I'm not sure, and am not sure of your question.

John said...

By that I mean that Christians may rely upon the U.S. government to use armed force to protect them, but that Christians living in Saudi Arabia may have no such confidence in the government there.

Yes, they do. But that doesn't mean they need to kill.

So the guns for for ornamental purposes only? Because if they're used for violence, then the police officers are engaging in sin. And any Christian committed to nonviolence is subsizing and encouraging these officers to sin whenever he relies upon their protection. Therefore Christians committed to nonviolence may not benefit from police protection without violating their own principles.

Keith McIlwain said...

Not necessarily true. If we live where God has called us to live, then we deal with reality. That doesn't mean we personally kill people.

As Stanley Hauerwas said, "There are many things for which I'm willing to die; there's nothing for which I'm willing to kill."

I still don't get the Saudi Arabia thing, but it could just be my own density.

John said...

Not necessarily true. If we live where God has called us to live, then we deal with reality. That doesn't mean we personally kill people.

So if I hire a hitman to kill someone, then I have not actually sinned because I didn't do it personally?

I still don't get the Saudi Arabia thing, but it could just be my own density.

I'm probably just writing too quickly without searching for the write words. It's simply this: there's no cost to being a Christian committed to nonviolence in America. Even if you won't defend yourself, other people will defend you, such as the police and military. And if you accept their protection, you're profiting from their sins. Real pacifism/nonviolence means refusing to accept such sinful protection and instead braving the consequences of living without violence. Otherwise, it's just empty rhetoric with no real difference in how a Christian lives in the world.

You're committed to nonviolence; I'm not. But what's the real difference in how you and I live on a day to day basis? How does your commitment to nonviolence involve taking up a cross that I am not taking up?

Keith McIlwain said...

First of all...don't hire a hitman. You can't completely control what "the state" does, though you can protest in a variety of ways. So that's a question that can't have a single, definitive answer.

As far as your other point, you're correct, and I refer to that issue in an earlier response ("That may seem easy to say, as a guy living in comfy American suburbia, but I still believe it.")

I suppose that this part of the issue has to be answered by each Christian individually, until and unless the Church as a whole decides to seriously take up the debate (in my view, Hauerwas never satisfactorily deals with it). Faithfulness, at times, means doing what's right even if the dots don't always seem to connect.

John said...

One step in consistency would be to commit to never call the police; never report a crime. That's something that can be done even in the comforts of suburbia.

Keith McIlwain said...

I guess that depends on whether or not the police would KILL in order to apprehend the alleged criminal. I called the police a few months ago when there was a car accident in front of the parsonage, because a young lady had committed a traffic violation. Other than the car accident itself, there was no violence involved.

Andy B. said...

Keith and John,
Thank you for allowing us to look in on this conversation.
Keith, I have linked to this post; it has really fired my synapses! Thanks!

Kevin said...

The problem is that many who profess pacificism or non-violence do not back it up with action. For example, one can not be called a pacifist while voting for,a nd continuing to support, a man like George W. Bush. It is a complete contradiction. If one claims to adhere to pacifism, they have an obligation to actually hold true to that, and not just when it is convenient for them.

Keith McIlwain said...

?

Nonviolence philosophy has nothing to do with whomever is the sitting president, regardless of what wars in which they engage...whether Bush with Iraq & Afghanistan, Clinton with Haiti & Kosovo, GHW Bush with Panama & Somalia, etc.

American presidents are typically always "just war" folks, as is most of the Church (Universal). A Christian who believes in nonviolence can like any of these leaders, even if that Christian holds a different perspective. Frankly, that's true regarding any issue. Bush isn't a "special case", and I don't think any theologians or philosophers in the "nonviolence" field have made that claim.

So, a Christian who affirms nonviolence can still like Bush even though Bush isn't nonviolent; a Christian can still like Clinton even though Clinton hasn't been faithful in his marriage, etc...unless you're suggesting that everyone who likes Bush favors war and everyone who likes Clinton is an adulterer, both assumptions, of course, being false.

John said...

I guess that depends on whether or not the police would KILL in order to apprehend the alleged criminal. I called the police a few months ago when there was a car accident in front of the parsonage, because a young lady had committed a traffic violation. Other than the car accident itself, there was no violence involved.

Keith, are you making distinctions between:

1) committing violence yourself and outsourcing it to a third party (e.g. police)?

and

2) the Christian morality of lethal violence and non-lethal violence?

Joel Thomas said...

If immorality excludes someone from the military, then our Commander in Chief certainly isn't morally fit to lead. The promotion of lies, distortion of the Patriot Act, destruction of the global community would all seem to qualify as immoral.

As for the singling out of gays, what a joke. The U.S. military has a long history of either encouraging or accepting troop access to prostitutes. You'll notice that the General didn't make a claim for the need for celibacy in singleness. Since he at least indirectly attributes his views to Christian thought, one would think that he would be horrified at the thought of unmarried service people having sex outside marriage. But no.

Pacifism has appeal in the abstract, but even the civil rights movement required active resistance, and not pacifism, to succeed.

Particularly in a nuclear age, I don't see pacifism as saving lives. And that is the deal. Pacifism is about witnessing to or for Christ and not about keeping people alive. Then comes the question as to whether or not it is a true witness to Christ if millions or billions die. The reason Jews say "Never again" is because they suffered the fate of not actively opposing oppression and are determined not to do so again.

Keith McIlwain said...

John...

"Outsourcing" violence is still unacceptable, but there are few ways to actually stop it...soliders in Iraq are going to kill a suspected terrorsit REGARDLESS of my views. The same is true of police...I can't prevent a cop from firing his weapon if he chooses to do so (though I may be able to place myself between the bullet and the intended target, circumstances permitting).

