Friday, May 01, 2009


I've been saying for a long time now that being a Christian in today's culture does not equate with being a "follower of Jesus" and once again we have more proof of this sad fact.

Today's top story on most internet news pages is that a majority of regular, church-going Christians are more likely to support torture.

Read the full story

What really saddens me is that we live in a world where those who claim to follow Jesus are completely divorced from what it actually means to love and live as Jesus would.

Instead, we have Christians in America who believe that if they vote the right way and belong to the right political groups and read the right books and watch the right TV shows and listen to the right kinds of music that they are "Christians".

How can someone who claims to be a disciple of Jesus turn around and say that it's alright to torture another human being? For any reason?

More and more I find that there is a blurred line in American Christianity between "The American Way" and "The Kingdom of God".

The Kingdom of God and the American Dream are not the same thing, and in fact, they are two opposing viewpoints which are in conflict on many levels.

The American Dream is founded on the concept of every person's right to the pursuit of happiness. Whatever you can imagine would make you happy you are free to pursue it with all your heart. That's your right.

The Kingdom of God is founded on the concept of laying down your life, your idea of what will make you happy, in favor of receiving what Jesus knows will really make you happy.

Following Jesus involves laying down your life and giving up your rights. It means full and complete submission to God because you recognize that His perfect will for your life is a million times better than anything you could ever dream up, or pursue, on your own.

Jesus didn't ever instruct any of his disciples to fight for their God-given, "Inalienable Rights", and neither did Paul the Apostle. In fact, they both encouraged their disciples to live humble lives, serving others and not demanding more because they deserved more. Paul even specifically told those followers of Christ who were slaves to remain slaves, even if they were being mistreated.

Historically, the early Christians didn't fight for their rights as citizens, they took it on the chin, and in the Lion's den, and in the arena. They literally would rather die than to take another person's life.

Simply put, they followed their Lord and Savior, Jesus and they followed His example of non-violence and submissive service to those who hated and mistreated them. Does that sound like the American Dream to you?

We cannot afford to become distracted by nationalism or led astray by politics.

As followers of Jesus, He must be our one and only priority and influence. This is what it means to make Jesus our Lord.

As Christian pastor and activist Jim Wallis has said, "God is not a Republican or a Democrat. God is not partisan. God is not ideologically committed to our Left or Right. God's politics challenges all of our politics. It includes the people our politics regularly leave out; the poor and the vulnerable. That's God's politics."

It would have been virtually impossible for an unbeliever living in those first three hundred years of Church History to ever reject Christianity on the grounds that it lacked compassionate people or failed to teach loving kindness.

In fact, we have testimony from many of the most hostile pagans who lived during the first three hundred years of Christianity who were put to shame because of the overwhelming generosity of the Church. Julian, the Apostate wrote of this frustrating situation when he said, "..The godless Galileans feed not only their poor, but ours also."

Christian philosopher Aristides (125 AD) wrote about the radical charity of the early Church also, recording the fact that, "…if there is among them a man that is poor and needy and they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast for three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food."

For a Christian, killing our enemies is not acceptable. If being a good American citizen means you need to cheer on a war that kills innocent people then you must lay aside your Christianity.

If being a faithful member of a political party trumps over 2,000 verses in the word of God about caring for the poor, then you need to make a choice.

A few years ago I had an opportunity to speak to Jim Wallis on this very subject and his response has stayed with me ever since. He said, "The Church today is more American than Christian. The Kingdom of God is not the same as the American Empire. When we are more American than Christian we confuse the meaning of the Body of Christ with any nation state. This notion of the Church as a counter-cultural movement is Biblically obvious. There's no doubt about that. We're in the world to transform the world for the sake of this new order that has come in Jesus Christ. If Jesus' vision of the Kingdom was so threatening, why is our vision of the Kingdom so safe?"

The Gospel of the Kingdom is not the American Dream.

It saddens me to see Christians more passionate about their political party than they are about the Kingdom of God.

(some of the above post was taken from a previous [Subversive Underground] article)


mike said...

This is probably the biggest single struggle of my awakening from my "American Christian" slumber. It all started when I read Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution. Being a good southern redneck my first response to some of what he said was to throw the book against the wall and go hunt down that "commie..." but I couldn't shake how right it was deep down inside. Now it's hard shaking 50+ years of religio-politico indoctrinatio!

