He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
(Isaiah 2:4, NRSV)
In the United States, Christian symbolism is often mixed in with militaristic language and “national security” appeals. With “God and Country” so often put in the same breath, and with military recruiters strategically appealing to potential recruits’ idealism and sense of identity, it may seem inevitable that religion and militarism be blended. However, the history of Christianity’s engagement with war is mixed.
From the Crusades to more recent invasions of the Middle East, there are certainly many wars that were ideologically driven by Christian institutions and leaders, or that appropriated Christian language to justify colonialism and domination. (This will, in part, be the subject of our next issue). But there have also been Christians who resisted unjust war—perhaps most memorably in the case of Vietnam—or indeed, who renounce war altogether.
This issue is a space to lift up voices of Christian dissent against the status quo of an economy driven by militarism, of foreign policy driven by nationalism, and of a sense of national security that rests on the false hope of military might.