There’s No Such Thing As A Christian Militia
A few weeks ago the media reported that nine members of a Christian militia were arrested in the Midwest. The members of the group Hutaree allegedly planned to kill police officers and then launch a second attack at the funerals where they hoped to murder more police. A plot this despicable naturally raises the ire of any concerned citizen, but when the group professes to be “Christian,” followers of Christ should be outraged. This issue has been brought to everyone’s attention due to the recent arrests, but a cursory search of the internet reveals that the notion of a Christian militia is all too prevalent. Furthermore, the willingness with which media, pundits, and the culture at large accept the label “Christian” for such groups indicts the true Body of Christ on several fronts, both internally (how the Body of Christ relates to itself) and missionally (how we present ourselves to the world).
Internally, the presence of such militia groups shows that, what began as a poor understanding of a biblical position on violence, has morphed into a heretical movement that needs a theologically robust counter-argument. Such an argument should come from at least three biblically sound positions: Historic Pacifism, Just Peacemaking, and Just War Tradition. These three approaches all address the controversial topic of the Christian’s relationship to war and violence, and while they all come to very different conclusions, at the end of the day they are all firmly grounded in a high respect for the Scriptures and an honest attempt to apply the Bible to our modern context. Additionally, a long history of similar interpretations by some of the giants of Church history lends these traditions added credibility. Examining the various Christian militia movements quickly reveals that they can make no such claims. Instead, their scriptural support is based on disjointed proof-texting and a narrow understanding of the historical context of the Bible. And while their message may be appealing for those who think the 2nd Commandment is a Christian’s right to bear arms, no credible theologian in Church history (that we are aware of) has ever endorsed a Christian’s use of violence to fulfill a political goal. As followers of Christ we need a unified voice condemning these heretics for the misrepresentation of the Gospel that their movement embodies.
The second thing we need to consider is how the presence of so-called Christian militias affects our mission to a lost world. As followers of Christ we are called to be different from the world, and while arming yourself with the intent to kill police officers is certainly different, it is not exactly what Jesus was referring to. Christians are supposed to be radical, but this radicalism does not include efforts to undermine the government and its God-ordained purpose. Rather, we are to be radical in our love for each other, in the way we care for the poor, stand up for justice, and proclaim God’s goodness. This type of praxis (putting theology into action) is supposed to typify Christians to such an extent that the world would see us as a reflection of our Savior. Were we to consistently behave in such a radical way there would be no confusion as to whether or not such militias were indeed Christian. Were we to be known for our acts of love and service the media would not be able to attach the adjective “Christian” to a group of people plotting murder. The challenge for the true Church is to be salt and light to such an extent that culture must think twice before accepting the notion that a group of vigilantes is actually following the tenets of the Christian faith.