Anthony said...

Christians teach that unless you accept Jesus as savior you will be tortured in the fires of hell for all eternity. And you question why Christians support torture?!?

Bryan said...

keith I will be sharing a few scripture passages with you as well as historical/christian precedence
because I dont happen to agree with what your saying and then I will give you a scenario to respond to
Id do this in Love my friend there is no malice in these words

While it is true the original disciples did not resist tyranny with force of arms many christian did during the Inquisition many christian soldiers of faith died fighting against catholic tyranny with sword in hand

I wont get hurt if you decide not to post this nor will I get offended
reference fox book of martrys

our American Revolution was a fight against tyranny in the Militia and then later a majority of pastors and ministers became officers in the Continental army
(United states army)
This particular war was fought
to secure our independence
and gave us ineliable rights under God which means if your read the scriptures God never meant for his people to live as slaves under tyrants I believe this is why he allowed America to become a nation as a beacon of hope
I refer you to old testament many times over the Jewish people would become slaves as result of sin they would cry out to God who would raise a physical champion Gideon 300 troops beat an army that outnumbered them
Joshua the bibles first real General.

In the Civil war the war was really about states rights, slavery was settled as the result of the war
General Jackson once said "He was as safe on the battlefield as he was in his own bed " why was that well General Jackson who got the
nickname Stonewall because he had no fear why was that because of His great faith in Jesus the same Jesus you and I serve although you maybe a little more mature in Christ that perhaps I am .

Throughout history of the world their has been evil that men do to each other its unfortunate that we must have a force of arms toprotect nation states
if people are not to physically resist evil then tell that to the Chechens that fought the soviets to a stand still the frencH and polish members of the resistance that fought Hitler sometime alone in the early days of world war 2
how can you explain this away?
many of our founding father were christians alot were masons
but not like the masons of today
we Face a new Evil in our country
I believe God gave us this country and we and you are responsible for its freedom and maintaining it the 2nd admend provides for that I believe every christian mission is different some are called to preach some maybe called to lay down their lives in defense of a coming internal conflict
the bible3 is not very clear on what role America plays on the international stage but the globalist doing evil things behind the scenes even to the point of putting foreign troops to fight on our soil and so forth
luke 22:23 says Jesus sent two out to buy two swords by selling their clothes
Romans 13:1-4 is a verse that is misinterpeted by so many pastors that I grow tired of explaining it
It starts out speaking of submitting to government then in there next verse 4 speak he as plural a single individual resisting tyranny that he would not bear the sword in vain
lets look at Our American experiment in freedom for a moment we are a government for the people by the people and when that government become corrupt to the degree of no redress the 2nd amendment kicks
being we the people for the government by by the governement
I believe Romans 13 applies to us
I have one question for you or two why are so many church accepted the 501 c TAX status and brought the Gold trimmed American flag and Placed it in the Sanctuary where worship goes on could it be unknown to them they have become a state sactioned church while house churchs are looked as as odd ball and with distaste especially in government circles (Feds Have a dept in fema called dept of church closure)
in Huntington beach alone there is a law on the books that forbids house churches or there was 10 years ago

I am Militia I make no apology for that i am ready to give my life for my friend, neighbors and the cause of freedom if needs be

Jesus himself in a quote said "I come not to bring Peace but a sword"

the two examples of sword the sword are very descriptive awthey were offensive weapons to be used in defense only never in premptive manner much like our semiauto/auto rifles of today
I know that your going to completely disagree with me that is the beauty of the freedoms we are losing in our country that we are responsible to God for as good stewards. Brother i dont wish to be controversial i believe your
statements bore answering put it simple as a soldier in the militia I would lay my life down for you in the name of Christ so you could preach the Gospel if necessary
snd accomplish the Mission God gave you. in fact my prayer is I get to lay down my life in defense of the Gospel first the Constitution second.

