Everything has been militarized. Our local peace-keepers walk around in surplus tactical gear while politicians speak breathlessly of “taking bullets” in legislative debate. It’s a bit much, since the real war is one none of us seem interested in fighting.
Our infatuation with over-militarization might come from Lyndon Baines Johnson’s “war on poverty,” the only real effect of which was to decimate black families and increase poverty. Or perhaps it was Richard Nixon’s “war on drugs,” which has mightily profited the drug cartels.
Rather than fight the Islamists, we had a 20-year “war on terror” – though scary movies didn’t go away and the Taliban now runs the country we were ostensibly seeking to liberate. The world was deemed “at war” with COVID, though that was only a cover for protecting China’s culpability and eroding civil liberties.
The idea of declaring a “war” speaks to the grotesque fantasies of politicians, eager to cast themselves in the role of heroic leader.
When the people of Israel rejected the system of holy self-governance given to them by God, they said they wanted a king. Samuel, speaking for God, warned them about the propensity of kings to fight senseless and expensive wars.
The Bible doesn’t use a lot of war imagery, except where there is actual war going on. The notable exception, of course, is in describing what our posture should be toward sin. And in that regard, it is a war more deadly than any fought with blades, bullets, and bombs.
The prophet Isaiah described the singular importance of that conflict. He described God as having “righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head,” and that He wore “garments of vengeance,” wrapping Himself “in zeal.”
Yet when it comes to confronting sin in our culture, we long ago waved the white flag of surrender. We now treat sinful behavior as a mental illness to be celebrated or a lifestyle to be embraced. Rather than fight the enemy, we have contented ourselves with blaming the victims and shunning the warrior. Despite the Messiah having conquered death, we allowed a defeated enemy to lull us into apathy through lazy discouragement.
There is no war more real than the raging battle for the souls of our neighbors. No war is more consequential than for the moral security of our Republic. But if we are to do more than lament in the loss of culture, we must begin wrapping ourselves unabashedly in zeal for scripture. As St. Paul wrote, we must gird ourselves with truth, holding the shield of faith while boldly wielding the sword of the Spirit.
The good news for Christians is that the final battle has already been won. Our job is to be faithful in the here and now, fighting cheerfully and faithfully for a winning cause.