The regenerated do not go to war, nor engage in strife. They are children of peace who have ‘beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning forks, and know no war’ (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3). … Our weapons are not weapons with which cities and countries may be destroyed, walls and gates broken down, and human blood shed in torrents like water. But they are weapons with which the spiritual kingdom of the devil is destroyed. … Christ is our fortress; patience our weapon of defense; the Word of God our sword.
– Menno Simons
It’s strange that war raises so few problems for most evangelicals. Or actually it’s not so strange. It’s where the Constantinian mindset is shown most strongly today. Your average evangelical can’t see how being a disciple and being an Australian might come into conflict. For them, discipleship is about private, spiritual freedom; war is about political freedoms. (They can’t imagine a political dimension to the kingdom, they can’t imagine the kingdom as a new way of ordering life in the midst of a broken world – but why would they? They don’t see it in their churches!)
For most evangelicals, their primary political allegiance is to Australia, rather than to the kingdom. It’s this primary allegiance which allows them to fight wars against our country’s enemies, despite Christ’s injunction to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. But the church should be ‘a holy nation’ which transcends national borders and refuses to fight. If our first loyalty is to Christ, we can’t go fighting wars; we would be killing our brothers and sisters (Christians in the other countries) as well as our enemies. We would be failing in our duty to imitate Christ; we would be imitating the world.
ANZAC Day seems a kind of syncretism to me. Too many evangelicals like the way the average Australian sounds a bit religious on ANZAC day. They are happy for the world to quote ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’ in connection to the ANZAC legend, because at least they’re quoting the Bible. I’m fairly sure that there will be a number of preachers across Perth appropriating the ANZAC legend tomorrow in their sermon and drawing a parallel to Jesus laying down his life for us.
But war is a tragedy. In our concern for honouring the horrible deaths and suffering of so many soldiers, we tend to avoid critiquing the political agendas of empire that caused those deaths. We forget that Jesus died in an act of reconciliation, while our fathers and forefathers died in an act of war. They were brave and they were probably selfless; but, alas, they were not fighting for the kingom of God.
So what should a pacifist do if he or she is in church in Perth tomorrow and hears the preacher draw a connection between the ANZAC legend and Jesus’ death? Don’t speak out during the sermon; it’s rude and it will never achieve anything. Don’t turn your back, that’s rude too. Should you keep your mouth shut? If you do, you might die inside as I’ve been dying inside for several years keeping my mouth shut about so many things. Should you start some respectful conversations? Yes, probably. It won’t lead anywhere quickly, though. But if you’re a pacifist, you already know that.