I leave you with two scenarios
if several gang members showed up on dope broke into your house and and begin to physically harm your family and you had the means to resist would you shoot first perhaps killing one or two or wounded them to protect your family or would let them take and do what they wanted keep in mind these people have no thought of Christ and God in their hearts

What if government troops were ordered to come and arrest your children but leave you and wife alone and they were foreign troops operating under the suspension of Constitution would let them take them or resist
do you now see how 2nd Amendment and Roman 13 falls into place as Godly resistance to tyranny

I do not claim to be a super christian but I recognize tyranny when I see it and my Bible gives me the right and duty to resist it
First with prayer and when all else is left then with force of Arms.

A Colonel in the Continental army was leading a church service night before the battle of Bunker Hill as he was preaching he threw off his robe of eclassical office and said"now the time for prayeris over time for resistance is now he stood in full regalia of Continental army major

My very last question to you is this Why between the colonial period up until if im not mistaken the end of world war 2 Military recruitment was done in the churches where the cream of the crop of American youth could be found ? could it be that men of faith make the best Soldiers becuace they show no fear on the battlefield I can only pray that I show as much faith if and when my time comes
keith I wont get offended if you decided not to post this nor will I get hurt because of its content
I have bee ostricized longer than I have know you because of my christianity and me being a patriot

Love in Christ

bryan said...

Keith that may have been historically in the early church As far the original disciples went but if you read Fox book of martyr their were many martyrs soldiers o that fought and died fighting with sword in hand during reformation period against the catholics that put many christian to the sword
Im going to give several scriptures reference that allow Christians to defend themselves and their families against physical evil also this country historically Pastors a majority of them were officers in the Colonial Militia and later the Continental Army the (United states Army)
the american revolution gave you the first admendment and the Constitution to write things that some time I disagree with you about, but this is what makes this a great nation that God will still bless as long as there is God fearing people to stand and resist using both faith and modern weapons
they will never take this country because of a small reemant who will stand and resist with both prayer faith and the Gun

The first is
Luke 23:24

Keith Giles said...

How do you obey Jesus in the command to love your enemy and still take up a weapon and kill him with it?

How do you obey Jesus in the command to turn the other cheek and drop bombs on his children?

How do you obey Jesus in the command to pray for those who persecute you and forgive those who hate you and fire rockets into their cities?

bryan said...

Keith I wish that you had answered my questions I never said I believe government is right in what they are doing we will get the chance to resist tyranny Obviously you have never been in a life or death situation. I have my friend I never told any of you because it is nothing to b proud of spent a few years as a Reserve Police Officer in my early twenties I was a believer back then as well . I was in a situation where I had to shoot.It was a spit second decision that changed my life for ever in the physical realm I will not rehash the incident here as I am not proud of it but If I had to do it again I wouldn't hesitate. especially in defense of someone else

Keith Giles said...


Thanks for your very thoughtful and prolific response.

It's taking me a long time to read through your comments and so that's why I've not attempted to respond directly to comments or questions you've made here.

I will try to address some, but not all of your comments here.

First, you say:
"While it is true the original disciples did not resist tyranny with force of arms many christian did during the Inquisition many christian soldiers of faith died fighting against catholic tyranny with sword in hand"

This comment leaps over the first century christians, and all the way over the 2nd and 3rd century one's even over Constantine and his State-Sponsored version of Christianity (which is largely where we first got into the very mess we're in right now) and all the way to the Inquisition. That's quite a leap.

My point is that we start with Jesus. We begin with the New Testament. What did Jesus teach? How did Jesus model our practice of faith? How did those first christians walk out the things that Jesus taught them? We can look at how they walked and lived and practiced following Jesus for a clue as to how we (you and I) should follow Jesus.

Those early christians (for over 300 years) were put to the sword, thrown to the lions, had property confiscated, were imprisoned, burned alive, etc. and not one single Christian (not one in all of our recorded history, whether pagan or christian in origin) - not one of them took up a sword in self-defense. Not one of them killed to protect their property. Not one of them killed to save themeslves from being imprisoned or tortured or burned or eaten alive.

However, under Constantine when the definition of "Christian" was changed to: "Someone who believes a set of doctrines" (instead of "someone who lives a certain life"), we have those same peaceful, oppressed Christians taking up the sword to go and put to death and oppress and persecute another group of people who don't agree with their religion (within just one generation).

This is an example of what we're NOT supposed to do.

I'm calling for a return to a New Testament, Jesus-kind of life.

