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‘Worshipping Mars’ – Christian Militarism

“Blessed are the Peacemakers” – Jesus of Nazareth

Throughout History, the Christian Church has failed to adhere to the teachings of Jesus Christ, to love our enemies, and to resist non-violently against all forms of aggression. It would seem that too often, collectively and individually, Christians have conveniently forgotten or twisted the Gospel message, in its pursuit of ‘Worldly’ power and status. Christianity has been more apt to worship Mars, the Roman god of War, than the Prince of Peace. I write this as one who would call himself a Christian, who was complicit in this misrepresentation of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of Peace, having served in the United States Marine Corps.

During my time as a Marine, that I saw much of the dark side of this false strand of Christianity.
Muslims are constantly exhorted to ‘keep their house in order’ when it comes to fundamentalist action within the Islamic faith. However, Christians must be held to the same standard, which they are certainly not! Are Irish Catholic Republicans or Protestant Loyalist’s branded such when they commit acts of violence in the name of religion? Christianity is just as culpable as Islam in its religious violence. Have we forgotten the Crusades or the Inquisition?

Too often Christians are the most warmongering of people. We had a running joke in the Marines, that the Chaplains were the most ‘Gung-ho’ of the military establishment. I recall walking into an Army chaplain’s office and standing bemused at the huge portraits of Confederate Generals of the American Civil War which hung on his wall. Could I find much in his space which related to Jesus…not much? It looked like some kind of Confederate War shrine. Now I am not saying that all true believers in the military are warmongering fanatics, however, too often we do not realise how complicit we are in the imperialist war waging machine and how it has cleverly co-opted true Christianity with the military state. In his narrative, ‘Jarhead’ played by Jake Gylenhall in the movie adaptation, Anthony Swoffard, a former Marine Scout Sniper and self- proclaimed atheist, clearly saw the dichotomy between Christians in the military. Most of the British Servicemen I am friends with, also acknowledged the ‘Gung-ho’ militant mind-set of their Padres. This is an issue which is nearly as prominent in Britain, just in a more subtle form. Anyone who saw the funeral of Maggie Thatcher could not fail to visualise the extent to which Christian religion and military ceremony were cleverly fused together.

During The First World War the established church exhorted young British men to fight a righteous war against the evil ‘Hun’. Military padres preached sermons and crazily blessed artillery guns along the front lines to convince their ‘flock’ that  to kill Germans (fellow Christians) was OK in the eye’s of God. On the home front, Anglican Priests and churches acted as recruiting agents for the military in its attempt to fight the “unholy Boche” and the forces of evil. God was an Englishman, and Britain was fighting to uphold Christian sanctity in the world. The Church was actually promoting “the false religion of patriotism” coined by ex SAS Soldier Ben Griffin at an Oxford Union Address I watched on Youtube.

That Jesus told his followers to put down the sword because, “Those who live by the sword die by the sword”, seemed lost in translation. The horrendous loss of life had far reaching spiritual and emotional consequences upon Britain as a nation. Harry Patch, who was the last surviving Tommy, comments in his book about how the trench experience affected his view of Christianity and the Church of England, negatively when he returned home from the war. His view was just a microcosm of the sentiments of many survivors of that war, and also of many of the Padres who served them. This rancour and bitterness exists in British society to this day.

As a recruit in Marine Corps Recruit Depot, I was stunned to enter the base chapel and see it adorned with stain glass windows depicting images of conflicts U.S Marines had fought throughout its history. I questioned who we were actually worshipping, God or the Marine Corps. The Marine’s Hymn {yes….the Marine Corps has its own hymn}, propagates a false myth of Marines being the guardians of the gates of heaven. As ludicrous as it seems, it does feed into a callous myth of relating military service as some divine pursuit. As Marines, we recited a ‘Rifleman’s Creed’ which invoked the blessing of God in our desire to shoot accurately and kill our enemy. Throughout my time in the Marines, I came across many slogans which equated U.S soldiers as God’s Warriors, and shirts emblazoned with statements which read, “Only God can forgive terrorists, it’s just the Marine Corps job to arrange the meeting”. I even saw a British soldier with a t-shirt bearing a regimental badge with the tagline – “And on the 8th day God created the Coldstream Gaurds”.

“Greater love has no greater honour than this…that a man lay down his life for his friends”. These words from Jesus which he spoke in relation to his foreseen execution have been manipulated and splashed across war memorials all across the British Isles. This feeds into the myth of the ‘Glorious’ death in combat purported by mainstream religion. It reflects the complicity that goes on even in contemporary Britain by the church which fuels the war state. True followers of Christ and those against imperialism cannot allow the Gospel and Jesus to be usurped by the powers that be which employ Christianity to drive their foreign conquests for oil, greed, influence and filthy lucre. We must be weary of not recognising that Christian fundamentalism is still alive and well. The Old Testament even prophesies that the church would fall prey to worship Babylon, which is referred to as “the glory of Kingdoms”. Christians living in a modern Babylon must renounce the idol of militarism.

Article by, Chase Sydnor: Former Marine, Veterans for Peace London (UK).

July 25, 2013

Not Confined To The UK and USA

Not Confined To The UK & USA

 

  • Rob 29/07/2013, 11:28

    Totally agree.Absolutely spot-on.

