“We” Do Not Have Troops: An Open Letter to the Church in the U.S.

Dear Pastors, Other Church Leaders, and All Fellow Christians in the U.S.,

It has been commonplace recently to hear requests for prayer and other forms of support for “our” troops. The problem is that “we” do not have any troops. By “we” I mean the Christian church. It is not my intent in this letter to convince anyone to become a pacifist. It is only my intent to make our speech appropriately Christian and accurate.

When we gather, we confess our faith in the one God revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth: “We believe in one God….” When we gather, we confess that Christ came “for us and for our salvation,” which are not references to people of any particular nation, not even the nation in which we happen to live. When we gather, we confess our participation in a community that transcends space and time and nationality: “the communion of the saints….” When we gather, we do so, therefore, as one small, local part of a worldwide community called the church of Jesus Christ. We do not gather as Americans, even if we happen to be Americans. We gather as Christians.

Therefore, when we talk about “our” troops, we are being inaccurate. The troops do not belong to us, that is, to the Christian church, the communion of saints, the Christians gathered together in a particular church. The troops do not represent us; the troops do not fight for us; they are not on a mission from us; they are not our troops. They are someone else’s troops, even if some of them happen to come from our churches. They are, to be theologically correct and grammatically accurate, “their” troops. They go at someone else’s behest. They are someone else’s soldiers and missionaries. The church does not have troops except prayer warriors and mission workers and apologists and martyrs and common believers who bring every thought captive to Christ and who fight daily not against flesh and blood but against and principalities and powers. Those are our troops. Let’s pray for them, for us.

When we talk about “our” troops, we also make another mistake. Even if one believes that the church in the U.S. should pray for “the” troops, we should not use the word “our” because it is exclusive and therefore inaccurate in another way. How so? Many, if not most, churches in the U.S. have members or regular participants who are not Americans, but they are Christians. To pray for “our” troops, referring to U.S. troops, is impossible for these people. The invitation to prayer or support for “our” troops therefore creates a division in the church that ought not to exist.

The prayer of the church should always be a corporate prayer in which everyone can participate and to which everyone can say “Amen.” The mission of the church should always be a mission that all can support. Prayer for “our” troops and support for “our” troops do not fit this essential criterion of inclusion. We need to find something more appropriate that all in the church can support and pray for. Given all the needs in the world, that should not be too hard to do. The end of war, rather than support for it, would not be a bad place to start. (Even Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes” might agree [see his Nov. 8, 2009 comments].)

Speech about “our” troops is possible only for a church that has lost track of its fundamental and ultimate identity. It is the speech of civil religion, not of the international, transnational church of Jesus Christ. It is time to clean up our speech.

Your brother in Christ,

MJG

41 Responses to ““We” Do Not Have Troops: An Open Letter to the Church in the U.S.”

  1. [...] Why “We” do not have troops. [...]

  2. Mike, really appreciate this post, though found myself saying ‘Amen’ a little less enthusiastically towards the end, not because I necessarily disagree with what you’re trying to say, but because I’m not sure what it might mean to affirm that ‘the prayer of the church should always be a corporate prayer in which everyone can participate and to which everyone can say “Amen”’. Can I invite you to say a little more on this one? Thanks.

  3. MJG says:

    Jason,

    Thanks for the response, and the question. The paragraph ties into the previous one. By its very nature, a prayer for “our troops” can only be uttered and affirmed by “us,” understood as those who share in a national identity unrelated to their Christian identity. Thus other Christians cannot pray the prayer. When I, as an American, go to church with a man from Zimbabwe and a family from the Philippines and a couple from Guatemala, the church in which we worship needs to offer prayers that all of us can affirm, universal prayers, if you will.

    Thinking more globally: the most extreme example of exclusive, inappropriate prayer is, of course, when Christians from two separate nations that are at war pray for “their own” troops. That is the ultimate rupture in the prayer of the church universal: Christians, in effect, praying that “their troops” will succeed (read “not die” and “kill”) and that others will fail (read “die” and “not kill”), meaning that each church condones the killing of its brothers in Christ who happen to live in a different country and who (inappropriately, I would suggest) have pledged their allegiance to that country even if it means killing their brothers in Christ.

