We here at TAC are sometimes accused of the sins of being Calvinists, militarists, and even Americans. Someone already dealt with the Calvinist charge, but what about militarism? Is it right for us to be castigated for using the word “citadel” to describe a monastery?
What I want to know is this: why should we listen to people who, to make a grand public showing of their deeply-felt moral opposition to militarism and war, constantly nitpick others, question their faith, and inevitably conclude that they worship a different (and presumably better) God while apologizing for a tradition that has never been shy of using militaristic symbols and rhetoric in pursuit of its own goals? I am of course talking about people who apologize for Liberation Theology, which made images such as these popular in Latin America:
Undoubtedly this too would be a “tendency” that one ought to condemn – if one wants to be consistent with the pacifism one tries to push on everyone else. But wait, there’s more!
Christ himself used martial words: he told us in Matthew that he had come not to bring peace, but a sword – a literal and metaphorical sword, for his words caused real divisions among people that lead to real conflicts, some of which were justifiable, and others that were not.
34 Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword.
The New Testament has other martial terminology – consider 1 Thessalonians:
6 Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do; but let us watch, and be sober. 7 For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that are drunk, are drunk in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, having on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
Or Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:
16 In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. 17 And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God).
If only Paul had been more enlightened! If only Jesus hadn’t been so reckless! Does the bankruptcy of this anti-martial argument need anymore comment?
In all seriousness, it has always been the position of the Church, and even of heretics, that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Martial analogies/metaphors are entirely appropriate for representing that truth. The images of Liberation Theology, that seek to make Christ another rural peasant rising up in class warfare, are flawed because they are overtly political. Salvation does not flow out of the barrel of a gun.
Each of us would have to win our own personal battle with sin in order for a just society to emerge. I know that will sound terribly “individualistic” to some (we know who), but we are individuals with unique souls. If we cannot win the battle within, between good and evil, righteousness and sin, how can we possibly win it on such a large scale as entire societies?
And no, this is not a call to abandon a legitimate desire for social justice. We should use all the means at our disposal to ensure such justice when and where we can, but only on the understanding that we must purify and sanctify ourselves as individuals before we can hope to cure the ills of society. Without that, we are only trading one corrupt set of authorities for another. Just look at the moral degenerates who tried to change society in the 60s.