Thursday, October 28, 2004

onward christian farmers!

....marching as to plow...

is it just me or is this doctrine of war that has crept into the church one of the ugliest heresies to come along?

i know 'crept' is probably the wrong word, it's been there since the crusades, but it's subtle (before this year) re-emergence seems like creeping to me. now it's just a full blown, flag-wavin' proud, right wing belief.

i was raised by a mother (the real bobbie) who would cry at super-market openings while that year's fair queen poorly sang the national anthem. she was the most patriotic person i knew. she taught me that war was good for the economy and got things moving again.

that folded into an eschatology that thirsted for war as a 'sign of the times' - wars and rumors of wars were sure indication we were just moments away from the rapture.

during this past year or so i have done a lot of personal stock-taking and re-education into this theory that our god is a god of war. believe me, i've heard it all. those old testament justifications of god's wrath and the chosen people's need to smear out anyone who was against them. i'm not looking for someone to convince me of the error of my ways, really, i've been there.

i've become so much more aware of the words of christ and how foreign they were to the belief structure that i had been raised with. he came to begin a new covenant. so, where did all of the 'onward christian soldier' crap come from?

what i've done lately is pull out every new testament passage that speaks of war, weapon, soldier, fight, etc. that i can find and really study what it (they're always written by paul) says.

Paul included soldier/warfare/fight in 1 & 2 corinthians & 1 & 2 timothy and philemon.
1 Corinthians 9:7
Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
this first reference to warfare by paul to illustrate the need for workers/pastors to be given a salary or paid. it's used right along with farmer and shepherd. paul is using occupations that are familiar to the corinthians. all people who get paid and supported for doing the work they do. there is no call to a military church here, it is simply an illustration.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
this passage brings a stronger use of the metaphor into paul's writing, but instead of bolstering the idea that we should be soldiers for jesus we are told just the opposite. ON THE CONTRARY! the war we are fighting is with our thoughts, it's in our own heads. taking every thought captive.

again, paul uses a familiar, down to earth illustration to drive home his point. we aren't to be fighting like those around us - our battle is in our heads, it is with ourselves. hardly a call to arms.
1 Timothy 1:17-20 KJV (used because of it's 'war' terms)
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
okay, here is a personal admonition to timothy regarding a prophecy in his own life. what 'war a good warfare' means we can only guess at, but in my humble rendering it would mean 'take courage timothy, you have been 'armed' (gifted) to do what god has called you to do'. not go war with your neighbors.

or as the NIV states it:
1 Timothy 1:18
Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight.
in 2 timothy paul invokes a soldier metaphor:
2 Timothy 2:4
No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer.
again, not calling timothy to arms, but using a frame of reference that timothy would have been familiar with to illustrate his commitment and call as a pastor.

the last (except for the revelation terms which can be interpreted how ever you feel eschatologically called to do, for purpose of this i don't want to get caught up in the past/future, but rather stay here in the present) place any war-like term is used is in philemon.
Philemon 1:2
"to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home. here is probably paul's most personal statement. by calling archippus a 'fellow soldier' he includes himself in the ranks. i think it might be translated 'commrade', which may have a military flavor to it also, but 'brother in arms', 'team-mate' or 'member' would probably suit as well.
it still lacks any call to arms or decisive encouragement for christians to go to war. ...with the cross of jesus going on before... yuck.

if you start to listen to gwb critcally you start to hear that he hints that american/democracy and freedom itself is the 'great white hope'. that american democracy is going to restore hope and freedom to the world. i'm sorry, but that is heresy. jesus is the only hope for freedom. gwb is trying to do what the disciples asked jesus to do, and he wanted no part of it.

he rebuked peter and called him satan for attempting to bring kingdom peace by using the sword. this heresy is polluting the american church and becoming a form of idolitry.

paul uses many metaphors in his writings, a soldier, a farmer, a shepherd, a wrestler, a boxer. can you imagine inserting anything but soldier into that old favorite hymn? onward christian shepherds?? onward christian wrestlers??

i was told that at the MOPS convention this year out of eden had re-invented this song/concept and brought it forward 100+ years with the song 'soldiers'. they chant 'where are my soldiers?' and the crowd shouts 'right here', over and over throughout the performance. the last line of the song says:
It's a call for some soldiers
So if you're not afraid to take a stand
Then let me see you raise your hand.
reprogramming a new generation for it's warmongering future.

jim wallis has a new he is urging leaders to sign. with the rhetoric reaching a fevered pitch it's important to remember that a president, a country or a war cannot give or bring freedom. america is not the 'light that shines in the darkness' we need to remember that today more than ever.

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