    It seems to me (more generally, now) that the corporate prayer of a particular church should be something that can be affirmed by the entire church, the church universal. That is the spirit and theology, at least, of the use of prayer books, set liturgical prayers, and the like. To be sure, a local church can have specific prayers about which the rest of the church has no knowledge and will not pray; the rest of the church may not even be all that concerned about something happening locally elsewhere. But in principle, the church everywhere ought to be able to affirm the prayer of the church anywhere, because our prayers are ultimately one prayer, the Lord’s prayer.

  4. Al says:

    As a Canadian who lived in the USA as a student, I want to thank you for articulating something that I have found many American Christians (or should I say Christian Americans?) surprisingly blind to.

    While I didn’t feel unwelcomed at the churches where this blindness was exemplified, it was unintentionally made clear that I didn’t fully belong.

  5. MJG says:

    Al,

    I should have mentioned Canadians in particular, and probably also now Mexicans.

    Chris and all,

    You are welcome.

  6. Wes Ellis says:

    AMEN! One of the most important tasks for the church in terms of proclamation is to clarify our “we” for the world.

  7. roger flyer says:

    very thoughtful and insightful.

  8. MJG says:

    Thanks, Wes and Roger.

  9. Jason says:

    As a christian, I find this article embarassing. What’s interesting to note here is the author is using humanistic logic in expressing his justification for NOT praying for the troops that serve this country. I say that’s interesting because he does not provide one shred of biblical evidence to support this. There is no reference to any scripture to justify his position.

    Romans 13 1-7–1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

    The authorities that exist have been put in place by God, plain & simple. What am I to do when someone I know serves this country in war time & we want to pray together? Are our prayers not heard because of your reasoning? What do you do when this person is commanded by his gov’t to go war and based on the verse above, is instructed to follows those orders since those people are in authority and we are commanded to obey? What about the christian who is anti war but prays for a safe return for the thousands of soliders under the command of the gov’t? What about the anti war christian who prays for the family who is missing a family for an extended period because they have been sent overseas at the direction of the gov’t?

    After reading & rereading your post multiple times, I cannot figure out the justification for your position. To sit there and construe that somehow we as christians have control over what the troops do is ridiculous. They are commanded by our gov’t which in turn, based on scripture has been ordained by God himself?

    This logic does not make sense as there has been no scriptural basis for this? What about Ephesians 6:18 where we are instructed to pray for ALL the saints? Are the christians who serve our gov’t not christians because they go to war as their gov’t asks them to? How can you justify this position?

  10. MJG says:

    Jason,

    Thank you for your post. You raise some good questions, but you also fail to grasp my fundamental point: the troops are not “ours” (the church’s).

    Since you accuse me of being unscriptural, I simply have three questions for you to think about:

    1. Where does Jesus or Paul call disciples/believers to pray for “their troops”?

    2. If the government ordered you to torture your mother, would you do it? If not, why not?

    3. Why is the military language in the NT, when applied to believers, consistently used of spiritual rather than literal warfare?

  11. Jason says:

    When we talk about “our” troops, we also make another mistake. Even if one believes that the church in the U.S. should pray for “the” troops, we should not use the word “our” because it is exclusive and therefore inaccurate in another way. How so? Many, if not most, churches in the U.S. have members or regular participants who are not Americans, but they are Christians. To pray for “our” troops, referring to U.S. troops, is impossible for these people. The invitation to prayer or support for “our” troops therefore creates a division in the church that ought not to exist.

    This part of the article just blows me away. You know, I spoke with one of the pastors at my church about your writing and I would have to agree with his assessment-this type of logic encourages withdrawal and segregation in the culture we live in. Based on the life Christ led, wouldn’t you agree that He was constantly engaging the culture that was around him? How many times did he upset the religious powers that be? How many times did he engage sinners? To say that someone is not American but is a christian, that somehow they cannot pray for the safety and well being of another human does not make sense. Its like saying the non-American holds the American christian responsible for what the troops are commanded to do. Unreal.

