The issue of Christian involvement in war is a very complex discussion that needs to be considered from a very broad perspective. There are certain commands throughout Scripture that prohibit killing and others where God commands the taking of lives. In the Church age, it is important that Christians wrestle with this concept and attempt to understand this complexity. In my humble opinion, I consider the wars and aggression that have risen from the outcries of many fundamental Christians is a blemish on the character of a loving God which tarnishes the ultimate commission of the Church. However, this does not conclusively require Christians to abstain from politics.
Any argument that attempts to take a very complex issue and oversimplify it with only one logical outcome ought to be perceived with great scrutiny and caution. Blood Guilt by Philip P. Kapusta is a perfect example of such a poorly drawn conclusion. Just from an initial skimming of the text it is clearly apparent that Kapusta’s argument is predetermined and read back into the text of Scripture.
Hopefully this review will not only point out the abhorrent outcome of poor logic represented in oversimplifying an argument, but will also provide a more balanced perspective on this controversial issue.
While there are a multitude of horrendous errors made and a wealth of logical fallacies used, for the sake of this review I will only point out three, which should be enough to represent the whole book as a literary failure.
First of all, we must understand the weight of taking a life. The name of the book comes from Psalm 51:14 which says, “Save me from the bloodguilt…” The premise is that any act of taking another persons life is evil and therefore deserving guilt. The ten commandments themselves say, “Thou shalt not kill.” If this is true, then there must be a clear distinction made in Scripture that the act of taking a life is always a sin. Yet, that is not the case. All throughout the Old Testament there are acts and commands of violence that are sanctioned by God Himself. Even to the degree of killing women and children. We ought to be thankful that we no longer live under OT law.
Being that we are in a new age, it is clear that the purpose of the Church is not to be a nation, but to be the Body of Christ. This provides a new objective. The Church has been commissioned to make disciples of all nations. The Christians have no claim on any land and therefore have no boarders to defend. There is a debate on whether Christians should defend the morality of a culture, but while I respect those who think that, I don’t see any definitive commission for that in the New Testament. But there certainly needs to be a balance to how Christians interact with the world and influence culture. But does this mean that Christians cannot participate in democracy, national defense, or appealing to their rights?
Kapusta’s argument is heavily dependent on the abstract notion of following Christ’s example. Understand that this same argument has been used to justify a whole spectrum of behaviors. Whenever someone uses this argument as a trump card, you need nothing more than a nose and two nostrils to smell the fishy odor. I have written before how much I disdain the WWJD phrase. This is the logical fallacy of building an argument on an abstract, and pulling definitive answers out of a vacuum. Yes, Jesus lived peaceably for a short period of 33 years on earth where He laid a foundation of how we ought to live, but the one who healed the sick also allowed the sickness and the one who brought the dead back to life is also responsible for destroying more lives than all the wars combined. We have to be careful that the abstract principle of following after Jesus does not re-write or dictate a solid theology.
Secondly, is it ever just to take another persons life? The question is poorly made in the book. It heavily leans on the previous argument only adding a few more, “Love your enemies,” “Bless those who curse you,” and “Turn the other cheek.” This seems to be a solid argument when you get real close, but after stepping back a few paces and looking at the Bible as a whole, you can see that God is not making a definitive command that it is inconclusively sinful for anyone to take another’s life. Having never heard of Philip P. Kapusta before and not finding anything documented on him, I’m going to assume that he’s not an accredited theologian, a conviction that is further reinforced by his poor exegesis. There are, however, several well know theologians who address this problem quite thoroughly.
The question ought to be raised, what makes a war wrong, not what makes a war just. If it is wrong to kill a person, then it is wrong to police a state and to defend one’s own family against an assailant. When you can only see, “Turn the other cheek,” in the Bible, then I can understand why you would give your wallet to a burglar when they put a gun in your face. But what about when that man is about to attack your daughter. All of a sudden, the verse doesn’t say, “Let the rapist have what he wants,” and “Turn the other cheek” doesn’t say “Turn a blind eye.” Taking this a bit further, a Christian girl who is raped shouldn’t testify against her assailant because that wouldn’t be loving. I hope you’re able to see how this tunnel vision theology is perilous to practical living and contrary to the character of God.
Thirdly, are Christians who participate in politics associating themselves with evil? The book presents the idea that since wars are evil, executed by the government, participating in politics holds Christians liable for the actions of elected officials. Now, with an argument as flawed as this one is, I don’t even know where to begin, but I don’t want to assume that you see the obvious. Are voters responsible for Bill Clinton’s affairs? No. Are voters responsible for the war in Iraq? No. Did voters support the war in Iraq? Yes, some did, but not everyone who voted for Bush. Does voting constitute agreement with every political platform. Not at all.
This notion suggest that there is no redemptive reasons for getting involved in politics, therefore Christians should not vote. Now I’ve also heard arguments on the other side that suggest that it is a Christians duty to vote. Here is the truth. There is no definitive command in Scripture that Christians must or must not vote. All of the arguments for and against voting are purely opinions. These opinions are covered under the Romans 14 clause which suggest that there will be differences in opinions and Christians need to be respectful of that. Anyone on either side of the issue who suggest otherwise is wrong.
Kapusta implies that ‘rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’ suggests that Christians should avoid association with government where possible. But this is not what the passage is teaching. He further uses Matthew 5 and the abstract of being the salt of the world to suggest that Christians are not to preserve society. On the contrary, salt serves no purpose unless it is touching what it is supposed to preserve. Kapusta’s notion suggest that we pull the salt out of society.
Yes, politics are corrupt, and Christians would be wise to rethink how they vote, but there is no command that we should remove ourselves from the public system. Yes, we need to be separate and holy, but not to the extent of the Amish. We must find a way to remain balanced and involved without tolerating the corruption, promoting narrow agendas, or attacking opponents. This book fails to fully understand some of the most basic principles in Scripture, while using those very passages to promote a very narrow view.
In conclusion, Kapusta points out many of the same concerns that I have against Christians who allow their prejudice against Muslims to influence their foreign policy and Church leaders who use their spiritual platform to promote a more narrow political objective. I further believe that Churches should not promote national holidays, especially when they don’t celebrate Pentecost. As a Baptist, I don’t think their should be an American flag behind the pulpit and I despise patriotic hymns used for worship. But Kapusta’s conclusions go to far. Like a bad Michael Moore movie, he uses gross accounts of the opposite extreme to defend his position without regarding the full spectrum of ideas concerned. Certainly I am not depicted in his attacks on the religious right. I never voted for George W. Bush, nor do I condone or support the current foreign policy. Yet there is no room for my position to be heard in Kapusta’s over-swiping argument. I can only hope that the author of this book will see the error of his ways and recant his potentially hazardous views, that Christians will recognize the logical fallacies and learn how to distinguish truth from prejudice, and that this book would not find support among Americans who are already confused politically.