American Christians and the US Military in the Eyes of the World

To Christians outside the United States, American Christians send a very mixed message.  The following exchange from happened between an  American teaching English as a second language in Australia and his Iraqi student:

I had an incredibly interesting exchange with a 20-year-old Iraqi man regarding Christianity and American foreign policy. Ledan and I meet weekly to work on English and to talk about the Bible. In fact, when I first met him and learned he was from Iraq, I instinctively gave my disclaimer of denunciation of American wars and politics. I was hoping he would seem relieved, but he seemed more puzzled than anything. At the time I was hoping it was the language barrier, but after our study yesterday, it makes sense.

We just started talking about our pasts, what our childhoods were like, family, friends, etc. He told me about his father dying of a heart attack in Iraq and his mother and brothers fleeing to Jordan once the fighting in their area grew more intense. They were eventually allowed entry into New Zealand as refugees. I asked if he had been back to visit his home since coming to New Zealand 8 years ago and he answered, “What for?”

He worships with an Arabic speaking church comprised of 7 or 8 families who do everything together. It reminds me a lot of the early church in Acts 2. I asked him, “What does your church think about the war in the Middle East?”

“It is a common topic in our public prayer. And a part of our giving goes to help people in refugee camps, since most of us went through that.”

I beat around the bush a while before asking him, “Why do you think the Americans are involved in the fighting in the Middle East?”

“Well, oil. And money. And power. Why? Why do YOU think?”

“In school we were told that we were fighting the enemies of democracy so that we could provide the Iraqi people with freedom. Whatever that means…”

“Why are things worse now? I don’t think you guys helped very much.”

“Ha, well…I agree. And to think that there are so many Christians who think it’s some kind of religious duty to go and fight.”


“Yeah, I know. It’s stupid.”

“…American Christians fighting for religious reasons? Like Muslims? Wow. I didn’t know that…”

Our conversation suddenly grew solemn and sporadic. He obviously wasn’t focusing on his English pronunciation and grammar anymore. I now understood his confusion to my initial disclaimer against war. Of course he was expecting me to denounce war! I’m a Christian aren’t I? It’s almost like saying, “Before we start our study I want you to know that, as a Christian, I don’t approve of stealing.” Well, duh…

In this country, we have a history of equating Christianity with a strong military presence, which doesn’t demonstrate wisdom and isn’t truth.  Because of that, Christians often do not question the military actions that the US gets involved in abroad.  Generally, the US puts its nose in things that it has no business getting involved in, and we, as taxpayers, demand good reasons for intervening in the matters of other countries.

The statement of the young man in the exchange above that is the most telling is this:

“Why do you think the Americans are involved in the fighting in the Middle East?”

“Well, oil. And money. And power.”

For a nation that is supposed to be founded on Christian principles, it seems we are more known for our greed.

It seems that as we move forward as Christians, we should wrestle with the hard question of how to justify many of today’s military actions with our beliefs.  Having a blind faith in the wisdom of the government and the military is not going to cut it anymore.  We need to pay more attention to what our government and military are doing world wide, and when we can’t agree because of our biblical worldview, we need to call our representatives and tell them so.  We also need to urge other believers to be diligent in knowing what our military is doing abroad, and then we need to do what we can to stand for the truth of Jesus, not for the greed of the Western hemisphere.