  12. Jason says:

    I grasp your “fundamental” point-don’t misunderstand me. My point simply was that how do you justify, from a biblical perspective NOT praying for the safety & well being of another soul because they are involved in something YOU disagree with? All I asked for was scriptural proof that praying for the people who serve was not justified and created a riff in the church, that’s all I asked for.

  13. Jason says:

    Are saints who are in the military NOT saints? Should we not pray for our commander in cheif regardless of whether we agree or disagree??

    How about 1st Timothy 2??

    I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. 7And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.

    The verse says “everyone”. It doesn’t say only certain people does it??

    What about Matthew 5:44 that says to love your enemies & pray for those who persecute you?

    I mean what Abraham pleading to God to NOT destroy Sodom & Gommorah for the sake of 10 people? What about Abraham’s intercession to God for those wicked people? Was he not supposed to do that based on this logic??

  14. Jason says:

    And nice try on the torturing of a parent. Am I then justified by disobeying the authorities because Christ commands me to honor my father & mother??

  15. Debra says:

    I find this discussion to be one that is vital for the church. The “church” is a global body, and as such should have a global focus, so I agree that we should think more carefully about our language and word usage, especially if our goal is to make disciples of all nations.

    I do not hear where Michael has suggested that we never pray for people who are serving in a military position. I only hear in the tenor and context of the discussion that a corporate prayer should be one by which everyone present can “amen.” In fact, I think it is appropriate to pray for all who are risking their lives to defend their nations — we just need to remember that we may have Israeli, Arab, Hispanic, etc. brothers and sisters who are fighting on different sides than that of the US. Shouldn’t we be praying for them as well?

  16. MJG says:

    Jason,

    You still have not answered my torturing your mother question. It’s not a “nice try” but a sincere request that you think through the logic of your claims.

    Debra,

    Another way of thinking about this: The second-century Christian document Epistle of Diognetus said that Christians are citizens of every country and of no country. If I as an American Christian pray for the safety of U.S. troops fighting the troops of country X, as a world Christian I am obliged by my Christian identity to pray for the safety of the troops from country X. What does that say??

    But (once again, to all), to return to my main point, even if we disagree on praying for soldiers in combat, can we at least not call them “OUR troops”??

  17. Mike Cantley says:

    Sir,

    I would very much like to celebrate Christ the King Sunday with you!

    Thanks for your faithful teaching.

    Mike C.

  18. Jason says:

    Michael-I have answered your question. I said that based on the fact I am instructed to honor my mother & father, I would be justified in your particular case. Now its time for you to answer my question and state your scriptural basis for your argument.

    This I find interesting “If I as an American Christian pray for the safety of U.S. troops fighting the troops of country X, as a world Christian I am obliged by my Christian identity to pray for the safety of the troops from country X. What does that say??”

    It says you are doing what you are supposed to do. As I pointed out in an earlier post, does 1st Timothy 2 not instruct us to offer up prayers for EVERYONE? Yep, that’s what it says Michael, EVERYONE. Just because I pray for the troops of country X, doesn’t mean I am praying for them to kill the troops that represent my country. I may be praying for his or her family, for his or her children. Do you honestly believe that there are Iraqi and American christians who have not prayed together over in Iraq for each other and for a peaceful end to the conflict?

    And in my opinion, and that’s all it is, your last statement about not calling the troops “our troops”, to me, really gets to the heart of your writing and past all the smoke & mirrors. Its about being leaglistic and playing on words and semantics. Its like the old “tell me what the definition of is is”. Of course the christian church has no combat troops, any person with half a brain knows that and that’s why I believe you are talking a very very leagalistic approach here.

    Debra, I agree with you that we are supposed to pray for those people as well and I agree in your position that the church is global. When Micahel writes this:

    “The invitation to prayer or support for “our” troops therefore creates a division in the church that ought not to exist.”

