The Bible and the Fantasy of War


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It is hard to miss the current unrest in the middle east and other parts of the world. It is hard to miss the climbing number of soldiers who have died, are injured, and the innocent casualties of the never ending wars. This is certainly not the first time that countries have gone to war but as this conflict seem to stretch on it has shown the really ugly side of war.  When we read the Bible or history books, there is definitely something missing from the retelling. The human psyche aspect of war.

I have never been deployed but I have the unfortunate displeasure  of hearing stories of those men and women who have been greatly affected.  They have seen things and done things that most of us can never imagine. Their experiences are not always retold with  fun and lovable stories of the glorious battles that have been won. Instead, the survivors’ stories are filled with very deep psychological scars. Pick a war in any country or era and the survivors’ stories are eerily similar.

It so happens that I do work around soldiers and one enlisted was telling his experiences while deployed. While he told the story in a funny narrative which made the listeners laugh, it was hard not to miss the underlying fear as he stated “one RPG came so close it rocked the tank to one side,” another killed all the kids that were playing on the roadside, and he was “praying that the next one will not be a direct hit.”  Or the brief discussion with a family member who stated a number of his “Guard unit was killed” during his last deployment.

War is not glorious in any way shape or form. It’s only glorious to those who never participated. King David was a man of battle. His hands were so bloody that he was not allowed to build God’s temple. The bible never talked about the traumatizing aspect of war. Can you imagine the carnage when Joshua blew the trumpet and the walls came crashing down on a whole town filled with men, women, children and animals? Can you image standing in the midst of all the slaughtering of people during the biblical Israel wars including the ones that they lost.

We don’t live with the fathers, sons, mothers, daughter and other family members who are forever shattered with death, mutilation etc that are a part of their memories. We don’t live with the ones who cannot recover or move past those images. Those of us who have never been touched directly by the aftermath of war are the lucky ones. We have nothing to scrub from our brains, we have not been changed irrevocably by the loss of friends, comrades, or taking the lives of others.

As Christians we read those Bible stories and celebrate because God’s side won. However, I wonder how many of us who believe in God would take up an instrument of death and kill a whole town, families, and young children because God said so? In this day and age, I would be very defiant.  “Saul kill thousands but David kill tens of thousands.” Can you image chanting a similar slogan for one our soldiers who came back from war in church? Would God condone a band of Christians arming themselves and going out to kill hundreds of thousands of people because they identify as Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist? Back in the old days? Yes; however, today? “love thy neighbour as thyself”

The reality is that war will happen. Apparently, heaven had its own war as well. Sometimes the outcome of wars create positive changes.  However, it begs to question why the Bible and history books were written to glorify and glamorize this barbaric practice. It is ironic that after Sept 11 many people signed up to go fight, kill and exact revenge on this atrocity in US history. However, when the reality of what it means to fight, kill, and exact revenge became practical (not video game), then the enthusiasm started to fade very quickly. The pulling the trigger repeatedly, the possibility of death or injury, the loss of friends, the missing one’s family and ‘normal life’ took a heavy toll on the mind.

The military is struggling with suicides. This is not new for any war; however, it is more widely reported in the late 20th and 21st century conflicts. There are mandatory suicide awareness trainings, their are substance abuse programs, there is so much emphasis on caring for the soldiers because the world now realizes that war breaks people in one way or another at one point or another in their lives. The idealistic views of war in the bible and other books is exactly that – idealistic. They eliminate the individual and human component. If we should truly take a magnifier to this practice, then we would have to agree that war is a tragedy no matter who is in the fight and which side wins.

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4 thoughts on “The Bible and the Fantasy of War

  1. I think perhaps a better description of war in the Bible would be “sanitized”. Even though there are a few descriptions of someone being run through with a spear, or having their head chopped off, most of the blood, guts and gore is left to the imagination.

    War in that era was face-to-face, with the only ones able to “reach out and touch someone” being the archers. Swords and spears were weapons of close-combat. It was bloody…it was gory…it was gruesome, and their habit of cutting off certain body-parts as souvenirs made it particularly nasty. David won his wife from Saul by killing a certain number of Philistines, and coming back with their foreskins as evidence. The “trophy” for some enemies was their head…

    These days, virtually every soldier on the battlefield is capable of engaging the enemy out to at least a couple hundred yards. Snipers engage targets out to 750-1000 yards. A sniper was asked what he feels when he sends another towel-head to Allah. He said “recoil”.

    War has become impersonal…detached…mechanized. War is horrible…war is evil, because the root of all war IS evil.

    1. Sanitized it is. Yes war today is more ‘sophisticated’ with technology playing a larger role. The end results are always the same loss and destruction.

  2. I am not sure I can agree with an “idealist” view of war in the Bible. Certainly there were times when war was necessary. Conflict – war, is the result of sin – evil in this world. If there was no sin, there would be no wars. The final conquest will be when the armies of God take down and vanquish Satan and his hosts. Sin will be abolished, and peace will reign for all eternity.

    In the Old Testament, war between the children of Israel and their neighbors was either as a result of their God-directed conquest of the Promised land, or their turning away from God, and Him sending judgement on them. When God directed the conquest of the Promised Land, the purpose for annihilating the peoples of those lands was so that their heathen cultures didn’t corrupt God’s people.

    As one who has served in the military, I know that no person who takes up the uniform and takes the oath of service ever comes home the same, whether they saw combat or not. Those who have seen combat have a special burden to bear, for the rest of their lives. They will never be the same…we will never be the same. It is rightly said that “War is hell”. “All gave some, and some gave all”. “At a point in our lives, we all signed a blank check, payable to the people of these United States, for up to and including our lives.”

    Is war ever “justified”? In this global/political climate…maybe. I would never condemn a Christian for enlisting in the military, and I would never condemn a conscientious-objector either. That is an entirely-personal decision.

    I am looking forward to that final battle, when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, and He does reign forever and ever.

    1. War is always a “good reason” for someone especially for those who are not fighting the battle himself. I understand the purpose of the Old Testament wars. When I use the word idealistic, I meant that as we read these battles there is a lot that is missing. We only read that Israel went to battle and defeated another group; This person/group was victorious etc… For those who have not been to battle, we don’t have the full picture/image of a true battlefield from reading words like “victorious” and “defeated.” The bible always states that the people usually celebrated after the battle was over (if they won). Did everyone celebrate? Including the women and children who loss their fathers and sons?
      However, you are right when you say it is all because of sin. If we believe the Bible, then one day there will be no more wars or tears or sadness.

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