In terms of the difference between lethal violence and non-lethal violence, are you asking if it's appropriate for a policeman to use force to overcome a suspect, while falling short of killing? That's a gray area, I suppose, that would require prayer and thought.

Joel...

If and when it's proven that President Bush lied, then I'd agree with you. Right now, it's just a lot of political speculation and innuendo with nothing actually proven.

I agree with you that singling out homosexuals is theologically and ethically misguided.

Regarding pacifism, there is a difference between "pacifism" and "nonviolence" which, again, can be very aggressive.

Joel Thomas said...

Keith,

President Bush says he doesn't approve of and hasn't authorized torture. But the evidence is far beyond circumstancial that we have in fact engaged in torture. That would count as a lie.

President Bush signed on to massive destruction of civilian areas in Lebanon while claiming that civilians would be protected. That's a lie.

One of the difficulties in proving the lies of any president is that the U.S. has set up such a secret system -- CIA, defense intelligence, etc. to provide cover to a dishonest president that I think at some point circumstancial evidence is overwhelming that a president has engaged in a pattern of lies, abuse, and misstatements as to be an immoral person. I don't regard that as innuendo but careful reflection on the totality of circumstances to reach a reasonable conclusion about one's lack of character.

President Bush said repeatedly that we don't engage in renditions. The evidence is overwhelming that we do. Is Bush merely ignorant? I don't think so.

That President Bush has used the Patriot Act for political as well as national defense purposes seems to me to be now beyond dispute and further evidence of an immoral man.

Keith McIlwain said...

With all due respect, that's all been disputed and debated, without conclusion. I agree that it's difficult to prove any indictment against a President because of their power, but nothing has been proven. If that happens, I'll be with you. Until then, I will disagree with the President (strongly) without condemning.

Mitch Lewis said...

We have compromised the Church and soiled the Faith. The early Church would require someone returning from military service to serve a probationary period of penitence before being permitted readmittance to the congregation. Now, we actually celebrate those who have served, ordain some of them,

Keith - My name is Mitch Lewis. I am an ordained person in uniform. I thought you'd want to know the name of one of the ordained people that you've said soil the church.

Greetings from someone you think as a piece of dirt!

Keith McIlwain said...

Mitch, I don't think that you are "dirt", nor that you personally "soil the Church". But I do believe that the Church has gone way too far in compromising with "the Enemy", Death. In the early Church, military service was seen as incompatible with being a Christian; thus, returning soldiers were not simply readmitted to the congregation without first repenting. Today, we don't see the inherent disconnect, and a returning soldier isn't just readmitted...some are ordained and actually celebrated because of their service. This is very, very different from the practice of the early Church, and, in my view, denotes compromise with the Enemy. You are free to disagree with me, and I will still embrace you as my brother in Christ...albeit one with whom I have a strong disagreement.

Joel Thomas said...

Keith,

With all due respect, rendition is now accepted as having been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. And not just by Amnesty International. (The official Bush position, after long denial, is now that "yes we fly suspected terrorists to countries where torture is the routine, but we instruct the host country not to torture them.")

Further, if you think Israel didn't destroy the better part of Lebanon without U.S. approval, you are highly naive.

There is a lot more evidence for these things as facts than there is any proof that pacifism, particularly in wars of genocide, ethnic cleansing and the like saves human life.

Finally, there have been very few "just war" presidents; only presidents who mouth the words but actually follow the theory of pre-emption.

Keith McIlwain said...

Well, we can disagree. I don't know a thing about whether or not the U.S. approved of Israel's actions in the recent war; my guess is that Israel would do what it wanted to do with or without U.S. backing. I'm not a supporter of nonviolence because it saves lives; I'm a supporter of nonviolence because I believe that's what Jesus calls me to be. Additionally, I think every U.S. president (including the current one) believed in "just war", even though the U.S. has fought wars that didn't fit the criteria (such as World War 2).

But, the point of this post wasn't whether or not President Bush is good or bad...it was whether or not homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the military...I think they should be allowed.

Beyond that, we can agree to disagree.

Brett Probert said...

Keith,

We will disagree on this one, to be sure. In fact, I don't even understand your position completely, but I don't need to.

What I really want to say is that I appreciate your willingness to take a stand on something you believe. It seems like sometimes the Church is unwilling to stand up, and we as Christians are wimps about our beliefs. We are too afraid that we'll offend somebody, so we do and say nothing. Well, the gospel if offensive. I am grateful to you for your honesty.

Keith McIlwain said...

Thanks, Brett.

John Shaver said...

Keith, just wanted to thank you for always getting people to think. I gave a message on the mind of Nicodemus last night and tried to bring across the point that we need to continually be thinking and be in conversation with God about the big and small issues of life. I feel as if we live in a culture that is afraid to think out of the box these days -- so again thanks for keeping us thinking. Grace and Peace, John PS It has been interesting to watch the dialogue you've created...

Keith McIlwain said...

Thanks, John. We are praying for you and all at Christ church during the transition.

JD said...

Keith,

Sorry I joined this late, but I have been busy with lots of stuff. The only point that I wanted to make in all this is the following:

The Don't Ask Don't Tell policy was created with the understanding that many men and women are uncomfortable with homosexuality. With the need of the military to be a close, cohesive unit, it was believed, whether correct or incorrect, that the stability of this trust, comfort level, and bond, may be broken if certain military personnel, uncomfortable with homosexuality, realized that their brother in arms was a homosexual. Whether right or wrong, the rule was setup in an attempt to protect the military unit from erosion of trust that could take place in light of this sensitive issue.

What General Pace said was a personal and religious statement that sort of built on the definition and spirit behind the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, but, I don’t believe, a definition or reason, for the policy.

PAX
JD

Keith McIlwain said...

Thanks, JD.