How many wars were caused by Christianity and does Christianity destroy cultures?

Posted: January 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

Well, there were the nine Crusades; the eight French Wars of Religion; the 17th century 30 years War between the German states, Poland, and Sweden; and the “Reconquista”, the “war” to drive Muslims out of Spain and Portugal. So that’s nineteen.

Does Christianity destroy cultures? Well, no not really. What is has done at times (when it is acting at its best) is replace or remove sinful or morally repugnant practices. Just to give one example, in India, Hindus practiced sati, a funeral custom where a widow immolates herself on her dead husband’s funeral pyre or takes her own life in another fashion shortly after her husband’s death. Horribly, it was not always voluntary. The British, love em or hate em, when they began to rule India, put an end to the practice. “…it was not until December 1829 that a later Evangelically-inclined Governor-General, Lord William Bentinck, having surveyed his Indian officers first to test their reaction, finally made suttee illegal in his second year of office.” (Cultural Imperialism or Rescue? The British and Suttee) Missionaries also called attention to the practice and begged for it to stop. “But sirs,” the Hindu protested, “this is our custom!” Sir Charles James Napier responded, “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.” (Charles James Napier – Wikipedia)


“Religions don’t kill; people kill.” The question is: Is it legitimate to go to war “in the name of” Religion X? Assuming some country does go to war in the name of Religion X, is Religion X responsible for the war? I would submit that it is not legitimate to go to war in the name of Religion X, nor is Religion X responsible for the war unless Religion X, as a tenet of its faith, requires, condones, or encourages going to war in its God’s name. If Religion X declares sex outside of marriage to be a grave sin, can someone legitimately live a sexually promiscuous life “in the name of Religion X”? Of course not. If Religion X forbids wearing any apparel that is made out of polyester, can an adherent of Religion X wear polyester “in the name of Religion X”? No. Conversely, if Religion X encourages sexual promiscuity or the wearing of polyester, its adherents would be faithful in having as much sex as possible or having a closet full of leisure suits. So, if Religion X declared war in its name to be a glorious activity and worthy undertaking, for either forced conversion, acquisition of land, or genocide of “unbelievers”, then yes, Religion X could be said to be responsible for the actions of its followers. Of course, having free will, people would be free to reject that religion for the same reason.

Let’s apply this to Christianity: Is “causing war” a tenet of Christianity? Does Christianity require, condone, or encourage Christians to be the belligerents in war? No. Not just no, but absolutely no. Even in the Old Testament, it was God’s desire to drive Israel’s enemies out of the land himself, thus sparing both the inhabitants and Israel unnecessary bloodshed and loss of life. See Exodus 23:20–30. The proviso, “If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say” of course, was ignored, thus, the Israelites had to resort to their own means, which were never completely successful. Regardless, the “holy wars” of the Old Testament were ordained only for the Israelites at a specific place and time in history, one that is long since past.

Image result for beating swords into plowshares

There were no wars fought by Christians or “in the name of” Christianity prior to the reign of Theodosius I in 380 AD. In fact, the early church fathers forbade both serving in government and soldiering: “From the accumulated literature of the ante-Nicene church, three facts emerge as relatively noncontroversial. First, from the close of the New Testament era until 174 C.E., no Christians served in the military or assumed government offices. Second, from 174 until the Edict of Milan (313), the ancient church treated those Christians who played such roles, including previous office-holders who converted, with great suspicion. Third, underlying this ecclesiastical antipathy to state positions exerting compulsion stood a theory of nonviolence hermeneutically derived from Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God. According to the ante-Nicene Fathers, the kerygma necessitated that Jesus constituted the Christian’s only commander, such that placing oneself under any other commander would spell treason.” (Nonviolence in the Ancient Church and Christian Obedience)

Around AD 69–76, Augustine wrote and seemed to justify the “just war theory”: “a doctrine, also referred to as a tradition, of military ethics studied by military leaders, theologiansethicists and policy makers. The purpose of the doctrine is to ensure war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. The criteria are split into two groups: “right to go to war” (jus ad bellum) and “right conduct in war” (jus in bello). The first concerns the morality of going to war, and the second the moral conduct within war. Recently there have been calls for the inclusion of a third category of Just War theory—jus post bellum—dealing with the morality of post-war settlement and reconstruction.

“Just War theory postulates that war, while terrible, is not always the worst option. Important responsibilities, undesirable outcomes, or preventable atrocities may justify war.” (Just war theory – Wikipedia) Augustine apparently based his entire doctrine on Romans 13:4, which says nothing about war or the Christian’s conduct regarding war; rather, the passage is about obedience to earthly authorities in civil matters in order to be a good witness and avoid punishment, and includes stern warnings against rebellion against those earthly authorities: “Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” vs 2

I could not find evidence of an earlier “holy”, or “just”, war prior to the Battle of Tours and Poitiers in 732, at which Charles Martel defeated the Muslims under Abd-ar-Rahman. In 753, Pope Stephen II “… tells the Carolingian ruler of the Franks Pepin the Short [Martel’s son] that St. Peter will remit sins of those who fight for his Church. This is directed against the Lombards who threatened the pope’s control over Rome and the ‘Papal State.’” (Timeline for the Crusades and Christian Holy War) This would be the first time a conflict was sanctioned “in the name of” Christianity.

It was also an abomination. First, Peter does not remit sins; only God can do that through Jesus Christ. Second, it basically “sold” salvation to people in exchange for performing deeds that were forbidden by Christ, as well as the earlier fathers. “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:44–45; “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.” Luke 6:27–29; “We who once murdered each other indeed no longer wage war against our enemies; moreover, so as not to bear false witness before our interrogators, we cheerfully die confessing Christ.” Justin Martyr, ca. 150 AD (Nonviolence in the Ancient Church and Christian Obedience) Third, it usurped God as the sole righteous judge. The “church” thus began its descent down the “steps of degradation”: From the pacifism taught by Jesus, the Apostles, and the church fathers, the church slipped into accepting the notion of Augustine’s “just war”; from there, it was only a matter of time before “holy war”, inquisition, crusade, and all the horrors that came with them became excusable.

From that time on, every single war, murder, terrorist act, Inquisition, Crusade…that was done “in the name of Christ” was based on a lie. Anything can be done in the name of anything, but that doesn’t make it so. Jesus said very clearly: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21–23) If even false believers who do good things in Jesus’ name will be cast from his presence, don’t you think it will be far worse for those who do evil in his name?

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