There’s a world of difference between a just war and just war. There is war for a just reason, and there is war just to be able to say you did something while in office. Wars can serve to boost patriotism, nationalism. and For the GOP, it often bolsters the “rah, rah, rah” spirit that says “We are tough guys.” Clearly, for biblically minded Christians we must not simply go along with policing the world through our military; nor should we think all form of military action is sinful.
God put the sword in the hand of the Civil Magistrate, in order that He might execute justice: rewarding good, punishing evil-doers. The Gospel era has brought about remarkably merciful forms of justice compared to the tortures that would have been inflicted upon evil men in times past. Yet, what should guide our thinking when nations come into conflict with each other?
Christians, of all people, should recognize there are evil men and evil nations in the world. While, we preach a Gospel of peace with God as the only means of peace with our fellow man, we must remember that this Gospel also has implications for nations.
Trump announced last Monday, August 21st, that he had directed a review of the USA’s military involvement in Afghanistan, and by all reckoning it looks like we’re going to be sending more troops that way. Two takeaways are important. Trump was right when he noted that too rapid of a withdrawal of troops will result in what we saw in Iraq with the rise of ISIS. Obama’s tepid foreign policy did nothing to discourage ISIS, and Trump seems keen to ooze a “Don’t mess with us” posture. However, we must recognize that we are called to love our neighbor.
Now if my neighbor happens to be a junk collector and blares loud music in the middle of the night, I shouldn’t go live in his house in order to get him to live the way I do. While I might have convictions about the best way to live, I cannot hope to change him by moving in with him and coercing him to abide by my house rules. What this calls for is peacemaking, appeals, mediation, etc.
With Afghanistan, in particular, we are dealing with Islamic culture that has not invited us to establish our Westernism in their “home.” Now, if a country invites us to teach them how to organize their country in conformity with our constitutional ideals, principles and practices, we should be willing teachers. But culture is never built through coercion.
The US has real enemies in Afghanistan. However, we should endeavor to put a bow on our operations there as soon as possible. Our Government is responsible to protect us from such threats as ISIS and other terror groups pose. Our posture should be one of ready friendliness with those who would be friends and allies, and no nonsense when it comes to legitimate threats to our interests overseas. Attacks like we saw in Benghazi should have been met with stiff consequences, and the Obama administration’s anemic response only emboldened terrorists. However, neither should we aim to be empire building.
Christians have a fine line to walk when it comes to war. On either side are grievous dangers. Nationalism on its own can often produce the imperial instinct, and nation building that has been so disastrous in recent decades. But the Globalism of liberals provides no impediment to another ism: terrorism.
As Christians, we ought to be big fans of clear borders. These provide distinct lines of jurisdiction. We should like things black and white. This is a lowercase nationalism. I love being a Zornes, and you should love being a Smith or Johnson or Goldwitz, and we should organize our own families to be distinct “units” with a common goal: the glory of God. This inevitably scales upward as family groups quickly amass into the size of nations, if not becoming outright nations. We are Americans by Providence. This is nothing to be ashamed of (though our college professors would tell us otherwise).
However, Christians must also be lowercase globalists. We are aiming for every nation, tribe, and tongue to worship God in Christ. This is why though we treasure family and home, we have sent our sons and daughters off to the furthest shores with the Gospel. It is not erasing family lines, but seeing that there is a family which God is making which encompasses the whole believing world.
Thus, when we look at a protracted war in a place like Afghanistan, as American Christians we should be mindful that we are seeking the salvation of the world by conversion. Not by Nationalism or Globalism. Christian nationalism seeks to defend, protect, and avenge transgressions, exacting just retribution for crimes committed. Christian globalism seeks to welcome the stranger in our midst and go to the ends of the earth. We want just wars, not just war.