    You say you don’t hear Michael saying we should not pray for people in the military. In essence, what he is saying that, in his OPINION, it creates a division in the church. Regardless of your stance on the war, does praying for the safe return of soldiers and praying for the families left behind REALLY create a division in the church? How is that contrary to the language in 1st Timothy 2 where we are instructed to pray for EVERYONE??

  19. MJG says:

    Jason—

    1. I am not clear from your words what you think you would be justified to do. I assume you mean disobey the government authority. But how do you reckon that with these words of yours from a previous post:

    “The authorities that exist have been put in place by God, plain & simple. … What do you do when this person is commanded by his gov’t to go war and based on the verse above, is instructed to follows those orders since those people are in authority and we are commanded to obey? … They [soldiers] are commanded by our gov’t which in turn, based on scripture has been ordained by God himself?”

    So why would you dare to disobey the government and refuse to torture your mother?

    2. I agree that prayer for all people is scriptural and right. The issue is the content of the prayer. You’ve mentioned some options, some of which I like. Another possible prayer for soldiers might be “let them do no harm” or “let them do no evil.” I think Jesus himself might pray that prayer for them, since he taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” Or perhaps one could pray, “let them love their enemies.” That sounds pretty biblical, too. Or, “let them turn the other cheek.” Jesus said something about that, too. Is that scriptural?

    Or perhaps one could pray for them (and for oneself, too, and for the whole church), “may they/we know what it means to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” That prayer might drive us all back to some careful study of the Scripture, which I think we would both approve of, with an open mind, asking hard questions.

    Mike C—

    Let’s do it!

  20. Jason says:

    Mike-I would disobey the authorities based on my point that I am also commanded to honor my father and mother.

    To your point regarding content of prayer, I don’t have a problem with what you state in regards to prayers for soldiers. I am just of the opinion that a christian, referring to the troops who serves the country he lives in as “our troops” is just legalistic speak. I became a christian in 1984. In all the chruches I have been in, Illinois, Florida and SC, never have I ever heard of christians referring to the troops as “our troops” creating a riff in any congregation I have been a part of. To me, how do I seperate being a christian AND American? How does my spouse seperate being a wife AND a mother to my kids? I can see your point regarding other nationalities in a congregation praying for “our troops”. However, I can attest that any prayer I have ever heard in any of the churches I have been members at have been for a safe return, for the wife who is pregnant and ready to give birth but whose husband just got shipped off or for the child who is starting his first day of school but his mom or dad can’t be there because they have been sent overseas. Any christian who has a problem praying for our troops in that manner probably has bigger issues anyway. I have never heard any of my pastors pray that “our troops” would maim, kill or torture our enemy or anything of that nature. Its always been for what I previously mentioned. I just don’t see a riff in the church universal over this in my opinion and that’s all it is!!

  21. MJG says:

    Jason—

    Last post about this from me toward you.

    1. We are getting closer to common ground. That’s very good.

    2. Your decision about your mother is right. You have decided where your ultimate loyalty lies (and I don’t mean it’s your mother), which is also very good. But you still need to think about the implications of your decision more broadly.

    3. Pls listen more carefully to the rhetoric in churches. I absolutely guarantee you that people are thinking and speaking about “our troops.” so we are, at least in some ways, back to my original point.

    Blessings

  22. Jason says:

    Michael,

    “People” may be speaking about our troops but its not coming from the pulpit in the chruches where I have attended. That only happens in churches in Chicago…lol.

    Thanks for the disucssion.

  23. ric says:

    Michael,

    Thank you for this open letter. I am perplexed at how casually we blur the love of Christ with the love of country. I have seen the American flag hanging on the cross in church. Apparently, enough people were offended by that confusing symbolism to set the flag off the the side this year. However, then the pastor led the congregation in the pledge. Sigh.

    (Brian shared this link on facebook)

  24. ryan says:

    I understand what you are saying. The lines have been blurred. Church sign in my town on Memorial day said “Who else but Jesus would dare to die for you? Thank a Soldier, a policeman, and a fireman.”

