Evangelicals and Their Nietzschean National Security Nightmare

There is a simple fact with which evangelicals need to come to grips immediately or risk blaspheming the evangel itself. This fact is undeniable and unconcealable, and it is supported by insurmountable evidence. Attempts to defend any proposition to the contrary amount to a denial of the faith once delivered. And it is this: wherever on the globe American foreign policy goes, death and displacement of millions of people follow. 

When it comes to foreign policy there are not two parties: one Democrat, and the other Republican. Rather, there is a Uniparty bent on keeping America engaged in endless wars resulting in untold horrors to human beings around the world—many of whom are Christian. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine all have one thing in common—American intervention or interference resulting in mass death and displacement. This is not to say that there are no other causes, complexities, or mitigating circumstances, but this is the one constant in the midst of all other variables. 

It is time for evangelicals to untether themselves from this Nietzschean nightmare and denounce with one voice, with all the muster they have, all the warmongers who are bringing death and destruction wherever they go by promoting perpetual war.

Many Muslims have done a better job of denouncing the more radical elements within Islam than American evangelicals have done in speaking out against unjust and illegal wars fostered by their own government. 

Some evangelicals seem to be schizophrenic in that they identify as prolife on the subject of abortion, but are pro-war and pro-death when it comes to foreign policy. Of course, this is more of a theoretical distinction than a practical one because most evangelicals do very little to oppose abortion in any concrete way. Nevertheless, this is an unbiblical and unchristian dualism, and it must be reconciled before evangelicalism loses it soul.  

The soul of American evangelicals was stained by the so called “wars on terror.” Of course these wars were never really about America’s national security. They were always about regime change, and in every instance the regime change that resulted was a complete and catastrophic disaster. 

In the same way, America’s involvement with the war in Ukraine is not about preserving democracy, or even preventing further Russian aggression. It is about regime change. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has openly called for the assassination of Vladmir Putin. Others, in an attempt to sound a bit more benign, have simply said, “Putin needs to go.” This is more than just tough talk. It is irresponsible, reprehensible, and plain evil to call for the assassination of a head of state for waging a conventional war. Imagine a world in which heads of modern nation states are arbitrarily and summarily assassinated. It would result in anarchy, and more death and displacement of people.  

American evangelicals must reckon with the facts and not simply and blindly accept the propaganda. They also must recognize that American military propaganda is not directed toward Russia, it’s directed at Americans—of which evangelicals are an important subset. 

As John Mearsheimer points out, and contrary to popular opinion, international lying is relatively rare. That is, statesmen rarely lie to each other. The reason why they rarely lie to one another is because there is already a lack of trust, and a lack of trust makes it more difficult to pass off a lie. 

On the other hand, here in America, it is quite common for statesmen to lie to their own people about matters of national security, or pretexts for going to war. The reason for this is because Americans in general, and evangelicals in particular, seem to be more trusting of our own government. This makes it easier for our government to successfully lie to us. With this in mind, it should be self-evident that evangelicals need to be much more skeptical whenever the government begins to beat the war drums. All the aforementioned conflicts and states can be submitted as exhibit-A to support this claim, but none more plainly than the war in Iraq. 

The Department of Defense spends millions every year propagandizing American citizens with “paid patriotism” programs at the cinema, sporting events, and television. When you see an American soldier on the jumbo screen at a sporting event making a surprise visit to his family after his deployment in an overseas war zone don’t be fooled into thinking this is some kind of spontaneous event, or that the NFL or NHL are actually pro-military.  These dramatic moments are usually tax-payer funded propaganda that our government uses to manufacture militarism here at home. 

No one should be naïve about Vladimir Putin nor his actions in the Ukraine, but neither should we ignore the massive eastward expansion of American interests and NATO right up to the Russian border. NATO has absorbed nearly all the former Warsaw Pact countries and Baltic states that were once aligned with the former Soviet Union. To channel Mearsheimer one more time, America and NATO want us to believe that all their actions and decisions since the fall of the Soviet Union were virtuous and morally right. “This war,” they say, “is all Putin’s fault, and we did nothing wrong.”

There is more than a little hubris involved in this way of thinking, and above all else, evangelicals should eschew hubris more than any of the other six deadly sins. If for no other reason, as Dorothy Sayers reminds us, “It is the sin of trying to be as God.”

The fact that our government and NATO see all their decisions and actions after the Cold War as infallible is proof of their belief in their own divinity. And wherever this god goes, death and displacement soon follow. If evangelicals are going to call themselves followers of Christ, they must go in the opposite direction. 

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About Jim Fitzgerald

Jim Fitzgerald is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and a missionary in the Middle East and North Africa.

Photo: (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)