In Rick Atkinson’s excellent work on the American Army titled An Army at Dawn-The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 he recounts how the newly arrived American soldiers had trouble hating their German and Italian enemies and thus shooting at them.
The American soldiers collective attitude seemed to be one of “what did those guys ever do to me” along with the aversion to taking a life in general. Since the vast bulk of our soldiers came from a Christianized background they also would have been exposed to the commandment “thou shalt not kill” thus wondering how killing in a war could be reconciled with the apparent absoluteness of the commandment.
After the Americans began to take fire and suffer casualties their aversion to killing began to disappear as war became suddenly very personal and “kill or be killed” became the new normal.
Theologically speaking, men, all men, are natural-born sinners, but that does not mean all men are natural-born killers. Most of us have to have an obvious reason to kill. Self-defense and self-preservation quickly rise to the top of pretty good reasons.
I was reminded of the tension some soldiers might feel this morning as I read a column by Dennis Prager of Townhall.com.
In the column Prager makes reference to an opinion piece in the Washington Post by a former Marine Captain who titled the opinion piece “I killed people in Afghanistan. Was I right or wrong.”
Prager notes that the Marine Captain, now a student at New York University is morally confused having difficulty reconciling the notion that “killing is always wrong” but the exception seems to be “this is war, so it’s okay.” The Marine Captain concludes that he was wrong to kill in the Afghan War.
As a pastoral counselor I am keenly aware of the variety of factors that can influence a person’s thinking and contribute to their belief system.
For example, one of the best known examples is the idea that a child that who has a poor example of a father generally has a hard time relating to God the Father. The influence of what Scripture has to say about God the Father can change that but the transition can be difficult because the child carries baggage from his or her experiences with an earthly father.
The Marine Captain now firmly ensconced in the leftist university system is being influenced by a leftist, pacifistic mindset and agenda that is quite good at guilt manipulation just as it is fundamentally anti-military. One has to only think back to the sixties and seventies when it was quite common for our military to be branded as baby killers and murderers as they returned from the Vietnam War. The same people who hurled epithets like that then now control the bulk of our universities.
Prager points out, rightly in my opinion, that the Marine Captain’s thinking is counter-intuitive. Like our soldiers in WW2 who really did not want to kill they quickly learned there was a righteous self-defense aspect to fighting the Germans and Italians in North Africa as well as understanding that fascism had to be stopped and people would die to stop it.
Most children and their parents intuitively understand this and have to work hard to dismiss the notion that when you are attacked you must defend yourself (or die, or get beat up, or robbed.) Most also intuitively understand or understood there is a way of life worth defending and sometimes that means taking on modern-day Islamic-Fascists who blow themselves and others in suicide bombings up, maim women and children and in general behave in the most barbarous ways imaginable.
For the Christian we have to be more concerned with what the Scripture says about these things rather than what the leftist universities say. For example, I believe that Jesus supports the idea of self-defense in the following passage:
He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:36-38 ESV)
There is a spiritualized interpretation of the passage that turns the sword into a metaphorical sword to emphasize the spiritual warfare the disciples will be engaged in. Those that hold to this view cite the fact that when Jesus was arrested he told Peter to sheath his sword (after he loped off the ear of a guy named Malchus, John 18:10).
Others, including myself argue that the sword is as literal as the moneybag and knapsack and that when Jesus told Peter to put up his sword it was because the Scripture needed to be fulfilled and not because Jesus did not believe in self-defense. I mean really, if Jesus was against swords then why he didn’t tell the disciples to not even have one strapped on”
I am not certain if the Marine Captain was or is even aware of the passage or its correct interpretation. Prager though does believe that Marine Captain was aware of the above mentioned commandment (Ex. 20:13), “Thou shalt not kill.”
What the Marine Captain certainly does not know is that “thou shalt not kill” should have been rendered “thou shalt not commit murder.” Prager notes that in Hebrew there are two primary words for homicide, kill and murder. The translators of the King James Bible simply chose kill over murder. More modern translations such as English Standard Version render the verse like this:
“You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13 ESV)
The former Marine Captain, now a student and product of the leftist American University system may very well be typical of many soldiers. When a person goes to war against a monstrous enemy such as the Taliban it does require a certain recalibration of one’s moral values and if one does not have something solid like a sound theology to recalibrate upon one is at the mercy of other agenda driven influences.
Prager concludes that Marine Corps should explain to Marines (especially Marine officers) that the Bible does not prohibit the killing of Taliban monsters and that in fact it is a moral good to do so.
I have no idea what Marine Corps training consists of but can tell you that way back in 1971 during my brief stay in the Army I never once heard any reference to the Bible and the moral justification for war or self-defense. Back then it was probably assumed that like in WW2 American soldiers had something of a background that would suggest it is necessary to defend oneself and defeat the enemies of one’s country who were trying to kill you.
That the Marine Corps would have a need to state what was once so obvious is another indication of our far we have slid into moral confusion as a nation.
- A Morally Confused Marine (nationalreview.com)
- The ethics of war are difficult for U.S. veterans (mysanantonio.com)