    I am thankful to soldiers and policemen, and firemen, but was deeply offended that they were put on the same level as Christ. They may temporarily save my life, but Christ has saved my soul! Not even in the same ballpark. Another sign on the fourth of july said “Thank those who died for your freedom, a soldier and Jesus!”

    The freedom a soldier dies for isn’t worth being compared to the freedom my savior died for. again, i love and appreciate soldiers, but they can’t purchase heaven or forgive sin through the shedding of their blood.

  25. bryonm says:

    While we are cleaning up our speech and leaving those who serve in the military out of prayers in the churches on real estate/in a nation protected by those troops I want to encourage you to remember that several times the Bible in the New Testament honors soldiers.

    In Matt 8:10, Jesus says of Centurion, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith…”

    In Mark’s gospel in vs. 15:39, Mark writes, “And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’” So Mark doesn’t fail to record the truthful declaration of a soldier.

    In Acts 10:4 God blesses a soldier by sending him an angel with the intention of bringing salvation to this good man; this good SOLDIER man:

    “Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it, Lord?’ he asked.”

    “The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.’”

    So while you encourage us not to pray for our soldiers, Scripture records that soldiers pray and do good and godly deeds and the Lord honors them for it. He even makes sure their stories are immortalized in scripture.

    I’m aware that this misses the point of your post. And I understand what your are saying that “the church” doesn’t have a military on their side. But we Americans, as messed up and obnoxious as we can be on the world’s stage, are doing good by counting our blessings and thanking God for the freedoms we enjoy because men who are not cowards have put their lives on hold to serve their country; indeed, they’ve laid their lives down. Scripture declares that there is no greater love than a man lay down his life for another.

    So I guess I take issue with your dogmatic and legalistic picking and choosing of who we pray for and who we don’t pray for in our gatherings. If you don’t want to do good (pray) for those who do good for you (serve our nation), that’s good. But don’t presume that there is a theological precedent to NOT pray for our (or your) troops. You’re over-thinking it.

  26. ryan says:

    no one at any time has said not to pray for the troops. you have misunderstood the article.

  27. bryonm says:

    @ryan: probably so… wouldn’t be the first time. what do you think is meant by this:
    “The mission of the church should always be a mission that all can support. Prayer for “our” troops and support for “our” troops do not fit this essential criterion of inclusion. We need to find something more appropriate that all in the church can support and pray for.”

  28. ric says:

    Not speaking for either Michael or Ryan, here is what I hear in that statement from Michael’s post: We should not assume we are all Americans on Sunday morning, rather only assume we are united in Christ. Nothing more and, more importantly, nothing less.

    My example of a Christ-centered prayer on Veterans day or any day for that matter: Pray for all troops, US and enemy, as well as all those people caught in the cross-fire. pray for the wars to end. All wars, including those the US is not fighting in… there are many more.

  29. ryan says:

    @bryonm: what i hear. (and i too could be wrong) is that we should not emphasize “OUR” troops because first and foremost we are saints united under the blood of Christ and in our Audience we may not have (and in larger churches certainly don’t have) 100% American congregations. It seems that the emphasis is on praying in a way that all SAINTS present can say ‘AMEN” to. one possible way to do that would be to do as Ric points out above. We absolutely SHOULD PRAY for the military. I am a pastor of a brand new (eight week old ) church. Last week after the tragedy at Ft. Hood here in TX i led our congregation in prayers for all the people involved and all the lives touched by that incident. but our primary focus was for God to be known and salvation to come through it. We prayed that God would raise up Christian SOLDIERS stationed there to share the love of Christ in this terrible time. I do pray “the troops”. We should pray for them, but our primary energies should be spent praying that those soldiers who do not know Christ would come to know him and that those soldiers who do know Christ would be a beacon for him. From the pulpit i can say “let us pray for the many people serving the US military and all the others involved in fighting around the world that God would not only preserve their lives but their souls.”

    the emphasis of the entire article seems to be around the word “our” and i understand the point, but the emphasis is not on failing to pray.

    that is how i understand it. but again… i too could be wrong.

