I always know how to answer that interview question.
Initiating a phone call makes me nervous. It always has. Sometimes, I even write out a flowchart for the possible paths the conversation will take. I still make the calls, but I tend towards awkward pauses and long sentences. No, I'm not asthmatic. No, I'm not daydreaming about your delicate ankles. I just forgot to breathe.
This weekend, my country is remembering her reasons for warfare. She recalls the lives of her sons and daughters that were taken, lives who were not worthy of death. She unearths the glowing embers of memory that once engulfed deserts in the flame of vengeance. Some who died in that fire were guilty; many others were not guilty of anything worthy of death. And still the memory burns, ten years later.
War is rarely, if ever, just in its execution. Just, that is, if one were to use the standard of justice that dictates, Punish the guilty. Spare the innocent. It might be necessary for the survival and prosperity of a group on this earth. History is never short of "What if?"s. But I doubt it, and earthly survival and prosperity are secondary concerns to me.
For me, I try to build faster than the destroyer can destroy. I would like to create a thing so beautiful that all people who gazed upon it would see that their enemies, too, were created in the image of God. Their enemies, too, have sinned and fallen short of His glory. Their enemies, too, may be redeemed. But I despair, because so many in this world do not accept these three things when applied their own selves. I despair, for many beautiful things already exist. They teach us to suffer wrong in order to teach love. But so many cannot hear those lessons, for their hearts are already filled with hymns to Pride and prayers to blind Vengeance.
"Now, as we all, in our political relations to the Government of our country, occupy positions at least inferior to that which a bond servant holds toward his master, we cannot of right as Christian men obey the powers that be in anything not in itself justifiable by the written law of the great King - our liege Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Indeed, we may advance in all safety one step further, if it were necessary, and affirm that a Christian man can never of right be compelled to do that for the state, in defense of state rights, which he cannot of right do for himself in defense of his personal rights. No Christian man is commanded to love or serve his neighbor, his king, or sovereign more than he loves or serves himself. If this is conceded, unless a Christian man can go to war for himself, he cannot for the state."
Here is the double-edged sword:
If a Christian cannot rightly do in defense of his government what he cannot rightly do for himself, then
He cannot rightly do for himself that which he cannot rightly do in defense of his government.
Self-defense and national defense go hand-in-hand. It is evident that a Christian may not defend himself with violence. Mat. 5:39, "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also."
Here's the point:
A person cannot consistently be anti-war and pro-self-defense. Nor can a person consistently be pro-war and anti-self-defense.
On a related, but less complex train of thought:
When a person uses the quote, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing," to support violence in defense of a perceived good or defeat of an evil, he argues against the teaching of Jesus in Mat. 5:39.
For my own part, and I am not alone in this opinion, I think that the moral desolations of war surpass even its horrors. And amongst these I do not assign the highest place to the vulgar profanity, brutality, and debauchery of the mere soldier, the professional and licensed butcher of mankind, who, for his $8 a month or his 10 sous per day, hires himself to lay waste a country, to pillage, burn, and destroy the peaceful hamlet, the cheerful village, or the magnificent city, and to harass, wound, and destroy his fellow man, for no other consideration than his paltry wages, his daily rations, and the infernal pleasure of doing it, anticipating hereafter "the stupid stares and loud huzzas" of monsters as inhuman and heartless as himself. And were it not for the infatuation of public opinion and popular applause, I would place him, as no less to be condemned, beside the vain and pompous volunteer, who for his country, "right or wrong," hastens to the theater of war for the mere plaudits of admiring multitudes, ready to cover himself with glory, because he has aided an aspirant to a throne or paved the way to his own election to reign over a humbled and degraded people.
I make great allowance for false education, for bad taste, for the contagion of vicious example; still, I cannot view those deluded by such sophistry, however good their motives, as deserving anything from contemporaries or posterity except compassion and forgiveness. Yet, behold its influence on mothers, sisters, and relatives; note its contagion, its corruption of public taste. See the softer sex allured, fascinated by the halo of false glory thrown around these worshipped heroes! See them gazing with admiration on the "tinselled trapping," the embroidered ensigns," of him whose profession it is to make widows and orphans by wholesale! Sometimes their hands are withdrawn from works of charity to decorate the warriors' banners and to cater to these false notions of human glory! Behold, too, the young mother arraying her proud boy "with cap and feather, toyed with a drum and sword, training him for the admired profession of a man killer."
This is not all. It is not only at home, in the nursery, and infant school that this false spirit is inspired. Our schools, our academies, our colleges echo and reecho with the fame of an Alexander, a Caesar, a Napoleon, a Wellington. Forensic eloquence is full of the fame of great heroes, of military chieftains, of patriotic deliverers whose memory must be kept forever verdant in the affections of a grateful posterity, redeemed by their patriotism or rescued from oppression by their valor.
The pulpit, too, must lend its aid in cherishing the delusion. There is not infrequently heard a eulogium on some fallen hero, some church service for the mighty dead, thus desecrating the religion of the Prince of Peace by causing it to minister as the handmaid of war. Not only are prayers offered up by pensioned chaplains on both sides of the field even amid the din of arms, but Sabbath after Sabbath, for years and years, have the pulpits on one side of a sea or river and those on the other side resounded with prayers for the success of rival armies, as if God could hear them both and make each triumphant over the other, guiding and commissioning swords and bullets to the heads and hearts of their respective enemies.
And not only this; but even the churches in the Old World, and sometimes in the new, are ornamented with the sculptured representations of more military heroes than of saints - generals, admirals, and captains who "gallantly fought" and "gloriously fell" in the service of their country. It is not only in Westminster Abbey or in St. Paul's that we read their eulogiums and see their statues, but even in some of our own cities we find St. Paul driven out of the church to make room for generals and commodores renowned in fight. And, last of all, in consummation of the moral desolation of war we sometimes have an illumination - even a thanksgiving - rejoicing that God has caused ten or twenty thousand of our enemies to be sent down to Tartarus and has permitted myriads of widows and orphans to be made at the bidding of some chieftain or of some aspirant to a throne.
But it would exhaust too much time to speak of the inconsistencies of the Christian world on this single subject of war, or to trace to their proper fountains the general misconceptions of the people on their political duties and that of their governments. This would be the work of volumes - not of a single address. The most enlightened of our ecclesiastic leaders seem to think that Jesus Christ governs the nations as God governed the Jews. They cannot separate, even in this land, the church and state. They still ask for a Christian national code.