Can you honestly picture Jesus allowing or endorsing or supporting torture? Really?

Can you honestly picture Jesus blessing his disciples to go out and kill people? Seriously?

I can't. I'm sorry.

When you give me examples of how patriotic american soldiers or generals or presidents (etc.) waved the flag and sang "God Bless America" and killed thousands of human beings with a Bible in one hand and a pistol in the other I am unmoved. I am unconvinced. Those men are not my example. Those men are not my Lord Jesus.

This world is not my home. I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God and my King is not of this world. My hope is not in this government. My faith is not in the American Constitution. I pledge no allegiance to anyone except Christ Jesus.

You talk about being willing to "lay down your life" to protect me and other American citizens. If that were all you meant I might agree with you, but what you really mean is, "I am willing to kill anyone I have to in order to protect what I love, or my freedoms or my rights", etc.

I am also willing to die, but that's all I'm willing to do.

Now, to be honest, when I write about what the New Testament teaches and what Jesus modelled and what the disciples practiced and promoted, (namely peaceful submission to authority and a value on non-violence) I must also confess that I am a violent man.

In the same way that I can write and teach and preach about how Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves and that we're called to love our enemies, I confess that I am far from this in actuality. This doesn't mean I am excused from the pursuit of this virtue, it simply means that I struggle with living it out. Even as I would struggle with turning the other cheek if someone were to strike me in the face this afternoon.

Should I? Yes. Will I? I'll get back to you....

Still, the New Testament is pretty clear, and the history of the church for the first 300 years is also pretty clear-- the followers of Jesus have a calling to love as Jesus did, and to forgive our persecutors and enemies as Jesus did.

We can be good, patriotic, gun-toting American citizens, OR we can be humble, loving, forgiving disciples of Jesus.

We can't be both. At least, if we can I don't see how.


Anonymous said...

Jesus would not take up a sword or a gun or a fist to fight his oppressors - he submitted to the unjust tyranny against him. It's him and his life which we are called to follow. If there have been christians who did take up arms and win that was their battle not the Lords.

Shanes book was amazing!

Dave said...


This is an interesting discussion. My dad is retired Navy and I have been raised to love and defend the US of A. But I must admit that you have a strong arguement against violence (even in the name of protection).

I will need time to meditate and pray through these thoughts.

Thanks for posting both sides of the discusion.

Dave said...

First, let me clarify that I am NOT in favor of torture.

On the military discussion; however, I’m not sure this has to be an either/or issue. As I took some time to consider this question, God brought to mind David and Solomon. We know that David was anointed by God to be King. We know David dearly loved God and vice versa. Even as a boy we see God with David as he defeated Goliath in battle. Interestingly, probably David’s biggest failure (his indiscretions with Bathsheba) came when he stayed home when he should have been at war.

Now, when it came to building the Temple, God would not allow David to do it because he was a military man. Was God angry with David? No. He simply had been anointed to be a military man – not build the Temple. That would be left for his son, Solomon, to do.

I find this interesting because my father is a military man – and he loves the Lord with all his heart. I, on the other hand, have never been the least bit interested in the military, and now I am in the midst of planting churches.

Is one better than the other (military vs. church planting, David vs. Solomon, me vs. my father), I don’t think so. I think we are to be who God has called us to be. For some that’s a call to defend, for others a call to plant and build.

One could argue this changed after the Cross, but one would also remember that God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
I’m not sure we have to draw a line in the sand here.


Keith Giles said...

Dave - I agree this isn't an easy conversation to have. My father-in-law was in the military, and one of my best friends and fellow house church brothers is ex-military as well. It's painful to suggest that following Jesus might mean forsaking military service or going to war.

I think that anyone who wants to search for evidence in favor of military service for a christian has no choice but to appeal to the Old Covenant, as you suggest in King David's case.

That's sort of my point, actually, that if you want to support the idea that military service, and specifically military violence, is acceptable for a christian you have no other place to turn except the OT.

Why? Because you can't reconcile these ideas with the words of Jesus to love your enemies, and turn the other cheek and serve them and bless them.


Like a Mustard Seed said...

I like that last point, about how if someone wants to try and justify the use of force in the bible, they'll have to appeal to the OT...