  30. bryonm says:

    @ric: I re-read the post, and I can’t speak for Michael either, but it seems to me that a Christ-centered prayer, in the context of the article, for veterans on Veterans day would not be theologically correct because “We” don’t have veterans; they are someone else’s veterans. “We” didn’t send them. They didn’t serve for “us”. A prayer for veterans would not include the conscientious objectors in our midsts to not everyone would not be able to say amen.

    Or do I still misunderstand?

  31. ric says:

    @bryon: A prayer for veterans would absolutely include and engage all saints (COs and otherwise) and be theologically correct.

    Prayer for “our” veterans on the hand…

  32. Mark says:

    Michael,

    The topic of your article has been a concern to me for quite some time, as I’ve found how important it is that my language communicate what the gospel is about – the Kingdom of God – in light of the misconceptions brought about by improper associations. I am involved in a ministry to Muslims where their perceptions of Christianity are produced by Christian’s inaccurate language (and, of course, their involvement in certain ways in the concerns of this, and any other, country of the world). It has made it difficult to relate the gospel in many cases. In fact, we had spent months helping someone see Jesus’ kingdom, only to have it all blown away in fifteen minutes – and mutual animosity engendered – by a brother we brought along, who could only think of politics in his Conservative American way.

    The challenge I think you are trying to relate here is that the New Testament does not use “possesive” language to describe our relationship with anything in the world. When we are called to pray for “kings and all those in authority” it is not “our” king and only those in authority over us. It is for “all authority” for the express purpose that “God desires all men to be saved….” perhaps setting a condition (living peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and contentment) that faciliates this very thing. I don’t think it is necessarily self-preservation that is the point of it all. Paul does mention his Roman citizenship (in Acts), but even then he does not fill it with any significant content – content derived from its definition given by its owner – Rome. Rather he simply uses it for the purposes of his ministry, challenging the centurion to think along the lines of his accepted definition. Where he explicitly uses the possesive is with our citizenship as being in heaven (Phil. 3:20).

    As far as Romans 13 is concerned, Paul has this overarching concern that Christians understand their relationship to these worldly powers (that incidentally are passing away – I Cor. 2:6), again so that our behavior is consonant with what God is doing in the world, primarily through his people. The problem with the way this passage is handled by the majority of Christians is that it once again is used as a participational scripture, not a relational one. And, of course, what goes along with a particational approach is that we think we know what God is doing with the world’s powers. That was the whole scandal Habakkuk faced with God’s use of Babylon against His own people. We’d do well to understand this, since it is this kind of faith Habakkuk has to come to, and rest in, in order to accept God’s very purposes. And, incidentally, it is where Paul draws his definition of saving faith in his epistle to the Romans.

    Jesus’ world is bigger than the world created by any given nation at any given time. Our language either confirms or betrays this. And I’ve always known that this is only brought out where the devil is – “in the details.” My church has a young man in the marines who writes on facebook that “it is because of what he is doing that I can sleep peacefully at night.” I know that with my concentrating on the mission of Christ that I’ve really no time to take that in and process it, except that I sleep peacefully at night because Jesus rules the world, a world that would still be His even if Muslims took it over. And my mission would not change! The sad thing is that this young man sounds more like the pagan Cicero in his argument against the early Christians, than a person who knows what Jesus is about, as they once did.

    I knew the minute I saw your post what the response could be, especially since so many Christians have decided voluntarily to sacrifice their lives to this cause of this country in this time in history. Anything with this much at stake will have a hard time considering anything else, even just adjusting to accurate language. That is why I and others who just want to bring up the nuances that the Lordship of Christ brings to any discussion of living in the world are marginalized in our church. They’ve placed these things at the level of “conscience” rather than obedience. If what you’ve written in your post is considered with any degree of seriousness, it will entail a reexamination of what civil religious idolatry (Jesus co-opted for the world’s purposes) is all about, and to the degree with which Christians have compromised themselves, and their allegiance.

