Lord, Please Help Me Kill This Man
I heard something interesting watching the presidential debates on Thursday, something that solidified my ideas about the two supposedly Christian candidates. Each candidate said that he would hunt down Osama bin Laden and other terrorists and kill them, as political analysts will tell you should be the president’s primary goal in the post-9/11 world. But that goal is contradictory to the morals demanded of a Christian as written in the New Testament. Jesus’s call to his disciples is to live a life of universal love for their fellow humans. You cannot live that kind of life while vowing to kill or harm another. But you also cannot expect a president to forswear the use of force and still be a good leader. The sad conclusion: a Christian cannot be President, and anyone who tries will constantly and willingly disobey God while they are in office.
Promising to kill another person contradicts the lessons of God taught through Jesus. In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, verse 39, Jesus states the second greatest commandment: love your neighbor as you love yourself. And who qualifies as your neighbor? All the people created in God’s image, or every human being, whether they have embraced Christianity or not. Elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus states that “we should forgive our enemies not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22); that is to say, forgive them ad infinitum. “Do not resist an evil person,” Jesus says; should someone strike our cheek “then turn to him the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39). Finally, “love your enemies, and pray for those that persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). What does this mean? It means that a Christian seeking to love God, and be close to him, cannot willingly harm another human being, even in self-defense.
It is vitally important to understand this point. Christ makes it clear that his God is a god of love, and that our lives should reflect the love that God shows us. This means that we should love constantly, without reservations; we should love all people regardless of gender, station, race, creed, sexual orientation, or religion. We do this because all people are God’s creations in his image, and all are precious to him. To harm our enemies in any way is to harm God and cause him pain, to turn away from him and the forgiveness offered in his Son. Now, humans are not perfect. God knows this, and that is why we can always beg His forgiveness. But to knowingly, deliberately disobey God and harm or kill another, all the while telling your brothers that you love Him and believe in Him, is either ignorant or hypocritical.
This is why I was so interested to hear both John Kerry and George Bush vow to kill Osama bin Laden while also claim to be Christian. Bush, in particular, takes pride in basing some of his most important decisions on his faith. He likes to justify his actions against others as protecting us from their evil. But Jesus says we cannot resist an evil person, and who is Bush to judge who is evil and good anyway? Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). When Bush and Kerry have no qualms about ordering the death of another human being, or commanding some people to kill others, they are not being Christian, because they are not loving their neighbor or their God. By promising to hunt and kill the terrorists, they are already promising that the morÉs of their society will hold more sway over them than God’s laws, and that is not Christian.
The contradiction between the presidency and faith runs deeper than two rich politicos. It is obvious to anyone who has studied history that you cannot run a country or survive as a nation among nations without the threat of force, from yourself or an ally. The military is as vital to our nation’s survival as the economy or democracy itself. A president who categorically refuses to use force in any situation is not a president but a sitting duck. Some people might argue that using force or declaring war does not guarantee that people will die, but that is just naive. Every major conflict is declared with the knowledge that lives will be taken, and every soldier going into major conflict knows that he may be called upon to take another’s life. Neither the soldiers nor the planners can say truthfully they thought they wouldn’t have to disobey God.
And many tools of diplomacy, such as sanctions, also contradict the absolute pacifism required by Jesus Christ: it is hardly loving your neighbor to deny them food or medical supplies in the hopes they get angry enough to reform their government. God calls his followers to help all the needy, not just the ones whose government we happen to like at the time.
The inevitable conclusion to all this: an effective president can never be Christian. Any candidate who claims to be both is either sadly mistaken or a blatant hypocrite, out to get the votes of a mainly Christian country without making the sacrifices that come with being a Christian.
If this life of Christian pacifism seems stupid to some, that’s because politically, it is. A Christian life guarantees you will always be taken advantage of. To be Christian is to be the meek that get walked on, the last in the race, the innocent on whom unscrupulous people feed. It is to be the humble servant and lamb among wolves. Christians sacrifice their pride and power in this world for the joy found in the next, and part of that sacrifice is the requirement to show nothing but love to your fellow human. Any job that requires otherwise, including the presidency of the United States, is not a job committed Christians can have. So if Kerry and Bush really are my brothers in Christ, I pray for them, that God will bring them to their senses and convince them to drop from the race. At least with two non-Christian candidates, threats, sanctions, bloodshed and all the other normal functions of government won’t come at the expense of religious integrity.