  • Allen L. Jasson 29/07/2013, 12:55

    Well put, Chase.
    Thank you also for pointing to the very powerful speech given by Ben at Oxford Union – it puts him in a new light :-).
    So, you have discovered that the bathwater is filthy. Remove the baby and throw it out; it is the message of Jesus Christ (whoever or whatever he was) which unmistakably exists, even if he did not, that matters. It’s that message that is a wonder to marvel at, not the psychopathic empire that has been built around it. We are on similar pages (See: The Abject Failure of Pope John Paul II).

    But note that Islam suffers the same problem; that they are going through the same kind of struggle, their prophets having been co-opted to the ambitions of empire-building psychopaths. These “crusades” dressed up as a “War of Terror” serve also to defeat the efforts of the enlightened among their side who also would distinguish the baby from the bathwater. But when the faith is challenged the best among their brethren will lay down their lives for their faith, led by the chaplains of their empire.
    We need to bear this in mind as we come to understand the mountain that humanity must climb if it is to survive.

    I think that humanity has a grand destiny; if we survive. I’m a science graduate educated in biology (botany and biochemistry) and they have helped me to see the view all the way back to the very beginnings of life on earth. It’s a wonderful perspective.

    You have discovered the filth in the bathwater. Take your nose out of it now and look to the top of the mountain. When we get there, even if we find no divinity to greet us, we will marvel at the view.

  • Les 29/07/2013, 17:47

    U turns, peppered pasts and Deeper radicality.

    Interesting reading well thoughtout reading Chase, made more strong by your own corageous admission of being complicit with the war mentality, knowing you have a faith perspective. I am no different, in that I am similarly complicit.you make strong points. You made a u turn, so did I and I guess most VfP people. U turns are good, when politicians make them we ought to sigh with relief if its over war, instead we lambast for changing tune.

    I would never describe myself as a christian personally speaking though, as the term ‘Christian’ smacks of ‘higher ground mentality’ and stuffy religiosity; the history of Christendom is peppered, nay shotgun-holed with murder, genocide and war at the behest of warring Christ followers – Tony Blair and George Bush are Chritians like other Christians.

    I really don’t doubt that they are, and would never doubt their belief that they act upon conscience in going to war – who though rules their conscience. Trouble is our consciences can be warped massively. Anyone seen the new and shocking documentary film Act of killing, recently out in USA about the genocide in Indonesia, well the killers reckon they acted on conscious.

    Religion engenders strong principle and promotes acting on conscience, this plays into the hands of those prepared to kill for their cause whether extremist Christian, anarchist or Muslim etc.extremists with go to the nether regions of extreme, followers of Christ might rather be radical rather than externe. Radical goes down deep, not skirting the surface of something, rather deep into its truer state. Too what or who are we radical?
    A cussing hateful Christian cannot be radical to the essence of his Jesus unless he sees him Jesus as being despicable. I do not comment on my becoming perspective here, it doesn’t matter to you or anyone.

    So often people intermix the wrongfulness of extremism and radical it’s as if they are the same words – they are not.

    Radical goes to the route, extreme crosses the edge of where most would not ordinarily choose to go into the darker sides of the metaphysical, however out of our thoughts come our actions, we behave based on our schematic. If I am better than another human who is not like me then they are of less worth, and if I think my God says I can kill them then kill I will.

    On judgement: If we ever went in the wrong direction then we oughter turn around, and if we keep going knowing then we become extremists by our own admission not the sayings of others. L
    ,

  • Allen L. Jasson 29/07/2013, 19:10

    The whole ‘GOD’ thing, whether there is a god or not, is about forming a socially shared and reassuring understanding about how to live in society and in the world. One of the things that it provides in a sometimes hostile environment of forces of apparently infinite power is the reassuring comfort that these forces are driven by some sort of reason or emotive consciousness that has empathy with human emotional need. The other thing that it provides is a system of rules and understandings about both how to deal with society and the environment. People who intelligently formulated and described these understandings and rules and could persuade people to accept them were influential (prophets). The initially most successful at this were the priests of Babylon who charted the stars. From what they discovered they were able to predict the seasons and facilitate agriculture and thereby won credibility and persuasive power; they seemed to be in some way connected with or in communication with this supposed divine being that was willed into conceptual existence because it provided that reassuring comfort that all the violent, infinite forces of the world derive from a conscious being that has empathy with humanity. Thus came POWER. The rest is history.
    Be there some divine source of prophetic wisdom or not, the lust for power and the capacity to shape how other people live is a powerful human and mortal impulse. Psychopaths like Bush, Blair and Benedict crave it above all else and they will do all they can to shape the rules by which other men live to suit themselves.
    Be there a GOD or not, whether the prophets existed or not and regardless if they were the sons or creations of a divine GOD there is no easy way for any man to tell if the creed that he lives by is truly divine, simply wise philosophy or the psychotic ranting of a deranged, psychotic mind. Every man must learn, understand and decide for himself. My bet is that any action that involves killing others, except where they seek to kill oneself probably derives from the last source – the psychopathic mind that lists after POWER.
    But that’s just my own simple philosophy 🙂

  • Sue Gianstefani 17/08/2013, 17:23

    Thanks Chase. Great article.

    Would you mind if we copied it and put it up on our website exactly how you have written it with the credit to you and Veteran’s for Peace UK?