Jesus Hated War -- Why Do Christians Love It So Much?
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When Gulf War I ended (during George Bush the Elder’s presidency), General Norman Schwartzkopf, the field commander, triumphantly proclaimed, “God must have been on our side!”
Such statements aren’t unusual for glory-seeking dictators, kings, princes, presidents and generals, regardless of what religion justified their particular war, but I cringed when I heard this self-professed Christian warrior claim God’s blessings on the war that made him famous.
In his memoir, It Doesn’t Take A Hero, Schwartzkopf claimed that he kept a Bible at his bedside throughout the war.
I cringed knowing that, according to the biblical Jesus, God is never on the side of the victors. The God of love that Jesus revealed was on the side of the victims, the oppressed, the starving, the sick, the naked, the meek who were victimized by unjust power.
Jesus’s God would not be on the side of the war-makers, but on the side of the peacemakers, the compassionate and long-suffering ones who work to prevent killing and to relieve the suffering of the victims of war.
I cringed when I heard Schwartzkopf claim God’s blessings on the carnage that he helped orchestrate because similar claims have been used to rationalize killing throughout history, from ancient times to some of the darkest days of the modern era.
As the German Nazis went about their systematic purging of any and all leftist or anti-fascist groups – Jews, socialists, homosexuals, liberals, communists, trade unionists and conscientious objectors to war – they insisted that God was on their side, too.
Adolf Hitler claimed that he was doing God’s will. German soldiers, both in WWI and WWII, went into battle with the words “Gott Mit Uns” (God With Us) inscribed on their belt buckles.
Invoking “Gott Mit Uns” didn’t work just on the uneducated, brain-washable and obedient citizens and conscripted soldiers of Germany. The slogan also convinced most of the educated Protestant and Catholic clergymen to comfortably proclaim from their pulpits that Hitler’s wars were endorsed by the Christian God, and therefore every military action could be justified and carried out without guilt.
Most Germans wanted to believe that Hitler’s wars had to be fought for some higher purpose, a master plan that they trusted would benefit them all by creating “Lebensraum” (living space), which would mean security for the pure Aryan race.
Aggression as Defensive
In the Nazis’ up-is-down world, the propagandists convinced average Germans that Hitler’s wars were purely defensive (“the sword has been forced into our hands”). The terrorizing of foreigners in a neighboring country, in order to steal their land, was the patriotic thing to do.
Convincing the German public to engage in murder for the state took a lot of diligent work from Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment.
Goebbels had to persuade the Germans that their neighbor’s land and oil and mineral resources could legitimately be taken by any means necessary in order to realize the Fuhrer’s dream of the “Thousand-year Reich,” where perpetual peace for the privileged German people would finally be realized.
The “collateral damage” done to the innocent civilian-victims of Europe and the Soviet Union, was felt to be unavoidable, and the “disappearances” of the non-Aryan “Untermenschen," mentioned above, was orchestrated with conscienceless bureaucratic efficiency.
Bishops, priests and pastors, most of whom had taken an oath of allegiance to Hitler, told their parishioners that it was their Christian duty to join the military and fight and kill for the Fuhrer.
Resentment also played an important role in the swastika-waving terror. Most of the street-fighting militias loyal to the Nazi party’s politics were WWI veterans who had been rendered unemployable by years of horrific trench warfare experiences.