American Christians Erect an Idol
by Jacob G. Hornberger
North Korean authorities recently released an American citizen who had been accused of proselytizing for Christianity in North Korea, where such conduct is a criminal offense.
Why would the communist authorities in North Korea care whether people are practicing Christianity? Because government officials are afraid that Christians might give foremost allegiance to God rather than to the government, especially in areas where the government’s actions contradict the laws of God.
Here in the United States, thanks to the efforts of our American ancestors, the Constitution prohibits the federal government from doing what the North Korean government does.
As a practical matter, however, U.S. national-security-state officials don’t need to concern themselves with the fear that North Korean national-security-state officials have. That’s because many American Christians, at least insofar as the U.S. national-security state is concerned, unquestionably pledge their foremost allegiance to the federal government, not to God.
This is best manifested by the unconditional praise and thanks that Christians give to the troops, who serve as the agents by which the national-security state violently imposes its will on others around the world. In offering such praise and thanks, there is never an independent judgment on whether what the troops are doing is good or bad. The American Christian automatically assumes that whatever the troops are doing is good and whomever they’re doing it to is a “bad guy.”
What if the troops are actually engaged in conduct that violates God’s laws? That question never enters the mind of many American Christians, including Christian ministers. American troops are American men and women. They’re serving our nation. They’re defending our rights and freedoms. They’re our friends and neighbors. They attend church services with us. They’re on our team. Everything the troops do, the American Christian mindset holds, is automatically consistent with God’s laws. After all, don’t forget: The troops are Americans!
We witnessed this phenomenon especially in Iraq. Here was a war in which the U.S. government was clearly the aggressor nation and Iraq was the defending nation. Yet many American Christians automatically came to the support of the troops, cheering for them, praising them, exalting them. It didn’t make any difference that the U.S. government was aggressing against people who had never attacked the United States. Once the invasion was under way, American Christians declared that the time for debate and discussion was over. It was our team — our men and women — who needed our support. The Iraqis had no right, American Christians said, to defend their nation against the United States. Those Iraqi citizens who chose to oppose the troops were automatically considered “bad guys” who deserved to die at the hands of the troops.
Many American Christians never ask the critical question: Is what the troops are doing, including assassinating, shooting, and bombing people in Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere contradicting the laws of God? If they were to ask that question, they would then have to decide which entity to devote their foremost allegiance to: God or the federal government. If they chose God, then they would necessarily have to oppose, not support, the troops.
All too many American Christians decline to ask that question, at least insofar as any “national-security-state operation” is concerned. Instead, they have come to subordinate their consciences to the judgment of the national-security state, as reflected by how they automatically come to the support of the troops, regardless of what the troops are doing.
In the process, whether they realize it or not, American Christians have elevated the national-security-state part of the federal government to the level of an idol, one whose actions are automatically considered consistent with God’s laws, one whose troops and agents must always be supported, praised, and thanked, regardless of what they are doing and why they are doing it.
Jacob G. Hornberger is president of The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).