Cuz some might say, "so what? that's still the Bible..."

but the whole point of the OT is to show conclusively that none of that worked, that it was not possible to have a "Godly nation"... There is only the Kingdom of God, comprised of those who have Jesus as the King in their hearts... The whole OT is example after example of the futility of trying to bring about the Kingdom of God through earthly means...

Ed Bruner said...

Weeping and knashing of teeth sounds like torture to me. No?

Your argument about Who Would Jesus torture, is a straw man and fallacious at best. The US didn't torture for enjoyment, but for information. Why would an omnipotent God need to resort to torture for information?

If I was a member of a party that fought for the killing of innocent babies to the tune of ?illions per year, then you might have to put Christianity to the side.

Keith Giles said...


Thanks for your comments. I'd like to hear you unpack your thoughts a bit more because I'm not sure I understand everything you're saying here.

My article, to summarize, is that Christians (the supposed followers of the Prince of Peace) shouldn't be in favor of the torture of other human beings...for the first 300 years of church history the people who followed Jesus were NOT supportive of violence against other human beings--even if in the name of self-defense.

My concern is for how the Church has gotten so screwed up and jacked sideways that now the people who say they follow Jesus (the same who commanded his followers to be known for their love and to love their enemies) can now look us in the eye and say, "I'm a Christian" and "Torture is ok" in the same breath.

Your comments about the judgement are not relevant to our discussion, because the judgement isn't here yet and today is not the time for anyone, anywhere, to be casting judgement on another person or declaring who will or won't be judged...and it's not any of our business since there is only One judge and we're not Him.

Today we are living in a season of God's Grace where the Kingdom of God has been announced and men have the opportunity to willingly surrender their lives to the rule and reign of God right now (and not have to wait until they die)...or not.

The opportunity is free and whether you choose or not no one (not even self-righteous "christians") have the right to call you "damned" or "redeemed" -- only God can do that...and if some of these so-called "christians" have judged you in this way I apologize to you on behalf of my ignorant brothers and sisters.

Also, if I have misunderstood your comments, please forgive me again. I think you've lost me on the side of "torturing for enjoyment vs information", etc.


Ed Bruner said...

Dear brother,
I don't have the energy or interest in defending "Just war theory" right now.
I am not a passivist. I don't see any significant moral difference between waterboarding an enemy combatant and putting a bullet in his head.

War is always a bad thing, but sometimes it is necessary. Torture is always a bad thing, but sometimes it is necessary.
So, I'd say "I am a Christian" and "Torture is permissible, under the right circumstances just like war is permissible under the right circumstances".

Regarding rights:
I disagree that the American way and the Kingdom of God are not compatible. By American way you seem to mean the idea that we fight for our rights as opposed to the KOG where we willfully give up our rights.
We are called to give up our rights in certain situations where God's will will be advanced. However, I don't see that as a general rule for all situations. In the "give to Caesar what is his" passage, is Jesus not affirming the idea of Personal property and ownership rights?
Jesus didn't say..."give up all your ownership rights, give all your money to Caesar".
I see our government (as bad as it is sometimes) as a gift from God. We need to preserve this gift and be good stewards of it. Our rights are gifts from God and sometimes we need to fight to preserve them.
If God called the 1st century Christians to give up their rights, then that is great for them. But again, I don't see any general rule in the Bible which requires Christians to always in all cases give up their rights. Perhaps, I am wrong.
Your post was very provokative. I was thinking about it all night.

crazy train said...

there is no winning in this battle. that jesus comes to the world wrapped in the american flag is only yet another thing we will have to explain. that all of our wars, no matter the tinsel or bows, were fought over empire, greed, finances, is just another thing we will have to explain. God has written his word on the human heart, and the human heart makes one heck of a target. christians that never have to say they are sorry are the kind we build here. we do not confess, we brag. and even pacifists can use a hunk of text and wield it like a weapon, to bludgeon, kill and maim. who needs a gun if we can crush and kill with scripture? lots of answers, lots of splainin. the line forms on the left. the line forms on the right. it is the point where these two lines intersect where we will have a chance to do our dance, to do our show, and take our curtain call. then find someplace by the fire to wait for the reviews. grace and peace.