  33. Mike Cantley says:

    There are tons of goodies around helping me learn about this issue and its implications. The Lyle Brecht article mentioned in an earlier post will be an important addition to the forthcoming Political Theology, and I keep coming back to this great Bill Cavanaugh article from 2006 in the same journal: “From One City to Two: Christian Reimagining of Political Space,” Political Theology, 7(3), 299-321. Maybe others will find it helpful as well toward understanding and penitently working through this identity crisis.

    Mike C.

  34. [...] Who Do You Mean by “We”? (Michael J. Gorman) I’ve said the opening words of the title of this post before, verbatim.  Let me point out that I am a veteran and am no pacifist.  But we Americans can quickly confuse “Americanism” and Christianity.  When we enter a church, I hope our nationality becomes a distant second to our identity as Christians. [...]

  35. MIchael N. says:

    Michael,

    Thank you so much for the post. It really resonates with me and my family as we have a nephew who just arrived back from Iraq this week. During his tour my six year old would pray every night for his safety and safe return AS WELL AS peace in that area of the world and for all those involved to ultimately experience the love and peace of God through Christ.

    But to address another issue. Rom 13 and 1 Tim 2 and like versus cannot be used to explain the view of Paul and even less the view of the New Testament regarding our relationship with nations or better, empires. More often Paul explicitly and implicitly draws attention to the lordship of Christ as opposed to Caesar and empire throughout his letters. It is the crucified Lord who defines how we pray and engage with nations. This is even clearer in the case of Revelation.

    It has been my experience when Churches pray for the safety of the troops, it is also a prayer for the success of the troops and that now moves out of the arena of concern for the well-being of a human being to the agreement of the goals of empire (or nations).

  36. MJG says:

    Well said, Michael.

  37. Jason says:

    Michael N.

    Thanks for your response and putting words in my mouth in regards to praying for the troops. I don’t like war, just like you. As previously stated in this ongoing discussion, a prayer for our troops may be a prayer that they would return safe, stay away from evil doing while on duty and that peace would prevail and end the conflict(s).

    And what part of 1 Tim 2 don’t you understand when it says pray for EVERYONE? I didn’t say that that particular verse was used to explain any view of Paul. I was simply using it as a reference that we are clearly instructed here to pray for EVERYONE regardless of some possessive language being present or not.

    And Mark to your point that somehow I pretend to know what God is doing with worldly powers….I have no idea what He is doing, how could anyone with half a brain pretend to know what God is doing with worldly powers? All I know is that I am instructed to obey the authority that has been placed over me as the scriptures indicate that authority has been ordained by God. How is me, obeying the authorities over me by paying taxes, etc etc pretending to know what God is doing with worldly powers?

    So if the New Testament is clear that there is a time for war, how do you reconcile this with your view then? Do you then pretend to know in God’s eyes what is and is not a just war? I really want to hear someone explain their position on this in relation to Ecclesiastes 3. I’m not trying to be smart about this but if New Testament writing clearly indicates there is a time for war, how do you justify your position?

  38. Chris says:

    Hey, hey, chill…no one’s talking about you specifically, don’t take it so personally man…they’re just having a discussion and raising points in general…no one’s on the attack.

  39. Michael N. says:

    Jason

    My response was directed at the blog in totality, not any one comment. It was also an observation from MY experience in the churches that I have belonged to in my lifetime.

    It is precisely “OUR troops” and not “THEIR troops” that is the focus of the type of prayer that I was addressing and so your highlighting the EVERYONE from 1 Timothy I think is very appropriate.

  40. MJG says:

    Jason—

    Just an FYI: Insulting language is not permitted on this blog. Comments like “And what part of 1 Tim 2 don’t you understand…” are inappropriate and will be deleted in the future.

    Now back to the subject: How do you support the claim that “the New Testament is clear that there is a time for war”? If you mean that “Wars will occur,” that’s one thing. But the issues are about Christians’ support for, prayer for, and participation in war. Where do you find that in the NT?

    As for prayer, do you pray for bank robbers? If so, what do you pray for them? If not, what might you pray for? Do you pray for “our bank robbers” If so, why? If not, why not?

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