Christian Holy War?

Featuring the words of Erasmus with images of St. George (who was Turkish), dragon slayer and patron saint of soldiers. 

I cannot sleep tonight. Fabri and I met the young monk Michael for supper. I shared the letter I received from my cousin Diether, a knight on Rhodes, which is daily threatened by the Turks.  Diether believes he risks his life in the cause of Christ.

But Michael was of another opinion. He had a book by Erasmus which he pulled out and began to read. Now, Capito cannot sleep, for he knows not if he still agrees with Diether, whose heart is good, or with Erasmus, whose logic is inestimable. For who can argue with the most eloquent scholar of our age:

Murder a Stranger

See the slaughtered and the slaughtering. Heaps of dead bodies, fields flowing with blood, rivers reddened with human gore. A man, actuated by this fit of insanity, plunges the sword into the heart of one by whom he was never offended, even by a word!

Dragons live in Peace

A dog will not devour his own species; lions, with all their fierceness, are quiet among themselves; and dragons are said to live in peace with dragons.

But to man, no wild beast is more destructive than his fellow man.

A Holy War

Yet, war is so much sanctioned by authority and custom that it is considered impious—even heretical—to protest against it.

We are always at war, either in preparation, or in action. There are thousands and tens of thousands of Pseudo-Christians–Christians only in name–who are ready to applaud it all, to extol it to the skies, to call these truly hellish transactions a Holy War.

Encouraged by Sermons

There are men who spirit up princes to war, mad enough as they usually are of themselves. One man mounts the pulpit, perverting the words of the Psalm to the wicked purpose of war: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.” Psalm xci. 5.

Send Christ to a Brothel?

Whereas a true Christian teacher or preacher never can give his approbation to war. For where is the kingdom of the devil, if not in a state of war? Why do we drag Christ thither, who might, much more consistently with his doctrine, be present in a brothel, than in the field of battle?

Just and Necessary (and Profitable)

I am well aware what a clamour those persons will raise against me who reap a harvest from public calamity. “We engage in war,” they always say, “with reluctance, provoked by the aggression of the enemy. We are only prosecuting our own rights. Whatever evil attends war, let those be responsible who furnished the occasion of it, a war to us just and necessary.”

A Just War

The definition of a just and necessary war is as follows: That which, whatsoever it be, howsoever it originates, on whomsoever it is waged, any prince whatever thinks proper to declare.

They would not, indeed, for the world, go to war from motives of revenge, but solely from a love of justice, and a desire to promote a righteous cause: but what man alive is there who does not think that his own cause is a righteous cause?

A Hook of Gold to catch a Fish

But if any one should exclaim: it would be unjust that he who has offended should not suffer condign punishment,

I answer that it is much more unjust that so many thousand innocent persons should be called to share the utmost extremity of misfortune, which they could not possibly have deserved.

Better to let the crime of a few go unpunished, than, while we endeavor to chastise one or two by war, (in which, perhaps, we may not succeed,) to involve our own people and the innocent part of the enemies, for so I may call the multitude, in certain calamity.

It is better to let a wound alone, which cannot be healed without injury to the whole body.

If the scales are held with an even hand, carefully weighing the advantages with the disadvantages, peace, even with some injustice, is better than a just war.

That which is risked is of far more value than what is gained. Who but a madman would angle for a fish with a hook of gold?

Let us Rob Thieves

Dragon in Leaves (Turkish, 16th century) attributed to Shah Quli

I, for one, do not approve the frequent holy wars which we make upon the Turks. Ill would it fare the Christian religion if its preservation in the world depended on such support.

If our religion was instituted by troops of soldiers, established by the sword, and disseminated by war, then indeed let us go on to defend it by the same mean.

The church did not rise, flourish, and became firmly established in the world by war and slaughter, but by the blood of the martyrs, by bearing and forbearing, and by submitting life to duty and conscience.

But the objector repeats, “Why may I not go and cut the throats of those who would cut our throats if they could?” Do you then consider it as a disgrace that any should be wickeder than you? Why do you not go and rob thieves? They would rob you if they could.

The Real Motive

If I long for some of the Turk’s riches, I cloak my real motive by calling it a zeal for the defense of religion. The wars of Christians appear to be merely systems of plunder. But if our real intention is only to extend dominion, if we are only opening our voracious jaws to swallow up their riches, why do we add the name of Christ to a purpose so vile?

It is a truth to be lamented rather than denied, that if any one examines the matter carefully and faithfully, he will find almost all the wars of Christians to have originated either in folly or in wickedness.

Our history of war, like Homer’s Iliad, contains, as Horace says, nothing but a history of the wrath of silly kings, and of people as silly as they.

And has often been the case, a war against an unbelieving nation can be a mere pretext for picking the pockets of Christian people, who are burdened to support such a war to the ruination of the nation.

But Christ said. . .

Those who revile us, we must not revile again. We must do good to them who use us ill. And we should pray for them who design to take away our lives.

One law Jesus Christ claimed as his own peculiar law, and it was the law of love or charity. Christ gives to his disciples nothing but peace; he leaves them no other legacy than peace.

Examine every part of Christ’s doctrine, you will find nothing that does not breathe peace. He ordered us to learn of him to be meek and lowly. He prohibited resistance to evil.

Such was his reign; thus did he wage war, thus he conquered, and thus he triumphed.

No Christian at All

We spit our spite against infidels, and think, by so doing, that we are perfectly good Christians. Yet perhaps, we are more abominable for the very act, in the sight of God, than the infidels themselves. For this conduct alone is sufficient to prove any man to be no Christian at all.

Do you consider it a noble exploit for a Christian, having killed in war those whom he thinks wicked, but who still are men for whom Christ died, to delight the devil in two instances: first, that a man is slain at all; and secondly, that the man who slew him is a Christian?

If the Christian religion be a fable, why do we not honestly and openly explode it? Why do we glory and take a pride in its name?

But if Christ is both the way, and the truth, and the life, why do all our schemes of life and plans of conduct deviate so from this great exemplar?

If we acknowledge Christ to be our Lord and Master, who is Love itself, and who taught nothing but love and peace, let us exhibit his model, not by assuming his name, or making an ostentatious display of the mere emblematic sign, his cross, but by our lives.

Turks, not Christians, in our Hearts

As we now go on, we engage in the field of battle on equal terms, the wicked with the wicked, and our religion is no better than their own.

I prefer an unbeliever in his native colours, to a false Christian painted and varnished over with hypocrisy. There is less harm in being openly and honestly a Turk or a Jew, than in being an hypocritical, a pretended, a nominal Christian.

For if we put aside the name of Christians and the banner of the cross, we are no better than Turks fighting against our brother Turks.

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Published in: on August 5, 2011 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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